Though little information about him is recorded in the Bible, Judah is an interesting fellow. The messianic blessing was given to Abraham, and this blessing was fulfilled through the line of Judah. However, this was not due to any special righteousness on the part of Judah. Quite the contrary, the most righteous of Jacob’s son was Joseph. Instead, the blessing on Judah’s line seems to have come almost “by default.” Consider the prophetic blessings of Abraham on his sons in Genesis 49. Reuben, the firstborn, disqualified himself by committing fornication with Jacob’s wife Bilhah. (When you consider the circumstances, the fierce rivalry between Leah and Rachel provoked by Jacob’s severe, blatant sinful mistreatment of Reuben’s mother in favor of Rachel, Reuben likely did so in order to humiliate Rachel, and the act may not have even been consensual on Bilhah’s part … compare this with how Absalom forced himself on David’s concubines – and did so in public – in order to humiliate his father.)
Simeon and Levi, next in line, both disqualified themselves by murdering all the males from the tribe of the prince that forced himself on their sister Dinah. Although their actions ironically prevented Jacob’s faithless and horrible decision to intermarry his clan with this pagan tribe (and the result would have been Jacob’s line becoming pagans and not the other way around, see Genesis 34:20-24) they were judged by the Holy Spirit speaking through Jacob as “instruments of cruelty”, murderers, possessing “selfwill”, and cursed their “anger” and “wrath” because it was “cruel.” Apparently, though it was right of Simeon and Levi to seek justice for their sister’s rape (justice that their father, still acting fearfully and trying to exploit situations by cutting business deals at this time because of a lack of faith, pointedly refused to seek) and to scuttle Jacob’s intentions to disobey the wishes passed down to him by his father Isaac by joining his line with an evil pagan tribe, their taking vengeance on people who had nothing to do with the act – and doing so without consulting YHWH for permission or advice first – is what brought this curse upon them.
So, the blessings of Abraham passed to Judah. Again, it is not because Judah was the most virtuous of Abraham’s sons. Instead, though he was not firstborn, he was the first one born who did not disqualify himself with extremely serious abominations. Yes, Judah committed sexual immorality, but that is not the same as having sex with – and possibly raping – his father’s wife, and it is also not the same as mass murder. The acts of Reuben, Simeon and Levi were particularly offensive in the sight of God, and resulted in their being cursed (Jacob, empowered by the Holy Spirit, said of Reuben “you are unstable as water, and you will not excel”). This should be instructive to the homosexual lobby and their enablers among emergent and theologically liberal “Christians” who falsely claim that “all sins are equal.” That Reuben, Simeon and Levi were disqualified for their sins and Judah was not for his proves that Westminster’s Shorter Catechism is correct in their question and answer 83: “Are all transgression of the law equally heinous?” “Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”
Now make no mistake, though it was not like the transgressions of Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Judah did fall! Yet, the grace of God and the evidence of God’s election, God’s calling of him and his line, were evident when he got up again. So by examining this, Christians can learn a few things about our own Christian living.
1. The Leah contrast.
Why did Judah fall? It honestly looks as if he couldn’t take the pressure. When the heat was on, Judah melted. When the going got rough and tough, Judah crumbled. Understand this important fact of background context: Jacob obviously, sinfully favored Rachel and her children over Leah and her children. Example: when Jacob feared that Esau was going to kill him and his family, he sent Leah and her kids first so that if Esau killed them, Rachel and her kids would have a chance to escape! Jacob was obviously, indefensibly wrong, and it was horrible for Jacob to have his wives and children live in turmoil because of his own behavior, because of his placing his own interests and desires above that of his family, his duty to YHWH, and simply being just. However, as Christians, we must realize that our own situations, whether our family lives, finances, employment situations, churches, and political conditions are not always going to be “good” or “fair.” There are going to be problems in our families. There are going to be financial problems exacerbated by bad jobs and worse bosses and coworkers. There is going to be political oppression and repression, as well as social ostracism, because of our faith. And in our churches, there are going to be Christians who do not act like Christians, as well as actual non-Christians.
The way to respond is not the way that Reuben did, with a form of incest that might have been rape as well. It is not the way that Simeon and Levi did; mass murder. It is not the way that Rachel did, who rather than having compassion on her older sister and working to get Jacob to show love to her sister and ease her heartbreak, actually enjoyed possessing a favored status at her own sister’s expense, and tried to preserve it by giving Bilhah to Abraham in the first place. Instead, it is the way that Leah did, which is to seek God in submission and prayer, and do your best to persevere in a bad situation with grace and upright behavior.
Leah could have responded to Jacob’s grotesque, long-standing mistreatment of her in kind, by becoming a manipulative backstabbing schemer who sought to get back at him and undermine him any way that she could; by taking up the character of the two men in her life that despite being the closest to her and responsible for caring for, loving and protecting her (her father Laban and her husband Jacob), instead neglected, exploited and mistreated her. Laban married her off to increase his own wealth and then stole her dowry; Jacob only put up with her because he was stuck with her because of Laban’s machinations, yet was more than willing to use her as a baby machine to produce heirs for him.
Leah would have been more than justified in a worldly sense for giving Jacob exactly what he deserved, for treating him exactly as he treated her. Instead, Leah responded to the pressure by going to God, oft giving God the praise (Judah means “praise”, and Leah so named him saying “Now I will praise the YHWH” at his birth) and being the wife that God wanted her to be in spite of her low estate in the eyes of her husband and the turmoil that Jacob inflicted on his family; in spite of her circumstances. Leah sought YHWH often in petitions, prayer and praise, so she withstood the pressure. Judah did neither, so he fell. Twice.
2. Judah’s Two Falls
In this context enters Joseph. Now Joseph was not responsible for the evil situation that Jacob created, and was powerless to remedy it. Instead, virtuous Joseph was caught in the middle. He was the eldest son of Jacob’s favorite wife, and was treated as you might expect Jacob to: with a blatant, unjustifiable favoritism that was based solely on pleasing Jacob’s own emotions (Jacob treated Joseph so favorably not because it was in Joseph’s own interests or benefit, but because it gave Jacob pleasure and made him feel good) and not because it was in the best interests of anyone else, whether that someone else was YHWH, Jacob’s other sons and wives, or even Joseph himself.
Instead of going to God over the ill treatment from his earthly father and thereby gaining the strength to stand against the evil influences of his own mistreatment, his own emotions that resulted from this lifetime of mistreatment, and the negative influences of his brothers, Judah went along with the crowd. He allowed his anger, bitterness, envy and jealousy against Joseph (and also his father) to build into a hateful, murderous rage. Judah went along with the other 9 brothers with the initial plot to kill Joseph. This plot was foiled only by Reuben, the oldest and the wisest, who to preserve his brother’s life suggested that they throw him in a pit instead (so that he could later get him out and return him to the protection of Jacob). After the decision not to kill Joseph was already made, Judah then has the idea that profiting off the plot to get rid of Joseph by selling him into slavery was better than murdering him anyway!
So, this is how depraved Judah became. He was willing to murder his own brother and then sell his brother to some unknown fate as a slave. He did not stand up and speak up for righteousness; that was Reuben. It was Reuben who suppressed his own loss at being usurped of his firstborn status – Reuben at this point had lost more to Joseph than had Judah – who stood up and tried to do the right thing. Judah, meanwhile, not only went along with the crowd, went along with the sinful passions of his flesh, but in coming up with the plot to sell Joseph, he was one of the ringleaders! In his dealing with Joseph, he was one of the chief of sinners! And when Judah had a final chance to stand up and do the right thing, to be a just and honest man with regards to this incident, he went along with the cover-up to Jacob in order to escape the consequences of his actions. And that was the first fall.
The second fall was when Judah could no longer deal with his brothers’ conniving and malice – and his own guilt from the consequences over his own actions. Now Judah could have submitted to God, repented of his sins, and told his father the truth. Instead, Judah dealt with his problems by running away from them. How many Christians deal with marital problems that do not rise to the level of sexual immorality (or according to my own belief, domestic violence against spouse and/or children, which justifies at the very least separation for one’s own safety) by simply leaving despite knowing full well that God hates divorce? How many Christians abandon what they know are good churches and ministries simply because they face opposition (despite knowing full well that Satan will oppose such things precisely because he desires to destroy the good ministries, see the bad and un-Biblical ministries prosper, and drive Christians away from good fellowship)? Well, the Christians who pick up and run away from their adversity, from their troubles, lack the virtues of Leah. Instead, they are no better than Judah.
Now when Judah left his father’s house, he rather unsurprisingly fell into a common temptation for males: sexual immorality. Now in one sense, we have to put Judah’s sexual sin into context, because the law of Moses regulating sexual behavior (i.e. no adultery or fornication) was not yet given. Still, Paul told us in Romans that in the absence of the law, because of common grace at the very minimum, people have “a law unto themselves (Romans 2:14-15) that should instruct us concerning righteousness. Note how the pharaoh of Egypt and Abimelech of the Philistines respected the marriages of Abraham and Isaac to Sarah and Rebekah by returning those women to their husbands without touching them. A better comparison: how Joseph, raised in Judah’s own house as his brother, resisted the multiple temptations of sexual immorality by Potiphar’s wife. So, even without the law of Moses, Judah was without excuse.
Judah fell into the common practice of allowing the pressures of life – and the pressures that we face are real – to get him ensnared into sexual sin. (In this way, he was similar to Reuben’s responding to family pressures by resorting to sexual sin, save Reuben’s act exceeding that of Judah because of Reuben’s sinning with his father’s wife.) First, he had a child with a woman of Canaan, Shuah. Then his sons Er and Onan turned out wicked, reflecting the immorality of their father during this period. Next, Judah breaks his promise to the widow of Er, Tamar, by refusing to give her to his son Shelah as a wife. Even when a third child of Judah dies, his daughter, Judah did not consider his own wickedness and turn to YHWH in repentance. Instead, he blamed Tamar, as if she was some bad luck or cursed woman who had brought death to his 2 sons!
So what does Judah do when under the pressure of life? Despite being MARRIED, he goes and gets himself a prostitute (or so he thought, not knowing that it was his daughter-in-law Tamar)! Finally, when finding out that his daughter-in-law was pregnant by him does he (partially) acknowledge the depths of his depravity! Before she showed him his staff and signet ring, he was going to have her executed because of what he believed to be her sexual immorality! Judah was exposed: the sexual morality of a pagan Canaanite woman EXCEEDED that of the son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, the great-grandson of Abraham, the line chosen and set apart by YHWH!
And we Christians, who like Judah are also children of Abraham in a spiritual sense, often do the same: fall into sexual sin in response to the pressures of life, and there are an abundance of statistics concerning our involvement in un-Biblical divorce and remarriage, pornography, adultery, abortion, fornication etc. that proves it. And even those of us who do not respond to the pressures of life through sexual sin have other “outlets.” Maybe it is gossip. Maybe it is gambling. Maybe it is excess alcohol or gluttony. Maybe it is an excessive, unhealthy attachment to politics and sports. Maybe we dabble in astrology, yoga, or other “harmless” activities from other religions. Maybe we listen to foul-mouthed comedians or watch movies with all sorts of vile content, deriving pleasure in the sinful speech and acts of others (Romans 1:32). Just like Judah, so many Christians allow the pressures of live to drive them into sin! Now that is the bad news.
The good news: if we confess our sin, God can be counted on to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). All Christians sin. 1 John 1 makes that clear. The problem is our tendencies to wallow in our sins like Judah – who was in this state of affairs for a long time, long enough for him to have at least three children and raise them to adulthood – without repenting. Now I am certainly not apologist for Roman Catholicism, considering it to not be legitimate Christianity, but Catholics do have in their system regular confessions of sin. Of course, their problem (among many others) is that they confess their sins to priests because they reject the doctrine that Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, the truth that Jesus Christ stated Himself as recorded in the Gospel of John and was enlarged by the inspired writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.
But Christians need to confess our sins to God and ask God for forgiveness for our sins and turn away from those sins on a regular basis. For Christians who have a particularly persistent, troublesome area of sin or temptation, well the frequency, urgency and sincerity of the petitions to God in confession, forgiveness and repentance in the Name of Jesus Christ should match the seriousness of the problem! We should not harden our hearts, grieve the Holy Spirit, and let ourselves become so dull, distorted and cold of spirit that it will take something as dramatic and grotesque as Judah’s being confronted by the daughter-in-law that he impregnated to shake us out of our sin stupor! Instead, as Christians, when we fall, we should respond with confession and repentance in the manner described in 1 John as soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us to do so. We should not fall into the temptation of getting too prideful or fearful to do so, that God does not care and will overlook it, or that we need to perform some good works or deeds on our own in order to “make penance” and “get right with God first” before we repent. Instead, we are to turn to God in repentance at the first opportunity that the Holy Spirit gives us!
Please understand: God loves us. God hates sin. Add those two together and you come to this conclusion: God does not want His children, the redeemed bought by His own Son’s precious blood, to remain in sin. Not only does God not want it, He will not allow it. God will not allow you to keep lying in some gutter or alley drenched in urine and vomit. Instead, see Ezekiel 16:6 – “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live ; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.” Because He so loves us, and also for the same of His own Name and His own zeal for justice and righteousness, God will bring His elect to righteousness!
What is simply amazing is that just as the pressures of life causes us to sin, God can, will and does use those same pressures of life to drive His children back to Him! Example: Jonah. Being in the belly of that whale three days drove a man filled with self-righteousness, pride, rebellion and vindictiveness to repent, didn’t it? The only surprise is that IT TOOK THREE DAYS! (We should never kid ourselves about the depths of our own sinfulness or the breadth of God’s grace in response.) So God did not allow the partially repentant Judah to stay where he was, which while was an improvement, still wasn’t good enough. Instead, Judah was restored. And it was not because of any virtue or good character within Judah. Quite the contrary: it has been demonstrated that Judah’s main “virtues” were not being as bad a sinner as was Reuben, Simeon and Levi (and even this was only because God prevented him from falling that far into sin!) and being born before the more righteous Joseph! But instead, Judah was restored only because He was God’s elect, and thus it was God’s will for him to be so. How did it happen? Well, God applied the pressure, and then God put righteousness in Judah’s heart.
3. Judah Gets Up
First: the famine. Judah left his father’s house because he could no longer deal with the guilt from his own actions, he could no longer put up with brothers that were just as bad as was he or even worse, and perhaps also because Jacob merely transferred his favoritism to Benjamin, the other child of Rachel. So, Judah went off, left his father’s house, and “became his own man”, and clearly not much of one. In doing this, Judah became the patriarch, and was responsible for providing for his own house: his wives, children, servants and flocks. Just as happened in the parable of the prodigal son as told by Jesus Christ, a famine came, which made Judah unable to care for himself and his house! So this Judah, this prodigal, ended the charade of being “his own man”, ended the mess that he was making of his life and of those around him, and returned home. The threat of starvation made Judah stop playing games. But yet, it wasn’t enough. Why? Because Judah’s father couldn’t feed him either. So, Judah had to go to Egypt to buy grain to save himself and his father.
Once in Egypt, the pressure increases. Joseph deals harshly with them, accusing them of being spies, keeping Simeon while sending the rest back with the demand that they bring Benjamin. Then, having returned from Egypt, the pressure increases still more. Already burdened with the guilt of losing one brother, they have to go back to their father without a second, and demanding that they bring a third, his father’s remaining favorite! Plus, what was the money that they paid for the grain doing in their sacks! And that is when Judah begins to step up. He, of all his brothers, including Reuben the firstborn, promises his own fate as a guarantor for the safety of Benjamin. He had to do this, because otherwise he, his father, his brothers, and his own family would have starved to death. Now this only happened because of God’s Spirit dealing with Judah, but make no mistake: it happened with the threat of death hanging over his head!
Back in Egypt, God turns up the pressure still more. This time, in contrast with the rough treatment that Joseph gave them before – and they were expecting again – he switches tactics. He welcomes them. He throws them a party! He tells them that it was he who put the money in their sacks! He loads them up with food and sends them on their way. Everything is merry! Or so they think. Then, Joseph’s silver cup is found … with Benjamin. The one that Judah pledged his own life and fate for. Now Judah had every right to say “this is a deal-breaker.” He would have been within his right to say “I do not have to go be executed by the king or become his slave because my foolish brother stole a cup! I have nothing to do with this! I am just going to explain what happened to my father, and if he doesn’t understand, then so be it!”
But no. Judah fulfills the promise that he made to his father! He goes back to Joseph, and offers to take the punishment in the place of Benjamin, whom he thought was guilty! And keep in mind: Jesus Christ is the lion of Judah, the descendant of Judah’s line. So just as Jesus Christ took the punishment in the place of God’s elect because it was the will of God the Father (and suffered many things, was tempted at all points just as are we, in the course of doing so in order to remain true to His Father), Judah offered to take the punishment in the place of Benjamin because in order to keep his promise to Jacob! Now it would be a theological stretch to call Judah a type of Jesus Christ, but his actions, stepping up to take the punishment for the (apparently) guilty Benjamin for the sake of his father, certainly strongly parallels and reminds us of what Jesus Christ did for the elect for the sake of His Father!
Now in doing this, Judah prefigured what his descendant, Jesus Christ, would do. But this happened only because God turned up the pressure on Judah. And it happened only because God’s grace was with Judah. God put Judah to the test, and Judah was able to pass it only because God was with Judah and would not let him fall! Why? Because it was God’s will. Judah was God’s chosen. Judah’s getting up from his depravity and stepping into righteousness was God’s doing. Make no mistake: it was the will of God to the glory of God. And just as it was with Judah, so is it with Christians. Salvation is of the Lord. Restoration of backsliders is of the Lord. And the perseverance of the saints until our time of perfection is of the Lord. Just as God keeps His elect angels from falling (1 Timothy 5:21) so He keeps us from staying down, from remaining in sin, when we fall!
So, it is not that just as Judah got up, we can get up. That thinking glorifies man, depicting our restoration as our own good works. Instead, it is that just as Judah got up, we will get up. We will get up because it is God who will get us up, and God will do this for us on our behalf because of His great love for us, and because by doing so He is glorified! Those people who do not get up, who do not endure until the end? They were never God’s elect to begin with. They are the goats that Jesus Christ spoke of in Matthew 25:32-40. They are the seeds that did not fall into good soil that Jesus Christ spoke of in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23). Do not be deceived. We do not have the ability to save ourselves. We do not have the ability to keep ourselves in the faith. We do not have the ability to restore ourselves when we fall. It is only God who can do these things, and it is only by God’s grace according to His eternal purpose of election and predestination decreed from before the foundation of the world that these things do happen!
So Christian, when you fall like Judah, and when you get up like Judah, know that it is God who gives you the ability to do so, and in this you should rejoice in that same God! Glory be to God for His mercy, His grace and awesome power and love, for He is indeed worthy to be praised! So backslider, restoration is available to you! Soli Deo Gloria!
And to the non-Christian, allow me to ask of you: how long will you continue to despise such a great salvation given by a God who spared not even His own Son for the sake of His elect? Such a gracious loving God who is patient, loving, forgiving and is willing to restore even His Christians who fall into sin? God knows that we are but flesh and during this time of grace is not at war with us (Genesis 6:3) but instead is desiring that we come to repentance in (2 Peter 3:8-9) accordance with His plan and terms. In order to benefit from this great a salvation, one cannot “meet God halfway.” Instead, one can only come to God on God’s terms, and there is no way to God the Father except through God the Son, and there is no salvation other than that worked by God the Spirit. If this is not the case for you, I urge and entreat you to immediately: