Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tamar And The Guy She Picked Up On The Side Of The Road

Believe it or not, the guy she had sex with on the side of the road was the best of the bunch …

Tamar’s story is one you may not be familiar with. I’ll also make a guess that at some point as you read about it now you’ll crack open your Bible (hopefully not for the first time, but probably …) because you just won’t be able to believe that her story is really in there. To put it bluntly, Tamar had a sucky life. She suffered abuse, betrayal, abandonment, false accusations, and was forced to absolute rock bottom until the men in her life finally clued in and stepped up to the plate of accountability and responsibility. At the mercy of the cultural dictates of the day, she was absolutely and completely defenseless. Called “the woman with a pathetic history” (Lockyer), Tamar truly had more to complain about than most.

Which make the lessons in her story all the more stunning. Unprotected, heathen, and literally unwanted by everyone in her life she rose to the exemplary status of being “more righteous” than the man chosen to carry on the covenantal promise of God. You see, all on her own with no one to teach her, help her or coach her, Tamar got it. Tamar discovered The One True God, believed in Him, embraced Him, and chose to dedicate her life to Him.

In doing the right thing, God honored Tamar and elevated her above all others. For you see, she joined the elite “Ancestress of Christ” club. Even though she was a heathen. Even though no one saw any value in her. Even though at one point her father – in - law thought her worth of being burned to death. God saw her goodness and value. He recognized her strength and exemplary commitment. Tamar’s story drives home the point that even if no one wants you or thinks you worthy, it’s only what God thinks that counts.

And as you read Tamar’s unbelievable story, I’ll caution you about one important thing. I pray you don’t need to go through all she did in order to gain the same critical understanding she came to. God speaks to us with a still small voice, but sometimes, if we don’t listen carefully, He might be forced to use a baseball bat. Come, learn about a woman whose life helped her grow a heart of strength.

Scripture References You Should Check Out: Genesis 38
Question to ask yourself and answer before you read any further: At your most desperate of times, who or what do you turn to?
What her name means: “Tamar” means “a palm tree”. The palm tree was one of the most important trees and evokes feelings of beauty and wealth when used as a female name.
Connections: Tamar led a frighteningly solitary life, facing tragedies, terrors and humiliations completely on her own. Along the way she discovered the companionship of The One True God. Purged by fire she came out the other side worthy of admiration. Strong and committed, she did not allow her trials to break her but instead determined to let them perfect her.
What The Bible Says About True Strength:
· Where it comes from: Exodus 15:1-3
· When we should use it first and foremost: Deuteronomy 6:5
· Why Strength Alone Will Get You Nothing: I Samuel 2:9
· Who Is Eligible To Have It: Psalm 29:11
· What Saps Your Strength: Proverbs 17:22b
· On Human Strength: Jeremiah 17:5

Questions We’ll Never Know The Answers To
Where, when and how did Tamar learn about the One True God?

Did you know? Interesting Biblical Facts About Tamar
Levirate Law:
The Israelites of Biblical time honored the custom of the Levirate Law ( from the Latin word levir meaning husband’s brother) or the principle of the Kinsman Redeemer. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) Simply stated, this custom required that should a man die before his wife conceives a son, the widow must become the wife of one of the dead man’s brothers. (Yes, in some cases this resulted in multiple wives.) The first son of such a union was considered the child of the dead brother, to carry on the dead man’s line and inherit his property.

Israelite Nation: Although it was Abraham who is considered the father of the Jewish nation, it was Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, who fathers the twelve sons that make up the twelve tribes of Israel. God renamed Jacob Israel in Genesis 32:38 because he “fought with God and man and won.” (“Israel” means “God fights”.)

Jacob’s Family: The family of Jacob/Israel consisted of twelve sons (and one daughter) which was the product of Jacob’s marriages to four women (two of them sisters). The sons, in order of their birth, were: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. Now, this might surprise you (yes, you are detecting sarcasm), but the family of Jacob was somewhat dysfunctional. Despite the fact that the first son traditionally received the greatest blessing, Reuben lost the honor when he became romantically involved with one of his stepmothers. The next two in line, Simeon and Levi, were condemned by their father for the massacre of an entire town. Consequently, on Jacob’s deathbed, it was Judah who received the greatest blessing and it was through his family line that the ancestry of Christ was to be traced.

The Land of Canaan: Just to clear up any confusion the following terms all apply to the same plot of land: “The Land of Canaan” – which was the term used for the land when it was inhabited by the Canaanite people, “The Land of Israel” or “The Promised Land” – which was the title of the land when it was inhabited by the twelve tribes of Israel, “The Land of Judah and The Land of Israel” – which was when the Jewish nation divided after King Solomon’s death and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin went south (with Simeon’s tribe joining later) and all the rest of the tribes making up Israel were in the north, “Judea” – which was the Greek/Roman name for the land of Judah (“Judea” comes from the adjective “Jewish”), “Palestine” – which was the title of the land given by the Romans after the Jewish revolt of A.D. 135, and “The Holy Land” which is the modern title given to this same area today.

For all you Tamars out there…
Defining moments, crossroads of life, life-altering decisions … however you choose to label them, in retrospect, they are the stand out times of our existence: good and bad. If we are fortunate, then the good ones outweigh the bad. How’s your tally so far? Are you groaning with embarrassment right now, glad no one knows the reality of your world? Do you have any room for improvement?

Don’t let the best you have done so far be the standard for the rest of your life.
Gustavus F. Swift

Just like Eve taught us about achieving perfection, Tamar teaches us about achieving strength: strength of character, strength of faith, and strength of commitment. Physically isolated at the beginning of her Biblical tale, she was, technically, still physically isolated in the end. Tamar would always be that Canaanite girl the Judahs brought into their midst, who married two or three times (Who knew for sure? – roll your eyes), who gave birth to her father-in-law’s heir by playing the whore, and who managed to reclaim a solid if highly tarnished status in well-bred society.

But, the person that Tamar was at the start was exponentially different from the person that Tamar was at the end. She’d achieved a closer level of perfection by accepting and honoring The One True God. She’d exhibited a commendable level of courage under pressure that would put most of us to shame. And she learned the precious skill of being able to discern what was worth fighting for and what was not. Tamar learned what all of us can learn: that the things of most value are eternal.

All that is not eternal is eternally useless.
C. S. Lewis

Who Do You Rely On: When that gut wrenching panic grips your stomach, when worry invades your days and your nights, when your hearts pound with fear and trembling, when you are so filled with dread that you would rather not leave your bed let alone your home, what do you do? Who do you rely on? Perhaps you have a precious friend, or a loving mother, or a caring workmate who will listen to your tale of woe and offer some sincere insight and advice. But do you always do what they suggest? Do you then become filled with doubt as to which words of advice are sounder than the rest? Sometimes do you think that they have no idea what you’re going through; they just don’t understand what it’s like? Well Someone does understand exactly what you’re going through because He knows your heart and your mind. God would surely have known it, for He knows the secrets of every heart. (Psalm 44:21) Rely on the advice of Someone who knows you inside and out, what you’ve been, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. Make a conscious choice to learn more about Him, abide by His rules, and listen to His still small voice. Come on; give it a try at least.

Courage/Strength: We cannot do it alone. The courage and strength that is required to survive this life on earth is not something than any one person is capable of. Circumstances and people batter us from all sides until we eventually crumble. “How come this always happens to me?” “I can’t deal with anymore stress and trouble!” “I’ve never been so afraid in all my life!” “What am I going to do?!” “I’m lost.” “I’m frightened.” “I’m alone.” Not only does the Bible promise courage and strength from God, but along with it we receive a peace that cannot be truly comprehended. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Hard Times: Every single person in this world faces hard times. No one is immune. Wealth, power, intelligence, and skill do not protect or prevent trials and tribulations. And you know what else doesn’t guarantee a life that’s a bed of roses? Being a Christian. Take a look at any person in the Bible, talk to any missionary, or consult any minister or faithful Christian person that you know. Being a Godly person doesn’t keep the hard times at bay. What being a Christian does do is give you one extra super-charged power source that the average Jane does not have. Do not diminish God’s capacity to guide, protect, and save. God is not a not a God of disorder, but of peace. (I Corinthians 14:33)

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me…
From Everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
From, The Deer’s Path, St. Patrick,

The Best Kind of Satisfaction: We spend a major portion of our life trying to gain approval – from our parents, our mate, our superiors, our friends, our colleagues… But the reality is, the only place we should really strive for approval is from God. Does He approve of you? Of your life? Of your choices? Of your goals? Do you make Him smile? We were created, out of His great love, to bring Him pleasure through obedience and companionship. If that is not your focus, you are not on the right track.

The smile of God is the goal of your life.
Rick Warren

Faith: At some point over the course of the horrors that Tamar was experiencing, she found faith in The One True God. Rather than see what she was experiencing in the here and now, Tamar chose to look forward towards what she knew she was heading to. True faith believes in things that have not been seen or experienced. At some point Tamar chose to believe that God would see her through the fire of her life and bring her to something safe and good on the other side. While there may be many defining moments in our life, the single most imperative one is to believe in The One True God. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. I Peter 1:6-7

God should be your first and foremost source of advice and comfort in times of stress, trouble, and sorrow. You know to say that (at least after reading this chapter) even if you don’t readily do it. In addition, God also surrounds you within your life with people that He embraces and speaks to as well. Someone took the time to speak with Tamar, answer her questions, and patiently guide her to the point where she could believe. Besides seeking out God through prayer, Bible study, and church attendance, you should consciously work to surround yourself with people who give you sound advice. Guidance that would cause God to smile and nod His head in agreement. Choices that would make you so strong that you become almost invincible against anything the world has to throw at you.

Who has God provided for you in your life? In your work? Now, don’t panic. It’s quality that’s best, not quantity. One sound person is better than ten damaged ones. Plus, you are much better off recognizing a void in one or more areas of your life and making wise choices to fill them in than grinning like a Cheshire cat oblivious to the sinking ship your happily rowing.

Would God agree with those people you surround yourself with? Pretend it was up to God to choose your top three in each area of your life: personal, worldly, professionally, and spiritual. Who would He pick? Write those names down in your heart. Take time to pray and be thankful for what you’ve got, to pray and ask for guidance to fill in gaps and, most importantly, to pray and ask God to give both yourself and these lifelines wisdom in all that is said, thought, and done.

You are truly blessed if your lists have:
· Your mother and/or father
· Your mate
· The same person listed more than once

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Tamar and The Guy She Picked Up On The Side Of The Road” from Sue's book: Biblical Women And Who They Hooked Up With available in print or electronic media at her store: Would you like to receive it as a free ebook? Email your request to Sue at: and she'll be happy to send you a free copy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
You know, I love stories that have redemption as a point. No matter how far we are from God, no matter what we've done, and no matter how inadequate we are, HE still wants us to turn to him.

The before and after--I love reading those types of stories. It's amazing.

Thanks for the post.