It is Thursday and as I start to write this, have just seen one of the bin lorries reverse up our street!
Our Bible reading today is Genesis Chapter 38, a not very nice story of family issues and immorality told very graphically in places. (Remember the Bible is a very honest book…)
It is a passage I had to preach on when I was at one of my placement churches when I was at Bible College, I think the first time the morning congregation had ever heard me preach. What a zinger passage to start with! Do read it through before looking at my notes that follow.
It seems strange to suddenly divert to focussing on Judah, when the surrounding chapters are all about Joseph. My RSV Bible has this passage in much smaller print, perhaps suggesting you should skip over it, and giving the chapter the uninspiring title of ‘Tribal history’.
However, my position is always that if it is in the Scriptures we need to read it, and be willing to learn lessons from it. And what we see is that Judah, who is to later play a significant part in the Joseph story is humbled and begins to be changed. That is a good thing to remember, we often don’t change from our natural selfish ways unless something goes wrong, and we have to turn to God, humbly admit our weakness and need, and then a different way then becomes possible.
As the story unfolds we see that Judah effectively breaks his promise to Tamar by not allowing her to marry his 3rd son Shelah and therefore ‘leaving her on the shelf’ to quote a more modern phrase (vs.11, 14). We see his blatant hypocrisy where it is okay for him to sleep with a prostitute, or who he thinks is a prostitute (vs.15-18), but when he hears that Tamar has been accused of prostitution (v.24) he wants to put her to death.
But when he is rumbled, he confesses, ‘She is more righteous than I’ (v.26), and from that point begins to change.
However, I think the main reason that this story is included is because of the little boy Perez who is born at the end of the chapter (v.29). Although the major focus of these chapters is rightly on Joseph, and his faithfulness amidst great difficulties, and how he points us to Christ who is to come, actually Jesus through his father comes from the line of Judah. And so if you look at the genealogy of David at the end of the book of Ruth (Chapter 4 vs.18-22) it starts with Perez. And even more significantly if you look at the genealogy at the beginning of the NT, you read this, ‘Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar (Matthew Ch.1 v.3).
This messed up story full of sin is included in the ancestry of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is born into a family which has some skeletons in the cupboard. And this is entirely appropriate because as Jesus once said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Mark Ch.2 v.17).
As always if anything is not clear, don’t hesitate to ask.
In our extended church address list let us pray today for those former church members who have been joining us via Zoom during this lockdown period,
– Vikkie & Robbie
– Champa and family