The AMI QT devotionals from Jan. 15-21 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
JUDAH | NOT RIGHTEOUS, BUT REDEEMED
Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s house until Shelah my son grows up.” For he thought, “I don’t want him to die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house. 12 After some time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. After Judah was consoled, he left for Timnah to visit his sheepshearers, along with his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 Tamar was told, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she removed her widow’s clothes and covered herself with a veil. She wrapped herself and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the way to Timnah. (She did this because she saw that she had not been given to Shelah as a wife, even though he had now grown up.) 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute because she had covered her face. 16 He turned aside to her along the road and said, “Come on! I want to have sex with you.” (He did not realize it was his daughter-in-law.) She asked, “What will you give me in exchange for having sex with you?” 17 He replied, “I’ll send you a young goat from the flock.” She asked, “Will you give me a pledge until you send it?” 18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?” She replied, “Your seal, your cord, and the staff that’s in your hand.” So he gave them to her and had sex with her. She became pregnant by him. 19 She left immediately, removed her veil, and put on her widow’s clothes. 20 Then Judah had his friend Hirah the Adullamite take a young goat to get back from the woman the items he had given in pledge, but Hirah could not find her. 21 He asked the men who were there, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim by the road?” But they replied, “There has been no cult prostitute here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I couldn’t find her. Moreover, the men of the place said, ‘There has been no cult prostitute here.’” 23 Judah said, “Let her keep the things for herself. Otherwise we will appear to be dishonest. I did indeed send this young goat, but you couldn’t find her.”
24 After three months Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has turned to prostitution, and as a result she has become pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 25 While they were bringing her out, she sent word to her father-in-law: “I am pregnant by the man to whom these belong.” Then she said, “Identify the one to whom the seal, cord, and staff belong.” 26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more upright than I am, because I wouldn’t give her to Shelah my son.” He did not have sexual relations with her again. Judah was in a downward spiral when he came into Tamar’s life, but their encounter, while messy and deplorable, is potentially what saved him.
Downward Spiral | First, Judah was a human trafficker—first with Joseph (as he spearheaded Joseph’s sale into slavery—see Gen. 37) and then with Tamar (when he paid to use her body for sex). Second, Judah abandoned his family and married a Canaanite (something Jews were strictly prohibited from doing), a moment eerily reminiscent of Esau’s rebellion in Genesis 28:8. Third, Judah is a dishonorable coward. Instead of taking responsibility for the wicked sons whom he raised, he blames Tamar for their deaths (even though it was God who took their lives due to their evil deeds). And from what we can tell, Judah had no intentions of coming back for Tamar (v.26). Lastly, he was probably less than upright when it came to the ladies. The fact that Tamar devised this specific plan suggests that she was responding to a pattern (whether a pattern specific to him or general to the culture it was likely one in which he participated). What were the odds that Judah, upon seeing a random prostitute at the gates, would ask to go to bed with her? Why would Tamar think he would do this? Probably because she knew what sort of man he was. And Judah proved her right.
Redemption | What Tamar ultimately did for Judah (and we’ll talk about her actions more tomorrow) was hold up a mirror and show him what sort of man he’d become. She became the site of his shortcomings. When he is told Tamar is with child, he demands she be burned for promiscuity—a crime he, too, was guilty of (and not just generally, but guilty in that specific situation). And he was guilty, with respect to Tamar, of so much more. When he realizes he is the one who impregnated her, when he sees the lengths to which she went to bring forth an heir for his family, when he realized the extent of his failings, Judah has a change in heart. And we know this because of his dealings with Joseph in Egypt just a few chapters later—the one who led the charge to sell Joseph into slavery, later offers himself as a slave in place of Benjamin. It’s easy to think this story with Tamar is a weird interruption to the story of Joseph, but it’s not. Tamar’s mirror is responsible for the change in Judah that made him the kind of man who could fight to save his family.
Praise be to God for those in our lives who hold a mirror before us. May we have the humility to respond as Judah did.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for the people in my life who hold a mirror before me so I can see my sin. In those humbling moments, help me to have the courage to look intently into that mirror and the humility to make the necessary changes by the transforming power of Your Spirit at work in me. And through it all, may I become more conformed to the likeness of Your Son, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 6-7