The one thread that binds the whole book of Genesis (and the entire Bible, for that matter) is the theme of God’s grace in relation to the plan of redemption. As I read Genesis, it almost felt like the old, familiar children’s stories are literally leaping off the pages of the Bible in different shades and colors of grace. Adam and Eve’s clothing, Cain’s mark in the forehead, the choosing of Noah, the language confusion in Babel, Abraham’s call, Hagar’s desert wandering, Jacob’s complicated story and Judah’s trysts all point to the dismal failure of humanity and the staggering magnitude of the grace of God.
What’s especially significant to me was the often repeated theme of men trying to forge progress without the blessings of the divine. The lineage of Cain and the builders of Shinar were a curious case study of humanity’s relentless pursuit of the good life apart from God. It’s both sobering and revealing to me because historically speaking, and even today in our larger society, we see it happening the same way it happened to them.
Thankfully, whereas this train of thought leads to dark conclusions, it is good to know that the God of the Bible has not left us to our own devices. His grace that first made a public appearance in the garden of Eden continue to surprise us with extraordinary glimpses of the plan of God. Abraham was born, called, and set apart to father a nation that would later bring forth the Messiah who would eventually heal whatever was broken in Eden. This is hope. For all our failures as a human race, this is what we need.
It was amazing having these hindsight while reading the book of Genesis. Certain stories that used to sound like negligible bits of the narrative now start to make perfect sense. One story that particularly stood out was Judah’s embarrassing tryst with someone he thought was a prostitute but was actually his daughter-in-law. Who would have thought that the sinful escapades of this would-be pillar of the Israelite nation would end up becoming a shining testimony of grace?
Very few people may have noticed this but right at the opening of the New Testament, we are surprised by the rather curious inclusion of the name of Tamar as one of the direct ancestresses of Jesus (Matthew 1:3). A quick look up the genealogy in Genesis shows that this Tamar is exactly the same woman who posed as prostitute for Judah.
Why is this story in the Bible? Well, I’m sure there could be other heavy theological reasons but devotionally speaking, I believe that this embarrassing incident points out two things: the sinfulness of man and the redemptive power of God. It’s like God is showing us that no matter how things get out of hand and no matter how fallen we are, we are never too far away from the reach of the mercy of God. This story of grace points us literally and figuratively to Christ, the Redeemer that God promised in Genesis 3.
NB: This is a slightly shortened version of the reflection paper I submitted for my Introduction to the Bible class under Prof. Noli Mendoza at Asian Theological Seminary.