As I studied the passage I wondered how to deal with the sin of Er, Onan and Judah. How do I deal with this, especially with small children present, so as to be above all faithful to the text but also sensitive to those hearing the text? The more I read the passage the more it became clear that the sins of Judah and Onan are reveled as they are to show the grace of God. The sins do not have to be excessively expounded on as they stand by themselves and thus simply need to be read as presented in the text. What needs to be emphasized in this chapter is the grace of God. The revelation of the grace of God to use a man such as Judah, and for that matter Tamar, to bring about the one to crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15) is striking.
If you were to simply read Genesis with no understanding of what was to come you would think that Joseph was the one the line of Christ was to flow through. Is not Joseph a picture of Christ? Is not he the one that is pictured as more righteous? But no, God works through the imperfect to bring about the perfect. God works not as man but as God to do what most glorifies Him. We should not be surprised by this with all that we see in Genesis up to Chapter 38, but we usually are. So grace is a major part of Chapter 38.
Moses is writing this to the Hebrews preparing to cross the Jordon back into the Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness. He is telling them not to be proud as if who they were was why God worked through them. Moses is showing how their heritage is one of sin but that it was God’s choice to work through them thus they had no reason to boast or pat themselves on the back. This is much as we should feel when we realize there is nothing in us that requires God to choose us. While I have heard many claim that the Doctrines of Grace can lead to pride, that is false. If pride comes out of your understanding of election you have misunderstood it. What should come out of a correct understanding of God’s calling is humility as we should clearly see we have nothing to boast about.
If we are truthful with ourselves our lives are much more closely aligned with that of Judah than Joseph and thus as with Judah it is only by grace God would call us to Himself. If you are truly one of God’s children you have been chosen by His grace not your merit and thus cannot boast (Eph 2:8-9).
This is not an excuse to live as Judah and simply expect God’s grace as the passage has a second feature and that is one of contrast. The contrast between the life of Judah and that of Joseph. Thus we are to see the grace of God to call us as we live as Judah. As well as to see our call to live, by God’s power, as Joseph.
So the sin that is portrayed in this passage is used to accentuate God’s grace. A grace seen from the beginning to the end of His word. There is not more grace in the Older Testament than in the Newer. It is all of grace that God would work though any of us. Let us truly understand that and seek to live, again by His power, in a way that most glorifies Him, as is laid out in His word.
If you would like to listen to last weeks sermon you can hear it here.