A Gross Chapter in History

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 37 & 38

Psalm Reading: Psalm 21

New Testament Reading: Matthew 20

Not everything in the Bible is what we would call “child-friendly”; there are numerous accounts of despicable things taking place at the hands of people who are supposed to be God’s chosen ones. Betrayal, murder, inappropriate relationships, and more; I guess you could say that the Bible isn’t designed to be a Disney sitcom, but instead, tells the story of real people in real situations. Unfortunately, thanks to sin in our world, those real situations are often bleak,
strange, and sometimes down-right gross. That’s what we find in Genesis 38, and I’ll warn you ahead of time, it is not for the faint of heart.

In this story, we have an account of Judah, the man who is later promised to have the Messiah come from his family line (Genesis 49:10), caught up in a dramatic sequence of events with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Unfortunately for Tamar, everyone she married, quickly died; even though we may not understand the cultural practices of a brother marrying his ex-sister-in-law to
preserve their family line, we can understand the grief, disappointment, and the feeling of guilt she must have been under. Even though it wasn’t her fault, it would be difficult not to blame yourself when this happens over and over again.

Skipping ahead and not going into all the gross details about her tricking Judah into giving her a son (what?!), we find out that Tamar finally does bear children and can breathe a sigh of relief. What isn’t immediately obvious to us in this story is how significant these children would later be in the biblical story. Her children are named Perez and Zerah (v. 29-30); and if you skip ahead to the New Testament in Matthew 1:3, Perez is found in the genealogy of Jesus himself! It is through this gross, bleak, and very strange story that God brings about the Savior of the world! This is just one example among many of what the entire book of Genesis is trying to communicate to us: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Just like Judah and Tamar, God can turn our most difficult, strange, and sometimes gross situations into something wonderful and life-changing. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”. How true this is: God can use anything in your life, no matter how dark and disappointing it may be, and turn it into something great, if you will simply love and trust Him with it.

-Talon Paul

Reflection Questions

  1. What do we learn of Er, Onan, Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38? What sins are they guilty of? We are not given all the details of what God is thinking, but from what we do know, why do you think some of these characters are struck dead and others become part of Jesus’ genealogy? (There might be a clue in verse 26)?
  2. What do we learn of God in our reading today? Does He take sin lightly? Does He only work with perfect people? What type of heart and actions is He looking for?

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