Sunday, January 13, 2013

Joseph and Tamar--Gen 37-39

Joseph and Tamar provide two of the Bible's best examples of unflinching integrity.  Their honesty wasn't always appreciated, but God honored and rewarded it every time.

In scripture study, there's something called the rule of first mention.  In essence it says that the first thing the Bible says about a person or word provides a key to understanding all the other things that will be said about it.  In Joseph's case, the first thing we see Joseph do as a young man is tattle-tale.  That may be irritating to moms and siblings, but Israel found it genuinely helpful.  Joseph may have been the favorite for reasons he had no control over, but the fact that he had his dad's back didn't hurt.  It is often true that someone who acts in a way that he can be fully trusted, will be trusted and honored and Israel lavishes honor upon his son.  Joseph is often criticised for his blunt, discretionless behavior.  He didn't exactly win many friends with his peers, particularly in the way he told his dreams to his family.  Still, it is consistent with someone who didn't know any better than to tell the truth without regard to what will happen next--no spin doctoring here. 

Tamar is caught in unbearable circumstances.  Judah was an idiot and married one of the Caananite women.  His kids are bad enough that God kills off the first two for their evil and abusive behavior, and Tamar is the one who suffers for it.  When the third son is old enough, Judah isn't in a hurry to see how a third marriage will go, but he's also not in a hurry to let anyone know about his reservations.  Who knows how long Tamar wondered when Judah would keep his promise.  Tamar resorts to extremity but makes sure she has the proof, when the truth comes out.  Judah wants to burn her at the stake for her "prostitution" but in the end has mud on his own face when his double standard comes to light.  Tamar bears twins and is one of the women mentioned in the line of Christ. 

For both Joseph and Tamar's situations, their brutally honest attitude and behavior didn't always "win friends and influence people"--at least not in the short term.  What it did was win honor with those who were over them, and especially with God.  God doesn't need to lie.  The rest of us lie because we're afraid and God has no one to fear.  It seems almost as if God is puzzled by our inclination to sugar-coat or bend the truth.  Lies are a form of idolotry.  We lie because we care more about what another person will think than we care about what God thinks.  (Ouch.)

My word for this year is "true."  I found a ring over the holidays as I was cleaning and it fits perfecly between my wedding bands.  It started out as a reminder to be completely truthful within my marriage rather than  sugar-coat or tiptoe around issues that have bothered me.  It's a sure-fire way to kill codependency.  As I think back in my childhood, I realize that I had a "issue" with "excessive" truthfulness as well and have been scarred by the reactions of my peers to my tactless integrity.  I've learned a little bit about speaking the truth in love as I have grown older, but I still admire the wisdom and courage that is reflected in characters like Joseph and Daniel and I remember that God has honored it with His presence.  Those He can trust, He takes into His counsel, as does any leader that can completely trust his employee or follower. 

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