"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 9, 2011
This will my last week of writing from Genesis; at least for now. I would like to take a glimpse at the life of Judah.
Last week I wrote about the life of Joseph, who was the favored son of Jacob. Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, when he actually wanted to marry Rachel. He ended up with both sisters as his wives, but Rachel was the one he truly loved.
Genesis 29:21 say, "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened up her womb..." I always felt sorry for Leah. The scripture describes Rachel as being beautiful of form and face, and Leah as having weak eyes. She knew that Jacob really wanted to marry her sister instead of her. In fact, Jacob had worked seven years for Rachel, only to have her father trick him and wed him to Leah instead. I'm sure he made it obvious that he was sorely disappointed and didn't want her for a wife. Then Jacob worked another seven years because he truly loved Rachel and wanted her as his wife. The only heart-felt mention of Leah was that at the end of his life, Jacob requested to be buried where she was and not with Rachel. But it was a little too late, because Leah was already deceased and didn't know that. Anyway, Leah bore Jacob six sons and one daughter. Judah was the fourth son born to Jacob and Leah. The name Judah means "praise"; and after Leah gave birth to him she said, "This time I will praise the Lord."
Judah had his rebellious moments and moments of sin and disobedience. After throwing their brother, Joseph, into the pit the brothers saw a caravan coming and it was Judah that suggested they sell him. "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." (Genesis37:26-27) I'm not sure if Judah decided to sell Joseph because of a guilty conscience, or if he thought they might as well make a profit off him, or both. Perhaps he wanted to be rid of his little brother, only didn't want Joseph's blood on his hands.
Shortly after that, Judah left his brothers and went down to visit a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. While there, Judah met a woman and married her. They had three sons; the oldest was named Er, the middle son was named Onan, and the youngest son was Shelah.
Judah took a wife for Er, his first-born son, and her name was Tamar. But the scriptures say that Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord; so the Lord took his life. So Judah told his middle son, Onan, "Go in to your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother."
Ancient laws required that a brother should marry his brother's widow if she had no children, and thus produce a child in the name of his deceased brother. That law is found written down in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. However, if a man does not want to marry his brother's wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to carry on his brother's name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.' Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, 'I do not want to marry her,' his brother's widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face [yes, this is what it actually says!] and say, 'This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother's family line.' That man's line shall be known in Israel as 'The Family of the Unsandaled'." And we all say hallelujah and amen to the fact that particular law is not in effect for us today!
Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground (yes, it's in the Bible) to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord's sight; so the Lord took his life also.
Wow, in a short space of time, God takes the lives of Judah's two oldest sons! Judah then chooses to allow his youngest son to marry Tamar, only he has to grow up first.
"Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, 'Live as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up.' For he thought, 'I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.' So Tamar went to live in her father's house." (Genesis 38:11)
That poor woman! The marriage to Er was more than likely arranged to begin with, as was the custom in those days. He ends up being so wicked that God takes his life. Then she's given to her brother-in-law, Onan; only he doesn't want to have children with her. He apparently isn't opposed to having sexual relations with her, only he spills his semen on the ground so she will not become pregnant. Then because of his actions, God takes his life. Now she's sent back to her live with her father and told to wait until the youngest son grows up. The scriptures doesn't say how old he was at the time, how much older Tamar was than him, or how many years she had to wait. By this point she probably didn't have a very positive view of marriage. Shelah must have spent the intervening years knowing his destiny was supposedly tied to his older sister-in-law.
In the meantime, Judah's wife dies. So at this point, he has lost his two oldest sons and his wife; and he has no grandchildren. We don't know how many years passed from the time of the Lord taking Judah's sons lives and his wife's death, the scripture only said, "After a considerable (or long) time..." But during the passage of time between Judah sending Tamar to her father's house and the time of his wife dying and the time of mourning, Shelah came of marriageable age. But Judah either forgot his promise to Tamar or he neglected to fulfill his word, for he failed to send for her.
After the time of mourning for his wife had passed, Judah journeyed to Timnah, where the men who were shearing his sheep; and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him. Someone told Tamar where her father-in-law was going. She took off her widow's garments and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, then went to Enaim, which was on the road to Timnah. She did this because she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. She apparently felt scorned and decided to take action. Perhaps Tamar felt that Judah had lied to her and had sent her to her father's house in order to get her out of his household, so he wouldn't have the responsibility of caring for her. She may have felt that Judah had decided that she wasn't good enough for his only remaining son. Regardless of what was going on in her mind, she set Judah up.
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face [as such women did]. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and asked to sleep with her.
"And what will you give me to sleep with you?" she asked.
"I'll send you a young goat from my flock," he said.
"Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?" she asked.
He said, "What pledge should I give you?"
"Your seal (or signet) and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand." she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.
Then Tamar rose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow's garments.
When Judah sent the young goat by his friend, Hirah, in order to get his pledge back from the woman, he was unable to find her. He asked the men who lived there, but they all said there had been no prostitute there. So Hirah went back to Judah and told him that he was unable to find the woman. Judah said, "Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn't find her."
About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant."
Judah's righteous indignation rose to the forefront! "Bring her out and have her burned to death!"
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. "I am pregnant by the man who owns these. See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are."
Judah recognized them and said, "She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn't give her to my son Shelah." And he did not sleep with her again.
Tamar had twin sons, Perez and Zerah.
Perhaps this was a turning point in Judah's life where he began taking responsibility for his decisions. When he and his brothers came before Joseph and Joseph asked that they leave his younger brother, Benjamin, with him, it was Judah who spoke up. He told Joseph basically that it would kill his father if Benjamin was not returned to him, and he offered himself to take Benjamin's place and remain there as Joseph's slave.
Before Jacob's death, he called for his sons and spoke a blessing over each of them. The beginning of his blessing to Judah was, "Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down to you." Reuben, who was the oldest brother, normally would have made him successor of his father as head of the family or tribe. But Reuben forfeited all this by his conduct with Bilhah, his father's concubine. Judah became the tribal (or family) leader in Reuben's place.
In Matthew chapter one it lists the genealogy of Jesus. Verses 2 and 3 says, "..Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. And to Judah were born Perez and Zerah by Tamar..." It is Judah and his two sons who were mothered by Tamar who are listed in the genealogy of Jesus.
It's so easy to judge others at times, especially when they seem to mess up their lives. But God can take those ugly, messed up, dirty situations and make something beautiful out of them. A line in a song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither says, "All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life." Just as God turned Judah's situation around and caused him to be leader of his entire family, even after everything he had done wrong; God can take our broken, messy lives and and place His divine favor and blessing upon us.
We've been doing some remodeling. As with almost all remodeling projects, some things have gone well, some things have gone badly. And we have dozens of decisions to make.
One of the decisions was on doors. We could either go with stained wood or painted wood. The paint grade doors are pretty cheap, even for an attractive style. The stain grade doors are outrageously expensive, but look wonderful. The deciding factor was that if we had great looking doors on the pantry and bathroom, we'd want to change all the other doors, too. And that would cost a small fortune.
In the midst of our debates, Loretta pointed out something very important: This isn't our permanent home. I think she was referring to our dream of building a home to grow old and retire in. A few days later, I heard something about the eternity of heaven, and I got thinking... The home we want to retire in isn't our permanent home, either.
That doesn't mean we want to let the house fall down around us just because it isn't our eternal home. We still want to improve the resale value, and live in comfort. But it does put a good perspective on things.
Pig Cake (not sure why it's named this -- I didn't name it!)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter (softened)
1 can (14 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained (reserve 1/2 cup juice)
1 tsp. Vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. For the cake: combine cake mix, butter, 1/2 cup juice from the mandarin oranges, eggs and vanilla. Beat for 4 minutes on medium. Add drained mandarin oranges and beat again until pieces are broken up and small. Pour butter into greased and floured 9x13 baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Remove from oven and cool completely. If desired, turn cake onto a large platter.
1 package (4 oz. Box) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple (juice reserved)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 oz. Cool Whip
extra mandarin oranges for garnish
Once cake is cool, blend juice from drained pineapples with the vanilla pudding mix. Add powdered sugar and mix, then blend in Cool Whip. Stir in drained pineapples. Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate several hours. If desired, to serve, cut cake into squares and top each square with a mandarin orange slice.
I was recently visiting my nephew and his family. Winston is 5 and sat down beside me to tell me a story. My sister laughed and said instead of asking for a story like most kids, he'll always say, "Let me tell you a story." I think it's great, because he has learned to use his imagination. Winston started by saying, "Once upon a time..." The long story he told me was about a chicken named Chicken Wing. He was called that because when he was inside the egg he tried to get out by breaking the egg with his beak and it wouldn't break, so he used his wing and the shell broke. The story went on that he met another chicken with sharp, pointy blue toes. The chickens asked God what was special about them and He told Chicken Wing he was special because he got out of the egg using his wing, and other chickens use their beaks. The second chicken was special because he had blue feet and no other chicken had feet like him. The story went on and on and on. Chicken Wing ended up going to a McDonalds for chickens. As he was telling me the story, his sister, Lillian, came up and wanted him to play with her. Winston told her that he was telling me a story and couldn't. She sat down beside him and was waiting for him to finish and finally Lillian mumbled, "Winston tells the longest stories!" As soon as he finished the Chicken Wing story, Winston asked, "Okay, do you want me to tell you another story?" Some of his story was silly little boy material, but it was fun to listen to the creativity of Winston's imagination.
Never give the devil a ride; he'll want to take over the driving.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon