Introduction: In this week’s notes we continue to trace out bright lessons of faith despite the darkness of Judah’s sin against Tamar and the deceit which Joseph’s brothers kept up before their father for decades in Canaan while their brother suffered in Egypt. May God give us many lessons of faith through these dark years in Genesis which will stand us in good stead when we face similar dark trials of the soul. As Augustus Toplady reminds us in his hymn, “Ye Harps Ye Trembling Saints:”
“When we in darkness walk, Nor feel the heavenly flame; Then is the time to trust our God, And rest upon His name.”
Monday: read Genesis 38:6-10. The first lesson we learn from this dark chapter in Judah’s life is that God is always working in chastising love to rid our lives of sin even when events are going from bad to worse. Take for example the severe chastising of Judah’s family early in our chapter. We are sobered to discover that the only use of God’s Name, ‘The Lord,’ in Gen. 38 is in reference to the death of Judah’s wicked sons in Gen. 38:6-10.
But would we rather have nothing of the presence of God or His chastising Hand in our lives? Surely it is better to have God’s Name in our sufferings and trials rather than to live without Him at all! For God’s severe correction of Judah’s family is proof that God keeps His promise to chasten those He lovingly calls sons. Though we may not know where Judah’s two sons stood with God when they were prematurely taken, we know that it was because God loved Judah’s family that He would not allow their willful sin to go unpunished. Centuries later God will speak in the same way of Judah’s descendant Solomon: “I will be his Father, and he will be My son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But My love will never be taken away from him…” (2 Samuel 7:14-15).
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for the certainty of God’s Fatherly chastisement in our lives. May Hebrews 12:7-10 be true of us: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?…Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.”
Tuesday: read Genesis 38:26-27. One proof that God works even through dark periods of chastisement to rid our lives of sin is the fruit of repentance which issues from such periods of correction. Blessed are you, Judah, to confess your guilt towards Tamar and towards God in verse 26! But Tamar was not guiltless in this pregnancy. We may wonder whether the struggle in childbirth in verse 27ff, which we will look at more closely tomorrow, is not also a chastisement from God for Tamar’s sinful conceiving of these sons. Surely such a difficult delivery would be useful in Tamar’s life to humble her in her sin even as Judah was humbled. Their chastity towards each other after the birth (Gen. 38:26) and Tamar’s being included in the history of believers leading to the birth of Christ in Matthew 1:3 (alongside believing Bathsheba and Rahab in Matt. 1:5, 1:6), argues for such Saving Grace in Tamar’s life also.
Meditate and Pray: Let us pray with humility for the daily Grace of repentance with the words of Hymn
# 491 in our Trinity Hymnal:
“Take me, O my Father, take me; take me, save me, through thy Son;
That which thou wouldst have me, make me, let thy will in me be done.
Long from thee my footsteps straying, thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying, take me to thy love, my God.” (Ray Palmer, 1864)
Wednesday: read Genesis 38:27-30. The surprising birth of Perez, who “breaks through” to claim the first place in childbirth, despite his brother Zerah’s being the first identified to claim the birthright before him, is full of significant lessons. Once again, God shows that, even in dark times when all family godliness in Judah’s royal family appears to have disappeared, He has been at work planning to bring something miraculous, holy and mighty to birth even through the body of Tamar, a wayward, Canaanite prostituting daughter-in-law, who should never have been brought into marriage alliance with the house of Judah. What marvelous, mysterious Grace – to bring something so clean as the line of the Messiah Jesus Christ from the impure body of this Canaanite woman!
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for His marvelous Providence and Grace in this birth with the comments of Pastor Bill Harrell: “The sins of these parents (Judah and Tamar) are swallowed up in the gracious blessing of the Lord so thoroughly that Judah retains the honor of being the root from which Christ would come, while Tamar and her two sons are named in the genealogy of Christ (Mt. 1:3). Let us humbly but surely be encouraged by the hope that even where our sins increase, so will the Grace of the Lord abound all the more.” Amen!
Thursday: read Genesis 38:27-30. It is the vigor and strength of Perez’s birth which makes the mid-wife marvel in verse 29. “So this is how you have broken out” (literally: “How have you broken through or forced an opening for yourself!”). John Calvin writes of Perez’ vigorous birth: “The body of the brother Zerah who had appeared first lay like an opposing wall in Perez’ way, which Perez burst through.” What are we to make of these words?
Surely the message here is to look at the power of the Seed of Christ born of Tamar. All through Gen. 38, has not Judah been laying every possible obstacle in front of God’s purposes for his family? Has not the flesh of Judah’s natural offspring (Er, Onan and now Zerah) hindered the birth of any Child of Promise through Tamar? First there was Er’s wickedness, then Onan’s refusal to give Tamar the Promised Child and now Zerah as the human choice for firstborn blocking the birth of Perez. All these roadblocks meant long delays and struggle until the Chosen Seed of Tamar, Perez was finally born. But oh look at the strength of God when that Christ-Child born of Tamar finally breaks through!
Meditate and Pray: Surely even from birth Perez could sing with his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson King David:
“Praise be to the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144:1-2
Amen, Lord Jesus, break through in our lives and forcefully claim the first place. Move us out of the way as you moved Zerah, so that you can be born into our lives, and so your Kingdom comes to subdue us under your feet!
Friday: read Genesis 38:27-30 and Genesis 42:1-9. We say goodbye to Judah and his brothers for at least twenty years and turn to seventeen year-old Joseph (Gen. 37:2) and his years of suffering in Egypt. Judah and company will not see Joseph again until, after reaching thirty years of age (Gen. 41:46), Joseph leads Egypt through seven years of plenty and some years of famine (Gen. 41:47-57). His brothers will then bow before an unknown Prince of Egypt who has attained full manhood at about forty years of age (Gen. 42:1-9). How patient God is until His plan for His people comes to ripe fulfillment!
But we may be sure that those long years were not wasted – especially on Judah. For it is he who becomes the trusted guide of his father and the sacrificial lamb who will bear the blame before Jacob “all of his life” if he fails to bring back successfully not only wheat from Egypt, but his imprisoned brothers as well. See Gen. 43:8-10. He it is who becomes the Mediator willing to take the place of prisoner for the salvation of others! Does such a sacrificial spirit remind you of someone else in Judah’s family tree?
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the softening of Judah’s heart which began at his lowest point of sin with Tamar in Genesis 38:26. Thank God for His wonderful perseverance until Judah becomes a type of Christ, willing to lay down his life for his brothers. Most of all, let us thank God as we prepare to worship this coming Sunday, for our Great Physician Jesus who knows how to give His sin-sick people “potions that will work by degrees” (John Owen volume 8, page 85), until the time comes when our sins are cleansed and affliction stops. What joyful days between Judah and his long-lost brother Joseph still lie before us in these Bible notes! Hallelujah!