Although this is not part of the Judah, Jehu and Jezebel blog, it seemed like a timely word. Hope you enjoy. The blog series will continue. In my years of porn addiction counseling as well as marital counseling overall, the one constant I see in most marital strife is not so much communication issues, though they are plentiful, but it is more the inability or stubbornness to surrender one’s individuality within in the confines of the marriage institution. And why? Well, because frankly, it can be painful. Each person in the marriage will eventually arrive at a place where they are afraid to let go of all they have ever known their life to be and is embark on a journey into uncharted waters. If they can overcome this fear, the marriage is off to an amazing start. If one or both get stuck here, it has the potential to not be a very fun ride.
To many, the best thing to do is to have a clear exit strategy for when the pain or uncertainty gets too severe, and one is pushed too far. If you are clinging to an exit strategy in your marriage “just in case,” I have some somewhat bad news for you: you are not fully engaged in your marriage and it has a better chance of failing than being a success and ultimately becoming a light of the power of Gods’ love working in AND through your marriage - which is the highest call upon everything we will ever do or ever have in our life.
I remember, one time, counseling a married couple, and getting this mental picture of how intense the journey to oneness can actually be. That picture, oddly enough, was from the famous silver screen monster of the 1930's, Frankenstein. I was dealing with a couple who were so attached to their own individuality, their own pasts, their own expectations of how the marriage should function, that they would not loosen their grip and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them to unity and oneness. I saw this mental image of Frankenstein, who, for the 1% who may not know, was an experiment of a mad doctor, obsessed with using multiple body parts from different dead bodies, aligning them in the form and structure of a human, and then sending an immense amount of electricity through the newly formed body to bring this new “person” to life. This was actually one of the first concepts of "what is life" and does this creature actually possess it's own soul.
I told the couple (and many since then) that I know it’s fearful to let go of what we know and to trust God to enter the unknown. If I were to look at the process of “becoming one flesh” in only the natural, and take it to its most logical conclusion, I see a man and a woman facing each other on a machine, like one of those car smashing machines, that will smash their bodies together. As this happens, physical pain would result from the crushing of bones and ripping of muscles, etc. (I mean, let’s not get too graphic.) Then, when the machine has done it’s work, what falls out onto the ground is a pile of bones, muscles and vital organs, BUT, the two people would now resemble just one person - very similar to Frankenstein.
Much like that natural concept, there is a lot of pain and death as we allow God to take us as two separate individuals, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and recreate one new person in covenant love and purpose. In Ephesians 2:14-15, speaking of Jews and Gentiles, the apostle Paul begins to explain the mystery of the death of Christ - that through Jesus’ sacrificial death, he paved a way for all the nations of the world to become ONE, under the authority of Christ as the head of this new union. In Psalm 133 we read “how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (or sisters, or marriages, or siblings or co-workers - get the point?) to dwell together in unity.” God is all about oneness and unity. Just look at the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Distinguishable but inseparable in every way. Jesus'prayer in John 17 was a request to the Father that the disciples would be one even as He and the Father are one.
After the honeymoon phase of our marriage, as things start to settle down and we realize that this marriage is forever, we can often feel like we are breaking inside, losing our ability to control our circumstances and having to ultimately make the decision to let parts of our lives die that we’ve come to rely upon - especially those parts that have helped us navigate our single life. When you first met your spouse, it would take about 18-24 months to lose that whole "infatuation" feeling. The chemicals in your brain responding to this new found love and all the "puppy love feelings" that go along with it, actually need to settle down for you to be able to reason properly about your future with this other individual. It is also said that a relationship takes about 6 to 7 years within the confines of a marriage, for it to start to find that place of oneness and intimacy. That can be upwards of 7-9 years that you need to invest into a relationship before you start to see it settle in to God's design for marriage and actually have the strength to endure all life long. But in that season, it is the time to surrender yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit who will now guide this entity into experiencing amazing depths of God’s love, which will in turn empower this new person, making it so much easier to move forward in sunergy and momentum, than if we were to keep fighting to the to the death to not lose our identity. Most marriages hit the skids at around the 6-7 year mark. This should be a lesson that although it's hard around this time frame, if you both choose to push through it all, you will push into oneness and intimacy like you never have before. So many people married for over 50 years say that what they experience in their 70s and 80s is something incredibly beautiful, not even to be compared to the early moments of the new found love. I believe that. I feel that in my marriage, thankfully. But, this is my second marriage. I chose not to fight and push through in my first marriage because of my porn addiction and never dealing with the deep unmet needs of my life. (Which you can read a little more about here.)
In the nation (not state) of Georgia, originally a province of Russia, stands a large 26 foot monument made up of two mechanical statues representing a famous young literary couple who are in love - Ali and Nino. At each day’s end, the two statues, move toward each other and because of their design, are able to completely interweave. In one phase, both statues look as if they are completely one unit; seamless. But that is only the beginning. The two figures then pass through each other and end up with their backs touching. This is because the two are never fully able to achieve a relationship because of the demands of war in their country. To see the movement of the monument from beginning to end leaves you with fluctuating emotions. You are so touched with their love and unity, but ultimately realize that this relationship can never be. HOWEVER!!! there is that one moment where monument shows only one person. HIT PAUSE!!!! That stage is God’s best for our marriage and what He works so hard to see established. YES! GOD IS FIGHTING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE TO LAST!!! He is for marriage! He is for covenant!!! All of Heaven's resources are available to you to see this marriage become not only successful but to be a light for how God can work miracles in other people's marriages, giving them hope to trust in Him! It is heaven on earth when it finally happens, but it comes at a cost. Self-sacrifice. You see, when Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him, He tells us that the only way it will work is for us to lose our self in the process. God places this same demand on our marriages because it causes each person to truly experience God's sacrificial and unconditional love.
Trading Our Spiritual Authority for Sexual Pleasure: Judah, Jehu and Jezebel Part Two- Judah and the ProstituteRead Now
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” GEN 38:15-16
Judah was one the twelve sons of Jacob and such is one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah was also the lineage through which Jesus would eventually be born. In fact, in the book of Revelation chapter 5, verse 5, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. To be crowned with such an honor, Judah must have lived an exemplary life, probably much similar to Noah who was saved because of his righteous life of reverence to God. Not so fast.
Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, was instrumental in getting rid of his half-brother, Joseph, by helping to throw him in a pit until such a time as a band of Midianite traders came by and Judah and his ten other brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Then they lied to their father and said that they found Joseph’s clothing with blood on it leaving Jacob to only assume the worst - his son Joseph must have been killed by a wild animal. Strike one. Secondly, he didn’t really seem to have exercised fatherly authority over his sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but Er lived wickedly before God. It doesn’t say how, but Er died because of his disobedience to God. As was custom, the next male in line would assume his brother’s widow as his wife and so continue the bloodline. Well, his second born son, Onan, did marry Tamar, but at the last second, in the middle of a sexual encounter, Onan pulled out and “let his seed (semen) spill on the ground.” (Gen 38:9) He may have even attempted to cover it up with dirt and dust so as to make it look like he officially consummated his nuptials. This displeased the Lord as well and Onan ended up on the dead son’s list. Strike two. Down two sons to one, he told Tamar to remain celibate until his younger son, Shelah, became of age for her to marry. We are not told how long that might have been, but it would appear it would be a number of years because Tamar returned home to her family until Shelah would be old enough to sire of a child. What shame she must have felt.
In the culture of that time for a woman to not have a child was to live in a place of shame. A barren woman was thought to have a womb shut up by God, possibly because of some wrongdoing or sin in the bloodline. Ultimately, Tamar decided not to wait for Shelah to come of age. She heard that Judah, now a widower, was heading to a town called Timnah where his sheep were being sheared. The Bible tells us that Tamar dressed up like a pagan temple prostitute, veiling her face and traveled to a town called Enaim, which was on the road to Timah. She obviously caught Judah’s attention. Judah clearly made the assumption that she was prostitute, not recognizing who she was. So, as the story goes, he ended up having sex with her. I mean, who can blame him right? He lost his wife and two kids. All he had left was his youngest son, who it would appear may have already taken a wife for himself. We tend to do this don’t we? I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is to bury one child let alone two and then lose a spouse. That is quite a bit of grief, trauma and loss. But as human nature would have it, end up letting all the pain fester in our soul. We simply don’t deal with it. It’s too painful to face the loss or whatever has left us feeling completely worn out and empty. We would rather find another way to cope, a way to just escape it all when what we really need is a long term recovery process in order to properly deal with this immense and overwhelming feeling. So, I’m sure at that moment, there was quite a bit riding on Judah’s shoulders. He saw this woman and just needed that physical and emotional release. However, he did not have any money on him at that time so she asked for his signet ring, cord and his staff as a pledge for payment. When he returned to pay her, she was gone and no one had any knowledge of a prostitute even being there.
Judah did not just simply give a few items up that might have had some value, he literally gave away that which would establish his identity (signet and cord) and his authority and power (his staff). The signet was like a stamp that was pressed into clay or hot wax sealing a document. It was like a claim. When that particular stamp was seen on anything, it meant it was from or belonged to the person to who owned that signet. It was his identity. The staff was very important to a man. Not only did it give one sure footing traveling around on the craggy terrain of the Middle East, it was a sign of who he was as a leader of a family or clan. All throughout history the staff was symbolic of authority and power as well as identity. You knew whose rod or staff belonged to someone. Many times they were marked on or designed purposefully to signify who that staff belonged to. As time went on, staffs became scepters that kings would use to establish their authority over a kingdom. So even though it’s a bit more organic, these items that belonged to Judah spoke more about him than the value that Judah placed on them at the time he traded them for a moment of sexual release. What Judah did in that moment was place more value on the moment of need instead of who God was forming him to be. The interesting thread that we will follow in these blogs will have to do more with the staff.
Back to the story. Due to that midday soiree between Judah and Tamar, Tamar actually conceived. But now Tamar had some ‘splainin’ to do because she was supposed to have conceived, according to custom, only within her family by marriage. When it was found out that Tamar was pregnant, and apparently not by anyone in Judah’s clan, she was accused of prostitution. Judah was all ready to burn her at the stake. Nice, right? Wound a little tight, Judah? Judah has sex with a prostitute - forbidden - and then wants to kill Tamar for her sin. To allow her the chance to tell her story, Judah asked Tamar with whom did she commit such a heinous act of adultery. Tamar then reveals something to Judah that he most assuredly did not expect to see, let alone in Tamar’s possession. Tamar shows Judah his signet, cord and staff - the very same items given as an IOU for said prostitution services. Oh to be a fly on the wall of that tent. Immediately, Judah relented in his anger, even going so far as to commend Tamar on her righteousness because she was committed to the family and the desire for an heir.
I recant this story not because of righteous Tamar who took matters into her own hands when Judah would not. I recant this story because the father of the bloodline of Judah saw a prostitute and took time out to have sex with her! - even trading in items that were symbolic of his authority and identity. This smells a bit of his uncle Esau, who for a bowl of soup traded in his entire birthright to Judah’s father, Jacob.
As mentioned, Judah was a widow and most likely did not have any sexual outlet. But to read this scripture passage, it seemed like a pretty natural thing for Judah to do. Was it a one-off? Or did Judah have a penchant for having sex with prostitutes? I wonder if he did this because his conscience was nagging him for selling his brother into slavery and lying to his father about it. As far as Judah knew, he would carry that lie to the grave with him; he and his ten other brothers. Can you imagine that stress?
I can only imagine that, mingled with the loss of his family, it would be a fairly hefty trigger that could drive him to do pretty much anything.
Following that line of reasoning, what is it that could cause you to go outside the boundaries of proper and righteous sexual behavior - stress, loneliness, boredom, emptiness, etc.? Regardless of how we feel, whether burdened in some way or hyper-sexual in need of a release, we are to be keenly aware that by improperly sexually gratifying ourselves through porn or other sexual deviant behavior is not only unhealthy for our body, soul and spirit, but that it is completely unacceptable behavior to God. We are told by Jesus in Matthew 5:28 that if you even “look at a woman with lust in your heart toward her, you have already committed the act of adultery.” You see, Jesus always goes to the motivation of the heart not just the behavior itself. When Jesus’ disciples were chided by the religious leaders of the day for not ceremonially washing their hands before eating, Jesus told the Pharisees, it’s not what goes into your body that makes you unclean, it’s what comes out - the thoughts and intentions of the heart - again speaking to the deeper issues that are not dealt with and dictate our behavior by pulling on us like puppet strings. And Judah had a bunch. When push came to shove, Judah gave in to his own desires. But the story is not without mercy because Judah received a special blessing from his father, Jacob, before Jacob died.
In Genesis 49, Jacob has been reunited with Joseph who he thought he might never see again, even the 10 brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery had restored their relationship with him and all 12 brothers were now at their father’s bedside and as was tradition, the patriarch of the family would bless his children. Words were uber-powerful back then. When you gave a blessing, it was done deal. Even names meant destinies. When Jacob got to Judah he said:
“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
Read verse 10 again. (I bolded and italicized it to make it easy on you). The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until it comes to Whom it belongs - prophetically speaking of Jesus the Messiah. Jacob is telling Judah that even though Judah traded in his identity and authority for a romp in the sack with a prostitute, in God’s mercy, that staff would be returned to him, not just by Tamar, but through God’s forgiveness and redemption and would be the cornerstone on which the lineage of Jesus Christ would be built. God is so cool. He knows what exchanges we have made in our life to follow after sinful, unhealthy behaviors and still, He loves us enough to give us another chance to fulfill our destiny. Pay particular attention to the term, "obedience of the nations." That will come back around.
Ok, you made it. Next time, get an oxygen tank because we’re going to jump in deep!