Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Mosaic Address:
    606 West 3rd Ave., Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday:  8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am
  • Infant through 5th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!



Back To List

Feb 07, 2010

Guilt and Shame Beget the Same

Passage: Genesis 38:1-30

Series: Are you hungry?

Category: Redemption, Old Testament

Keywords: sex, prostitution, shame, guilt, repentance, redemption, vision


Meanwhile, back in Canaan, Judah struggles with guilt over what he did to his brother Joseph by running away, away from his family and away from God...for awhile anyway... A few sermons ago, we talked about how we often choose our best over God's best and how to let God undo the damage of choosing our best. Last week we talked about the motivation for choosing God's best recognizing the vision God has called you to, being conformed to the image of Christ. Today we're going to backtrack a bit and talk about why we might be so inclined to choose our best over God's best including choosing out and out sin instead of God's goodness.


Genesis 38

I.       1-5

Genesis 38:1 through Genesis 38:5 (NIV)

1At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. 2There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and lay with her; 3she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. 4She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. 5She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.

 OK, we're just going to take this puppy paragraph by paragraph because there is a lot here. A few sermons ago, I talked about how we often choose our best over God's best and how to let God undo the damage of choosing our best. Last week we talked about the motivation for choosing God's best recognizing the vision God has called you to, being conformed to the image of Christ. Today we're going to backtrack a bit and talk about why we might be so inclined to choose our best over God's best including choosing out and out sin instead of God's goodness.

 A.    Context

1.    Guilt over Joseph

So, again this passage doesn't start off with a lot drama, I'm sorry to say, but context gives us clearer picture of what is really going here. Check it lets go to the tape. as you're watching this video try to put yourself in the air as one of the brothers experiencing this, the range, the omigosh-what-have-I-done moment after Joseph is thrown into the pit, watching the money changing hands while your brother is sold into slavery, and then keeping silent while your father believes the lie that his son, Joseph is dead.

 [play tape]

 Who is running away in the video? Judah. I think that dynamically portrays what's going with Judah. If you remember earlier in the Genesis account, Simeon and Levi are the hotheads who slay the city of Shechem. In the plot against Joseph, Judah is the one who comes up with a way of not killing Joseph. The text never says that Judah had compassion on Joseph...but let's look at what he does after his brother is sold into slavery and he watches his father mourn Joseph.

 1And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah

 Judah departed from his brothers and took a walk to Post Falls. Not literally, but about the equivalent. The town of Adullam was about that far away from where Judah's family was staying in Luz near Bethel. Thirty miles is a long walk. Judah wasn't just trying to walk off, he went to go see a different town.

 B.    Daughters of Canaan

1.    Curse of Ham

And while he's there gets himself a wife, not just any type of wife, but a Canaanite wife. Judah really didn't want anything to do with his brothers or his father's family. Marrying a Canaanite woman was a pretty good way to make this happen. The Canaanites really were a bad sort of people. One, they were a cursed sort of people. Noah cursed them. What happened was that way back after Noah and his fam had disembarked from the Ark and was placed with the burden of repopulating the earth, he got a little drunk...don't know if it was the pressure or just a new discovery about grapes and fermentation. Anyway, Noah got clothes falling off drunk. He was discovered by his son, Ham and Ham went and told his brothers about it and Noah was pretty ticked.

 Genesis 9:25 through Genesis 9:27 (NIV)

25he said,

     “Cursed be Canaan!

     The lowest of slaves

     will he be to his brothers.”

26He also said,

     “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!

     May Canaan be the slave of Shem.£

27 May God extend the territory of Japheth£;

     may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,

     and may Canaan be his£ slave.”

 So, he cursed the offspring of his son, Ham. Are you getting the impression that words meant something back then.

2.    Idolatry

Two, the Canaanites really were a bad sort of people. They were idolaters, they worshiped little statues that symbolized representations of the god of the weather, sex and other created things. They didn't worship God. There is big deal in Abraham's family about not marrying Canaanite women and getting involved in their culture. The Canaanite culture was based in idolatry. They didn't fear God or know him. So, for Judah this wasn't just about going down to Vegas and getting hitched to showgirl.

 Some of the practices of Canaanite religion were prostitution and child sacrifice. Instead of praying to God for crops they would place their child on a stone statue of their god, and heat up the statue and fry the child. Or they worshiped the fertility gods through cavorting with temple prostitutes. But they, according to their beliefs,they were doing was making a sacrifice for the good of the crops and the good of the community...they were shaping their own destinies and guaranteeing prosperity.

 This is the environment in which Judah started his family.

 II.     6-11

Years go by and Judah has a few kids. It doesn't say anything about him going back and living among his brothers or father. He's a man making his own way. His sons grow up not knowing the ways of their grandfathers, not knowing or fearing the God of their grandfathers. Why did he do this? I'll be honest, the text doesn't specifically say. I really am reading between the lines on this one, but I think I too have Holy Spirit. And I think Judah just wanted to get away from his family and any reminder of what he was a part of. He was ashamed and he felt guilty. Hearing his brother Joseph's cries from the well, seeing his father shower himself with dirt in mourning. You can't do stuff like that without it affecting you in a significant way.

 Genesis 38:6 through Genesis 38:11 (NASB)

6Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life.

 We don't know what Er did. But the significant issue here is whose son he is. He is Judah's son and Judah, even though he would estrange himself from his family, is still going to be the head of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Whatever it was that Er did, God didn't want him to pass that down to his sons and daughters. Why? It's like this, if you were going to poison a town's water supply that was drawn from a river, where would you start. Upstream of from the town. Judah represents the headwaters of the family line that goes to where? Right. Jesus Christ. Not that this wickedness could have affected Jesus DNA but there needed to a tribe of Jews (as in from the line of Judah) for Jesus to be born into for him to minister to. If you remember, the Jews were the tribe to make it that far down the line without getting dispersed among the nations. Even now Israel is made up of Jews. God took Er out of the line up to make sure that happened. Why Judah? Why is Judah's family line so important? But God has a vision for Judah as well. So, while Joseph is fulfilling a God given vision in Egypt, God will also use circumstances to work His vision for Judah. What is that vision?

 Well, fast forward 10 chapters and

 Genesis 49:8 through Genesis 49:10 (NIV)

8     “Judah,£ your brothers will praise you;

       your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;

       your father’s sons will bow down to you.

9     You are a lion’s cub, O Judah;

       you return from the prey, my son.

       Like a lion he crouches and lies down,

       like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

10   The scepter will not depart from Judah,

       nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

       until he comes to whom it belongs

       and the obedience of the nations is his.

 This is huge. Judah's offspring will be someone who rules the nations. Who could that be? It's Jesus. We'll talk more about that in bit. But God's working through all this stuff.

So, Er is taken out of the picture.

 A.    Levirate Vows

8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. 10But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.

 Why was this important? This was important because of the inheritance. The custom was common among the peoples of the East. In this case it had to do with inheritance. Er was the oldest son so his sons would get Judah's inheritance, but the way this custom worked was that Onan marries his deceased brother's widow and the first son of the new union is considered as the deceased brother's--the inheritance and legacy of blessing would go to him. Onan didn't want that. So, this isn't merely an act of birth control, this is an act of trying to shape his own destiny and guaranteeing his own prosperity. Because if Er's line is out of the picture with no offspring...Onan is next in line and would get the inheritance.

B.    Onanism

Some rabbis have supposed that this was a sin of sexually aberrant behavior and many Catholics also have supposed that this particular passage had to do with God's disdain for contraception. No, it's not. It is curious though because Onan didn't just sin against his brother Er and his father Judah, but he also sinned against Tamar. What Onan did was a selfish act. He wasn't poisoning the headwaters he was stopping them up in completely. For that, he was destroyed. God was intervening to make sure the vision he had for Judah would be fulfilled because this vision has to do with your salvation and that's a little important to God.

 1.    Selfish Act

2.    No Legacy

C.    Strike Two!

11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”; for he thought, “I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.

 So, Judah says one thing but means another. Out of the one side of his mouth he says, why don't you stick around until my son Shelah grows up, we'll hook you two up. But in reality he's like, "yeah, like that's going to happen. Mademoiselle Black Widow here is two for two, I'm not taking any chances.

D.    12-19

Genesis 38:12 (NIV)

12After 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.

13When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14she 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.

 What I want to know is who told her what Judah was doing and why? I mean, everybody kind of knows what's going on here. They know that Tamar has gone through two husbands and that Judah's oldest son is old enough to have a wife. It isn't in the text but I'm just saying...

15When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.

 I guess that's what prostitutes did back then.

 Genesis 38:15 through Genesis 38:16 (NIV)

16Not 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.

18He 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. 19After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.

 1.    Prostitution

This isn't just one of the oldest professions, but also one of the oldest acts of worship and religion. Sacred Prostitution is something that's been around for thousands of years. The Greek historian Herodotus writes about a Babylonian form of this where a woman would sit and wait for a stranger to come and then when the stranger put money into her lap she would have sex with them. It didn't matter what the amount of money was, to refuse would be a sin on her part. That was the Babylonian form which is probably a little bit more advanced in its rituals that this primitive Canaanite form but the idea was the same because the Canaanites worshiped created things and natural phenomena.

2.    Worship of Created Things

what set Abraham's clan apart from the rest of the tribes of the world at this time was not a holier sense of right and wrong. What set them apart was worship of the true God not created things. Worship of things like sex, the sun, the seasons, thunder and lightning, would be a perfectly logical way if you lost sight of the God who created all those things. Those created things that I just mentioned are pretty wonderful things. If you don't know how the sun creates heat and light and all the physical and atomic reactions that are going on, it's a pretty awesome phenomenon.

 And yes, I realize that by putting that slide up there I am indeed blaspheming someone's idol of religious music.

a.    The Corruption of Caananite Culture

Man already had a basic sense of right and wrong. That was passed down from Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The farther man got away from God and worship of the true God, the more warped his sense of right and wrong became. That's still true today. The farther you get away from worshiping the true God as opposed to created things like a relationship with a man or woman, money, a car, music, an alternative lifestyle, etc., the more warped your sense of right and wrong can become.

 And the farther Judah moved away from God, the more warped his judgment had become. Judah, here is not just committing the sin of non-marital sex, he is literally worshiping another god. This act of soliciting shrine prostitution was a religious act of worship. Yet, God didn't smite him, he smote his sons for less I'm sure. Why? Because God has vision for Judah and it cannot be frustrated by Judah.

 So, we can deduce why God didn't smite Judah, but why is Judah doing continuing to walk away from God? Guilt and Shame...still. His wife died, he mourned her. That happens, people die every day. But I ask you, do you think he knew he was doing wrong when he married into the Canaanite culture and chose to raise his sons away from his tribe who worshiped the true God? Do you think he realized it as he saw his sons die prematurely? Now, I'm not saying that God took out his nameless wife. I am suggesting that Judah probably believed that though. Guilt and shame beget the same...instead of dealing with it when he could have told his father Jacob what really happened, he ran away and like Joseph tried to forget about his family. But unlike Joseph who was forced and didn't run from God, Judah does and he continues sin more and create more guilt and shame.

 The dude has sex with his daughter-in-law. But that's OK, he didn't mean it, he was just trying to have sex with a prostitute. So, Tamar really gets Judah's goat here.

E.    20-23

Genesis 38:20 through Genesis 38:23 (NIV)

20Meanwhile 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. 21He 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.

22So 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.’”

23Then 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.”

 This passage brings up the topic of sex quite a bit, but this isn't going to be the 'sex sermon' as I had feared it would. But our sponsor would like me to clarify briefly what the Bible does say about it. There two kinds of sex, marital and non-marital. Marital is defined as between a man and a woman who are married, committed in a covenantal lifetime relationship to each other exclusively. Non-marital is everything else including homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, sex with animals, children, prostitutes, self, or any other person who is not your opposite gendered spouse. Marital, good, non-marital, bad. Any questions, see me afterwards or pastor John or pastor Charlie and know that God can redeem all our choices and sins as we are about to see. Back to the text.

III.    24-26

Genesis 38:24 through Genesis 38:26 (NIV)

24About 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!”

25As 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.”

26Judah 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.

 A.    What do you do when you realize you've made the bad choice?

We raised this question a few weeks ago. Does anybody remember the answer? Two things. Here's a visual clue.

1.    Repent

Turn from choosing your will, your best, over God's will and his best.

2.    Accept God's Plan for Your Life

Accept and don't try to squirm out of the God's plan of redemption and restoration for your life and fulfillment of the plan he has for your life.

 I believe Judah does this. He doesn't sleep with her again, he repents, recognizing his hypocrisy. I would like to think that eventually he gets the rest of it. We know that he does rejoin his family because of the famine that hits the whole region. John will talk about that more next week.

IV.    27-30

Genesis 38:27 through Genesis 38:30 (NIV)

27When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28As 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.” 29But 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.£ 30Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out and he was given the name Zerah.

 A.    Establishing the Line of Christ

And so, God's vision for Judah and the line of Christ, the source of your salvation, moves along to the next step, the birth of Perez and Zerah.

B.    Redemption of Sin

God redeems this mess as only God can. The ends don't justify the means, but Christ justifies all with his death and resurrection. All things work to the good for those who are called according to his purpose.

 Matthew 1:1 through Matthew 1:16 (NIV)

1A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Notice how it makes the point of saying her name. That's got to mean something special. It's an indication that no matter wicked you've acted or how much you've been shamed, God has a wonderful plan and vision for your life.

 Perez the father of Hezron,

 So on and so forth until...

 Matthan the father of Jacob,

16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.


The author and perfector of our faith. Let's pray