Who We Are & Who We Can Be Pt. 4

Bettman/Corbis

When caught in sin we have a choice about how to handle both the ensuing confrontation and the person who is confronting us.

Will we confess to what we’ve done, or defer to irresponsibility in hope of escape?

It seems that confession, while good for the soul, is very difficult to come by.  Consider the public confession made by President Richard Nixon following the investigation into his role in the Watergate Scandal of 1974:

“I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the Nation.”

While Nixon’s appeal to nation’s best interest (his re-election) may be the most obvious piece of self-serving manipulation in the statement, the fact that he confesses to virtually nothing is the sign that even though convicted of breaking the law, he still saw himself as guiltless…

…because “Patriotism” made him do it.

This is part 4 of an examination of how we respond to our sins, and how these responses help determine the trajectory of our lives.

Part 1 covered our desire to escape accountability by denying responsibility.

Part 2 looked into how God defeats these desires by demanding that we examine ourselves against his standard of truth.

Part 3 delved into the choices we make in adversity, both circumstantial and our own making, and how they point us towards relationship with God, or exclusion from his presence.

The word “patriotism” comes to us from the Greek by way of Latin.  It means “devotion to the domain of our fathers.”  It’s an affection for the place that our fathers come from.

In the truest sense Cain demonstrated an affection for the domain of his father Adam when he followed him in choosing to determine good and evil for himself.

As the story of God unfolds in Scripture we see this type of patriotism continually passed from parent to child.  The desire for sinful, self-service appears in the lives of each of the Patriarchs.  This patriotism masters some, while others are delivered from it.

Which brings us to the disturbing story of Jacob’s son Judah:

As God’s story unfolds, each of Jacob’s sons goes on to father one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  At the end of Jacob’s life he calls his sons together to give them his “Patriarchal Blessing“, it is a little like a prophetic “Reading of the Will”.

As as he gives out the greatest blessing, the blessing of rulership and authority, he passes over Reuben, the eldest.  Reuben has been disqualified because he slept with his father’s concubine.  Reuben is the brother who saved Joseph’s life, and is surely the brother who led the family’s armies to battle, it seems unfair that he would be excluded from the great promise.

Jacob’s blessing passes to another brother, Judah, and it seems odd that Judah should be rewarded… because he’s flat-out terrible.

As the leader of his family clan, Judah was responsible for finding wives for his sons.  For the eldest of his sons he arranged a marriage with a woman named Tamar.

That son died without fathering any children.

It was ancient custom that the brother of the deceased was obliged to marry his brother’s widow, for the purpose of producing a closely related blood heir.

This practice, known as “Levirate Marriage” was an attempt to make certain that property was properly inherited, and that the widow would have a son to care for her in her old age.

Judah gave Tamar another of his sons.

This son was wicked, and though he would sleep with Tamar, he would not impregnate her. Because of this cruelty, the Lord killed him.

Judah knew that he should give Tamar another of his sons.

He didn’t want to.

He sent her away.

He thought he could get away with it.

Some time later, Judah went to visit a cult prostitute, it’s what you do when you are seeking a blessing from a foreign god.  What he didn’t know is that Tamar, intent on receiving the son she was owed by the house of Judah, had dressed the part and was waiting by the road.

How did Tamar know that this scheme would work?

She took advantage of what she knew about Judah.

She presented a bait that she knew he would take.

Judah had left home without cash, so he promised to send the veiled prostitute a goat.  He left behind his staff and his signet as a security deposit.  They both went home happy.

Judah sent a friend to pay the prostitute and collect his staff and seal.  The man came back and reported that not only was the prostitute gone, the people of the area claimed that there wasn’t a regular prostitute in the area.

Judah thought he’d gotten away with it.

Three months had passed when Tamar turned up pregnant.  The people assumed that she had been promiscuous.  Even Judah, who had no idea that the baby was his, ordered that she be killed.

When they came for her she presented Judah with his personal effects.

She asked if he recognized them?

Judah still had a chance to get away with it.

Judah was the leader of the clan.  His word was law.  She was an unmarried, pregnant, woman.  If he insinuated that she’d stolen them, no one would ever know what he’d done.

His dirty secret could die with her.

“Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.”

Full confession.

Judah admitted that he was the father.

He also declared that she was in the right.

He confessed to withholding a husband from her.

He didn’t ever sleep with her again.

Full repentance.

Judah freely confessed all he had done wrong and copped to additional sins that he wasn’t being confronted with.  His sins were significantly worse that Reuben’s, but how he responded to them was incredibly better.

We all sin.

We all get confronted.

Some of us confess.

Few of us repent.

Our patriotism is truly dependent on who we see as our father.  In those fateful days of 1974, Richard Nixon’s decisions to act in his best interests reveal that he saw himself as his own father.

In the battle of “what we should do” versus “what we can get away with”,  Judah expressed a different kind of patriotism.

When faced with continuing in “the domain of his fathers” he made the courageous and humbling decision to submit to God’s definition of good and evil instead of creating his own.

By submitting to his Heavenly Father, he established a new and enduring patriotism for his household.

This is the blessing that he received from his Father:

   “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
   Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
    He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
    The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
-Genesis 49:8-10

 -Patriotism always makes us do it.-

Continue to Part 5

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