Athlete, Grace is Offensive

*This series was written by the AIA staff team at the University of Virginia

Read Genesis 38

Genesis is almost too much, isn't it?  As we read Genesis 38, we're hoping that perhaps Judah, the fourth son, is different than Reuben the firstborn, who slept with his father's concubine (35:22), and Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons, who vengefully killed dozens of Canaanites (34:25). Maybe he talked his brothers into selling Joseph, instead of killing him, because he thought that it was the only way to save him (37:26). Maybe he moved away from his brothers (38:1) because he couldn't stand their jealousy any longer.  Do we finally have a good guy?  We do not need to rehearse the details of this chapter to know that the answer is a resounding "No."  

If you were making up a story about the founding fathers of an invented religion, this is not how you would do it!  Jesus descends from Judah, and all of Israel descends from Judah and his brothers. Yet these perpetrators are the ones whom Jesus saves.  It feels like too much.  Too much grace.

Until we realize the depth of our own offense against God, the grace of God IS offensive. We're like the religious leaders in Jesus' day who were offended that Jesus would forgive notorious sinners. But when we realize the depths and consistency of our own offense, the grace of God in Christ is wonderful. It is the only cure for our disease.

Bruce Waltke points out in his Genesis commentary that “Tamar, a wrong wife (i.e., Canaanite), saves the family by her loyalty to it. The four women in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba) all come from outside Israel and have a highly irregular and potentially scandalous marriage union.  But because of their faith, God deems them worthy to carry royal seed” (516).  Tamar’s redemptive actions may be more questionable than the other women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, but the fact that she valued the continuation of the family line more than Judah did cannot be argued.  Judah himself acknowledges, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah” (38:26).

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

1. We've seen again and again that the pervasiveness of sexual sin is clearly not new to the 21st century. In this chapter, Judah sat in judgment on Tamar for her sexual sin, before being convicted of his own.  We of course need to discern what is right and wrong, but are there ways that you are sitting in judgment on others before examining your own heart and life for sexual sin?  Are you keeping God's vision for sexuality and ultimately for union with him before you?

2. How has the grace of God offended you in the past? Are there people you have written off, without hope of receiving the grace of God?  How is the grace of God wonderful to you today?

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