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Life can be brutal, messy, and unfair. Scripture acknowledges that.

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Read Genesis 38

Scripture is honest about the brokenness of the world. The story of Tamar is just one example. As you read Genesis 38, be prepared for a biblical soup opera. When Tamar was chosen to be the wife of Jacob’s oldest son, her future was filled with hope. She held the potential of influence and significance after giving birth to a child who would inherit the lineage, wealth, and promise of God’s chosen family. In her day, women were valued and honored based upon their ability to bear male children to carry on their family’s legacy.

Lineage was so important in those days, and it was the duty of a brother-in-law to marry his brother’s widow. He was supposed to give her children to carry on his brother’s line. But, when Tamar’s husband dies, Er’s brother didn’t want to fulfill this duty. He knew that if his deceased brother had offspring, it would diminish his own children’s influence. Unfortunately, his actions cause his own death. Now, after the death of two sons, Jacob sends Tamar back to her family with the empty promise – perhaps, later in life, he would give Tamar to his youngest son.

Tamar’s hopes were dashed. Her future was shattered. She was sent back to her family – childless and a hazard to be married to because every husband she had died. In her hometown, she carried the stigma of being cursed in some way. Her life was filled with shame.

Jacob sent Tamar away because he didn’t want to deal with her. Although it was his responsibility, he swept her under the rug and ignored his duty to care for her. Years later, Tamar decides she needs to take matters into her own hands. She seduces Jacob, her father-in-law, by disguising herself and pretending to be a prostitute. She demands he give her his signet cord and staff as a sort of deposit for sleeping with her. When Tamar becomes pregnant outside of the family, Jacob demands she be killed. But, she produces his staff and signet proving Jacob to be the father. Jacob realizes he had not only dismissed her, neglecting his responsibility to give her to his son, but he also used her for his own pleasure.

Tamar’s story is so twisted it demands we grapple with the brokenness in this family. Her story is a reflection of the brokenness of our hearts and the evil ways we use each other in this world. For every person cast aside, abused, or used, Tamar’s life sounds like par for the course. Life can be brutal, messy, and unfair. Scripture acknowledges that. It’s for this reason the Israelites longed for a messiah, and it’s the same reason we long for God to step into this broken world and save us. O Come, O come Emmanuel, come and save us!

We can all think of friends, family members, neighbors or missionaries who are currently caught up in the mess of this world’s brokenness. Pray for those people God brings to your mind today.

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By Aaron Bjorklund

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