What An Ugly Parenthesis
Posted on February 12, 2019 by Erin Culleny in Freedom Fighters
“And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.” Genesis 38:1 (NASB)
Somewhere in between Joseph being sold into slavery and running away from Potiphar’s wife, we get what has been called “The Worst Chapter in the Bible.” And, from my understanding it is also one of the least preached on chapters from the Bible. It’s chapter 38 of the Book of Genesis and it’s simply titled, “Judah and Tamar.” In it, we’ve got death given by the hand of God, sex—both in marriage and outside of it, and a lot stuff that parents might not be ready for their kids to understand.
However, in the world of addiction recovery, we use the story to show the need for admitting to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. But if we were to look at this in its entirety, there are huge amounts of us who will often condemn in others the exact wrongs that are deeply hidden within ourselves. Basically saying, when we point a finger at someone, three point back at us.
Now this ugly parenthesis happens in the story of Joseph for a reason but there’s some stuff to work through. We’ll get a look at Judah’s heart condition with this verse, “What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother” (Gen 37:26b-27). So with Judah, the ends justify the means, so why not. After all, Judah and his brothers have become intolerant with “this dreamer” Joseph. Now for chapter 38.
There’s a whole lotta ugly going on in this chapter. First Judah leaves the family to do his selfish thing. He’ll marry into what he shouldn’t marry into. He’ll have three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er will marry Tamar but Er does evil and God strikes him dead. So, because of culture, Judah tells Onan to pick up where Er left off, but Onan does something detestable in Gods sight, so God strikes him dead. This left Shelah, so Judah sends his daughter-in-law back to her father, until Shelah is old enough to “perform” his cultural duties. But in the meantime, Judah’s wife will die, then he’ll be duped by his daughter-in-law through the deception of one of the oldest professions in the world.
It’ll be through that deception that we’ll see that Judah has left behind a calling card and he’ll want that stuff back. However, the temple prostitute he’s looking for is non-existent. Three months later word gets back to Judah that Tamar, the daughter-in-law he thought was waiting on Shelah, is pregnant through prostitution. “Bring her out and burn her!” Judah shouted. Now comes the “flying fickle finger of fate” award. “The man who owns this identification seal and walking stick is the father of my child. Do you recognize them?” (Gen 38:25b). Well, what’s Judah to do but own up to it? He’ll even acknowledge that Tamar is more righteous then him. A son named Perez will make the lineage of Jesus Christ.
So, what’s the take away from within this ugly parenthesis? God’s grace. His grace is unbelievable in this chapter of Genesis. Everything about “the worst chapter in the Bible” was an absolute ruin until God turned things around. He’ll transform the way Judah looks at life, Tamar will get a nod in Matthews Gospel and I believe it’s the rehearsal for one of the most infamous moments in Biblical history. “Am I God to judge and punish you? As far as I’m concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil.” (Gen 50:19b-20a)
You don’t have to be going through an addiction recovery period in your life to understand that God can stop your foolishness in its tracks and turn it into a means for His gracious purposes. The part you need to play in it is ownership. Judah was a mess in his heart and that had to change in order for God to continue His plan to redeem His creation.
When Judah came to the end of himself things changed. So much so, that when it came time to face Joseph the way him and his brothers had to, it would be Judah who would say, after pleading their case, “Please my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy.” (Gen 44:33a) That’s a long way from a heart that said, “Eh, let’s just sell him.”
If God’s grace can take the wicked acts of rebellious people, like Judah and Tamar, and turn it for His good, then why can’t He do it in your life? All it takes is a little owning up. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) has been married for 25+ years (Kathy), has a married son (Kevin) and a daughter in college (Karen). He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.
Daily Quote: “If it is true that what is broken can never be unbroken, it is also true that what is broken can also be fixed. The great love of God’s grace can heal broken hearts and mend broken lives.” — Dr. David Jeremiah
This Week’s Verse to Memorize: The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17