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
TAMAR | ANYTHING BUT A PROSTITUTE
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. 27 When it was time for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb. 28 While she was giving birth, one child put out his hand, and the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But then he drew back his hand, and his brother came out before him. She said, “How you have broken out of the womb!” So he was named Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out—the one who had the scarlet thread on his hand—and he was named Zerah.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I’ve heard Tamar characterized as a prostitute. Tamar was not a prostitute. She, through levirate marriage laws (see Thursday’s QT), was legally entitled to a son from the family into which she was married—first from her husband, then his brothers, and finally her father-in-law. Although it seems icky to us today, this was their custom. Judah was ultimately responsible for Tamar because he brought her into his family and under his covering (remember they lived in a patriarchal society). And he failed (big fat F!) to care for her. He sent her back to her own people to live as a widow (i.e. as a woman who has no one to care for her).
Furthermore, the text doesn’t suggest that Tamar prostituted regularly. If anything it suggests the opposite (v. 21). Instead, Tamar was forced to devise a plan (vv. 12-26) and reduced to disguising herself as a prostitute to have even the slightest chance of bearing a son—a chance to which she was legally entitled. Tamar thus broke no laws. She didn’t sleep around; she slept with Judah. She wasn’t promiscuous; she was strategic. And at the end of the day, Judah honored her by calling her righteous and God honored her with two sons—a common theme in the Old Testament (God honored women by giving what brought the most honor in their culture—children).
Tamar, the discarded Cannanite woman who was brought into this mess of a dysfunctional family and under the covering of a rebellious member of the people of God (Judah wasn’t even following the laws of God in the first place!), risked it all and, in so doing, single-handedly preserved the family line through which the Messiah would ultimately come (see Matthew 1:3).
I would be remiss if I didn’t draw our attention to the themes so freely discussed in this text –namely human trafficking and exploitation and its devastating effects on the vulnerable. If God includes these topics in God’s Holy Text, shouldn’t we be mindful of them as God’s Holy People? God is a God who covenantally loves the broken, people conditioned by and bound up in sinful systems and corrupt cultures, people like you and me. The people of God were (and are) not such because their way of life was perfect or even as God desired. They were God’s because God chose them. That’s it. And God worked within, around, and even against their broken systems for the good of the righteous and for the glory of His name. God hasn’t changed. So may we, God’s people, be His hands and feet in doing likewise in our world today.
Prayer: Gracious God, You have revealed Yourself to us in Your Word, and for that, I am thankful. The Bible is just not only a collection of stories from long ago, it is a picture of how You do life with broken people. Help me to learn from the success and failure of those who’ve gone before me. Make me part of the redemptive work You are doing in the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 8