Harvest: God supplies in the mess
Genesis 38: 8-19 & 20-30.
I am just going to put out the message right at the start.
According to this passage, which is a harvest passage as far as I am concerned, this message is straight forward and brutal; we reap what we sow.
About that time Judah left his brothers and went to stay with a man named Hirah, who was from Adullam. There Judah met a Canaanite girl whose father was named Shua.
(Genesis 38: 1)
To me, this piece of writing is a work of art.
In a couple of sentences the writer of this passage says everything that is wrong with us.
We have Judah, one of the chosen, only he doesn’t stay with the chosen. He doesn’t stay with the community that can guide him and help him and support him.
He goes off on his own to stay with someone else; leaves God’s people to do his own thing, leaves God’s path to do his own thing.
Then he meets a Canaanite woman and marries her.
It is as if the writer is saying that Judah rejects God’s people, God’s path, and has set off on his own.
That is the example then that he gives his sons.
Do what you want because it doesn't really matter.
The only thing that matters is progressing your own life style, making sure that we are comfortable, making sure that our families are doing all right.
Everyone else doesn’t really matter.
We start off with sowing selfishness.
Judah has done his own thing.
The only attitude that matters is Judah’s.
The only opinion that matters is Judah’s.
The only concern that matters is Judah’s.
And his children, his boys, then follow that example.
But the Bible has other ideas.
You go against God and you loose.
Er goes against God’s ways and whatever he does, causes his death.
Onan goes against God’s will and whatever he does, causes his death.
I once was looking after a dog on the island of Eigg. I don't know if you know the island, it is distinctive because it has a huge cliff edge. I took the dog out for a walk and told it that the cliff edge was dangerous and that we had to keep away from it.
The dog thought that it was fun to run as fast as it could towards the cliff edge and stop just before the edge.
If you keep running towards the cliff, no matter how exciting it may be, one day you run of the edge.
Onan and Err ran off the edge of the cliff.
That leaves Judah with a problem.
He has one son left, and he doesn't want him to be married to Tamar who he regards as cursed.
So he comes up with an excuse and leaves her to survive or die on her own.
She is not his problem.
She is not his concern.
There is no social security, there is no food banks, there is no one to help her.
She has to do what she has to do to survive.
She needs Judah to accept his responsibilities. But Judah is never going to do that.
So she tricks Judah into sleeping with her.
Three months later word gets round that she is pregnant and now Judah has righteous anger.
How dare she dishonour the memory of his sons.
How dare she do anything that brings shame to his family.
So he demands that she is punished for her evil.
Only to find out that her evil is actually his.
Judah was the one dishonouring his sons by not looking after Tamar.
Judah that was the one bringing shame to his family by leaving Tamar to fend for herself.
We reap what we sow.
There are so many lessons to be learnt from this passage.
But the really scary lesson, or question, is asking whose side God is on.
We always presume that God is on our side, because we are the good guys.
Judah would have presumed that God was on his side, because he was one of the chosen ones. God should bless him and his family, no matter what they did, because they were the good guys.
Tamar was not one of the chosen so God wasn’t on her side. And because God wasn’t on her side Judah felt he could treat her any way he wanted.
He could completely ignore her struggles, her plight.
And the scary thing about this passage is that it turns all that on its head.
God isn't on the side of the powerful. God does care about the vulnerable.
It is not about who’s side God is on, it is about whether we are on God’s side, doing God’s work or not.
If we are on Gods side, doing God’s work, then God will be with us.
It doesn’t matter our creed, our colour, our sexuality, our age, our dress sense.
The other thing it reminds me of is that sometimes people do things that we might not agree with, but that doesn't mean that we wash our hands of them.
Imagine you are a minister and you get a knock on the door one late Sunday night.
There is a woman at the door.
She’s a bit smelly as she has one set of cloths that she has worn for far too long.
She looks a bit dishevelled and you suspect that she hasn’t eaten in a few days.
You do the decent thing because you are a decent person.
You make her a bowl of soup and as she wolfs it down she tells you her story.
Her husband died months ago and she has got no inheritance from the husbands estate. She not only lost her husband but was cast out the house.
Her father-in-law didn't think she was good enough for it.
He promised that he would look after her, but she hasn’t gotten a penny to help, let alone a place to stay.
She has been sleeping under trees and taking wheat from the edge of the fields.
But now harvest is over and she is getting desperate.
So desperate that she has slept with her father-in-law.
Now she wants your advice?
What do you say?
What would you really want to happen? Would you want her to stay the night, the week, the month, would you open up your house for her to stay until she was sorted out, no matter how long that took?
I suspect what you would want to happen is that she said that she had to go and she left the manse.
The reason I suspect that is because that is what happened to me one rainy night.
We had relatives visit from afar. We were just about to have our meal for the night when the door went.
It was an ex soldier with mental health problems who was living in a tent in the fields because there was nowhere else.
And the weather had gotten that bad that the tent was leaking and he was drenched.
And our visitors were horrified that I let him into the house.
They were horrified that we fed him.
They were horrified that I drove him to a homeless shelter in Falkirk.
What if he attacked me in the car?
What if he just lost it while I was driving, he was mentally unstable?
What they wanted was that this messiness just went away.
It was as if this guys misfortune was contagious and the longer he was with us, the greater the chance that we would catch some of his disaster.
And I’ll be honest; I was fighting back those feeling within myself.
Here is my opinion.
It is just my opinion so you can ignore it if you want.
But the reason I helped that guy was I know that I had made mistakes in the past.
I knew there were things in my past that could have led to me being in a right mess.
That there were decisions I made that I knew were the wrong decisions to make but I made them anyway.
There were times in my past that I needed bailed out.
I was running towards that cliff and had run too close to the edge.
And I have been fortunate enough that there were people there that cared enough to help me out.
Cared enough to get me away from the edge of the cliff, no matter what it cost them.
But if they hadn’t been there for me, then things could be very different.
I think, God put those people in my life, so that I might have hope.
And what God then expects of me, is that I be there for others, as others were there for me.
Not to judge, not to condemn, but to give hope.
Judah was exactly like me.
He had made mistakes, huge mistakes, but he had been given a second chance.
What God expected from him, was to give the same second chance to Tamar.
You reap what you sow.
It is both easily understood and really brutal.
You sow wheat, you get wheat.
You sow barley, you get barley.
You sow weeds, you get weeds.
You sow generosity, you get generosity.
You sow hope, you get hope.
You sow indifference, you get indifference.
Thank you for all the gifts of harvest that you have given today.
People who are struggling at home and abroad will feel the better for what you have done today.
But there is still a greater challenge, a greater harvest out there.
What are we sowing in our life?
And if you aren’t too sure of the answer, then do it in reverse.
Ask yourself what harvest you want there to be in your life,
what harvest does God want you to have in your life,
then sow the seeds that get you that harvest.