Read Genesis 38
Focus on verse 20-23
Today’s chapter reads like a soap opera that could make The Young and the Restless seem like a children’s story in comparison. The story line is as follows: Judah gets married and has three sons. The oldest marries first but dies without fathering a child. The custom of the land is that the next oldest brother should marry the widow and father a child which would be considered his older brothers child to carry on the family name. In this case the younger brother goes through the motions but intentionally makes an effort not to make the widow pregnant. Apparently God is not happy with this and strikes him dead. Judah had now lost two sons and Tamar the twice widowed daughter-in-law is still not pregnant. The text tells us that Judah is in no hurry to give him to Tamar in marriage fearing that he may also lose his youngest so. During this time Judah’s wife also dies. Here is where the story gets a little creepy. Tamar begins to suspect that unless she takes action she may go to the grave childless, so she disguises herself as a cult prostitute near the place where Judah goes to shear sheep. Judah falls for the ploy and buys her for a night agreeing to pay her with a goat the next day. To guarantee his promise he leaves his staff and signet ring with her as a pledge.
When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’ ” And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.” (v. 20-23)
When it becomes obvious to all that she is pregnant Tamar is accused of immorality and Judah sentences her to be burned to death. At this point she produces the items that he left with her in pledge of payment for her services. Judah confesses to his sin of withholding his youngest son from her and as the sordid tale concludes we are informed that she gives birth to twins. The older of the twins is a direct ancestor of King David, and Tamar is named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the opening chapter of the New Testament.
This account of Judah and Tamar teaches us not only that our questionable deeds typically catch up with us eventually, but it also reminds us that God never is surprised by our behavior and uses even our failures to move His plan forward. Now, this is not to suggest that He ordains us to fail. I believe His desire is for us to succeed by choosing to obey Him, but He also chooses to give us the choice to disobey. What makes it appear that He ordains us to fail is that He has the foreknowledge of our actions knowing what our choice will be before we make the decision, and the wisdom to use even our failures to bring His perfect plan about.
One might then ask what benefit there is in making the harder choice to obey if God will bring about His will either way? Perhaps the answer is found in the consequences that follow us as a result. I do believe God is able to bring about His will with or without my cooperation, what I have to gain in working with Him is found in the consequences that follow. While God’s perfect plan is fulfilled either way, my choice to obey or not simply affect the experience I and those close to me will have as it comes about. There is also the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I am fulfilling what He created me for, and the confidence and security of knowing that the safest and best place for me to be is when I am in the center of His will – even when it is hard or painful to be there.
The consequences of making the right choice to walk in His will are very often difficult and it may seem that those who disobey sometimes have it easier than those who obey. While that may be true when measured by the standards by which the world measures success, there are rewards that God gives to those who choose the hard path of obedience that the disobedient cannot comprehend, and therefore will not experience.