Open Your Bible
2 Samuel 13:1-21, Psalm 55:1-23
BY Ellen Taylor
Editor’s Note: Some passages in Scripture deal in subject matter which might be especially painful for some readers. Though many of the wounds we receive in this life are deeply personal and unimaginably painful, when they appear in God’s Word, we are reminded that He sees them. Whenever sin is addressed in Scripture—whether through teaching or story—it comes to us in the context of God’s unwavering commitment to bring an end to all evil in this world through the finished work of Christ (Revelation 21:3-4). We are praying for and with you as you read.
There are certain stories in Scripture that cause me to blink back tears every time I read them—Abraham leading Isaac up the mountain for sacrifice, Jesus begging God to take the cup from Him in the garden of Gethsemane, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, just to name a few.
Tamar’s story causes me to both blink back tears and shake with anger. It’s a difficult story to stomach, and I get more queasy with every verse I read. It brings up memories I’d rather forget and questions of God’s justice that I’d rather not ask: How could God allow something like this to happen to Tamar? She was just an innocent girl. She didn’t deserve this injustice. She didn’t ask for this.
These are the same sort of questions I ask myself every time another #MeToo story breaks on the news. They are the same questions I ask every time I hear another one of my friends tell a story from a time in their life when someone went a little too far, when an unforeseeable circumstance brought about unbearable pain and trauma.
Tamar’s story is not one that you hear preached about on Sunday mornings. It’s not suitable for young ears, and for some, it’s definitely triggering. If the Bible were a movie, Tamar’s story would push it to receive an R rating. But the same thing that’s true of all the stories women and men have brought into light over the last couple of years is also true here: they all have value, and we need to hear them. Tamar’s story is important because God saw fit to include it in His Word.
Tamar’s story allows survivors of sexual assault to see themselves in Scripture. It helps them see that they are not alone—that they, like Tamar, did not deserve this injustice. And because we know God’s character, we know that when we cry out morning, noon, and night—when we tear our clothes with grief like Tamar—He hears us (Psalm 55:17). He sees us. He meets us in the midst of our distress, and reminds us that we are His. He promises He will “not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:6–7), that He will “[execute] justice for the exploited” (Psalm 146:6–7).
So although Tamar’s story is so painful we’d often rather forget it happened, we would do well to see her in her pain and recognize that God is still at work. He is still at the center of her story, and He remains at the center of ours as well.