Advent: Day Nine

As she was being brought out, [Tamar] sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.—Genesis 38:25-26

The Book of Matthew was written for a group of people who believed they needed no justification. But Matthew’s genealogy is scandalous. It reminded the people that they came from a list of unsavory characters, including a few sinful, foreign, female ones they’d prefer to forget. However, they forgot that God shows his love to women, foreigners, sinners, and every other type of person on the face of the earth.

Matthew first draws attention to Tamar. She was likely little more than a child of 15 when she was married off to Er, the first son of Judah. Er’s story is short: He was wicked; God killed him. Tamar was passed on to Judah’s second son, Onan, whose story was a bit longer, but not by much. Onan was around long enough to take advantage of Tamar and to prove he would be a terrible husband who would cheat her out of the blessing of children. Onan’s story ended the same way Er’s did: He was wicked and God killed him.

Tamar was facing marriage to yet a third brother from this wicked family. However, Judah was afraid of losing his last son. Instead of blaming his horrid children for their own deaths and giving Tamar security through marriage, Judah schemed to leave her with nothing and no hope of a future.

Given few options, Tamar tricked Judah into giving her the one thing that might save her from being considered dirty, broken, and used: A child. When his friends told Judah that Tamar was pregnant, he declared she ought to be burned! But when he was given proof that Tamar’s child was also his child... Judah, the promise-breaker, admitted she was more righteous than he.

Tamar couldn’t have known her desperate measures would one day, many years later, result in the birth of her true Savior. The One who keeps His promises. The One who would give her value and security for eternity. He would become dirty, broken, and used so that Tamar might be redeemed.

Tamar is the first Grandmother of Christmas.

Meditation: Each one of us sins because we were born to it. But we’ve also been sinned against. When our situation seems beyond repair, we sometimes take desperate measures to fix ourselves. But when all of Creation declares the might of God, what is broken that He cannot heal? What darkness can withstand His light?

Prayer: God, You are the only place I can put my hope that will never disappoint. Your promises always come true. You have written the history of the universe, a beautiful story, and at the center of Your story is a baby—Your greatest promise come true! Thank you for sending Your Son to be the Savior of the world! Holy Spirit, fill my heart with gratitude for Jesus today.