Introduction: In this week’s notes we celebrate the Brightness of God’s Purposes for the Royal tribe of Judah – despite the deepening darkness of the sin of the father of that tribe in Genesis 38. May God work in our lives and the lives of our children in the same way as we see Him work in sinful Judah: over-ruling our lusts and sins; providing us a Savior’s Birth in place of our foul family ties and giving us grace in the end to confess our sin, forsaking years of transgressions and lies.
Monday: read Genesis 38:12-16. The covered face of Tamar, and the place where she sat outside the city gate disguised as a prostitute (Gen. 38:14) all speak to the universal shame of the profession which she for a time adopted in order to gain for herself children and heirs. But Judah feels no such shame. Running once again in the company of his unbelieving friend Hirah (Gen. 38:1 & 12) he is full of lust, and with urgency speaks to Tamar: “Come now, let me sleep with you.” In this way Judah’s sinful desire, once conceived, gives birth to deadly sin – see James 1:14-15. Judah should have avoided the drunkenness and sin which often accompanied sheep-shearing (Gen. 38:12). But instead, despite his position of favor as the father of King David’s line, he chooses friendship with the world over the purity of God’s way. Such behavior is proof that no male heir in the tribe of Judah before the birth of Christ would prove himself worthy to father the Messiah! Jesus truly was born without any earthly father from this soiled tribe. Hallelujah!
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus your King of Judah for how different His behavior was when he walked this earth. He did not gather to himself friends of this world. He avoided places of sinful temptation. He always put down the lusts of the flesh in His body in order to pursue His One True Bride, The Church. No wonder the world found nothing in Him to prompt them to follow His way! He didn’t chum around with the ‘Hirahs’ of this world. In fact, out of pure desire to do His Father’s will and save sinners like you and me, Jesus lived a lonely life, rejecting the comforts of ‘home’ in Canaan which Judah so riotously enjoyed. As Luke 9:58 says: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
Tuesday: read Genesis 38:16-18. Judah is truly “being dragged away” with his lust, to the point of giving away to Tamar as a ‘deposit’ guaranteeing payment nothing less than his family seal and staff in Gen. 38:18. Nobility of that time period were never without their staff as a sign of authority and office. The seal also, as proof of family lineage and legal power, was of great value and served to define its holder. Well, this is how deadly sin is in its power: Judah is willing to give away all that he stood for, all that defined him and his heirs, for the sake of momentary pleasure with this unknown harlot. God save us from being carried we know not where by the lusts of our hearts!
Meditate and Pray: Do you have friendships which threaten your family identity in the Household of faith? Do not give away your inheritance for a bowl of worldly pleasure. Do you know others who are being asked to give in pledge treasured spiritual possessions which belong only to God? Perhaps their faith in exchange for a college degree? Perhaps their mental powers in exchange for worldly accolades? Perhaps their hearts in exchange for fame and success? Pray. Pray. Pray, as Jesus said, “That you fall not into temptation.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 38:19-23. Judah’s sin shows itself in even more lurid colors. Not only did Judah engage with a prostitute, he engaged, according to Gen. 38:21, with what he thought to be a “shrine prostitute” (literally one associated with a “holy” Canaanite shrine where religion was given over to sexual rites). Moses condemned all such associations in Deuteronomy 23:17: “No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.” Shame, Judah! No wonder he is so embarrassed by his behavior as to give up his valuable staff and seal rather than for his misdeed to become known in Gen. 38:23.
Meditate and Pray: How Judah’s behavior in the Old Testament makes us want to run to the one true King of Judah whose life has no hidden sins and skeletons to be discovered. When Jesus Christ says He is “gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” He means that we will never discover hidden perversions in His character. Truly the hymn writer said it best in # 699 in our Trinity Hymnal, “Like a River Glorious” (verse 3): “Every joy or trial falleth from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love. We may trust Him fully all for us to do; they who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.”
Thursday: read Genesis 38:24; John 4:16-18 & 4:28-29. We have been following the downward spiral of sin in Judah’s life: from the foolish company he kept; to the power of his sinful desire; to his foul deed unknowingly perpetrated on his daughter-in-law; to his efforts to cover it up and now finally to his pharisaical hypocrisy in wanting to see Tamar burned for the sin of prostitution in Gen. 38:24. This is the pattern of Satanically-inspired sin. It always ends with self-righteousness and a condemning, cruel spirit which lacks all compassion for other sinners caught in sin’s bondage. This is why the Pharisees of Jesus’ day complained so loudly against Jesus’ keeping company with “sinners.” They had so much to hide themselves.
Mediate and Pray: Once again, how different our Prince of Judah, Jesus, is when He handles those caught in sin. How was He able to speak so directly, for example, to the woman at the well, exposing her many divorces and immoral relationships in John 4:16-18 and yet able to draw her to become a follower who invited all her neighbors to come and meet Him in John 4:28-29? Because this Jesus, who, in her words, “told the woman all she ever did,” showed that He cared for her deeply and had compassion on her for her sins. “Lord Jesus, would you help us in all our dealings with those caught in sin, to speak with your words and your compassion? Amen.” Make the words of Hymn # 561 in the Trinity Hymnal your prayer:
“Lord, speak to me that I may speak in living echoes of your tone;
as you have sought, so let me seek your erring children lost and lone.
O teach me, Lord, that I may teach the precious things you do impart;
and wing my words, that they may reach the hidden depths of many a heart.” (Frances Havergal, 1872)
Friday: read Genesis 38:24-26 and Romans 2:14-16. We come now to God’s first great victory over Judah’s sin in Genesis 38. “Victory?” you say. “Where?” Well, do we not see Judah finally succumb to the Divine argument against his self-righteousness here in Gen. 38:26 in his confession: “Tamar is more righteous than I”? Do you not see that God’s drumbeat against Judah’s veneer of respectability has been sounding in Judah’s conscience ever since his gross sin with Tamar and before that in his betrayal of Joseph? Do you not realize that Judah must have tried every manner of self-defense and suppression of sin before this? All to no avail! As the evidence of his crime (his staff and seal) is produced, Judah confesses that He is the one at fault in his fornication with Tamar – when all cultural tradition argued for blaming the woman in such an affair. Here, I say, is the beginning of the crack in Judah’s proud, cruel armor. He who had argued that his brother’s life was worth no more than the price of a slave (Gen. 37:27) and who had sold his daughter-in-law’s honor for the price of a harlot now condemns himself and never lays a hand again on his daughter-in-law Tamar. Marvelous Grace of our loving Lord!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for his effective work in the consciences of men. As Romans 2:15 puts it, “Men show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” Why do men weary themselves with struggles of conscience until they want to forsake the sin which they used to enjoy? Because God’s inward law accuses and burdens their consciences even in the midst of their practice of sin! May God work in our lives and our children’s lives as we saw Him work this week in Judah’s life, until we with Judah finally forsake all the lies and transgressions of years of sinful practice. Amen!