When you do genealogy, sometimes you uncover family "secrets" you wish you had left buried. Without the benefit of being able to ask questions, sometimes we’re left to our own speculation. For instance, I have my own genealogy "mystery" waiting to be revealed some hundreds of years down the line. I recently had my most special Bible rebound in leather (because it was starting to fall apart), and when I did, I had my name engraved on the front. Of course, it’s my married name, yet the handwritten inscription from my father in the front of the Bible is dated 2002. Anybody who has access to my marriage license will know that I wasn’t a Lorencin in 2002. Let the speculation begin.
We all have a certain amount of skeletons in the "family closet," I suppose. After all, you don’t decide what family you’re going to be born into. You just get born into it, and then your relatives are your relatives... for better or worse.
So, what does all this have to do with Genesis 38? Well, Genesis 38 seems to be abruptly stuck into the story of Joseph, and it’s quite a sordid little chapter. There are a lot of dubious things going on — most of them involving some sort of sexual impropriety. Two young men are even singled out in this chapter as having been "put to death" by God because of their wickedness. In a world full of wicked people, if you are called out on account of your wickedness, you must be extremely wicked!
I couldn’t help but think that the very next chapter of Genesis would deal, by contrast, with Joseph’s sexual integrity and honesty. He will refuse to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, even though it means he will be slandered and sent unjustly to prison. It certainly does seem that — in the family of Israel — Joseph is most definitely the golden child. He has values, integrity, and ingenuity. He is upstanding and righteous. God is going to use him in a mighty way to save a lot of people.
Does it surprise you to realize, then, that in selecting a line of ancestors for Himself, God doesn’t choose Joseph? Rather, He chooses... Judah! Can you believe that?! This would be the guy who would be getting called out on Facebook and Twitter these days for sexual misconduct.
At the end of Genesis 38, Tamar (who has posed as a prostitute in order to get pregnant by her father-in-law, who is doing the wrong thing by withholding his youngest son from her — somebody call the Jakob Springer Show!) gives birth to twins, and the eldest (Perez) becomes the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of King David. And as you might remember, Jesus Himself was only a little further down the line on this family tree.
We don’t get to choose which families we will be born into, but God certainly had a choice of which human beings would be called His ancestors. If anyone had a choice, it was God! Why in the world would you choose Judah’s messed-up family over Joseph’s?
That's what we would think, right? But that just proves we still have plenty of blind spots when it comes to God. We still somehow believe that God loves and only wants to associate with those who are perfect and always do the right thing. But, if nothing else, this story should teach us that God is no respecter of persons. He is perfectly willing to associate Himself with the worst of us!
Somebody once said that simply becoming human would have been an infinite humiliation for God... and on top of that, He chose a group of ancestors for Himself that were some of the worst in the bunch. That's incredible!