WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
We’re in our ongoing series on the life of Christ titled, “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” For the next few weeks I will be preaching a miniseries from Matthew chapter 1, titled, “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” All of us would like to think that we have some royalty or famous personality in our family tree when what we find are just some common people and some crazy ones! Someone said – “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out!” This morning we will see the family tree of Jesus and it had some nuts in it too. The lesson there is that God’s grace can cover you no matter who you have in your past.
Matthew 1:1-6 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.
Overall Background: Matthew began his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t unusual in ancient times to begin the biography of a famous character with their genealogy. It was a matter of pride to list all the great individuals in one’s pedigree.
For e.g. Some years back I was reading the account of the life of General Robert E. Lee. His family tree could be traced all the way back to the Norman Conquest when his ancestor entered England in 1066 AD with William the Conqueror. His great-great-great-grandfather Richard Lee came to Jamestown with hardly anything and in time became one of the richest men in the Virginia colony. Later his father Henry Lee fought in the Revolutionary War and became the ninth governor of Virginia. Some of the family included William Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, and Zachary Taylor.
So also, Matthew mentioned the “illustrious” names such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the patriarchs. He mentioned David – the greatest King of Israel and the man after God’s own heart. He mentioned Solomon – the king of Israel and the wisest man who ever lived. But, he did something that no genealogy does. He also mentioned some “not so illustrious” names. In fact, he mentioned the names of four women, which was very unusual. Not only that, but Matthew chose to mention women who were not exemplary characters like Sarah or Rebecca or Rachel. Instead, he mentioned Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba – women who had an embarrassing past. Past that we would rather leave buried in history.
Why did Matthew do that? Some of you may have been through this series before. Because he wanted his readers to know that God did not choose just the best of the best to bring His Son into this world but also the undesirables. He wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the Savior of the decent people as well as the outcast. He wanted his readers to know the grace of God in Jesus’ lineage.
Application: This morning, I’m sure there are people here who wish or have wished at some point that they had a different family or that they were born under different circumstances. Or you look at your past and wish it were different. But God in His sovereign grace has given you the life He has. Stop seeing yourself as a mistake. He allowed your family tree to grow as it did. Trust Him.
In this message we will look at the life of the first woman who is mentioned – Tamar. As we walk through her life, let God show you the same grace that she received.
1. INNOCENT BYSTANDER
Background: The first time we meet Tamar is in Genesis 38 where she is just an innocent bystander. Actually, the focus is not on Tamar but on the family of Jacob. If you remember, in Genesis 37, Jacob had sent his son Joseph to check on his older brothers. When he finally found them in Dothan, he wasn’t prepared for what was about to come. His brothers hated him and when he was far off, they conspired to kill him. But the older brother Reuben talked them out of it to just throw him into a pit. He was hoping that he could later get him out and take him back home.
Reuben probably left to check on the sheep or something and just then the brothers saw a company of Ishmaelite traders coming and one of the brothers named Judah (remember that name) said in Genesis 37:26-28 26 …“What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened.
Judah did not have the guts to stand up and say – “This is not right. Let’s not do this to him. He’s our brother. Our father has sent him to us.” Instead, he decided to do play on words. At least we’re not going to kill him.
Application: Be careful about doing play on words. God knows the heart. We cannot fool Him. He knows when we have sin in our hearts.
So in Genesis 37:28 “…Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.”
Now Reuben comes and looks in the pit and its empty. He is distraught. What’s their plan? They take a young goat and kill it and dip Joseph’s tunic in its blood and take it to their father Jacob. He is heart-broken and says – “I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.”
But look in the next chapter Genesis 38:1-2 It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her.
Judah is thinking – “Out of sight, out of mind. As long as I don’t have to see my father’s face, I don’t have to think of Joseph”
Application: People do all kinds of things to get away from sin. The only place to deal with sin is to get on your face before God and say – “Here I am. Deal with me as you see fit.” He will bring out the knife and scalpel. It will hurt but the result will be healing. If you run from it, it will only fester.
And fester it did – Genesis 38:3-7 3 So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5 And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him. 6 Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.
The fruit doesn’t fall far from the root. Judah – “You killed somebody’s child. Now, you know what it means to loose your child.”
Application: How can we teach our children to do what’s right when there is deception in our own hearts.
What is even sadder is that Tamar became the innocent bystander who got hurt in this sin.
2. ACTIVE SINNER
Now Tamar’s first husband is dead and so according to the laws of the Levirate marriage, Judah told his next son Onan to marry Tamar. But Onan refused to father a child by Tamar and Genesis 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.
As we read this account, we feel for Tamar. One after the other she has sorrow in her life because of someone else’s sin.
How does Judah handle this? Genesis 38:11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.
But Judah has no intention of letting Tamar marry his third son.
What a mess! As Walter Scott wrote in his poem Marmion: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!”
How does Tamar handle this? Genesis 38:13-15 13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face.
Now it’s payback time.
Application: Tit for tat never works. You can spend all your life planning on paying back someone for what they’ve done to you but revenge will not satisfy.
Now Tamar has gone from an innocent bystander to being an active sinner.
3. GRACE RECIPIENT
Background: Tamar makes a deal with Judah for a young goat from the flock. Of course, he doesn’t have the goat with him so as collateral she asks for his signet ring, cord, and his staff. Later when Judah sent the goat, no harlot was found obviously.
Now listen to Judah’s plan. Still the same old weasel – Genesis 38:23 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.” Now 3 months later, it was obvious that Tamar was pregnant.
So listen to Judah’s indignation – Genesis 38:24 “…So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
Quite amazing to me how soft we are at our own sins and harsh at the sins of others.
For e.g. People blocking each other in traffic on the closed lane.
But when she confronts Judah with his signet, cord, and staff, it is obvious who the father was. Listen to Judah’s response in Genesis 38:26 “So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.”
Now we could end this incident here with a few reminders on “what goes around comes around” and “what you reap is what you sow” but the incident is still not over.
Tamar was pregnant with twins. She goes into labor and one of them appears to be the first and so the midwife ties a scarlet thread on his hand but listen to what happens next. Genesis 38:29 Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez.
Perez became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. As Matthew 19:30 says “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
It’s a message of grace.
Application: You can either blame your past for all the mess you are in or you can let God bring His grace to bear upon you and bless you in spite of what you had to go through. It doesn’t matter what skeletons you have in your past, God is able to use you if you let Him. The place to begin is by receiving Jesus as your Savior.