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Tamar’s Risky Righteousness

Mac McCarthy

Nov 26, 2023

Bottom Line

Following Jesus involves embodying the righteousness of Jesus.

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Message Notes

Why were these women included?

  • Theory 1: Because they were such awful sinners.
  • Theory 2: Because they were all Gentiles.
  • My answer: Because they positively point to Jesus and what it means to follow Him.
At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.
Genesis 38:1-5

"Judah has yet to say anything, but has done a great deal: he has left his family, taken a woman in an apparently informal marriage although she was not within the kinship group, done so without permission. He was present only for the birth of his first son, but did not bothered to name the second two. For the birth of his third son he is in a place called “Falsehood.” A more suggestive portrait of inappropriate behavior is hard to imagine."
E. Anne Clements

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

Genesis 38:6-11

Tamar is being treated unjustly and is seemingly stuck.

"Tamar is now trapped in a structure that is oppressive with no way out. She is inside her father’s house while being legally part of her father-in-laws household. Her clothing marks her as a widow, but she is not given Judah’s third son, which will provide her with income, status, and progeny. In denying Tamar his last son, Judah not only denies Tamar the right to a child, but also denies her economic security. She is left socially and economically on the margins."
— E. Anne Clements

After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.
When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”
“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.
“I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.
“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.
He said, “What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

Genesis 38:12-19

Tamar is not a prostitute, but a wronged woman seeking justice.

About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.

Genesis 38:24-26

Tamar’s righteousness is a catalyst for Judah’s transformation.

It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb.
Genesis 38:27

Bottom Line

Following Jesus involves embodying the righteousness of Jesus.

Action Steps

Create some space to reflect on your vertical righteousness:

  • Is there any area in your life that is not righteous that you need to turn away from?
  • Is there anyone in your life that God is inviting you to share Jesus with?

Consider who you could support this Christmas season:

  • An elderly person who is unable to care for themselves.
  • A single parent who is struggling to juggle all of life.
  • A person with a disability in need of friendship.

Pray about joining our Racial Peacemaking KC:  

Over the next year we are going to be working with an organization called Bridge Builders — and their primary focus is to help renovate and rebuild homes to function as beacons of light in dark neighborhoods within MKE.  It’s an incredible organization that is making a big difference.