ďGrandmothers Of JesusóTamarĒ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† December 7, 2014
SI:† Eleven years ago I preached a Christmas sermon series
†† on the grandmothers of Jesus.†
I figured that was so long ago that those of you who heard it have mostly forgotten.
†† And there are lots of you who have joined the church since then,
†† so Iím going to preach these sermons again this season.†
In Christís genealogy in Matthew chapter one,
†† amongst that long list of his forefathers are mentioned four womenó
†† Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, although she is referred to as the woman
†† who had been Uriahís wife.
Scholars have long pointed out that the inclusion of these names is highly unusual.
†† First, because in patriarchal society, women didnít have a place in genealogies.
But even more unusual, these four women are like skeletons in the closet of the
†† Messiah.† Their backgrounds, their histories are all wrong.
Two of these women were CanaanitesóTamar and Rahab.
†† God had cursed the Canaanites for their idolatry and gross immorality.
†† He warned the Israelites never to marry them, but two got into the line of Christ.
One of these women was a Moabiteóthatís Ruth.
†† She was a good woman, but the Moabites were also pagans.
†† Not allowed by law of Moses to come into the Temple.
And one of these women, Bathsheba, was an Israelite,
†† but she was at the center of the greatest scandal in King Davidís reign.
All grandmothers of Jesus.
If Matthew was trying to write a genealogy of Jesus Christ that promoted him
†† as the Messiah and Son of God, then why did he include these women?
Why didnít he leave these skeletons in the closet?
†† The short answer is Godís grace.
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: ††Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.
Letís read about Tamar, the first grandmother of our Lord.
INTRO:† One of the most heartwarming Christmas stories of all time is
†† Charles Dickensí A Christmas Carol.† The poor but happy Cratchit family.
†† Ebenezer Scrooge becoming a kinder and gentler man.
†† And Tiny Tim on his crutches saying, ďGod bless us, everyone!Ē
It warms the cockles.† Itís what a Christmas story ought to be aboutó
†† happy children, the family circle, kindness, generosity.
The story of Tamar is about none of those things.
†† Itís full of deception, abuse, and immoralityóbut itís a Christmas story.
Tamar is one of only four grandmothers of Jesus who are mentioned
†† in His genealogy in Matthew 1, and this genealogy serves as an immediate
†† introduction to the story of His birth.
The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to include her name,
†† because he obviously wanted Godís people to remember
†† the story of Tamar before reading the story of Jesusí birth.
Why?† What is it about Tamarís story that connects it to Jesusí birth?
There is verse in the Gospels in which Jesus himself summarizes
†† why He came to earth at Christmas:
†† ďIt is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.
†† I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.Ē
Jesus meant that there are two basic self-perceptions.
There are those people who see themselves as righteous.
†† ďI may have done some bad things, deep down Iím a good person.† Iíd give shirt off back.Ē
Jesus saysóI didnít come into the world for those people.
†† They canít truly celebrate Christmas, because they donít think they need me.†
†† They think that deep down theyíre ok.
Then there are those people who see themselves not as righteous, but as sinners.
†† ďI may have done a few good things, but deep down Iím a bad person.
†† My motives are selfish, I love myself more than God or other people.Ē
Jesus saysóThose are the people I came into the world to save.
†† Those are the people who can really celebrate Christmas.
†† They know they need me, know need to be forgiven and changed.
They have come to the end of trying to justify their actions,
†† because know that in themselves there is nothing righteous.
Thatís the point of this story.
†† Itís the story of a man who spent a lifetime believing he was righteous,
†† justifying his action, blaming other peopleóand it almost destroyed him.
†† It almost sent him straight to hell.
But by Godís grace, he saw himself clearly for the first time,
†† a sinner, in need of Godís forgiveness, and he was saved.
And the human instrument God used to bring about that spiritual awakening
†† and radical change was this young Canaanite woman Tamar.
And unless you have the same spiritual awakening and see yourself clearly,
†† then you have nothing to celebrate at Christmas, because you donít need Jesus.
Letís look at this story under two headings:
1.† The self-righteous life.
2.† The repentant life.
MP#1† The Self-Righteous Life
When Jesus said, I did not come to call the righteousómeant, those people
†† who think they are righteous, who justify themselves and their actions.
†† That is a good description of
If we were going to talk
†† would say, ďHe was born in a Christian home.Ē
†† There were three generations of believers in his family tree.
He was the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, and the great-grandson of Abraham.
Before this story starts, you
may remember that
†† who came up with the plan to sell Joseph
into slavery in
†† Killed a goat, dipped Josephís coat in blood, asked father Jacob if recognized it.
†† Remember, Jacob was convinced Joseph was dead, grieved 22 years.
Right after that despicable act, Judah left the family circle,
†† and he went to live near his best friend Hiram, who was a Canaanite,
†† a pagan, an unbeliever.† And Judah practically became a Canaanite himself.
He even married one.†
†† The Lord had forbidden this, marrying an unbeliever.†
†† To deliberately marry an unbeliever was, and is, a rejection of Godís covenant.†
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob been very careful to marry believers
†† Then he raised sons so evil that God killed two of them while still young men.
But what I want to focus on
is a particular aspect of
†† that was the need he had to justify himself and shift the blame.
†† She became, in his mind, the cause of his sonsí deaths.
It didnít occur to him that their deaths were caused by their evil behavior.
†† And it certainly didnít occur to him that he bore responsibility for their deaths
†† because of his complete failure to raise them in the faith.
Just a minute, going to talk about why Tamar married bro-in-law Onan,
†† and why she had a right to marry the last brother Shelah.
But letís just say at this
†† to give Tamar to youngest son Shelah.
This business about waiting for him to grow up was just a ploy.
†† He had no intention of ever having anything to do with Tamar.
Furthermore, it was
†† She was still part of his family.† But he sent her back to father
†† and told her, donít call us, weíll call you.†
The reason was Judah thought that Tamar was bad news.
†† Shelah will die just like his brothers if he marries this womanósheís the problem.
†† Once again,
†† He had to believe something bad about her.
†† Suddenly he had the proof.† Sheís a whore, I knew it all along.
†† since she was technically engaged to Shelah.
†† (Even though
He was indignant.† Iíve been wronged.† My son has been wronged.
†† He ordered that Tamar be burned to death.
†† He would finally get rid of her and come out feeling very self-righteous
†† and smelling like a rose.
Do you see where his blame-shifting and self-justification brought him?
†† It brought him to the edge of hell.† He was just about to step off into the pit.
His conscience had become so seared by a lifetime of justifying himself,
†† he was about to have a woman killed for the very thing that he himself had
†† done over and over without a twinge of guilt.
He was going to burn her to death for prostitution
†† but he was a man who visited prostitutes.†
This was certainly
†† and to look for excuses when bad things happen, and shift the blame,
†† is engraved in every human heart, itís engraved on your heart and mine.
We inherit it from Adam.† God said, Adam, have you eaten fruit told not to eat?
†† First words out of Adamís mouth were, ďThe woman you gave me, she . . . !Ē
Excuses take a thousand different forms:
†† Iíve had a bad day.† I couldnít help it.† Iím not as bad as so and so.
†† Itís not a big deal.† Itís my parentsí fault.† Itís the teacherís fault.
†† Itís psychological, itís sociological, itís chemical.
Over a lifetime, a personís conscience become seared.
†† He becomes hardened against God, Christ, and Holy Spirit.
†† to same kinds of gross sins he indulged in.
This drive of the sinful nature is perfectly compatible with a very moralistic life.
†† There are religious people who wouldnít be caught dead doing certain things,
†† because such a big part of their self-justification involves comparing themselves
†† with other peopleówho commit those really bad sins.
In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable
ďTwo men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.† The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:† ĎGod, I thank you that I am not like other menórobbers, evildoers, adulterersóor even like this tax collector.† I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.í† But the tax collector stood at a distance.† He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, ĎGod, have mercy on me a sinner.í† I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.Ē
Whether your life is characterized by wild living or prudish moralism,
†† self-justification and blame shifting will send you to hell.
Jesus Christ did not come at Christmas to save the self-righteous.
That brings us to second heading:† The repentant life.
†† Jesus said, ďI have come to call sinners to repentance.Ē
MP#2† The Repentant Life
Letís back up and look at Tamar.† She was a Canaanite, probably a teenager.
†† She was married to Er,
†† and inherit the estate.
When God put Er to death for wickedness,
This practice is called Leverite marriage (Latin for brother in law).
†† It was a good custom in that culture, years later law of Moses established it.
Served two purposes:†
†† First, a childless widow was economically and socially vulnerable.
†† She had no standing and was without income or protection.†
†† She often did become a prostitute. †This was the way of taking care of her.
Second, by this custom the family line did no die out.
†† First son born to woman would be considered the son of first husband,
†† and would inherit the estate.† His mother have position as matriarch of family.
Now you can see the nature of Onanís sin.†
†† He knew if he got Tamar pregnant, and she had son, the boy would inherit
†† Judahís estate.† But if she didnít, then Onan, as second son would get it all.
So he thought, I can have my cake and eat it too.† He used Tamar as a sex object,
†† but denied her the rights and protection that this law and custom gave her.
This also shows he didnít care one bit for his older brotherís name and line.
And Judahís refusal to give his third son Shelah to Tamar was essentially the same.
†† If Tamar never had a son by Shelah, then Erís line would be wiped out.
†† But Tamar was determined that was not going to happen.
She was determined to assert her rightful place as matriarch of family,
†† and to carry on the line of Judah and Er.†
She cared more about future
of family than
†† of the importance of covenant family, even though she was a Canaanite.
So she when she heard that
†† she came up with her bold plan to disguise
herself and wait for
†† She must have known enough about
†† She knew he couldnít walk past a prostitute without propositioning her.
Thatís exactly what happened, and she started bargaining.†
†† He promised a young goat, but since didnít have one she made him give her
†† his seal, cord, staffóthe equivalent to wallet with drivers license and credit cards.
You can see how stupid his sin had made him.†
After Tamarís pregnancy was discovered, they were bringing her out to be killed,
†† she said, ďI am pregnant by the man who owns these.Ē
Of course this was immediate
public humiliation for
†† Not only had he committed incest and everyone knew about it,
†† but his hypocritical double standard exposed.
But Tamar didnít stop, she
†† ďSee if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.Ē
This question was not just, Do you recognize these objects?
†† The seal, cord, and staff were a manís identifying documents.
†† The thrust of the question was:† Do you recognize this man?
What kind of man is he who would do this.
They were piercing words.†
†† And the Lord used them to force
†† that he was a hard hearted, cruel, immoral man.†
Isnít it interesting that
many years earlier, after
†† Joseph into slavery, and when they and brought that blood-stained coat to their
†† father to fool him into thinking his favorite son was dead . . .
Isnít it interesting that they said:† Father, do you recognize this coat?
Itís almost the same words.† Do you recognize this?
†† You have to wonder if Judah remembered saying that to his father,
†† and how it had crushed his father with grief.
Now the Lord was using those words to crush Judah.†
By Godís grace he did recognize himself for the first time and he said:
†† ďShe is more righteous than I.Ē
†† In saying that, delivered Tamar from death and took the load of guilt on himself.
Itís a remarkable confession.†
†† Itís exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said,
†† I have come to call sinners to repentance.
Two qualities of
†† or you havenít really repented.
1.† All blame shifting and self justification is gone.
ďShe is more righteous than I.Ē† May sound like sayingóIím still little righteous.
†† No.† The meaning is:† Sheís right and Iím wrong.
Judah was talking about the woman who only moments before he had blamed for
†† his sonsí deaths.† He doesnít say:† She tricked me.† This was sexual entrapment.† He takes the blame fully.† This is evidence of true repentance.† A true view of self.
†† Paul:† ďHere is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance,
†† Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worse.Ē
Paul was not trying to sound pious.†
He was saying, No matter what bad things I may see other people doing, I canít see
†† their hearts.† But I see my own heart, and itís vile.† I canít condemn them to make
†† myself feel better.† I have a depth of sin and wickedness that needs Godís grace.
Have you come to that point?
2.† The second quality is that your life begins to change.
It says, ďHe did not sleep with her again.Ē† Thatís big.
†† All his life Judah had done what he wanted sexually.† The fact that he and Tamar
†† had already had relations, this would be an excuse to carry on with her.
But something had happened in his heart.† His repentance was real, he changed.
†† He had been born again and the Lord was making him into a holy person.
†† Sin became sin t him once again.†
Is your life changing?†
†† Do you hate sins more and more, love God and people,† more and more?
†† him from self-righteousness to repentance and change.
†† He had to be publicly humiliated, the hypocrisy of his life exposed.
†† But the Lord was unwilling to lose him, so he sought that wandering sheep.
God used young woman Tamar,
as his instrument to awaken
†† This young woman is forever honored as a grandmother of Jesus.
CONC:† Christmas is upon us once again.
As you celebrate this season, donít forget the story of Judah and Tamar.
†† It will remind you of why Jesus was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
†† ďIt is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.
†† I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.Ē
Martin Luther said that the story of Tamar is in the Bible for two reasons:
1.† To rebuke your presumption and
2.† To challenge your despair.
Donít presume for a minute
that your heart is any better than
†† Donít presume you are any less capable blind self-justification.
†† You are by nature blind to your worst sins.
But donít despair over those sins when you start to see themó
†† because Jesus came to call sinners.
And where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
What can come of a life of selfishness, hypocrisy, and immorality?
†† Jesus Christ can come from a life like that.
When Jacob was giving his final blessings to his 12 sonsówho received greatest?
†† Was it Joseph, most faithful and successful son?
Noóit was Judah, the son who had fallen so far, and who God, in grace
†† through Tamar, brought back to the fold
†† And one day a Lion will come from your tribe, nations will give obedience.
That Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the one whose birth we celebrateó
†† the Lord Jesus Christ.
Good old Martin Luther had it
†† cling to Christ and he will cause good to come from your life too.