Mar 09, 2014 |Genesis

Breaking Out

03.09.14 | Genesis

Breaking Out

Noel Heikkinen

We tend to minimize our own sin and maximize the sin of others. Whether we struggle with sexual sin or social injustice, we need Jesus to save us.

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Genesis 38:1-30 (Use this link to follow along in your Faithlife Study Bible)

Genesis is a story about how God keeps his promises and even uses jacked up people.  His sovereign plan marches forward as humans create mess after mess after mess.  He uses those messes to do something beautiful.

It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her, and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah was in Chezib when she bore him. (Genesis 38:1–5)

Judah married a Canaanite (who he was not supposed to marry) and had 3 sons with her.

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. (Genesis 38:6-7)

Er was so evil that God killed him.

Sin is any failure to reflect the image of God in nature, attitude, or action.

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” (Genesis 38:8)

A common practice that became the law in Israel called “Levirite Marriage” (which just means brother in law marriage) protected widows from being severely economically disadvantaged. (See Deuteronomy 25)

Psalm 146:9

James 1:27

God will take care of those in need and he will use his people to do it.

But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. (Genesis 38:9–10)

Onan’s sin was that he selfishly wanted sex without the consequences.  He was so evil that God killed him, too.

Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house. (Genesis 38:11)

In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. (Genesis 38:12–14)

Enough time had passed that Tamar knew that she should have heard from Judah.

When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her. And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.” So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’ ” And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.” (Genesis 38:15–23)

Both Judah and Tamar are sinful.

About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” (Genesis 38:24)

As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” (Genesis 38:25)

Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. (Genesis 38:26)

Sexual sin is a terrible sin.  But Judah’s see his sin, which is both sexual sin and not taking care of those in need, as worse.

  1. Sexual sin is a sin of commission.  It’s something we do.
  2. Not taking care of those in need is a sin of omission.  It’s something we don’t do.

When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah. (Genesis 38:27–30)

The family tree of Jesus includes the offspring of this crazy story:

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar… (Matt 1:1-3)

God’s sovereign plan unfolds through even grievous sexual sin and grievous social injustice.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)