Genesis 38:1-30

38 At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.

Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

17 “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.

18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”

“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her.21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”

“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.

22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”

23 Then 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.”

24 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 said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”

26 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.

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.
(Genesis 38:1-30 NIV)

As we began Chapter 27, Moses begins verse 2a by telling us that these writings are the generations (family) of Jacob.  We see a snapshot of the family dynamics in Chapter 37, particularly of Jacob’s sons.  In Chapter 39, we’ll see Joseph’s story pick up where we left off at the end of Chapter 27.

In Chapter 38, we see another family member in the spotlight – Jacob’s son Judah.  If you’re keeping track of all the family members, Judah is Jacob’s son by Leah, fourth in the birth order after his brothers Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.

Verse 1 of Chapter 38 begins with “At that time…”, referring to the incident of selling their brother Joseph off to the Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt.  Remember it was Reuben, the oldest brother that spared Joseph’s life, but it was Judah who came up with the idea of selling Joseph to the passing caravan.

As Chapter 38 opens, we see Judah leaving his brothers to spend time with his friend Hirah.  There he meets and marries a Canaanite woman and has three sons by her.  We don’t know the details about the first son, only that Judah arranged a marriage for him to a woman named Tamar.  Judah’s son was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life, leaving Tamar a widow.

Judah instructed his second son to perform the ritual of levirate marriage, where the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry the deceased man’s widow in order to have children that will carry on the deceased brother’s name and family lineage.

The second son, for whatever reason, decides to not honor his brother and does not give Tamar any children, so the Lord took his life as well.

Judah then promises Tamar that she can have his third son, but to go live with her family of origin until the third son is of age to marry.  Judah is hoping that the whole thing will blow over and everyone will forget about his promise.  Judah is scared that he will lose his third son as well.

But as the years roll on, Tamar sees Judah’s third son grown but not given to her as her promised husband.  So she decides to trick Judah into what she has been promised, pretending to be a prostitute along the road.

Judah, after losing his wife, falls for the trap and has sex with the “prostitute”, not knowing it was his daughter-in-law.  After Tamar turns up pregnant, she confronts Judah and lets him know he is the father.

Verse 26 is a turning point for Judah, from self-righteous indignation about Tamar being pregnant to admitting that he did not honor his promise to her, and she was, in fact, more righteous in God’s sight than he was.

The chapter ends with Tamar having twin boys, and the whole birth-order struggle happening between the two brothers in the womb, reminiscent of Jacob and Esau.

While this story might seem somewhat anecdotal here, this is another building block for God’s developing story over the years and generations.  If we fast-forward to Matthew Chapter 1, we see God redeeming all this sin, the messed-up lineage, broken promises, and trickery of Judah and Tamar as part of the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-3).

So when we’re defeated and feel like we’ve blown it and that there are no more opportunities, know that we are not that powerful.  If God can redeem the mess in today’s story (and so many other stories in the Bible), then He can redeem us and our messy stories and lives as well.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 2

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2 NIV)

With all of the news and social media up in arms about what’s going on in the world, I often yearn for a fresh perspective from all the tired “us vs. them” rhetoric that gets tossed to and fro.  Everyone’s talking, and no one is listening.  It seems that the world has forgotten how to participate in civil discourse that leads to solving problems and making forward societal progress.  Instead, the problems perpetuate and all people suffer the consequences of selfish political agendas, bitter rivalries, and inaction on the part of those who are charged with making this world a better place.

Verses 1 – 3 sound so much like our world today, don’t they?  What a mess!

I’m not espousing any particular view point here – left, right, or otherwise.  I am simply pondering what God must think of all this mayhem.

When I re-read this Psalm recently, I was reminded of God’s perspective on all this.  Verses 4 – 6 capture such a refreshing reminder of God’s view.

First, we see God having a sense of humor, as He laughs at the situation at hand (v. 4).  Next, he reminds everyone that He alone is sovereign and that He has set His ruler in place over all the kings and kingdoms (v. 6).  And what is the reaction of all the earthly rulers squabbling like little children over their “piece of the pie”?   They are rebuked and terrified by God’s display of power and holiness (v. 5).

So what is the psalmist’s response?  To remember what God has said, to be dependent on Him for provision, blessing, and protection (vv. 7 – 9).

And what are the psalmist’s words of advice to us?  To serve the Lord with fear (deep respect), to celebrate His sovereignty, and take refuge in Him (vv. 10 – 12).

It’s easy to dismiss this Psalm by rationalizing that you and I are not kings or rulers in the political sense, isn’t it?

However, I think there are two important applications of today’s text as it pertains to us:

  1. While we may not be kings or rulers, we are responsible for our own lives and also accountable for how we interact with and treat others.  We must be under God’s sovereignty for those interactions and relationships.
  2. For those in office and positions of human responsibility over us, this is certainly a great way to pray for them.  God is sovereign, whether they like it or not.    The sooner that those in authority realize God’s authority and place themselves under Him, the better life will be for them and those under them.

 

May we practice living under God’s sovereignty and authority and pray for those over us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Mark 2:13-14

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
(Mark 2:13-14 NIV)

In our last two times together, we looked at Jesus’ healing of the paralytic by forgiving his sins.  The story followed a pattern – Jesus performs an action, the religious leaders (scribe or Pharisees) take offense, and Jesus responds, silencing the critics.

Today’s story setting is different, yet follows the same pattern.  The overall story is found in verses 13 – 17; due to the many learnings and applications, we’ll visit the story across two days.

Today’s text begins with Jesus out preaching again, this time near Lake Genessarat (the Sea of Galilee).  Jesus had been in Capernaum; He was likely not far from Capernaum at this point.  Mark records that a large crowd followed Jesus, and He was teaching them.  Mark does not record the contents of Jesus’ message, but simply the basics of the event (v. 13).

Mark does not say why Jesus was outside preaching and teaching.  Did He no longer feel welcome in the synagogues?  Or was He simply spending time outside so He could reach as many people as possible, the reason He moved beyond Capernaum in the first place (see 1:38-39).

Verse 14 records the first part of Jesus’ action – selecting Levi (Matthew) as a disciple.  Mark tells us Levi’s role – a tax collector.  Mark also names Levi’s father (Alphaeus) as part of the text.  In Luke’s gospel, another disciple (James) is also the son of Alphaeus.  If this is one and the same father, then we have another set of brothers that Jesus calls to follow Him.

Levi’s role as tax collector was probably our equivalent of a customs agent, collecting a tariff on goods as they passed along one of the major trade routes in the area.  Levi was hated in his community, not for being Jewish, but for being a tax collector.  The Jews saw tax collectors as working for the “enemy”.  Upon accepting the position of tax collector, he had the promise of riches; the downside was being exiled from the Jewish community and communal life.  He was banned from attending the synagogue, he was snubbed by the rest of the community, and he could not be a witness or any part of any court proceedings, just to name a few of the negatives.

Notice Levi’s immediate response to Jesus’ command.  Again, the text does not say if Jesus had prior interaction with Levi or not.  Since Jesus had been spending time with Andrew and Peter, James and John, who were all fishermen, they had likely interacted with Levi, as other sources tell us that Levi collected the tax (tariff) on fish caught in Lake Genessarat.

If Jesus chooses to call a man like Levi (Matthew) who represented everything wrong and reprehensible to Jewish culture, how much more does He call you and I to Himself?

Notice that Jesus did not tell Levi to clean up his act, or to conform to a certain social standard before he could follow Jesus.  Jesus took Levi as he was, a social outcast and sinner who was seeking the Messiah.

Jesus’ loving and unconditional invitation still stands for all who seek Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 21:1-10

21 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”

But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’

“Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
(Jeremiah 21:1-10 NIV)

Chapters 21 – 23 are a new section in Jeremiah’s writings.  This section deals with the kings and prophets of Jeremiah’s day.  Chapter 21 also indicates a break in the timeline from Chapter 20.  Remember from our introduction to the book of Jeremiah that the writings are not chronological.  The book of Jeremiah is rather a series of biographical and autobiographical stories about the work of the Lord in Judah and Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s years of ministry.

While we don’t know the exact timeframe of Chapter 20, we do know the date of Chapter 21.  Jeremiah explicitly calls out the reign of King Zedekiah and the final overthrow of Jerusalem.  Historians identify this timeframe to be in the spring of 588 BC.

Some twenty years has likely passed from the end of chapter 20 to the beginning of chapter 21.  King Josiah, the great reformer, has died, and there has been a long list of kings that occupied the throne since then.  The current King Zedekiah finds himself trapped in Jerusalem, surrounded by the Babylonian armies.

King Zedekiah sends Pashhur (same name, but a different person than the one in Chapter 20) and Zephaniah to see Jeremiah.  The king is hoping for a favorable word from the Lord.  The king remembers what the Lord did to the Assyrians many years ago, wiping out 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 18-19).  He is thinking, “Hey, God did this for our nation back then, what will He do for us today?” (verse 2)

When the king’s two representatives find Jeremiah, they quickly learn that the message from the Lord is precisely the opposite of what the king was expecting.  In verses 3 – 7, the Lord says He will fight against Jerusalem instead of for her.  The Lord repeats the outcome spelled out in previous chapters: the inhabitants of Jerusalem will die by the sword, plague, or famine; the remnant of survivors will be carried off into exile in Babylon.

In verses 8 – 10, Jeremiah gives a message to the king that he is to share with all the people of Jerusalem:  Choose life in exile or death in Jerusalem.  There are only two choices.  Notice that there is not a third option of repentance.  The Lord has extended that offer many times, and the people have either ignored or refused the offer many times.  The opportunity for repentance has come and gone.  The only option now is judgment for their sin.  This choice was not a new revelation to the people of Jerusalem – they knew their options from the days of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

King Zedekiah fully expected Jeremiah to be loyal to God and country, and bring good news to the situation at hand.  Jeremiah’s loyalty was to God alone, and when the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and he passed the words on to the two representatives and the king, they could easily take Jeremiah’s prophecy as high treason against his country.  In fact, treason had taken place – not by Jeremiah, but by the nation of Judah in abandoning the Lord and worshipping other gods.

May we chose life via loyalty to the Lord only and walk with Him all the days of our life.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 12:7-13

“I will forsake my house,
    abandon my inheritance;
I will give the one I love
    into the hands of her enemies.
My inheritance has become to me
    like a lion in the forest.
She roars at me;
    therefore I hate her.
Has not my inheritance become to me
    like a speckled bird of prey
    that other birds of prey surround and attack?
Go and gather all the wild beasts;
    bring them to devour.
10 Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard
    and trample down my field;
they will turn my pleasant field
    into a desolate wasteland.
11 It will be made a wasteland,
    parched and desolate before me;
the whole land will be laid waste
    because there is no one who cares.
12 Over all the barren heights in the desert
    destroyers will swarm,
for the sword of the Lord will devour
    from one end of the land to the other;
    no one will be safe.
13 They will sow wheat but reap thorns;
    they will wear themselves out but gain nothing.
They will bear the shame of their harvest
    because of the Lord’s fierce anger.”
(Jeremiah 12:7-13 NIV)

In the previous two passages, Jeremiah:

  • uncovers a conspiracy to kill him, and the Lord reiterating His promise to protect Jeremiah and punish those involved in the plot (11:18-23)
  • asks the Lord the bigger question of “why does evil flourish?” and God provides an unexpected answer of “take heart; it’s going to get worse”  (12:1-6)

On first reading of today’s passage, it appears the Lord has moved on to a new topic.  Upon further investigation, however, we discover that today’s passage links to the previous two passages.  In essence, the Lord is saying to Jeremiah, “your personal experience of betrayal, heartbreak, and rebellion is just a small taste of what I am experiencing right now.”

In particular, Jeremiah’s family speaking kindly to his face but plotting his demise (v. 6) provides the context for verse 7, where Judah speaks the Lord’s name but worships the foreign gods.  The Lord uses verbal imagery of a father talking about his daughter (“my inheritance”, speaking of Judah in general and Jerusalem in particular) in verses 7 – 9.

God loves His whole household (Judah) and this daughter (Jerusalem) more than words can express. The pain the Lord feels over the self-destruction of the home and the daughter’s shameful behavior break the Father’s heart.  The consequences are inevitable.

When the Lord says, “therefore I hate her” (his daughter Jerusalem) in verse 8, he is expressing the heart-breaking effects of betrayal and defiance.  We often associate love as the opposite of hate.  In fact, the opposite of love is indifference.  The Lord is saying, “I love you more than you could ever know.  I hate what you have become and the choices you have made when I have loved you faithfully your entire life.  It breaks my heart.”

In verse 9, the Lord further expresses His heartbreak as He sees His beautiful daughter go from an honored princess and example of good to the world to being ridiculed and robbed by those whom she chose to associate.

Verses 10 – 13 depict the destruction that will take place at the hands of the invaders from the north.  Th destruction will include the towns and villages all over Judah, as well as the fields and crops that provided their food and living.

May we remember that whatever profound emotions we feel when we are hurt, lied to, and betrayed by those whom we love, the Lord has experienced those same realities at the city, national, and world level.  Indeed, He has walked in our shoes before we have, and still chooses to love His children despite their waywardness.

May we choose to love others unconditionally as He loves us, as we were once His enemies when we walked our selfish path in defiance, rejection, and betrayal of Him.

Blessings,
~kevin