Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him. So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face. So he stopped and propositioned her. “Let me have sex with you,” he said, not realizing that she was his own daughter-in-law. (Genesis 38:14-16)
Ever have a “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” moment? I have had PLENTY of them. I wasn’t always a pastor’s wife. I wasn’t always a Christian. In fact, I think in high school, I could have been voted least likely to EVER be found in a church. (And we will just leave it at that.) The point is, we have all done things that we wish we could forget.
Enter Genesis 38. It’s the chapter in the story of Joseph that is not about Joseph. It is more of a “Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” sort of chapter. Judah gets into a twisted situation with his daughter-in-law. He offends her, and she gets back at him by pretending to be a prostitute and sleeping with him and she ends up pregnant. (You might want to read the whole chapter.)
God doesn’t sugar coat anything here. There isn’t anything about this that lines up with His integrity, character, or standards, but He puts Judah and Tamar’s mistake right out there for centuries full of people to read about. (Hmmm….really glad he isn’t writing my story in the Bible! Can I get an amen?) But He is not just trying to drum up some drama in this story or embarrass them. He has a purpose in writing it down.
If you read to the end of the story, you will see that Tamar has twin boys, Perez and Zerah. So what? Well, if you flip on over to Matthew chapter 1, you will see his name right there, smack in the middle of the genealogy of Jesus. Perez was the father of so and so who was the father of so and so and so on down the line until you see Mary the mother of Jesus. Perez was part of the family line of Jesus!
What’s the so what of all of this? God uses your bruises. He uses your mistakes. He can take those things you are ashamed of and turn them around and weave them into the masterpiece that is His plan for your life. Those “Vegas” moments that we want to forget can be part of the thing He uses in your life to help someone else. There is power that can come from that pain. Everyone has scars. If Jesus didn’t have scars, we would all be in trouble. What we need to ask is how can we use our scars to help someone else today?
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)