25 Days of Christmas – Relentless Pursuit, the Story of Tamar
I fell in love with my husband through the mail. Don’t get me wrong, I knew him in person first. Tim and I met while in the Air Force. He asked me to marry him on our first date! I hadn’t really known him that long, only a month. But there was something about him that had me interested. So for some unknown reason I said yes. He left for technical school within a few weeks of his proposal. And we were married shortly after he got back. But he wrote me daily during our time of separation and that is how I fell in love with him. He pursued me, and that made me want him even more.
By the time I met Tim I wanted the husband, the kids, and the house with the white picket fence. I wanted to be a wife and mother. I hadn’t before then. In biblical times, so much of a woman’s life depended on her value as a wife and especially as a mother. Widows depended on their sons for their very livelihood. Being a barren woman was a fate worse than death.
The first women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus is Tamar. Her story is told in Genesis 38 and an interesting story it is. This is a story straight out of “Days of Our Lives” or “General Hospital”. The story involves a Hebrew man, one of God’s chosen people, named Judah. You may recall him as one of Joseph’s (of the coat of many colors fame) brothers. It was Judah that Christ’s lineage was destined to come from. Well, the story goes that Judah married a Canaanite woman. This in itself was a big mistake. The Canaanites were a pagan people. This woman gave Judah three sons.
As any good dad in that era would do, Judah arranged for a bride for his eldest son, Er. This wife was Tamar and she too was a Canaanite. But Er was not a good man. So before they could have a child, God took his life. What was Tamar to do now? She was no longer a virgin and had no sons. Well, in those days it fell to the next eligible brother of the deceased to marry the widow and produce an heir for his brother. So Judah gave his second son Onan to Tamar as husband. He gladly shared the benefits of the marriage bed but would stop short of allowing Tamar to get pregnant. So God killed him off too. Judah then sent Tamar home to live with her father as a widow until his third son grew up. But he had no intention of fulfilling that bargain.
Fast forward a few years. Judah is now a widower himself. His youngest son is his only chance at passing on the family name. He’s stiffed Tamar, but word travels back to her that he’s done so. She decides to take matters into her own hands. She dons a vail and sits at the gate where she knows her father-in-law will come through. He thinks she is a prostitute, sleeps with her, and leaves her with his identifying calling cards, only because Tamar makes that part of the deal. He doesn’t know who it is that he’s slept with. Tamar conceives and word gets back to Judah about her pregnancy. He is furious and wants her burned at the stake for immorality! However she shows proof that he’s the dad and he calls off the burning and acknowledges that he is the father. He never sleeps with her again. Tamar has twin boys and raises them as a single mom. Her future is secured.
That’s the short version of a long story. Read Genesis 38 to get the whole Thing. So why is Tamar listed in Jesus’ genealogy? I mean, God definitely doesn’t condone dressing up as a prostitute and sleeping with father-in-laws! Part of the reason for mentioning Tamar and several of the other women in the genealogy is to show how Jesus redeems. Another reason is to show how God keeps His promises. The story of Tamar shows how much God detests evil. He did kill two of Judah’s sons. But I think Tamar also had a quality Jesus admired. She wanted, needed to be a mother. She knew Judah needed to have an heir to fulfill the promise of God. And she pursued that goal, relentlessly. She didn’t give up. She followed the path of the law until her options were limited. Then she went further. While her methods were not of God, her results were. God blessed her with two sons. And it is from her son Perez that the line of Christ descends.
As with many couples, once Tim returned from technical and we got married, he had me and his pursuit of me stopped. After 25 years together I often tell him that I miss his pursuit. But there is someone who pursues relentlessly. His name is Jesus! He has been persuing mankind since creating Adam and Eve. He is pursuing you! And even once you’ve said “yes” he still courts you and draws you near to Him. Tamar’s persistence payed off. Will you let Jesus catch you? It is my prayer that as we draw near to Christmas, you draw near to Him. Till tomorrow!