Harsh realities….good and evil

19 01 2011

DAY NINETEEN : Genesis 38 v. 1 – 39 v. 23; Matthew 13 v. 36 – 58; Psalm 11 v. 1 – 7;

The overarching theme today is one of God judging those who are good (the righteous) and those who are evil (the wicked).
I confess to having found Genesis 38 one of the strangest chapters so far, sandwiched in between the story of Joseph being sold and taking up his post in Potiphar’s house, telling a sordid tale of Joseph’s half-brother, Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar.

JUDAH AND TAMAR – My little chuckle today was that Judah called his firstborn son “Er”.  I was just imagining the conversation :
Shua : What shall we call our newborn baby boy ?
Judah : I don’t know, let’s think….we could call him…er….
Shua : That’s it…..Er. We’ll call him Er.
Judah : Don’t you think that sounds a bit hesitant ?
Shua : But don’t you think we’ll have some fun with that name.
Judah : Since when were names supposed to be funny ?
Shua : Grandad Isaac – Grandad Laughter ?
Judah : Okay. You got me there. Er it is.

(and then their third-born son they call Shelah….looked so like Sheila to me !!).

But that’s where the chuckles stop today.
Culturally, of course, Judah is doing the acceptable, ‘good’ thing by passing Tamar to her brothers-in-law when her husband, Er, dies, however wierd that sounds to our ears today. I guess at one level it was a form of protection for Tamar, keeping her within the family. When Judah withholds his youngest son from her, Tamar plots Judah’s downfall, dresses as a prostitute and traps him by taking some of his possessions as a “pledge”.
The practice of visiting shrine-prostitutes, however culturally normal, is so abhorrent to me, and leaves Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, in her becoming pregnant, in Judah getting trapped in his own self-righteous pronouncement
“Bring her out and have her burned to death”. Tamar cleverly brings out Judah’s possessions, confirming him as the father, and Judah’s response is
“She is more righteous than I”.
People, alone, are poor judges of what is “good” and what is “evil”, at times. Judah’s statements seem poles appart. Firstly he is condemning the pregnant prostitute to death (his own daughter-in-law), and next extolling her virtue. He is trapped in his own self-made web of deceit, he is as wrong as anyone in this story, but is pronouncing judgements on who is good and who is evil. Humanity, eh ?

The story of the birth of the twin boys conceived through this liaison is just bizarra, scarlet ribbons and all !! 

ON THE OTHER HAND, JOSEPH – Judah’s brother, Joe, on the other hand is working hard for Potiphar, and is an excellent slave / servant, rising to the rank of being in charge of everything in Potiphar’s household. Potiphar had nothing to worry about. Yet, here in Chapter 39 there is another scheming woman, Potiphar’s wife, who fancies Joe and throws herself at him again and again. Joe is a model of virtue, and resists her advances, until she causes a stir and lies about him to her husband, and Potiphar, feeling deceived and angry has Joe thrown in prison. Even in prison, God’s favour is evident as Joseph is entrusted with the charge of all those being held.
So, Joseph is a victim now of injustice…..slavery and injustice…..and he takes it all without it seeming to twist, taint or embitter him. To the Christian, Joseph is a model forerunner to Jesus, exemplifying goodness, shining out amongst wickedness and evil, surrounded by God’s favour, and his faith getting stronger through every challenge.
“Go, go, go Joseph you know what they say
 Go, go, go Joseph you’ll make it some day…..” 

MATTHEW – Jesus explains the parable of the weeds and answers my questions of yesterday. The harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are the angels. There are different end results for those judged wicked (fiery furnace) and those judged righteous (shining like the sun in the Kingdom).
God is watching. 
God is judge.
And as for us, the little parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, are beautifully tantilising short stories (Just two-sentence stories, both of them) draw us into a priority search in our lives for what really matters, what really counts, discovering God’s kingdom around about us, seeking it with all we have, willing to give all we are for the greater prize.

It’s a God-given focus, which we see clearly in evidence in Joseph, and clearly lacking in Judah.
And when we understand the secrets of the kingdom (even the little we do grasp), we have a calling, a duty to pass it on – to bring out new treasures and old (reminds me of the new wine passage).
Our God is always doing new things, and yet His truths are ‘of old’, timeless.

HARSH REALITIES TODAY – in the news yesterday was the harrowing story of a father and son who trafficked young girls from Romania into prostitution in Britain. The women were treated appaulingly. I easily judged their actions to be totally evil. Genesis 38, though a horrifying chapter, is still lived out daily in people’s experiences of evil, wickedness today.

O Lord, let us have ears to hear what you are saying

O Lord, let us shine like the sun in your Kingdom on earth
O Lord, let us seek after truth, justice, mercy, love, purity, joy, the priceless qualities of Your kingdom
O Lord, help us, in our own way, to bring freedom and release from slavery, from injustice to those who are mistreated
O Lord, continue to judge good and evil

as the psalmist writes today:
“The Lord is in His holy temple….His eyes examine them (the sons (and daughters) of men)
 On the wicked He will rain fiery coals and burning sulphur;
 For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice;
 the upright will see His face.”

Have a ‘good’ day !




2 responses

19 01 2011
Jeff Whittle

I have trouble with Matthew13, 44.
Isn’t the person devious and dishonest hiding the treasure from the original
owner of the field, or is God the owner?
Should we not be telling everyone about the treasure of the Kingdom of God?

20 01 2011

Thanks Jeff,
I see where you’re coming from.
To understand more completely the picture Jesus is painting of the Kingdom, we need to consider all the parables – each of which focuses perhaps on one facet of the Kingdom. Earlier on in Matthew 13, Jesus uses the image of the yeast to show how the Kingdom-in-us is to affect those around for good. We certainly should be telling everyone about the treasure of the Kingdom.
For me, this parable is about our priorities – what is important to us.
The Kingdom is like buried treasure – we have to want it for ourselves, I guess, before we have it to share with others.
We individually have to grasp the Kingdom, and that immediately catapults us into caring and sharing with others.

The man stumbles across the Kingdom (it’s not even clear if he is treasure-seeking, but he just finds it).
It’s also a reminder that there is a “cost” to the Kingdom. The man has to go home and sell everything to obtain the field. There’s a sacrifice involved.

The main point isn’t, I think, about whose land it is, and whether he’s being devious / dishonest, although it can appear that he is…maybe the prompt in your questioning is to look at our motives too, and to desire purity of heart and will.

You raise a good point, Jeff.
Thank you !

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