Paul Carter is preaching his second message at the Muskoka Bible Centre’s Men’s Breakaway retreat. He has chosen to preach the unusual story of Genesis 38, in which Judah sleeps with a prostitute who turns out to be his daughter-in-law. This is not the passage that someone generally uses for a family devotional!
~ 8:09 The first thing we learn is that God takes sin seriously. God put to death Er and Onan for their sin (Gen 38:7, 10)
8:12 We also learn that God cares about justice and equity. In this ancient agricultural society, a woman needed to have a child to inherit land, passed on from father to child. A woman without land, then, had no future.
8:15 God also corrects and disciplines his people. In this case, God corrects Judah. Genesis 37:26 chronicles how Judah suggested selling Joseph into slavery. So sand-whiched within the story of Joseph, we have the story of Judah’s sin. Judah also deceived Jacob with a goat, like Jacob deceived his father Isaac with a goat costume to mimic Esau’s hair.
Judah is getting a taste of his medicine. God instructs his children by paying them back in their coin. This was not strictly to punish, but to discipline—to teach.
8:21 We learn a fair bit about men in this story. First, we learn that men are pigs. Judah is sleeping with a prostitute who turns out to be his daughter-in-law. Now, he didn’t know she was his daughter-in-law, though he knew that she was a prostitute.
Judah’s son Onan also sinned. His sin was that he avoided impregnating Tamar, his deceased brother’s wife, because the child would not have belonged to him, but to his brother (Gen 38:9). Onan wanted the land for himself. And by not impregnating Tamar, he turned his sister-in-law into a whore. He could legally have sex with Tamar to produce an offspring, but he spilled his seed. He made her a whore.
8:25 But we also learn that men can change. Like David, Judah was also forced to publicly confess his sin: “‘She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ And he did not know her again.” (Gen 38:26). The next time we see Judah he seems like a changed man.
When Judah, along with his brothers, go to buy food in Egypt, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they are changed. Joseph holds Simeon hostage until Benjamin returns with the brothers to Egypt. When they fetch Benjamin and bring him to Egypt, Joseph then threatens to take Benjamin as a further hostage. But Judah begs for his brother’s life (cf. Gen 42).
This is why addiction has nothing on the God’s power to set men free.
8:31 We are saved immediately from sin. God changes us immediately though his salvation. But to see the rest of the story, we need to turn to Matthew chapter 1.
Matthew 1:2–3 shows that Jesus came through Jacob’s child whom Tamar bore, Perez! The incestuous child of Judah, born of someone who made to be whore, is the line through whom Jesus came! God chose the most messed up part of the the Abrahamic tree to save humanity. God enters into the brokenness of his people, into what is broken of humanity, and yet without sin.
This is where the story ends: God made Jesus sin for us, so that we may be saved in him.