This is an extraordinary development from the God of surprises. Genealogies in the ancient world routinely contain long lists of men followed by their eldest son or sons and so on to the next generation. This is not the case here in the record provided by Matthew. In addition, there are four women included here as significant people in the redemptive history of the people of God, and in the direct line of the Messiah. Unlike Matthew’s first readers, we can so easily miss the significance of these names. Who is the first one of these women?
Tamar (Matthew 1:3) Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar Genesis 38 records the sad chapter in the life of Judah, who later would bring honour to his family and God in Egypt, but here went off the rails morally, in part due to his loss of self-esteem and apparently hopeless struggles as an apparently unsuccessful parent of his sons.
In the midst of that tragic situation we see Tamar, the widow of his first-born son Er; whom the second son Onan declined to marry upon his death, in line with the custom of the day, and then despite her loyalty to her late husband’s dysfunctional family, she is abandoned to fend for herself. In desperation to attract the attention of her backslidden father-in-law she poses as a prostitute, knowing Judah’s partiality to using prostitutes, and gets pregnant by him. After some appalling hypocrisy, this man eventually came to his senses and the realisation of the depths to which he had sunk.
It brought Judah to the place of repentance and eventual usefulness to God. The complex marital customs of that culture are so different to our modern Western world. But in that setting Tamar, instead of becoming (understandably) bitter and walking away completely, was determined to do the right thing. She took a risk getting pregnant outside of marriage, yet through that action fulfilled the purposes of God. She was an honourable young woman who would not let the appalling actions of men in her life turn her away from the ideals and principles with which she had been brought up. It is a story that warns us how far even believers can sink into sin (Judah); but gives an example of a courageous young woman who stuck to her principles and was eventually vindicated. Your situation may appear to have no way out. Your plight may feel hopeless. But God can find a way through and invites us to follow in His footsteps.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘He will hold me fast’