Pleasant to God

Genesis 38:1-10

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 made love to 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.

6Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8Then 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.” 9But 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. 10What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Introduction

A new believer was very assured of his eternal life. He was very certain that anytime he dies, he would enter heaven. He planned to live a countryside lifestyle of seclusion away from the city. He just wanted to enjoy a life of solitude and stay away from the influence of a very tempting lifestyle in the city.

He prayed for God’s approval and blessing of his plan. He waited for confirmation that God wanted such lifestyle of solitude for him. The more that he wanted to be alone, the more God connected him in ministries involving other people who may need the Lord. Eventually, he sensed that it pleased God for him to join the full-time ministry.

Right before the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and gave instruction to the disciples, it says in Luke 24:45-49, 45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Scriptures is never easy to understand. We need to pray for the Lord to open our mind. The disciples were with Jesus for more than 3 years but they only came to understand the responsibility of disciples to witness for Christ when He opened their mind. Luke recorded the last instruction of Christ to witness for Him in Acts 1:8: 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

To witness for Christ is to testify about personal experience with the Lord, tell about what changes Christ has done in the believer’s life, and proclaim the hope of living with Him eternally in His heaven. Be reminded that to be effective witness for Jesus, first and foremost, we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

The first century disciples had been personally trained by the Lord Jesus. They did not go to the seminary for formal training. The Lord Jesus gave them actual on-the-job training. Apostle Paul has Doctorate in Religious Laws as a Pharisee, but considered it garbage as compared to gaining righteousness from God through faith in Christ.

We don’t disregard evangelism training or any other training offered in the seminary or church but we prioritize the empowerment of Christ’s Spirit. When the Holy Spirit prevails in our heart and mind, we will know which training we need to focus onto: Evangelism, missions, pastor, teacher, usher, leadership or practical trainings necessary for the ministry like carpentry, sports, cooking, arts, music, crafts, and many more.

Ever since you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, have you sought the empowerment of the Holy Spirit intimately? If so, have you sensed which ministry the Lord has called you to be involved with? Has the Lord given you a desire to be trained?

Have you been very sure of your eternal life but desire to be on your own, in solitude? If in any case, you are still in that state, pray that God may increase your faith. Pray that the Lord will open your mind to His will. The first century disciples were scared to go out and witness for Christ before they were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul testified to in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

When Thessalonian Christians became active in making disciples, it was Paul’s glorious and joyous experience, and he expected to experience in the presence of Christ.

When Paul and his mission team preached Christ to the Thessalonians, they also nurtured, helped them grow in their faith in Christ. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians expressed his mission team’s glorious joy because the Thessalonians have matured.

Actually, Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8, 6You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.

Joy from Christ’s Spirit keeps faith in Him strong in the midst of severe trials. May our faith become known everywhere and inspire others to follow a lifestyle of ministry involvement! Prioritize! Keep praying until you sense the empowerment of the Lord.

Get involved in a ministry you deem interesting to you while waiting for Christ’s personal instruction as to which particular ministry you should focus onto. You’ll know the right ministry Christ wanted for you when it becomes natural and you have joy in it.

Spiritual growth can slow down when we stay away from ministry or spend more time with individuals who may influence us to ignore the Lord. Choose friends who can help grow spiritually. It says in Proverbs 24:1-2, 1Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; 2for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.

Believers are not exempted from envy of practical abundance. Joseph’s brothers were envious of him because he had the most beautiful robe available at the time, and they hated him and sold him. After that, Judah’s life was inserted as transition story.

Judah’s decision to move away from his brothers exposes that staying away with companions who didn’t believe in the Lord and didn’t practice lifestyles of righteousness could influence us to make undesirable decisions.  Judah had encountered a series of events he may have regretted when he decided to stay away from his relatives.

1. Decision

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 made love to 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.

It is presumed that Judah left his brothers after they sold Joseph to merchants. He may have felt sorry for his father Jacob when he refused to be comforted after they reported that Joseph was devoured by ferocious animals. And probably just to forget what they did to Joseph, Judah settled where he can stay away from his brothers.

a. Settle

1At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah.

Judah married a woman among the people of Hirah. ‘Hirah’ means pale or white. Probably, Judah was attracted to the Canaanite woman because of her skin. Judah did not ask for his father’s blessing when he got married, why? Jacob ignored his family and did not care about them. He just wanted to mourn until he can join Joseph in the grave.

Solomon, the wisest king of Israel teaches us in Proverbs 10:1, 1The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. And in Proverbs 15:20, 20A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. He also said in Proverbs 17:25, 25A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him.

Judah and his brothers exhibited their foolishness when they sold Joseph which made their father Jacob grieved. Judah made a series of decisions as proofs of his own foolishness. He decided to stay away from his brothers, stayed with a man who did not believe the Lord, and took a Canaanite woman as his spouse.

b. Spouse

2There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her.

Probably, Judah decided to move away not just because he cannot endure watching his grieving father but also because he wanted to start a family of his own. Nonetheless, when he chose a Canaanite woman, he did not consider what his parents might say or think about. Is it foolishness to decide independently about spouse?

Billy Graham

For years Billy Graham read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs each day, in addition to his daily Scripture reading. “By reading five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs daily, you will be able to read them through each month. The Psalms will tell you how you get along with God, and the Proverbs will tell you how to get along with your fellowman,” he said.

Someone said that his wife Ruth read at least one chapter of Proverbs each day. Many believers praise her not just because of her dedicated support to her husband and enduring care for their children but most particularly for her devotion to the Lord.

It says in Proverbs 12:4, 4A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. And in Proverbs 19:14, 14Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. Proverbs 31:10 says,

10A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

King Solomon who wrote the book of Proverbs knew very well what he wrote about having a noble wife. He may have been searching for a noble wife all his lifetime that was why he married a thousand women but he still had not found one.

It says in 1 Kings 11:1-4, 1King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

Of course, to lead astray and away from the Lord is not exclusive to women. Men can lead their wives astray spiritually. It is very advisable to seek God’s wisdom about marriage decisions. After marriage, continue praying for spouse until death do us part.

Judah’s first son died when the Lord decided to end his wickedness.

2. Death

6Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 8Then 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.” 9But 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. 10What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

There were three sons of Judah: Er, Onan, and Shelah. ‘Er’ means master. ‘Onan’ means vigorous. ‘Shelah’ means request. God put to death Er and Onan because they were wicked. No details what kind of wickedness they did but it could be possible that something acceptable to the Canaanites that were not pleasant in the eyes of the Lord.

How can we know which activities are pleasant and unpleasant to the Lord? The Bible is our practical guide when making decision pleasant to the Lord. There are things specified in the Bible and things that are implied. We’ve got to be more prayerful when things are not biblically explicit. The Holy Spirit helps us properly interpret His word.

It teaches us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

It is wise for us to know and decide for the good work the Lord has prepared for us. To grow spiritually, we need to have spiritual nourishment from the Bible. In contrast, it is foolishness to reject, ignore and not to read the word of God.

When Judah moved away from his brothers, he may not have asked his father for advice. So, it follows that his sons grew wicked. They may have ignored his advices also. Judah cannot impose because he ignored his father’s advices. And when he told his 2nd son to perform his duty as a brother, Onan ignored him. Onan did what’s best for him.

Judah suggested and convinced his brothers to sell Joseph to the merchants. Then, he decided to stay away from his brothers. Judah’s decisions are proofs of not performing his brotherly duty to his siblings, right? He was not better than his son Onan!

a. Duty

8Then 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.”

When Judah required his son Onan to perform his duty as brother-in-law, Onan did what his father told him but incomplete, why? Onan did not want that his child will be named after his older brother. What he did indirectly defied his father’s instruction. Did God put Onan to death because he disobeyed God’s command to obey parents or because he did not want the widow of his brother Er to get pregnant?

It says in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, 5If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

Now wait! Isn’t Moses who gave that law which was more than 400-years later after Judah died? So, how come that Judah required Onan of such duty for brothers?

Accordingly, before the Scriptures were written, Abraham had already exemplified a lifestyle that was pleasing to the Lord. And, the laws, regulations, decrees, or stipulations that Moses had written were not new to the Israelites but had been passed, transferred, or transmitted from generations to generation orally or storytelling.

It says in Romans 1:18-21, 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the

truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

What the sons of Judah had done were wicked to the Lord and punished them. Some people may argue that what God did was not fair. Humans may complain but God decides which deed is acceptable to Him and which deed is not pleasant to Him.

b. Deed

10What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.

Death may not be desirable because it ends the thrill of life but it can also be best decision when God deems it that a person has no more possibility of turning away from wicked deeds. Death has been widely understood as punishment for deeds not pleasant to God but for believers, it opens to door to eternal bliss and joy in heaven.

Apostles Paul testified in Philippians 1:20-26, 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

We desire and hope to live with Christ in His heaven. Pray to be empowered by Christ’s Spirit so that as believers, parents and children, and as residents of this world, our deed or performances, practical and spiritual will be pleasant to the Lord.

Keep praying for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit until you sense Him without any doubt and your lifestyle becomes pleasant to God. Get every opportunity to make disciples to earn more eternal treasures for yourself.

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