January 15, 2016 • Life for Leaders
When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ Therefore he was named Perez.”
God is holy, set apart from us and our sinfulness. God is perfect, in whom there is not the slightest imperfection. God is good, untainted by evil. And yet, God condescends to be active in our lives, to work in and through sinful, imperfect, evil people. God chooses to be in the middle of our mess. We see this throughout Scripture, especially in Genesis 38.
The story of Joseph in Egypt is interrupted by this chapter, which focuses on Judah, one of Joseph’s brothers, and his children. Once again we see a family shattered by unfaithfulness and deception. A young woman named Tamar married into the family, but found herself a victim of repeated dishonesty. It seemed as if she would never be able to have the honor of bearing children. A woman at this time of history would have been virtually powerless to improve her own situation.
So Tamar hatched a plot to deceive her father-in-law, Judah. Disguising herself as a pagan religious prostitute, she propositioned Judah, who had sex with her. When she became pregnant, she revealed that Judah was the father of her child, thus preserving her life. Tamar’s deception trumped the deception of Judah and his family, to the extent that Judah himself was impressed.
This episode turns out to have even greater significance in the biblical story. As it happened, Tamar gave birth to twins, one of whom was named Perez (meaning “breach”). If we skip over to the Gospel of Matthew and read the oft-ignored genealogical background of Jesus, we find this: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron . . . (Matt. 1:3). From Perez, the child of deception and incest, came the line that included David and, ultimately, Jesus himself.
As I reflect on all of this, I am once again amazed by God’s willingness to be in the middle of our mess. God can bring good out of evil. God is willing to work with people who are far, far from perfect. I find this both astounding and comforting. I’m astounded at the willingness of a holy God to be involved with very messy people in very messy situations. And I’m comforted because this means God is willing to use me in spite of my own ample messiness.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you ever think that God won’t use you for his purposes because you just aren’t good enough?
Are you willing to offer all that you are to the Lord, so that he might work through you, even today?
Gracious God, sometimes I just don’t quite “get” your ways. Your willingness to work with badly messed up people astounds me. And the fact that you can derive good from evil is a wonder.
But I must admit that I am encouraged by this story, because it means that you can use even me. Though I mustn’t let this be an excuse for sin, I am gladdened to think that you can work through my life even when I am far less than what I ought to be.
So, thank you, Lord, for being active in my life. May I be wholly available to you this day, to do the work of your kingdom. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.