This message was preached by Chris B at Word of Grace Church on November 19th, 2017. To listen/download the audio please click here. To listen to the Sunday's worship and prophetic contributions please click here.
We have been going systematically through some of the key characters of our history. Navaz said something so poignant this morning. We learn grace through each and every story of the Bible, Old and New Testament. This morning, we will be going through the story of Judah.
I was reminded of a story from my own life. I am not even the main character in this story- the main character is my mother-in-law. About 10 years, my wife and I were living in Kentucky and my mother-in-law came to visit us. We went out to a restaurant to celebrate her coming home. My mother-in-law cannot tolerate spicy food. In this restaurant, you get to choose how spicy you want it- level 1-5. So I order level 4 for myself and level 1 for my mother-in-law. She was struggling with the spice in her food. Then the waiter came and said that we should have ordered level 0. I didn’t know that was an option. So the order in which we receive information is so important.
Even in Judah’s story, the order in which information is presented to us is very important for our understanding. We need to know what is happening in Gen 37 and 39 in order to understand Gen 38, which is the text for this morning. In Gen 37, Jacob had 12 sons. To one of his sons, he gives a very nice coat. Joseph’s brothers were not so fond of Joseph because was preferred by his father. Later on we see Joseph’s life, of how he is sold into slavery and then he rises up to potiphar’s home and what happens with potiphar’s wife. But Scripture takes a break from Joseph’s story and tells us about Judah suddenly. This information is given in a certain order and the order is very important.
“At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him. Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him. When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” “And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked. “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said. “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked. He said, “What pledge should I give you?” “Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again. Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?” There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said. So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’” Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.” About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.”
That is a weird passage. Let’s pray.
It demonstrates Judah’s character, and it is not a particularly good character. The Scripture is asking us to compare the character of Joseph and Judah, as it appears just before this. So, very quickly, we are going to compare them:
1. The manner in which Joseph and Judah left the covenant people of God- Joseph was captured by his brothers and forced out. Judah left his brother and went somewhere else. He chose to leave the community of faith.
2. Attitude towards sexual conduct- Joseph is put in a position to choose what he is going to do. Potiphar’s wife pursues him and at great personal cost, Joseph upholds a high standard of sexual purity. Judah inter-marries and later when his wife passes away, he sleep with someone who he thinks is a prostitute.
3. Overall devotion to the Lord- Joseph endures lots of hardships, but he remains committed to God. Judah is intermarrying and adjoining himself to a temple prostitute whose sexual activity is a type of worship to that god.
Judah is not a holy guy. Which is why it is surprising that we hear Jesus being referred to as Lion of Judah!
Q. Why would God do that?
1. Story of Judah explains the upcoming captivity in Egypt- time-out is given to discipline and to stop children from doing something the consequences of which they do not understand. In the same way, God sees Judah as an example of his children Israel- of what they were about to do, not understanding the huge consequence of what they are doing. So God is preparing to put them in time-out in Egypt, so that they do not lose the covenant.
2. God alone is determining the path of His promise- God made a special promise to Abraham and his children. But the path that the promise is taking is not what we would expect. Between Joseph and Judah, who would you think God would choose? Joseph would be the right choice, but God chooses Judah- a deceiver who doesn’t really care about God. We don’t see a series of people who are above others.
At the end of the story, we see the whole thing repeating. During Tamar’s delivery, Perez who was the younger pushes himself out first and Zerah (means scarlet) is the same as Esau who is out-foxed for his birthright. We see a line of unworthy people leading to the birth of one who is worthy of everything!
The dichotomy of justice and grace is untrue. We are seeing it in the very lineage of Jesus. The fact that the lineage of Jesus passes through these people is grace.
Salvation is a work of God alone. Last time I was here, I spoke about the story of John Rogers who was put to death because he believed that works have no play when it comes to our salvation. Even today we see how Jesus is born from a line of unworthy people. That is the goodness of our God. By grace we have been saved through faith- that is a gift so that no one can boast. This morning is a mini-easter, as we come together to worship the risen Lord. Judah is a great symbol of this grace. Let’s thank God for this.
Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again), Spirit filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that have people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. To know about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.