“Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn. Her name was Tamar. But Judah’s firstborn, Er, grievously offended God and God took his life.

So Judah told Onan, ‘Go and sleep with your brother’s widow; it’s the duty of a brother-in-law to keep your brother’s line alive.’ But Onan knew that the child wouldn’t be his, so whenever he slept with his brother’s widow he spilled his semen on the ground so he wouldn’t produce a child for his brother. God was much offended by what he did and also took his life.

So Judah stepped in and told his daughter-in-law Tamar, ‘Live as a widow at home with your father until my son Shelah grows up.’ He was worried that Shelah would also end up dead, just like his brothers. So Tamar went to live with her father.

Time passed. Judah’s wife, Shua’s daughter, died. When the time of mourning was over, Judah with his friend Hirah of Adullam went to Timnah for the sheep shearing.

Tamar was told, ‘Your father-in-law has gone to Timnah to shear his sheep.’ She took off her widow’s clothes, put on a veil to disguise herself, and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the road to Timnah. She realized by now that even though Shelah was grown up, she wasn’t going to be married to him.

Judah saw her and assumed she was a prostitute since she had veiled her face. He left the road and went over to her. He said, ‘Let me sleep with you.’ He had no idea that she was his daughter-in-law.

She said, ‘What will you pay me?’

‘I’ll send you,’ he said, ‘a kid goat from the flock.’

She said, ‘Not unless you give me a pledge until you send it.’

‘So what would you want in the way of a pledge?’

She said, ‘Your personal seal-and-cord and the staff you carry.’

He handed them over to her and slept with her. And she got pregnant.

She then left and went home. She removed her veil and put her widow’s clothes back on.
Judah sent the kid goat by his friend from Adullam to recover the pledge from the woman. But he couldn’t find her. He asked the men of that place, ‘Where’s the prostitute that used to sit by the road here near Enaim?’

They said, ‘There’s never been a prostitute here.’

He went back to Judah and said, ‘I couldn’t find her. The men there said there never has been a prostitute there.’

Judah said, ‘Let her have it then. If we keep looking, everyone will be poking fun at us. I kept my part of the bargain—I sent the kid goat but you couldn’t find her.’

Three months or so later, Judah was told, ‘Your daughter-in-law has been playing the whore—and now she’s a pregnant whore.’

Judah yelled, ‘Get her out here. Burn her up!’

As they brought her out, she sent a message to her father-in-law, ‘I’m pregnant by the man who owns these things. Identify them, please. Who’s the owner of the seal-and-cord and the staff?’

Judah saw they were his. He said, ‘She’s in the right; I’m in the wrong— I wouldn’t let her marry my son Shelah.’ He never slept with her again.

When her time came to give birth, it turned out that there were twins in her womb. As she was giving birth, one put his hand out; the midwife tied a red thread on his hand, saying,

‘This one came first.’ But then he pulled it back and his brother came out. She said, ‘Oh! A breakout!’ So she named him Perez (Breakout). Then his brother came out with the red thread on his hand. They named him Zerah (Bright).”—Genesis 38:6-30

Head’s up: This is another one for the fellas.

That’s a lot of scripture, I know. But, one thing that I really detested while growing up in church school was hearing verses taken out of context to fit a particular agenda. And so, before sharing what I feel God has led me to say, I wanted to be sure that you read this story for yourself in its entirety.

With that said, I think one of the most misconstrued biblical stories of all time is that of Onan and Tamar. I know that I have personally heard more than a couple of pastors use this tale as an explanation of why masturbation is a sin. Well, we have already beat that subject down with a dead horse in a previous chapter (are you keeping your fingers off of the glass?) and so there’s no need to get really deep into what I believe God thinks of that topic again, but I am bringing this up for a specific reason.

I personally believe that one of the things that tends to cause us so much conflict when it comes to reading and absorbing the Word is that we don’t understand the time and purpose for which certain things were written. Without knowing the culture and customs of many of the characters of the Bible, upon reading, things can get very confusing. So, when it comes to Tamar and Onan, let me explain why God was so angry when Onan chose not to “plant his seed” within her.

In Israel at that time, it was the custom that when a man died without children that one of his brothers would marry the widow. If a child was born, it would be considered the dead man’s child. This was the way to carry on his legacy.

Remember, God was already angry with Onan’s brother and Tamar’s late husband, Er’s disobedience. Now here Onan was also being rebellious because he was not supposed to marry Tamar just so that he could get some; no, there was a purpose behind the union. Onan was more concerned with what he wanted than what he was purposed to do. Wasting his seed was also wasting precious time.

Boy, do you already see where I am going with this? Without making the men blush, let me just say that I wish you knew just how powerful your semen really is. I’m sure we all have taken science class and so you know that each teaspoon of semen contains millions of spermatozoa (sperm), and that the purpose of semen is to carry the spermatozoa into the female reproductive tract.

However, recent studies have suggested that male fertility is declining at an alarming rate. While the exact percentages are conflicting, one thing that appears to be a common denominator is the environmental factors that pose a threat to male fertility:

* endocrine disrupters
* toxic pollutants
* sexually transmitted infections
* zinc deficiency
* alcoholism
* smoking
* anabolic steroid use
* ionising radiation

Fellas, let me just say this. When God created you, he placed sperm inside of you with the purpose of being “fruitful and multiplying” with your covenant partner (Genesis 9:1). I find it to be no coincidence that male fertility is currently suffering and issues like STDs, smoking and alcoholism are linked as causing factors. Yes, God judged Onan back then, but in many ways he is still judging those who do not value the power that lies within them even now. Your seed is not something that is meant to be wasted—on the bedroom floor or some car seat to keep a girl that you barely even know from getting pregnant or inside of someone who is not your wife. Within your seed lies your legacy and even now, God takes that very seriously.

Isaiah 43:7 reminds us that “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (NKJV)

Unfortunately, human sexuality—a gift from God, by the way—is not addressed in the Church nearly as much as it should be, but just know this: When God made you he took every single detail into consideration and your sperm was not an afterthought (c’mon, this is the being who knows about every hair on your head—Matthew 10:30). Your reproductive capabilities are one of the things that makes you a “fearfully and wonderfully made” man (Psalm 139:14). He doesn’t want you taking the gift he has given you for granted:

“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”—I Corinthians 6:18-20

Some of you want God to move in your life and he’s not because you are “wasting your seed” and God has not given you the instruction to do that. Your sperm was created for one person and that was your wife. When you disrespect God’s daughters, it doesn’t make him very happy. You want to see some changes in your life? Protect your seed and plant it in good ground:

“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”—Matthew 13:23 (NKJV).

Moving on.

As I read about Judah sleeping with his own daughter-in-law later in this story (verse 15), one of the first persons who came to mind was Kobe Bryant. Let me tell you why.

I remember as he was going through all of his drama from the alleged rape charge that he received from the young women in Colorado that one of the things I thought that everyone missed was the fact that even if he didn’t force her to have sex, he still violated her (because she didn’t belong to him), himself (because he belonged to Vanessa) and the vows that he took before God (because even if he didn’t rape her, he still committed adultery). And while rape is a vile and hideous crime, adultery certainly doesn’t earn you any extra brownie points with God (Galatians 5:16-26). Sure man’s law may only cause you to pay when sex is forced upon another individual, but in God’s kingdom, adultery is sin and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). What’s worse? A little jail time or hell’s fire? Hmm. No wonder God advises men to “Drink waters out of your own cistern [of a pure marriage relationship], and fresh running waters out of your own well.” (Proverbs 5:15—AMP).

Anyway, just last week I was talking to a friend of mine about promiscuity and in response to my warning him about “reaping from the seeds that he sows”, he said, “I am aware of karma, Shell, but it’s not like I am raping these women. They are consenting to it.” That may be so, but you are still violating her…them…whomever:

Violate: to break or disregard (a law or promise, for example); to do harm to (property or qualities considered sacred); desecrate or defile; to disturb rudely or improperly; interrupt; to destroy and strip of its possession.

God says in I Corinthians 3:16 that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Actually, I need to correct that; he asks us if we know that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Remember, the flesh and spirit are ever-warring against one another (Galatians 5:17) and so when you violate your sister (which is any woman you are not married to, so that sounds a lot like incest—ugh), you are not only desecrating your body and her temple, but you are also deeply offending the Holy Spirit. This is why it says in Galatians 6:8 that those who “sow to the flesh will reap to the flesh (lust), but those who sow to the Spirit (love) will reap everlasting life.”

When Kobe moved outside of covenant to lay down with another woman, it was open season for the consequences that would follow because he was sowing to his flesh and nothing good can ever come from that.

In this way, he was very similar to Judah.

Can you imagine how Judah must’ve felt upon discovering that the woman he slept with was actually his relative? But c’mon, Judah! What was your hormonal tail thinking about running up on a prostitute in the first place? Just as with Kobe, Judah paid dearly for what he thought would be a quickie, and so many of us do.

I have aborted four children and as I spiritually heal, while I know that God has forgiven me (Romans 8:1), I still come to grieve them all the more.

I have a friend who is going through hell on earth dealing with the mother of one of his children from a one night stand.

I know someone who is young, beautiful and currently battling AIDS because of her past sexual indiscretions.

What I have come to discover about the Enemy is that he never, ever, ever shows the consequences of our actions until it’s time to pay up. He’s like a really bad car dealer; never revealing what’s wrong with your purchase until it’s already been bought and paid for.

Which is just what happened to Judah. How ironic that because he chose to think with his hormones (which is really like not thinking at all) instead of his head, he gave up his own seal (something that was used like a rubber stamp; people ran a string through it to tie around their neck. They wrote a contract, folded it, put wax or clay in the contract and pressed the seal onto it as a signature).

Guys, any time you sleep with a woman who is not your wife, you are laying down a part of your identity as a deposit. However, when you do so, it’s like renting an apartment as opposed to buying a home—you’re just throwing your self-worth down the drain.

It always tickles me how men want to be “poor investors” in their single living and then when it comes time to settle down, they wonder why their “credit check” is denied upon purchase (the marriage of a godly woman). Once again, let me remind you that in the Bible, wisdom has been given the female pronoun (Proverbs 1:20). A woman of God can discern the character of a man and when it comes time to consider making a commitment, we want to see your history (i.e., how you have treated women in the past).

The truth of the matter is if you didn’t know how to respect other women back then, what makes us believe that you will treat us as the queens we are now? And deeper yet, if you didn’t love yourself enough to protect your “goods”, why would we entrust you with ours to spoil?

Uh…we won’t.

So ladies, let me just stop right here and say that if a man is interested in you, check to see if he has his “seal” around his neck. A man who knows who and whose he is, is not going to have pieces of himself (his mind, heart or DNA) spread out all over the countryside.

Back to Judah. Sadly, just like those who like to judge others to throw people off of their scent of sin, upon hearing that Tamar was illegitimately pregnant, Judah called for her to be severely punished. Never mind the fact that he was killing himself trying to find some hussy that he hooked up with. No, that was not nearly as disgusting as what his daughter-in-law did (yep, there was sexism in sexuality even back then).

Can you imagine how he felt when he found out that what she did, she did with him? This is a good lesson that we all can learn about God’s grace and mercy. When you know that you are not living right, it can be so easy to put your focus on what someone else is doing:

Sure, I am having oral sex with my boyfriend, but at least I have never gotten pregnant like so-and-so.

Yes, I may be obsessing over a man but at least I dress modestly unlike so-and-so.

I might be gossip about my sister but at least I don’t give others reason to talk about me.

When you are all caught up in what someone else is doing, you never know how your cold heart could cause you to face your own level of devastating humiliation up the road. Holding someone accountable is one thing, but to take on a sanctimonious attitude like you don’t need a Savior as much as she does? Let me just say that with that attitude you will find yourself needing him all the more (Proverbs 16:18).

Today’s homework assignment: Come to a clear understanding of your body and the purpose of it (http://www.umm.edu/women/gynillu.htm) and make a commitment to doing all that you can to insure its optimum health. If you have a history of promiscuity, get checked out for STDs—you can pray all day, but when you’ve been disobedient, sometimes the answer comes in the form of a pill. If you are getting up there in age, do your research on how to protect your eggs and your reproductive health so that you can stay in peak condition during your emotional incubation period. And no matter who or how old you are, make it a point to get on a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Remember, God judged Onan because he put his preference before his purpose and a part of our purpose is to take care of our temples.

Finally, purpose in your mind, not to compromise your standards on any level. As Judah has reminded us, a one night can change your life forever in ways you never even fathomed before making the decision. In sin, take it from me, there’s simply no such thing as a quickie.

©Shellie R. Warren/2006