Ordinary People in God's Extraordinary Plan
And Matthew might have saved the ink in his pen by not referring to three of the four women mentioned in his list—at least under normal circumstances. But then again, the birth of the Messiah was anything but normal!
The name of the first woman mentioned comes in Matthew 1:3 where we read: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.” If we look back at Genesis 38 we discover that Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law. Tamar had been married to Judah’s eldest son. The man died before Tamar could give him a child. As was the custom, Tamar was then married to the second oldest so that she could have a son by him who would then inherit the rights and privileges of Judah’s now-deceased firstborn. This second husband also died leaving Tamar without children. Judah made a promise to her that he would send for her when his third-eldest son was old enough to marry. He then sent her home to her father—and promptly forgot about her. Tamar found a way of drawing Judah’s attention to the promise he had made which was less than a shining example of moral behaviour for both her and Judah. The result was the birth of two illegitimate sons, Perez and Zerah.
Why didn’t Matthew just ignore the mention of Tamar, something that would have reminded his readers of the circumstances that got Perez included in the list of the ancestors of Joseph, the human father of Jesus?
Well, I don’t know for sure. But here’s a thought: If nothing else, the inclusion of Tamar’s name and the memories it would provoke, highlighted the need for a Messiah, for a Saviour, for Someone to come and “fix” all that man’s sin had messed up. Judah’s two sons were struck down by the Lord because of sin. Judah sinned by not keeping his promise to his daughter-in-law. Then he and Tamar sinned through the “relationship” that produced the twin boys. A Saviour was needed then just as a Saviour is needed now since the sins committed then are still the same sins committed now.
As well, the inclusion of Tamar and the circumstances around it, remind us that God uses ordinary people for His extraordinary purposes, sinful people to bring about His salvation and to become the object of that salvation. That message should bring encouragement to each of us as we struggle with our own human frailties and sins. God is not limited by us. People and circumstances cannot thwart His plan. He will succeed even in the light of our failures. And that’s a wonderful promise to hang on to.