Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar) (Matthew 1:3).
According to Martin Luther, Jesus was standing with sinners even from His birth. Luther wrote, “Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinners—in fact, He even puts them in His family tree!” This was never truer than when Matthew wrote down his account of Jesus the Messiah. He included two people in Jesus’ family tree—Judah and Tamar—who were truly unlikely candidates.
After his daughter-in-law became a widow for the second time, Judah promised her his third son (Genesis 38:11). But he failed to keep his promise. On the verge of becoming destitute, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute to force Judah to keep his promise to her (v.14). Unknowingly, he negotiated a price to sleep with his own daughter-in-law and gave her his signet, cord, and staff as a guarantee (v.18).
Tamar became pregnant, and 3 months later Judah found out that she was “with child.” Horrified at her sexual immorality, something of which he would never be guilty (ahem!), Judah ordered her to be executed (v.24). Before she was executed, however, Tamar presented the signet, cord, and staff as evidence against the person by whom she became pregnant. Judah, embarrassed and full of shame, acquitted Tamar and proclaimed that she was more righteous than he (v.26). God used this scandalous relationship, and one of the children (Perez) who was born from it, to bring the righteous Messiah into the world. Amazing grace!
If you’re tempted to think your past is too checkered for God to love, forgive, and use you, consider Judah and Tamar. Their appearance in the genealogy of Jesus shows that God’s grace is available for questionable characters like us. Our Lord came from a family of sinners (although He was without sin) to redeem and use us for His glory. What an amazing God!
How does it make you feel that God included so many flawed characters in the lineage of Jesus? What part of God’s grace makes you most uncomfortable? Sets you free?