Do Not Conform

Genesis 38:11-19

11Judah 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. 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.

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

Introduction

Have you heard the phrase, “He who dies with the most toys wins?” What really did they win? Toys! Every child wanted to have their toys, the best toys, to have most toys! Envy! Envy! Envy! Envy is human inclination that has been exploited by business people to market their products. And it’s effective because it’s human nature. Ey?

From childhood to adulthood, envy manipulates anyone to conform to the trend of this age. King Solomon has correctly recorded what he observed in Ecclesiastes 4:4, 4And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another.

King Solomon may have felt envy of what other kingdoms had achieved or what other world kings had attained. Nonetheless, God blessed him to exceed them all. He was the wealthiest and wisest king of Israel or even in the past and future generations.

Envy does not come from God though. If envy impacts us to succeed, it’s great. But, if it pressures us to covet things we don’t necessarily need to live a godly life, that’s the negative effect of envy. Additionally, envy can influence people to join the more popular lifestyle which may lead them to eternal resentment. What did the Lord mean what He said in Mathew 7:13? 13Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

The end result of each decision we make has eternal consequences. We’ve got to be very conscious of the path we take or decision we make because it’s crucial and may lead to our eternal repercussion. Which way you love to take: The easier path where more people follow or the rigid path where only few people had decided to take?

Apostle Paul interpreted and followed the narrow gate to eternal life. He advised passionately in Romans 12:1-2. 1Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When Judah left his brothers and lived among the Canaanites, he may have admired and conformed to the culture of Canaanite people so that he married a Canaanite woman. He also got for his son a Canaanite wife named Tamar. The lifestyle Judah chose to take illustrates that he disregarded the consequences of his decision.

When Judah chose a Canaanite wife for him and Canaanite wife for his son Er, he was not mindful of possible results of his decision. His two sons Er and Onan may have interpreted that it was great for them to follow Canaanite lifestyle. They just follow their father’s example. When God put his sons to death, Judah did not readily understand it.

And, Judah got scared that his youngest son Shelah may possibly die also.

1. Possibility

11Judah 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.

 The Lord put to death the two sons of Judah, Er and Onan because they followed Canaanite lifestyle that’s not acceptable to God but Judah may have assumed that the cause of their death could possibly connected to marrying the Canaanite woman Tamar.

So, Judah advised his daughter-in-law Tamar to go back and live in her father’s house while waiting for Shelah to become adult but actually, Judah had already decided in his heart to prevent Shelah from getting married to Tamar.

Did Judah come to realize that his decisions were foolishness to God? Why did God allow him to stay away from his brothers? Why did God allow him to marry a Canaanite? Why did God allow him to get a Canaanite wife for his son? Why did God kill his sons for their wickedness? Were his sons more wicked than a Canaanite wife?

What lesson can we learn from the foolish decisions of Judah? Do not conform!

 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.

God killed the sons of Judah because of their wicked lifestyle. But, it appeared like Judah’s wife died of natural death or maybe sickness. Did God let Judah’s wife die sooner as lesson that preventing his son Shelah to marry his daughter-in-law Tamar was also foolish idea? It was not mentioned that God killed his wife because of wickedness.

Meaning: ‘Death’ is not necessarily the result of wickedness.

How should we interpret tragic incidents that we may possibly encounter?

During difficult times, sickness, problems, have you asked God, “What sin have I done?”

Should death or tragic event be object lesson that God is in control of life span?

Live on TV

A priest was stabbed in front of his congregation live on television during morning mass. Footage broadcast on a Catholic television station showed a man in jeans, parka and white baseball cap approached and chased the priest in front of horrified parishioners before stabbing his victim.

Hurting or killing religious leaders is not an isolated case in this generation. Hatred against religious leader is a practical proof that spiritual warfare is a reality.

The Lord has anointed Saul as king of Israel but Saul had no regard for the priest of God. When David escaped from King Saul, a priest helped him. Saul learned about it.

He was very furious, and ordered the annihilation of the priest and his family.

He said in 1 Samuel 22:18-19, 18“You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed 85 men who wore the linen ephod. 19He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.

It is not a secret that anyone who decided to follow the Lord will be persecuted. We may desire to live a little bit longer but we need to be aware that God has decreed the life span of a person. Death should remind us not to conform to worldly lifestyle. Instead, we should make sure our activities add up to our eternal treasure.

Judah grieved when his wife died. It implies that he really loves his wife. After he recovered from grief, he proceeded to supervise the men who were shearing his sheep. Judah owned sheep. He can afford to hire workers. His daughter-in-law heard when he went to Timnah. Timnah was more or less 40 kilometers west of Jerusalem. Tamar knew what road Judah may pass by. She waited for him and pretended to be a prostitute.

2. Pretension

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.

Who told Tamar that Judah was going to Timnah? Who advised her to disguise herself and pretend as prostitute? Judah had a friend named Hirah the Adullamite. Did Hirah give information to Tamar that Judah was going to Timnah? Is it possible that Hirah was a close relative of Tamar? But, why did Tamar pretend to be prostitute?

Tamar may not have desired to have another husband outside the family of Judah. Did she assume that her life would be better as member of Judah’s family? Judah may have become rich. He can afford to hire workers to shear his sheep. Was Tamar attracted to Judah? Tamar displayed sincerity as her character. Tamar was one of three women included in the genealogy of Jesus. The other women were Rahab and Ruth.

Tamar was Canaanite woman who pretended to be prostitute. Rahab was also Canaanite woman who was prostitute. And Ruth, was a Moabite. All three women were not originally Israelites but they were the only women name included in Jesus’ ancestry. God uses anyone and even people with worldly lifestyle to accomplish His purposes.

The Israelites may have assumed that the Lord worked exclusively for them only. Likewise, many believers are also misled to think that God would only use believers as His instrument to accomplish his purpose. That belief limits the abilities of God.

Would agree or disagree? Can God use a person who is not morally upright to be His instrument? Can God transform the worst person to serve His purposes?

King Cyrus

The story of King Cyrus may change some views. It says in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, 22In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 23“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”

Even rulers who do not believe in the Lord can become God’s instrument to accomplish His purposes. We pray that God would raise godly leaders but we’ve got to respect authorities even if they don’t believe God. We may not know if God allowed them to become leaders because of He has significant or special purposes for them.

It’s prophesied in Isaiah 45:13, 13I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.”

There are leadership decisions and activities that may contradict Christian beliefs and message, and believers may hesitate to implement them. In contrast, non-believing rulers have no concern about Christian ethics. They may decide for the betterment of citizenry without even minding what moralists or opinionated Christians would say.

Interestingly the 45th president of the United States of America claims to be a believer of God but many observers could not consider his style of leadership as godly.

No matter how he may lead, was it God’s will for him to become president?

In Romans 13:1-2, 1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves

Truly, it’s not easy to keep quiet when leaders abuse their authority. Humans and leaders are not perfect. So, anyone who may lead, we can always find fault or complain about their governing style. Who is or was the president, prime minister, king, queen or church leader who did not have any flaw? God uses both wise and foolish leaders.

God accomplished His purposes when He allowed Judah to make foolish decision.

He chose Canaanite women for him and his son, and then subsequently, he proposed to sleep with his daughter-in-law who pretended as prostitute.

3. Proposal

15When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 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. 17a“I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.

When Judah proposed to sleep with Tamar who pretended to be prostitute, he may have been advised by his Canaanite friend Hirah the Adullamite. Was it acceptable practice to hire a prostitute among Canaanites? Judah did not have any hesitation. He lived like Canaanite away from his brother or family. They cannot rebuke his actions.

There may have been great change of appearance when Tamar dressed herself as prostitute. She may have used perfume and outfits popular among prostitutes at that time. Did Judah ever recognize Tamar or had any suspicion of her identity? Was Judah trapped in Canaanite lifestyle and culture that his action showed no regard of the Lord?

The Lord instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 18:24-28, 24“‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

The Lord gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites because Canaanite lifestyle was like pollution in the eyes of God. The regulations and decrees stipulated in the book of Leviticus were lists of unpleasant practices to the Lord but acceptable to the Canaanites.

It’s observed practically that polluted environment is not very desirable place for living. The Lord commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites because their lifestyle was pollution, not acceptable, an eyesore in the eyes of the Lord.

Boracay Island

Boracay Island is a tourist attraction that generates income for Filipinos. The Philippine government decided to close it temporarily to rehabilitate because it became an eyesore, polluted and abused. Many business owners may not like the temporary closure of Boracay Island because it also stops their opportunity to earn more income. But surely, many smart people would agree with it as necessity for future benefits.

Similarly, there are lifestyles that new believers would find it hard to stop, especially, if they were enjoying them but would agree that it’s a necessity for godliness.

When Tamar pretended as prostitute, she may not like but she had to do it.

Spiritually speaking, can you accept that God has also designed the pretension of Tamar as prostitute? God decides which activity is acceptable to Him or not acceptable.

Judah told Tamar disguised as prostitute to sleep with him, she asked for pledge.

4. Pledge

17b “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.

It appeared like Tamar had thoughtfully considered thoroughly her actions. She was very smart and made sure that she can get tangible proofs. The pledge she asked were proof that Judah slept with her and the consequences of her decision.

King Solomon has warned against pledge in Proverbs 6:1-2, 1My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.

Pledge

Pledge is a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something: a pledge of aid; a pledge not to wage war; something delivered as security for the payment of a debt or fulfillment of a promise, and subject to forfeiture on failure to pay or failure to fulfill the promise agreed upon.

It also says in Proverbs 17:18, 18One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.

Pledge is a trap to the person who pledges in behalf of another person.

Was it wise decision when Judah gave his seal and staff as pledge to a stranger? Judah can easily acquire new staff but the seal was significant to identify his property. ‘Giving his seal to stranger’ was like letting others use your signature or credit card.

Be prayerful before giving your pledge. Give pledge that you don’t wish to return.

On the positive side, pledge from reputable and respectable person is admirable. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. His Spirit in us serves as pledge of His promise to live with Him in heaven.

Therefore, we should not conform to the pattern of this world but to godly lifestyle.

The Holy Spirit guarantees that God has given us eternal life and also helps us not conform to the pattern of lifestyle of the world but to live a godly lifestyle.

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