Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 15 January 21:
Genesis 38:26 — “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”
Genesis 38 is a shocking story. You may need to read it twice, slowly. Likely, you have never heard a sermon preached about Judah and Tamar.
Judah commits unthinkable sin after unthinkable sin (it is hard to keep track of them all) and at the end of it all, he is ready to burn to death his daughter-in-law for getting pregnant from prostitution (idol worship prostitution) without condemning himself, being the one who got her pregnant in the first place.
Then, after being caught in his hypocrisy, Judah says, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah,” — Wow – as if either of them is righteous at all, and as if his big sin was not giving her his son Shelah! Beyond having sex with a shrine prostitute, had he forgotten selling his own brother into slavery (Genesis 37:26)
What are we to make of this shocking story? What is most incredible about the story of Judah and Tamar is found in Matthew 1 – “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, and Perez the father of Hezron….” (Matthew 1:1-3) Both Judah and Tamar are listed in the genealogy of Jesus!
Like so many Old Testament stories, I think this story and then how God still used these sinners for His purposes reveals our total depravity and total dependence on the mercy and grace of God for our salvation. There is no one so righteous they can stand on merit before the judgment seat of God, and there is no sinner too wicked for God to redeem if that person accepts the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
- Psalm 8:4 — What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
- Romans 3:10 — None is righteous, no, not one….
- Romans 3:23 — …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….
- Romans 5:8 — …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
- Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Ephesians 2:8, 9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
- 2 Corinthians 10:17 — Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
- Romans 8:31 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Romans 8:38-39 — For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Judah was a complete hypocrite, pretending to be righteous when he was a heartless sinner. In today’s readings, Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites — “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men (Matthew 15:7-9).’” Often unbelievers will call Christians hypocrites. So what does the word mean?
Hypocrite (ὑποκριτής hupokritēs) is what the Greeks called an actor on a stage, pretending to be someone they are not. The stage and the arena where the primary modes of entertainment during that time (no TV or XBOX back then), so when Jesus called the Pharisees “actors,” people pretending to be lovers of God and men, everyone who heard his words knew exactly what he meant. Jesus elaborates: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.” Their religiosity wasn’t really about love for God, it was about pride and self-justification. Their worship was in vain because in reality they were worshippers of self – idolaters (see Colossians 3:5). 2 Timothy 3 further describes their condition: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Based on this verse from Timothy, isn’t it interesting the Jesus uses how the Pharisees treated their parents as an example of who they really were? Jesus also describes the Pharisees as whitewashed tombs – pretty on the outside but full of death inside – and cups that are clean on the outside and dirty on the inside.
Judah was a hypocrite because he played the role of a righteous judge when in fact he was wholly guilty, unjust, and truly unrepentant. Having just sold his innocent brother into slavery and having just slept with his daughter-in-law, believing her to be a shrine prostitute, he was ready to condemn Tamar to execution for her prostitution (with him). It is interesting to me too that this occurs in the land of the Canaanites where Jacob’s family slaughtered all of the Hivites saying, “Should he [Shechem the son of Hamor] have treated our sister like a prostitute (Genesis 34)?” Judah exemplifies what it means to be judgmental – a self-righteous, unrepentant sinner condemning other sinners –
- Matthew 7:1-5 — “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Hypocrites are NOT those admittedly guilty sinners who, in their sinful condition, point out the truth of sin to other sinners and reveal everyone’s need of salvation through Christ. When Paul said, “I am the worst” of sinners, he meant it; and from his guilty position he exhorted many to repent, not as a “judge” (in a condemning way) but rather as a juror, a peer armed with the Word of God. When Lot pleaded with the people of Sodom and Gomorra, “Don’t do this wicked thing,” their response was similar to what we would here today: “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge (Genesis 19:6-9)!” However, Lot was not pretending to be a righteous judge, he was revealing truth out of compassion for everyone involved, a tough position in which to find oneself. As the preacher says, “We are all beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.” Of course Jesus reminds us all — “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Christians are called by God to proclaim the Gospel, and the Gospel message begins with the need for everyone to repent and turn the Jesus alone for their salvation. A common response from unbelievers is to label Ambassadors of Christ as hypocrites, but our Gospel messages is we are righteous (right with God) only through Jesus, not through our deeds – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).” Proclaim the truth in love, and don’t be discouraged by those who would condemn you for sharing the greatest love story of all eternity –
- Romans 8:31-39 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Jan 21: As you meditate on your total reliance on God’s mercy and grace, let the mercy and grace you show to others be your act of gratitude, worship and praise.