This morning I want to speak to you about another of the Wonderful Words of Life: Righteousness.
The ultimate definition of the word can be deduced from the story of Judah and his daughter in law, Tamar. Judah is one of the twelve sons of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, the Son of Abraham.
The story goes like this. Judah had three sons. And the eldest, Er, married a girl named Tamar, but Er died, leaving Tamar without a child. After his death, following a custom that was observed even in the time of Jesus (Matt. 22:23-28), Judah gave Tamar his second son, Onan, so that Onan could give her the home and children his brother could no longer give her; but Onan died, too. Now Judah had a third son, Shelah, but Judah had started to think that Tamar was the human equivalent of the Black Widow Spider, which always kills her mate. So he said to her, “My son Shelah is young. Live as a widow with your father—don’t remarry, until Shelah grows up, and then you can have him for a husband.”
Tamar did as he said, but the years passed, and she remained alone. So, one day, she decided to do something about it. Tamar heard that Judah was traveling, so she set up a tent by the side of a road. And she put on a veil, and some fancy clothes, and waited for him. And when Judah came down the road, he saw Tamar, and her fancy clothes, and her tent, and he mistook her for a lady of the evening. He said, “Can I go into your tent with you?” And she said, “What will you give me for that privilege?” And Judah said, “I will give you a kid from my flock.” Tamar agreed to the price, and since Judah did not have a kid in his pocket, she took his staff, belt, and signet as security. They did what people do, and Judah went on his way. When Judah arrived at home, he sent a messenger to the woman in the tent beside the road with a kid from his flock, but the woman and her tent were gone.
Three months later, one of Judah’s servants came to him and said, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and she is pregnant.” And Judah said, “Bring her to me, and burn her before me.” And Judah’s men went and took Tamar, but she had another hand to play. Tamar sent a messenger to Judah. The messenger carried a staff, and a belt, and a signet. The messenger said, “Tamar says, ‘The one who owns this staff, and belt, and signet is the father of my child.’” And when Judah heard it, he hung his head in shame and said, “She is more righteous than I because I did not give her my son Shelah to be her husband.”
Now this story is not in the Bible to celebrate prostitution and incest. It is there to make the point that righteousness is nothing more and nothing less than the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship. Tamar was more righteous than Judah because she fulfilled her role as daughter-in-law, but he did not fulfill his role as father-in-law. Righteousness is the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship. (Click on the Next Page Below).