The message is about clickbait. It is not clickbait…or is it?

27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah. 

Gen 38:27-30 NIV

Twin boys. What a blessing! And this was the mother’s first time giving birth. A bit of a freaky story of how the babies came out, but a memorable one nonetheless. 

If it were an online article it might say: “Mom gives birth to two bouncing baby boys, you’ll never guess who the father is!” If that were an advertisement, trying to get you to a “news” website…you might CLICK it. “Oh I want to know more about these adorable babies…or I want to know who the father is…what sordid situation did he get himself into?” That, my friends, is the theme for today’s message: “CLICK BAIT.” You look at something online, you click the link and you are sent to something much different than you expected.

You see, this story of twin boys is actually the conclusion to a very complicated section of scripture, one that gets skipped over quite a bit. As we explore this concept of “Clickbait” and the effects it has on those it “hooks,” there are three nuggets of wisdom that we should mentally “Bookmark.” 1) There will always be consequences for our actions of inactions. 2) If you go looking for trouble, trouble will find you. 3) God can redeem any situation. So before we fast forward to the bouncing baby boys, let’s dive into Genesis 38 and the story of Judah.

Our story begins with Joseph’s brother, Judah. Genesis 38 is kind of a weird one for multiple reasons. The main one is that it feels like an intermission to a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream coat.” When recalling, teaching on Joseph’s story, Judah is a footnote. He is the brother credited with the idea of selling their brother to Ishmaelites, rather than leaving him for dead.

Ch 38 sees Judah doing something unusual – he leaves his family to live elsewhere. In this chapter, he gets married and then he and his wife have three baby boys…(not all at the same time). The oldest was named Er, the youngest Shelah and the middle-child (Anybody a middle child here today?) His name was Onan. And this story isn’t all about Judah, but also his sons. Verse 6…

6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.” 

Gen 38:6-7 NIV

Seems a bit harsh, but hey…God is God. But this leaves Tamar without a husband and Judah without a grandchild. Grandkids are very important, would you agree? Perhaps you’re a Grandparent. You know how cute your grandkids are, what they’re up to, how they are growing and learning. You’ve probably got pictures in your wallet, purse or phone. If you have grandkids…can you imagine what your life would be like without them? Inconceivable! (Princess Bride)

So, Er dies without conceiving a child with Tamar. Tough luck for Tamar, right? Well it seemed that the plan to fix this was to have Onan produce children with  Tamar.  But this arrangement didn’t seem appealing to Onan. Any kids that Tamar would have with him, would not have been his, but rather Er’s. 

Time out for inheritance law: You might say, “But Er’s dead! What would the point be of kids being in his name?” Any kids born for Er would receive a share of inheritance from Judah. Think of it this way, They would be more like brother to their father as far as inheritance is concerned. And their “daddy” was the oldest which might mean these kids would have the largest chunk of inheritance.

All the while, their birth father would get the same or less than these kids of Tamar’s. OK back to the story…

So Onan decided to be selfish. He actively chose to not conceive a child with Tamar. Let’s be clear, he did sleep with Tamar, but intentionally did NOT father children with her. Verse 10 says:

10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.”

Gen 38:10 NIV

At this point, Judah is really wondering, “what is going on here?” 2 sons down, no grandkids and Shelah wasn’t old enough to have kids (so he must not have hit puberty yet.) Judah was scared. You may be aware of this, but scared people don’t make the best choices in the world.

11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.”

Gen 38:11 NIV

So to recap, Judah’s two oldest sons were evil and selfish and the direct consequence was the Lord put both of them to death. Any good parenting class must include this nugget of wisdom:

1. “There are always consequences for our actions or inactions.” 

We don’t know what made Er so evil, but it was enough for God to step in. Onan’s actions and inactions were selfishly motivated and the scripture calls him out as evil for it too. Both received a consequence that the scripture tells us God thought was fitting. 

Connecting back to the theme for today’s “Fake News in the Bible?!.” 

Merriam Webster defines Clickbait as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” Examples of headlines are : “You’ll never believe what happened when … This is the cutest thing ever … This is the biggest mistake you can make … Take this quiz to see which character you are on.

^Not really links. Visual example of clickbait.^

When you click on clickbait, you never really know what you’re getting. Maybe it’s a website that just wants to sell your information to advertisers. Maybe a news site spreading false info to manipulate its readers. Maybe just a blogger knows how to work the system and get views. Either way, there are consequences for giving into clickbait. 

A majority of the time is just the consequence of wasting your time. There is so much junk out on the net…a little like junk mail you get in your mailbox each week. It is not life changing…it’s life wasting.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

For Er and Onan, their wickedness certainly was a life changer. Or should I say, “life-ender?” Whatever they were into, whatever choices they made, whatever links they clicked on…it led them to their final consequence.


2. “If you go looking for trouble, trouble will find you.”

Let’s move along to the next phase of this story. Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s home to live as a widow. Essentially, “I’m not going to take care of you for my dead son. Your daddy can do that.” It seemed he was also afraid that Tamar was bad luck and if he arranged a similar situation for Tamar and Shelah, his last son may meet his end.

Verse 12 picks up:

12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.

Gen 38:12 NIV

Judah is a widower and his life has gotten to a state where grief is not consuming him. He’s able to function normally and so he goes out with the guys. Instead of hitting the bar scene, he goes to the sheep shearing scene. It was a different time, I suppose.

On his way to Timnah to shear sheep, he comes across a woman he believes in a prostitue. The second half of verse 16 says 

“…he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”

“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.

Gen 38:16b NIV

Now you and I see the problem Judah is getting himself into. If you’re literally reading between the lines, I’m intentionally obscuring some details to reveal them later. But it is reasonable to say that Judah may have been lonely and perhaps feeling sorry for himself. People don’t do things apart from their own motivations. So he had desires and he thought he could satisfy those desires by being with this prostitute. The two of them strike a deal:

17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.

“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.

18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”

“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.

Gen 38:17-18 NIV

Judah goes on his way to the sheep shearing and has his friend send the payment to the prostitute in order to get his seal, its cord and his staff back. The friend couldn’t find the prostitute, though he tried. Verse 23:

23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock.

Gen 38:23 NIV

Our next nugget about Clickbait is that “If you go looking for trouble, trouble will find you.” Judah went looking for trouble. He slept with someone he believed was a prostitute. He made a bargain and then he couldn’t just make it go away. His reputation would be on the line if he didn’t get his stuff back.

In life it is very true, if out of boredom or just plain sinful desires, you seek out something to satisfy your desires…you will find yourself in over your head. 

President Harry Truman was under incredible pressure while attending the Potsdam conference in 1945. One evening he was heading back to his lodgings when a young Army P.R. officer asked to hitch a ride. The president agreed and the two men had a conversation while they road along. Much of what we know if it was overheard by the president’s driver. In Berlin the black market was rampant, and everything was available–cigarettes, watches, whisky, and prostitutes. The offer let the president know he would be able to get anything from there for him. Even women.

This next part is really great. Truman bristled. “Listen son, I married my sweetheart. She doesn’t run around on me, and I don’t run around on her. I want that understood. Don’t ever mention that kind of stuff to me again.”

Not all people say no to temptation right from the beginning. 

Quoted and summarized from “Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations” Robert J. Morgan.

If we take Judah, for example. On the surface he’s now got an ax ready to fall on him at any time. This “prostitute” has some important belonging of his. Things that could identify him as her “customer” shall we say?

But 3 months passed and still no word from her. No blackmail for more payment. No nothing. And then the most ironic thing occurred. His widowed daughter-in-law was found to be pregnant. The charge against her was prostitution. Judah, in all his right indignation commands for following: 

““Bring her out and have her burned to death!””

Gen 38:24c NIV

Judah was now condemning someone for the same wrong he had committed. 

You’ve heard of the saying “Chickens coming home to roost?” Well in this case, it was a seal with its cord and a very particular staff. A memorable one. Oh no! Judah must have thought…those are my things! Here’s how it went down as recorded in verse 25

25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” 

Gen 28:25 NIV

Sometimes it takes a while, but if you go look for trouble, trouble will find you.

3. God can redeem any situation

Now we come back to the birth of those twin boys. As you may have guessed by now, their mother was Tamar and their father was Judah. Instead of having a loving home with a mom and a dad, it’s not known too much how Tamar is treated by Judah after this point. After the babies are born, the very next chapter is about Joseph and his troubles as a slave. No more details about Judah, Tamar or the twins.

You would think Judah would struggle to get any semblance of honor back. He sold his Brother into slavery. He has two sons who were wicked and God put them to death. He had two more sons by way of his daughter in law. We catch back up with Judah when Jacob sends all his sons to get food from Egypt. A few times he speaks up telling The Egyptian in charge of food distribution their tale of woah, begging for leniency. When it looked like the Egyptian wouldn’t let the youngest brother, Benjamin go back home to Jacob, Judah offered himself in Benjamin’s place. It’s at this point that The Egyptian official reveals that he is Joseph and he and his brothers have a reunion. 

It would seem that Judah had learned a thing or two about integrity and honesty. About keeping his word and self sacrifice.

Our poor choices, though they are not the will of God can be redeemed by God. 

I hope you would agree with me that every life is precious. Precious especially to God. Audio Adrenaline had a song a number of years back, one filled with compassion. I think of it often. It’s entitled “Bag Lady,” and the second verse reads:

“Young daddy’s daughter with child on the way

made a mistake but that’s okay

life is the most precious gift of them all

Just cry on my shoulder and I’ll give a call”

“Bag Lady” by Audio Adrenaline

Each person, God loves and did love before they were born. 

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16 NIV

Here’s where people sometimes get their morality twisted. God did not desire that Judah would engage in prostitution. He didn’t desire for Tamar to deceive her father-in-law into sleeping with her and having children. These things cause trouble and complications in a family, to say the least. What He does desire is something more for Perez and Zerah.

Lives of their own to live. Stories to write, grandchildren and great great great grandchildren. 


To conclude, let’s look at a blessing that Jacob spoke over his son Judah before he died. 

““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. ‭‭

Genesis‬ ‭49:8-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The ruler’s staff…To whom it belongs…

When we take a look at the first chapter of Matthew we find that Perez pops back up. 

Church Staff Picture

“Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Only 9 generations later and we get King David. This section of scripture ties the family line of Jesus all the way back to Abraham, highlights Kings David and Solomon and is dependent on each person, even Perez. One of two children who came into this world via Tamar and Judah. 
This genealogy is that of Jesus the Messiah. The savior and Son of God.

Question of the day

That ruler’s staff authority, metaphorically you and I have one – just as Judah did. The real question is will we give it to the One who is waiting for it? The One to whom it really belongs? Will we give it over to Jesus?

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