Recently I have been preaching sermons on topics submitted by the members of the church. I thought that was a good idea until someone requested I preach from Genesis 38. It’s not your typical children’s bedtime Bible story. It’s more on the lines of a scandalous storyline for a daytime soap opera.
Read it yourself, but here’s a brief synopsis: A man, Judah, has a wicked adult son who is put to death by God leaving Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, a young widow. As culture would have it, the man’s brother was responsible for taking his brother’s widow as a wife, but he refuses. Tamar, desperate to have a child, disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces her unsuspecting father-in-law to sleep with her. She becomes pregnant and breaks the news to her father-in-law that he is the father. Talk about an awkward conversation!
To top it off, Judah is the great-grandson of the father of the Jewish nation, the great man of faith Abraham. This is not the news that you post on social media: “So proud of my great-grandson who is expecting a child with his daughter-in-law. Oh, by the way, he didn’t know he was sleeping with his daughter-in-law; he thought she was a prostitute. The couple is registered at your local ‘Oops-a-Baby’”.
To top it off even more, this prostitute-soliciting Judah and disguised-prostitute Tamar are included in the genealogy of Jesus! The Gospel of Matthew makes a particular point to include Tamar in Jesus’ genealogy. This story is part of Jesus’ family heritage. These are Jesus’ people!
Why is this story in the Bible? Shouldn’t this have been one of those family secrets swept under the rug?
The interesting thing is that this isn’t the only story in the Bible where the faults of biblical luminaries are revealed. Israel’s great king David slept with a married woman AND arranged for her husband’s death! Ark-building Noah got a little tipsy in the days after the flood. Israel’s strong man Samson had a weakness for women and an anger issue. The apostle Peter lied about knowing Jesus to save his own hide. The Bible is the story of a bunch of sinners and mess-ups! But why?
I suspect that God included these less-than-complimentary stories in the Bible to remind us all that God uses less-than-perfect people to carry out his work.
Never should we allow the failings of others or God’s grace to be a license to sin, but neither should we allow our weaknesses and sin to lead us to believe we are outside of God’s plan and his grace. Stories like Genesis 38 remind us that God uses imperfect people. Stories like Genesis 38 remind us that even imperfect people are Jesus’ people.
Don’t we all have skeletons in our closets? Don’t we all have stories we’ve swept under the rug?
Whatever you have done; whatever salacious story you have; whatever failings are in your past; whatever sin you’re dealing with right now; whatever failings await you in the future – there’s nothing you’ve done that hasn’t been done before; no confessed sin that can’t be forgiven; no person who is outside of God’s love and his purpose. God can use you - imperfect you. He really has no other option since we are all less-than-perfect.
Thank you, Lord, for you grace and forgiveness. Even as I try to live a holy life, remind me that your love and purposes are greater than my sins and faults. Remind me that you use imperfect people like me to carry out your perfect plan of redemption.