Text: Joshua 15:1-63, Joshua 16:1-10, 1 Peter 1:3-5, John 10:7-18
Growing up, Judah’s prospects looked pretty dim. Dysfunction? His family had it in spades. With all that family drama, it’s no wonder Judah ran away. Nor is it surprising that his problems continued to follow him.
After marrying and having three sons of his own, the generational sin and chaos just perpetuated. Scripture tells us the first two were wicked and died young. The remaining son refused to care for his brother’s widow, Tamar; and while Judah was also responsible for her welfare, he refused to act on her behalf (Genesis 38:6-11). Eventually, Tamar used deceit to force his hand. Would Judah honor his responsibilities or run from them once again?
When we look at Judah’s background, the answer seems obvious: Judah is not one of the “good guys.” He comes from one sinful mess and jumps right into another. Isn’t his course already set?
Thank God, the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Redemption is a constant refrain in the Bible: Your past does not define you (see Rahab). Your sin does not define you (see King David). Your family does not define you (see Ruth). Because of God’s love and mercy, Jesus Christ defines you. He calls you by name, and you are His (Isaiah 43:1). He alone created us, loves us perfectly, and saves us from our sin.
Judah was not doomed by his past any more than you or me. God had great plans for him—plans to open his eyes to his own sinfulness (Genesis 38:26), plans to give him a new heart that could love well (Ezekiel 36:26), and even plans to reconcile his family and turn it into a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
Tamar’s trap became the turning point in Judah’s life. After he chose to take care of her, Judah returned to his father’s household, but this time as a sacrificial leader. By the time Judah received a final word from his father, it was a prophetic blessing: the future for his descendants would be long and bright (Genesis 49:10). This is the blessing we see unfolding in Joshua 15. Judah had become a tribe numbering in the thousands, and that tribe had arrived at the promised land to receive its inheritance.
In Ephesians, Paul wrote that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Do we really believe that? Or do we think it’s too late for us? Deep down, have we believed the lie that there are places God’s redemptive grasp can’t reach?
When you feel stuck in dysfunction, or hounded by your past, remember Who defined Judah and his future. The tribe of Judah brought forth Jesus Christ, the “Lion of Judah” and the anchor of our true identity (John 1:12-13). He has an eternal inheritance for us beyond what we can imagine.
Carolyn Denny dabbled in the Navy, politics, business, and publishing before she discovered her true calling: household management. Today she is raising three boys and a baby girl with her husband Josh in Nashville, Tennessee. In those precious moments tucked between bedtimes and carpools, Carolyn loves to teach the Bible and write about how God shows up in her messy world.