There are times when it seems that the setup for Jesus is almost too perfect. When you consider the prophecies that were fulfilled about him, it seems that he just fits the mold so well. How could anyone ever miss who he is? He MUST be the Messiah! It’s all setup so perfect.
Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. From his birthplace, to his escape to Egypt as a child, to his ministry highlights to the details of his death – it’s all there for anyone who wishes to check it out.
Know this though, if we only look at the prophetical trail of Christ, we might miss the historical trail, and that’s where some of the best stuff is. That’s where you find that Jesus genealogy might be perfect in God’s eyes, but it is far from ideal. For example, Hebrews speaks about how Jesus was a priest, but not by the law. What that means is that he wasn’t from the tribe of Levi. See that? He’s not even from the right tribe! Think of who Jesus’ ancestors were…David was an adulterer. Ruth wasn’t even Jewish to begin with. And then there’s Judah – one of the 12 sons of Jacob from whose seed the Messiah would eventually be delivered.
There’s not much good to say about the sons of Judah is there? After Joseph, it’s hard to like people who sell others into slavery. None of them are really shown to be the best of men in the Bible. However, Judah is perhaps given the best treatment. We can at least relate to him on some level. He seems to try to reach for that which is right most of the time. When his brothers decide to kill Joseph, it’s Judah who comes up with the alternate plan. When Joseph later asks for Benjamin to come, Judah offers his own life to Jacob if anything happens to Benjamin. When Joseph demands that Benjamin be punished for something he didn’t do, it’s Judah who pleads his younger brother’s case.
Judah certainly has his good moments, and by the time we find him again in chapter 38, he seems to be mostly concerned with what’s best for his family. A true patriarch, he realizes that even his daughters-in-law need to be taken care of, and when one of his sons dies, he does his best to make sure that his son’s widow won’t be alone. Though he tries to pass her off to one of his other sons, two of them die for dishonorable behavior with her. He tells her to go home to her father’s house and live as a widow. Later, Judah’s own wife dies, and in the midst of his grief, he is deceived by his daughter-in-law into sleeping with here and she conceives.
I have a lot of compassion for Judah. You have to understand what a huge deal this is in that time, and how easily the sin came upon him. He is lonely. He misses his wife. He misses his dead sons. The touch of a woman is so therapeutic to him, and he convinces himself he needs this. After all, he probably thought “I’m not really cheating on anyone anymore”. He makes one mistake in the midst of a flood of emotions and ends up paying dearly. He has impregnated his own daughter-in-law and everyone knows about it. His shame is on full display for all to see.
Now again, I have a lot of compassion on Judah, but what I like about the story is simply this: Jesus was perfect, but his ancestors were not. Jesus knew no sin, but was acquainted with every sorrow, every temptation and every pain that we know. I’ve always known that, but haven’t been able to let it’s truth soak into me as much as it should. Instead, whenever I give in to temptation, I think about how Jesus would’ve have never done that and then I end up feeling horrible.
In reality, I should take two things from this: 1) The purpose of Jesus not sinning was not to show us how to do it, but rather so that he could be offered as a perfect sacrifice for those of us who can’t do it, and 2) Anytime I need further proof, I need to look no further than Judah, who in spite of his sin was chosen as the line to deliver the Messiah to the world. Before realizing it was his daughter-in-law, Judah simply thought he was going to bed with a prostitute. That’s not really the best argument to use if he tries to explain his actions is it?
Judah is a reminder that we are all broken and susceptible to temptation. We all have the ability to throw it all away in an instant, and yet God can still use us in spite of all of that. He’s in the business of healing hurts and closing wounds.
Judah must have felt like his influence was no longer valid – that he had no right to speak up anymore. This is the kind of sin that can crush your family for generations, and cause you to cower away in embarrassment. However, by the time Christ arrived on the scene, he would show that Judah’s offspring was ready to roar again. He would be the Lion of Judah and would triumph over the sins of his ancestors. John puts it this way in the Book of Revelation…
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. -Revelation 5:1-5
I look to the story of Judah for inspiration today, and ask that Christ would help me rewrite my own history into a story of renewal.