In Genesis 38, Judah married and had three sons. His oldest son married Tamar but was slain because of his wickedness. Onan was told to marry Tamar and provide an heir for his brother. He married Tamar but refused to provide an heir, and he was slain by God (Gen. 38:1-11). Judah asked Tamar to stay so she could marry his youngest son, Shelah. When the time came, Judah did not uphold the deal. After Judah’s wife died, Tamar dressed as a harlot to seduce Judah. She conceived as a result. (Gen. 38:11-19). When her pregnancy was discovered, Judah was quick to condemn until Tamar provided evidence that he was the father (Gen. 38:20-26). Though this family was in turmoil, we can learn from their mistakes.
First, we must fulfill our responsibilities to others, even at personal cost. Onan wanted the benefits of being married to Tamar without the responsibility. He knew that any children she bore would not be his but would carry on the name of his brother (Deut. 25:5). This meant that Onan’s inheritance would not belong to his family alone, but would have to be shared. Lust and selfishness motivated Onan’s actions, and that is why he was destroyed. We must set aside personal desires and be concerned with helping others because our responsibility is to do good to all (Gal. 6:10, Phil. 2:4).
We also learn we cannot make allowances for sin, even in distress. Judah yearned for comfort after losing his wife. However, that did not give him the right to seek a harlot. When we are emotional, it becomes more difficult to think clearly. Recovering addicts often lapse when they are under high stress. When we are emotionally compromised, our pet sins become even more enticing. Sin is like a drug. We do it because it feels good in the moment, but in the long term it is deadly (Rom. 6:23, 1 Jn. 2:15-17). Satan knows this tendency and will exploit it (1 Pet. 5:8), just like Tamar exploited Judah in his mourning. Instead of running to the false comfort of sin when we are emotionally distressed, we must run to the Lord, because He truly cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7).
Finally, we must be consistent in judgment. Judah was quick to condemn Tamar, though he was guilty of the same sin. We may look down on Judah, but how often do we act the same? How often do we apply the scriptures to denominations and non-Christians but fail to apply them to ourselves? There are many things we can condemn in our society, but if we too are participating in them, we are just as guilty as they (Rom. 1:32, Gal. 5:19- 21).
Judah’s family was a mess because of sinful behavior. If we want our families to experience a better life, then we must learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, striving to obey the will of God. – D.J. Stucky
From Faith to Faith, Granbury Street Church of Christ Weekly Bulletin, December 10, 2017.