Genesis 38:6–11 (ESV) 6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. 11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.
Judah was a real piece of work. This chapter (along with others) does not fail to record that these sons of Israel were not God’s chosen people because of any supposed righteousness of their own. Grace lay behind it all.
But in this short portion of Judah’s chronicle, we find a wonderful example of how twisted our thinking becomes, when we take to making decisions based upon coincidence and the way we “read the signs” – above ordering our lives according to God’s Word.
Judah’s fear, in the aftermath of the death of his two sons – Er and Onan – was that the third brother Shelah would face the same fate. But watch his reasoning. The text is explicit that both Er and Onan were put to death by God because of their own wickedness (vss. 7 & 10). But Judah makes this unwarranted leap of logic that the problem must be their common association with the woman, with Tamar! Judah manifests two tendencies of our own day in vivid colors.
First – Judah looks to blame his son’s deaths on their association with the pagan woman – and not on their own wickedness. It is as though he says “my sons would never have done anything worthy of death if it hadn’t been for her! How many parents today love to turn a blind eye to the sinful tendencies of their own children, and assign their woes to the ungodly influences of others. Each make their own choices for their own reasons. And each bears their own guilt.
But more subtlely and in some ways even more dangerously, is Judah’s way of connecting the dots. He is reading the signs of circumstance and coincidence, and from it, trying to discern the truth behind the tragedy of his son’s demise. Never mind how God looks upon and deals with wickedness, the common denominator in Judah’s eyes is Tamar. “What is it God is trying to tell me? Must be He is telling me Tamar is dangerous.” WRONG! Dead wrong. Twice. Pun intended.
Now let me ask you reader – how are YOU reading the “signs” in your life? What coincidences are you using to make decisions by? How are you trying to interpret various circumstances? How are you connecting the dots? Like Judah? To arrive at the result that reinforces your own opinions? Or are you bringing your decisions to the Bible?
God hasn’t struck you down, so He must be pleased with your sexual immorality? You haven’t been caught so your theft isn’t that bad in His sight? That old girlfriend suddenly reappeared in your life, so it must mean you should leave your wife for her? That guy from college found you on Facebook so that meas God wants you to hook up again? You just drove down a street by the same name as the horse you thought you might bet on?
This kind of utter foolishness will end in tragedy. Beloved – our question ALWAYS must be – “what does God’s Word say” – NOT, does that look like Jesus’ face in my toast?