The last Sunday message post had a theme of God getting his purposes done with or without the "help" of man. Surely man was at his most "helpful" in creating the line that would lead to Jesus. But the casual observer looks at the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke, as well as the others in the Old Testament, and goes "I-Yi-Yi! " Now I don't want to play ancestry.com with sources that were mixed up from people God told the writers to skip (as in Jeconiah), as well as some names that were the out-of-line names of the husbands of in-line daughters (such as Matthew possibly linking Joseph the foster-father of Jesus with Heli, who seems to have actually been Mary's father) and the writers trying to abbreviate to hit some perfect number (as Matthew shooting for 14 generation sets or Luke trying to hit 70 generations from Enoch). But there are a couple of interesting things that stand tangent to the genealogies that show how God overcomes the sinfulness of man.
And these two things coalesce around the story of Judah, that "other" Joseph's brother, through whom the kings of the Hebrew people were to pass. Judah was actually Jacob's fourth son in line, but Reuben disqualified himself by getting in bed with one of his step-moms, and Simeon and Levi got booted for their massacre of the people of Shechem. And Judah was no prize either; although he managed to save Joseph's life, he never quite got around to confessing their sin to Jacob. And he wasn't much better afterwards.
See, he had a trio of sons. The first one was Er, who was a real piece of work. So wicked, in fact, that the Lord took his life before he could consummate his marriage to the Canaanite girl Tamar. In the tradition, Tamar was given to next son Onan; it was his duty to bring forth progeny to his brother with Tamar. But he instead used that age-old means of contraception that we won't bring up here, and God killed him as well- although I wonder if he was killed for his action that made him unworthy or because he was unworthy in the first place.
That brought us to son #3, who was but a lad, and so Judah- who was secretly blaming this woman for his sons' deaths instead of himself for raising them rotten- told her she should wait until the boy was old enough, and then conveniently forgot about her.
But she was owed a husband, and by the traditions there was no other right way of having kids. But she must have looked into the family history (IOW considered the Jacob method), and set up shop along a road she knew Judah would come down, pretending to be a "roadside comfort worker". Judah stopped in and availed himself, never peaking under her veil to see who it was, and asked, what do I owe you- then using the excuse that he had left his goat in his other pants. So clever girl asked him for his signet ring and staff to hold as surety for his return the next day with payment. But when he returned, Tamar had packed up and left- and nobody knew what he was talking about when he asked about the girl who worked that stretch of road, because there really wasn't one.
A couple of months later, word got back to Judah that the daughter in law he was trying to forget was now pregnant, and he went off to see about taking care of her once and for all. But she told everyone, "I am pregnant by the man that gave me these"- and whipped out signet ring and staff. Judah, knowing he was in the wrong, let her live- I assume, finally marrying her to son #3- and she delivered twins. But being the Bible, it wasn't without a twist. One child stuck out a hand first, and the midwife tied a scarlet cord around it's wrist. The hand popped back in, and the OTHER baby came out first. Thus you have Perez, the "actual firstborn" through which the line would pass, and Zerah, for whom the signet ring and the scarlet cord would come into play.
If you go back up Matthew's genealogy, you'll see Rahab, the harlot who saved the Israelite spies in Jericho. She was told to hang a scarlet cord out her window when the city fell and she'd be spared. The cord marked a "window of opportunity", so to speak, through which she slipped unharmed out of a life of sin and into the family of the Messiah, as she would marry Salmon, and give birth to Boaz, who would marry a second foreigner- Ruth- and they begot Obed, Obed begets Jesse, and Jesse begets David the King. And Zerah's scarlet cord, I believe was a second window of opportunity.
If you follow Perez's line, you find that it runs up the line of the Kings of Judah in Matthew's list. But the lines diverge at David. Matthew's list, the royal one, goes to Solomon the King; while Luke's goes to Solomon's brother Nathan, and hence into obscurity. But the kings turned out to be rotten- especially at the end- and Jeconiah was removed from the throne and replaced with an uncle whose line was extinguished by Nebuchadnezzar.
But, it's at this point that the lines both rejoin at Shealtiel and his son Zerubbabel. I believe that what happens here is that with Perez's line done, his brother Zerah's line, interwoven all the way, takes the field. He becomes that scarlet cord, that window of opportunity. And if there is more evidence needed, consider that Judah's signet- the "signature" of all he was- passed through Tamar to her sons. And Zerubbabel was the post exile Governor of Jerusalem; not quite king, not quite on a throne, but the link through which Messiah must pass. Consider:
"'On that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, my servant, and wear you like a signet ring; for it is you whom I have chosen. This is the word of the Lord of Hosts'" (Hag. 2:23).
Zerubbabel was now the signet of Judah, the line from which Messiah would come. And here again, the lines would split, meeting again some 500 years later with Jesus. God, knowing man would fail, redeemed His promise through the actions of four women: Tamar the jilted widow; Rahab the forgiven harlot; Ruth the converted foreigner; and Bathsheba the chastened adulteress. Through them, He gave us a window of opportunity, through them He kept the promise that man could not.
Interesting, isn't it, that man's self-righteousness kept trying to sink the plan, and sinful yet repentant women kept being the vessel through which it endured? As if Eve made up for her sin in the garden... and Adam kept repeating his... I guess Judah put it best when he said of Tamar, " In this, she has been more righteous than I..."