As I read Tamar’s story in Genesis 38, I felt a strong connection with her. Not the more torrid parts of her story; anyone who says the Bible is boring has obviously never read the Old Testament! Can you say soap opera?? Yikes! (If you haven’t read Tamar’s story, pause for a few minutes and read it in Genesis 38. It’s a hum-dinger!)
As we read her story, we may wonder why on earth the Holy Spirit included her name in the genealogy of the Messiah. Surely there are more wholesome women He could have listed, like Sarah or Rebekah. Why would He choose to include Tamar, a gentile whose story is a little … icky?
The Holy Spirit never does anything haphazardly; God is always intentional, which means he included Tamar on purpose. So why is she mentioned? What does He want to teach us through her?
I’m sure there are many lessons to be learned from Tamar’s account, but one, in particular, stood out to me as I studied. Part of her story resonates deeply with me, and that’s the rejection she experienced. In one chapter, we learn that she was rejected not once, not twice, but three times! First, her husband, Er, refused to carry out his marital duties at all. Next, her brother-in-law, Onan, fulfilled the part of his marital duties that satisfied him but refused to allow her to have a child because it would carry on Er’s legacy, not his own. Finally, her father-in-law, Judah, sent her away with a lie disguised as a promise, knowing full well he never intended to keep his word.
Tamar knew rejection well. I wonder if you can relate.
Rejection is a beast. Rejection says, “you’re not wanted.” It shouts, “you’re not enough!”
Fear of rejection often brings out the worst in us. Like Tamar, it can cause us to take matters into our own hands, forcing ourselves into situations where we don’t belong. It makes some of us run away or freeze. For others, rejection brings out anger and bitterness that grows in our hearts until it becomes unbearable.
I’ve felt the sting of rejection from friends, boys in my youth, and the Church … I’ve even felt rejected by God. As I’ve sat with the story of Tamar and pondered why she’s mentioned in the genealogy of Christ, I’m convinced that a large part of the reason has to do with rejection.
Tamar reminds us of God’s power to overcome rejection, and it makes sense that someone in the line of Christ would point to redemption after rejection. After all, Christ Jesus Himself was no stranger to rejection.
He was rejected by His community.
He was rejected by His family.
He was even rejected in a trade for the freedom of a known criminal.
Jesus knew the sting of rejection deeply, which means He can empathize with us when we experience the pain of being unwanted or left behind. He is a God who sees and cares about us personally, so when we feel the bitter sting of being shunned, we can turn to Him for comfort, knowing He understands our pain.
But the lesson surrounding Christ’s rejection runs much deeper than that. In His life, we see that rejection led to His ultimate glory and redemption for humankind:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Matthew 21:42 (ESV)
Rejection is something many of us, most of us, hate experiencing. But Christ Jesus came to be rejected so we could have a relationship with God. If Christ had not been denied by the world, that relationship would not be possible.
Tamar’s story is a beautiful reminder that God will be glorified even in the face of rejection.
Tamar’s mention in the genealogy of Christ is also a powerful reminder that God does not turn away those who belong to Him, even when they make horrible, icky choices like Tamar. He still saw her. He still knew Her. He still cared. Moreover, He accepted her despite her sin.
And the same is true for you, my friend! God is greater than the sum of all our sins, which is why He sent His Son, Christ Jesus, to be rejected for His glory and our gain.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.”
John 6:37-40 (ESV, emphasis added)
Christ was born to be rejected so that we could be accepted and adopted into the family of God--that is what we celebrate at Christmas!
If you’ve experienced, or are experiencing, the sting of rejection, I encourage you to look to Christ this Christmas season and remember that His rejection was the ultimate plan. Because God can glorify and redeem any story … even yours!
Chrissie Angell is the Executive Director and a Co-founder of Humble Faith Ministries. She is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher passionate about pointing women to Jesus and helping them live out their Kingdom assignments. She and her husband, Brian, live in Kentucky with their two boys and their yellow lab, Charger.