The lesson today covers several sections of scripture and is focused on Judah the son of Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel. One might think that when God brought forth the promised Messiah, He would choose a pristine family. That the chosen Savior of the world would come from an elite family that had social grace and dignified behavior. Not so. Christ is a direct descendant from a highly imperfect and realistically flawed lineage. Again, God does not often choose to work through perfect people, there aren’t any. Our weakness testifies to His strength. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. God proves to us time and time again that He knows the frailty and frame of mankind. In His earthly for He was tempted just like we are, but He never sinned. He knows fully that we are but dust and loves us anyway.
22. And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid: Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.
Judah is one of the sons of Leah. Jacob was tricked into a marriage with Leah because she was the unwanted oldest daughter of Laban, Jacob’s uncle, and worked 14 years as an indentured servant in order to marry Rachel, his true love. Jacob loved Rachel, but Rachel was, at first, unable to conceive. God saw that Leah was hated, and He blessed her with sons. Rachel eventually received healing from the Lord, and also had children. And, to complicate the matter further, in a contest between the two sisters for superiority, two concubines were also brought into the family who produced children. Notice that Levi is not the oldest son, he isn’t one of the highly favored youngest sons of Rachel. He isn’t wise like Joseph. He is from the middle of the pack. Jacob’s oldest son committed sin by sleeping with his father’s concubine. This act causes further division in the family and is a foreshadowing of disgraceful behavior to come out of this line. There is division caused by an unhappy marriage, jealousy, improper relationships, favoritism, and the consequences of Jacob staying too long in a land God had called his grandfather Abraham out of in order to hide out from his own brother Esau. Fair to say, their lives were neither easy nor uncomplicated. What reason would He have for choosing Judah to be the son who will receive the honor of being the father of a line of kings and of Jesus? It’s good to know that to become the sons and daughters of God, we will not need to impress Him. That is far beyond our ability to perform, even at the best of times, and utterly ridiculous in our worst. The grace of God is extended to all of us, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” You hadn’t had an opportunity to earn it, you were chosen to become a part of something far more important than you could ever imagine. You’ve been given the opportunity to be part of the body of Christ. It doesn’t make sense unless you grasp the goodness and mercy of God, which is the ultimate mystery of existence. God has offered you salvation, despite yourself, and it would be wise to accept it.
24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
Judah, unlike Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, marries into a Caanite family. Judah’s sons’ lives were taken early because their sinful behavior was judged by God. Tamar is the widow of both sons. It was the law that if a man died without a son to carry on his line, that his brother would marry the widow and raise up a son in honor of the deceased. This practice provided for the widow and protected the family line. Tamar had no child as a result of the sin of the brothers, and she was abandoned and unprotected. She plotted to entrap her father-in-law, who had refused to allow her to marry his third son. She dressed as a prostitute, he didn’t recognize her, and for payment he gave her a staff and a bracelet. When news reached Judah that his unmarried daughter-in-law was with child, he ordered that she should be killed, as was the law and the custom. Judah spared her life, when she showed him his possessions that she had kept, proving that he was as guilty as she was. Out of this unhappy and shameful situation a son was born who would be in the lineage of both King David and Jesus. In the mess of humanity, in the most desperate and embarrassing situations, the will and grace of God are both at work. Far from abandoning us because of our failure, He never leaves or forsakes us, and uses our worst moments for our good, and to eventually give Him glory.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
Israel, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, calls his sons together at the end of his life to give them his blessing and to prophesy to them of their future. Israel’s blessings on his sons are considered to be the first prophecy given by a man, interestingly, they are full of hard truths and rebukes and still are referred to as a blessing. Recognizing yourself, in the word of God, as a sinner who needs to repent, to confess, and to change, is indeed an incredible blessing. It’s like realizing that you have cancer that will destroy your body and take your life, and hearing about it from a doctor who knows how to take care of it, remove it, and restore you to health. It is hard to hear, but an incredible blessing to be given hope and a future. To Reuben, Israel said, “ you are my firstborn, but you are unstable as water.” His sinful behavior mentioned above has not been forgotten, and he is warned about his lack of character. Simeon and Levi are told that the wrath they displayed and the cruelty they acted out at Shechem over Dinah, can never be forgotten or ignored. When their daughter was first captured and then betrothed to a Canaanite, they carried out revenge by having them circumcise themselves and then slaughtering them while they were still recovering. It was cruel and untruthful, even if they intended to avenge their sister’s honor.
Israel told them that the other neighbors who heard about such a violent and unfair attack, would hate and despise them because of it, and it was so. Their actions were called into remembrance, and their blessing was an uncomfortable situation to be sure. Israel’s fourth son is Judah. If we had been in Judah’s place after hearing what was said to his brothers, it would be reasonable to think, “I’m about to get it!” Judah certainly has sins to be accounted for, but we see a stark contrast in the words God inspired Israel to speak. Judah’s blessing is full of Grace for someone completely undeserving. As Israel gives the blessing to Judah, he prophetically speaks of the coming Messiah. Punishment and ridicule are in order, and Judah is without excuse, but mercy and hope and abundance are given because of the gift of life that being connected with Christ brings. Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Christ is the Lawgiver and the Law Fulfiller. Christ will gather His people, gather His church, and from Him, every blessing, all joy, and everlasting life flow freely. I am blessed, because I have given my life to Christ, and He has given to me all that the Father has given to Him. Judah is blessed without even knowing it, because of Christ and in spite of himself. David said, “who am I” that God thinks about me or considers me at all? In answer to that, Pilot ignorant of the truthfulness of his statement declared, “Behold the Man!” Christ makes us worthy, every good thing we seek can be found in Him. In every way, He pleases the Father, and by becoming part of the family of God that relationship with the father can be extended to whosoever will.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!