When you read this chapter you are left wondering why God included it. Was it mistakenly included?
Here's the summary version - The story revolves around Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Tamar has no children when her husband dies, and according to Jewish law is promised children by Judah through his other sons. However this does not happen and so ehe eventually decides to trick her father-in-law Judah into sleeping with her by posing as a prostitute.
"Tamar took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself...When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” (Genesis 38:14-16)
“Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” (Genesis 38:24)
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” (Genesis 38:25)
“She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26)
Now, if you ask me this is a twisted tale. A tale of sex, deceit, and nearly murder too. And at the end of it Judah the main character is as twisted as the story. He should have been punished! Where's the justice?
“See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” (Genesis 38:25)
Judah suddenly realizes he is guilty of exactly what he accused Tamar of. And herein lies the lesson. Is it not amazing that we accuse people most vociferously of the things we are guilty of?
It reminds me of the quote based on a Shakespeare play - "Methinks thou dost protest too much."
When we accuse others we are opening a window into our own dark issues. We betray our sins, our weaknesses. Just like the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son reveals his heart when he accuses his brother - without knowing anything of what his younger brother had been dong...
"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" (Lk 15:30)
And so the lesson is that Judah is caught by his own words. In this dark story he reveals his dark sins by what he accuses others of. Justice is done! We now know why the Twisted Tale is in the Bible.
If we leave this story with a distaste at Judah's behaviour, glad that he was caught out, we have just become the twist. We stand "innocent" pointing an accusing finger at this man. Calling for justice. And then we look in the mirror and realize the twist - WE ARE JUDAH!
Three things bring Judah face to face with his guilt - his seal, cord and staff. The things that define who he is. His self-esteem, appearance, and power.
What are our seal and cord and staff? What shocks us back to the reality of our guilt? What are the things that bring us face-to-face with our guilt as the words leave our mouth, as the accusing thoughts tumble through our mind.
And so Jesus says..
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)
So what do you accuse others of? Stealing? Lying? Selfishness? Lack of love? What does this say about you?
"How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:4-5)