Day 26

Judah and Tamar

from the Genesis reading plan


Genesis 38:1-30, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, 1 Timothy 5:8


When I was growing up, my mother loved watching soap operas. And I must admit, there were times when I watched them with her. Don’t hold that against me.

Soap operas are TV shows that are often built around family drama and dynastic conquests. The most popular long-running shows manage to build decades-long story arcs around these families, with affairs and murders and business deals driving the storyline day-to-day, week-to-week, and even year after year. To be honest, if you had shared with me some of the stories we’ve encountered here in the book of Genesis without telling me their origin, I’d be inclined to believe they were part of some television soap opera’s extended universe. But no—these stories are found right here in the pages of Scripture.

That Scripture contains these raw and unfiltered dramas is beautiful; we’re exposed to the depths of human sin, and oftentimes, are given a glimpse into our own hearts as we watch others battle with the brokenness sin brings to God’s good creation. Just this week, we have encountered numerous stories of brokenness, but have also seen the goodness of God as He shows grace and mercy to sinners. Most importantly, we see that God’s purposes are not thwarted, even by our worst sins.

In today’s story, there is yet another twist of family tragedy. Jacob’s son, Er, is killed by God for his rampant wickedness. As was the custom, one of his brothers was required to marry his widow and have a child with her, to ensure that the deceased brother’s name was passed along. So Er’s brother, Onan, steps in, but his own wickedness leads to his death as well. Judah then bans Tamar from marrying another son, Shelah, because he is afraid of losing another son. By withholding his son from marrying Tamar, he deprived her of the protection she deserved, according to the law, and put his son’s own inheritance in jeopardy by not allowing Tamar to continue its passage to a son.

In the end, Judah realizes he is guilty, confessing that his sin is greater than Tamar’s (Genesis 38:26), because he denied her a husband. This is the beginning of his repentance.

We are all accountable for our sins. Our sins condemn us. We cannot hide from them, and we certainly cannot hide them from God. Instead of hiding our sins, we should turn to Christ, our Great High Priest and mediator, who stands ready to intercede for us. Our Father has promised to forgive us through Christ. And He has sent the Holy Spirit to seal us and empower us to live in light of this truth. May we not hide from Him, but boldly go before His throne in confession, that we may receive the grace and mercy offered to us.

Written by Brandon Smith

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