This summer I am enjoying Francine Rivers’ book, A Lineage of Grace. The book contains the stories of 5 women from the Bible. Rivers writes a historical fiction piece on each woman and then follows up with a six lesson Bible study about that person. Tamar is the first woman covered in the book. Reading Francine’s rendition of Tamar gave me new insight into the plight of this woman and a greater depth of understanding. You can read Tamar’s story in Genesis 38.
The first lesson I gleaned from Tamar is that God uses the most unlikely of persons. Tamar was rejected, abused, unloved, and abandoned, but ended up a matriarch of the Messiah. She is listed in the genealogy of Christ. (See Matthew 1:3). It doesn’t matter what our background, ethnicity, social status or what past sins we’ve committed. If we allow him to, God can use us for great things. We can become children of royalty, joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Tamar ran ahead of God by disguising herself as a prostitute and deceiving Judah into sexual intercourse. God does not condone deception, however, he did use Tamar’s actions despite the dishonesty. When God has chosen us, his purpose will prevail in our lives.
When Judah found out that Tamar was pregnant, he condemned her to death by burning. His condemnation was public. As she was being brought out to face certain doom, she sent a messenger to Judah, essentially carrying his ID. The messenger does not condemn Judah, but merely presents him with his seal, cord, and staff and asks if he recognizes them. This is the point at which Judah repents and calls off Tamar’s death sentence. Sometimes we need to be more like Tamar, and confront others in a non-threatening, private manner.
If we were to choose a matriarch for the line of Christ, most of us would not even look to Tamar. We would seek someone more “holy looking”, not an everyday Canaanite widow who would go so far as to play the harlot to get what she had been wrongly denied. However, God does not look on the outward appearance, but instead, he looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). When our heart and motivation is pure, the Holy Spirit can work and move to do great things in and through us.