Thought I’d start at the beginning today. I didn’t know where to read. Didn’t feel lead anywhere in particular and had no interest in playing Bible roulette (i.e, I’m just gonna flip through and wherever I land God has a special word for me!). So I thought I’d start at the beginning. One of the Gospels. I chose Matthew because it’s possible it was written first and because, well, it comes first. And Matthew opens with a genealogical list. I used to bemoan these kinds of passages, but the last few years I’ve tried to honor such passages believing that God wouldn’t put them in there if they had no value. So I started reading who begat whom and I immediately noticed something: “and Zerah by Tamar”, “by Rahab”, “by Ruth” and the gut wrencher “by the wife of Uriah.” Most of those listed were just what dude begat the next dude, but on occasion the mothers were mentioned. I liked this part because these women obviously were worthy enough to be documented in the geneology of Jesus. And I knew who Rahab and Ruth and the wife of Uriah and even Tamar were. Even Tamar? Oh yes, I knew Tamar well. We’ll get to that in a second.
I savored a few thoughts reading this passage, then I continued on through the end of Mathew Chapter 1 and started heading into Chapter 2. But for some reason I couldn’t go any further. I couldn’t get this list of names out of the forefront of my mind. Should I really stop and contemplate these beginning “who’s who” verses over the whole super solid wise men bearing incredible baby gifts to the little Christmas miracle? Yes. That was my answer. Yes, go back, read it again, is what I felt in my gut. So I did.
First stop was the phrase “by the wife of Uriah.” Groan. That one hurts. Even though David married her she’s still listed as someone else’s wife, and so as not even to let David off the hook by listing her actual name causing some obscurity, it lists her as THE WIFE OF URIAH. Not David. That other dude David screwed in figuratively the most royal of ways. I have so many thoughts about this phrase. One being that God takes seriously the whole leave and cleave and honor the marriage bed to the whole point that this woman goes down in history labeled not as the mother of Solomon or the wife of David, but the WIFE OF URIAH. It was a tremendous sin what David did. It’s awful. But God is forgiving, right? He forgave David, right? Psalm 51 is David’s beautiful contrition speech and God lets his son die and then Uriah’s wife and David marry and they beget Solomon the wisest ruler ever to walk the earth. But as centuries go by, this second marriage isn’t honored. It’s her first that we are told was the one that stuck. I could have stayed longer on this phrase and what it all means, but I headed back up to “and Zerah by Tamar.” This got cool.
Now, I didn’t spend any time contemplating the importance of listing Zerah. There obviously is importance because he’s the only other man listed by name in the geneology that isn’t in direct line with Jesus. He was a twin. Maybe that’s why. Maybe it was simply to honor Tamar by listing her two sons and not just one. I don’t know. For my Bible reading today, that part wasn’t important. It was the Tamar part. In order to explain, I gotta give a little personal backstory.
Two years ago as I embarked on a really horrible endeavor, I cried out to God numerous times and his answer to me was to read the story of Joseph. The Genesis one. So I have poured over that Biblical narrative many many times. I have read it over and over and scoured the internet looking for commentary on it. I’ve listened to multiple sermons on it. More than once. I love the story of Joseph. And tucked away in this very Lawrence of Arabia narrative is a little divergent chapter about Tamar. Honestly as you’re reading along about Joseph, it’s a full on record-scratching WTF when you hit Chapter 38. Joseph has just been thrown into the clutches of Potiphar and then there’s this completely random story about Tamar. As I poured over the Joseph narrative, I often skipped this chapter because I felt led to read about Joseph, not Tamar. I mean, I read it sometimes and spent a whole morning on it once, but most the time, side stepped the sucker. And every commentator or pastor preaching on the life of Joseph side-stepped with me or occasionally would mention Chapter 38, but it was always seen as an afterthought, and never, at least in my memory, did anyone ever mention Tamar was smack dab in Jesus’s line. But she is. And THAT really hit me.
Today has been a hard morning. I have really been questioning my purpose in life and mourning the life I thought I was supposed to lead. My life the last couple years has been pretty tumultuous, full of loss, and has caused me to question what exactly I’m doing with it. I’m a hard worker and a passionate person and I fight really hard for what is good and right, yet these last couple years I have lost just about everything. I look around lately and go, “Uhhh, how did I get here and more importantly, how do I get out?” Which is why the prompting from God to find comfort in the story of Joseph has been so, well, comforting, because his life was awful for a very long time despite his trying to overcome. And that’s where I am.
So today as I’m feeling lost and sorry for myself, I read that Tamar, that random girl in the Joseph narrative, was a great-grandmother of Jesus. I didn’t know that. Never in my readings about her did I put that together. And what I felt God telling me today was, “Hey JB, I see the big picture. I see ALL of it – from beginning to end. Tamar didn’t know she’d be the great-grandmother to the Savior of the world. In fact, in her world, she was pretty much the low of the lows. She got screwed over repeatedly and she did some pretty shrewd stuff to secure some heirs, but that she did, and now she’s known forever. Not for her cunning ways, but for the fact that she’s in Jesus’s line.” And just like my life, I don’t know what God is up to, and from my vantage point it’s looking pretty grim, but God has a plan. And I’m in it. I don’t know to what extent, but I’m in it. And sometimes that plan requires me to act and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes that plan includes being hurt and abused by others. Sometimes there’s nothing to do about it, and no amount of fighting to get out will avail. Sometimes you just have to take it. And then when the time comes, you act. And your actions will be blessed if they are in line with God’s huge holy, over-arching plan. Because just as Joseph said to his brothers at the big plot reveal towards the end of Genesis, “God had me for the saving of many lives.” God saved many through Joseph’s relationship to God. And God continues to save many through His Son, the great-grand child of a tenacious gutter rat. There is a much bigger canopy over my life. The tapestry is wide; I’m only seeing threads, but God is weaving something really beautiful. Do I believe it? I certainly am trying.