Judah was a hard-hearted, wicked man, clinging to the illusion of being in control of his own destiny. He made his own decisions and called his own shots. The result was a legacy of failure and wickedness. With sons so bad that God killed two of them, he ended up being the father of his daughter-in-law’s children.
Tamar, likewise, believed that she must fix her own life because she didn’t think she could depend on anyone else. Admittedly, she had some bad breaks, losing two husbands due to their sin and wickedness. Then, her father-in-law forgot her and she became desperate. But instead of trusting God, she followed the example of women before her, women like Eve, Sarah, and Rachel, who all took matters into their own hands instead of waiting on God to give them his best. The result of Tamar’s decision was enough to make Jerry Springer cringe.
Judah and Tamar both fell under the illusion that they were in control. Joseph had no such illusions because they were destroyed the moment the slave trader’s money passed to his brothers’ hands. However, he never lost the sense that God was in control. Maybe he was clinging to God’s promise of blessing from the earlier visions he had, or perhaps he simply had nowhere else to turn. Whatever the case, Joseph faced desperate circumstances with a clear conviction that God was in control. The result was that, even as circumstances went from bad to worse, from slave to prisoner, still Joseph was blessed in unmistakable ways. Everyone around him recognized that “the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in everything he did.”
The lesson we learn from Joseph is not the power of his moral sensibilities or willpower, but his unwavering faith that God was present and in control. As Christians, we live in light of the same promise (Deut. 31:7-8 and Matthew 28:18b). God is with us, He sees what is going on, He hears our cries, and He cares about our pain. He is in control, and He will respond.
1. What motivates Judah’s decisions (see Gen. 38 as well as 37:26-27, 31-33)? What motivates Tamar’s decision? What motivates Joseph’s decision?
2. What does the inclusion of Tamar in Jesus’ genealogy of Matthew 1:3 and Luke 3:33 teach us about God’s ability to draw straight lines with our crooked sticks?
3. Tamar’s son Perez became the head of the leading clan in Judah and the ancestor of David (Ruth 4:18-22) and ultimately Jesus (Matthew 1:1-6). What does this reveal about God’s sovereign ability to bring good out of human evil by His power?
4. Thus far in the story, Joseph has continually been obedient to God but has become an imprisoned failure in the eyes of the world while his brother Judah is apparently living freely with a much better life. What does this reveal about the often high price of godliness?