What is God up to this time?

Genesis 38:12-19 (ESV)

In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua's daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

Some Bible passages have extra layers in them. If you read them over and over, eventually you see stuff you didn’t notice at first – great stuff. Today’s passage is like that. So is tomorrow’s.

Tamar’s plan is brilliant, and will glorify God wondrously. But for it to succeed she needs some kind of proof that it was Judah who had sex with her. The signet ring seals that perfectly. But what’s up with the staff? She doesn’t need it. It isn’t all that valuable either; the ring is what’s worth a young goat. Why does she want the staff?

There’s no direct answer but the symbolism here is fascinating. When she later gives the staff and signet ring back to Judah, she’s handing him the symbols of a shepherd-king. That foreshadows both David and Christ.

Maybe this is just a coincidence but, if so, it’s a whopper. The staff seems otherwise purposeless and unimportant. How could Tamar know this was in the future?

She didn’t. This is all God’s doing. Tamar, as great as she is, still isn’t a prophet. She isn’t even thinking about being a prophet. She has another agenda.

This is just God being God. He always seems to have something extra up his sleeve.

Judah is about to get a big dose of humility. He needs a big dose of humility. So do we.

To be honest, every time I’ve prayed for humility, the result has been incredibly painful. I’m afraid to recommend it, even though I know it’s a good thing.

Whatever you do, don’t take it lightly.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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