This is a devotional I did with my kids recently. Given how kids have the propensity to forget things, I’m posting it here so that they won’t forget the lesson behind it.
(I’m sure some preachers have preached this before, but this was something I stumbled across during one of my morning quiet times, so, no, I didn’t steal any of this material from someone else.)
When I grew up as a child, I was not a Christian. My mom was not a Christian. I was in a low-income family. No house. No car. No father. But I still had aspirations. I wanted to be somebody. Maybe a famous cartoonist. Maybe a major league baseball player. Maybe a scientist who would invent something important.
Of course, none of those things happened. Was rejected in attempting to be a syndicated cartoonist. Failed to make the cut in walk-on tryouts for UIC baseball. Definitely not a scientist.
But I don’t look at my life as wasted or insignificant. I graduated college, am still married to the girl of my dreams, became born-again, and have six kids in whom I’m hoping to instill their own faith in Christ. The first three accomplishments had significant hurdles I had to overcome, and the last accomplishment is a significant responsibility that I’m still working on. So even in what I would view as a failure to be significant in my childhood goals, I’d argue that what I’m doing is still significant even if I never became famous for it or if no one else appreciated what I did outside my immediate family.
Not all kids grow up with aspirations to become significant, however. Some just go through life without deep thoughts about the future. Some grow up with deep thoughts but wondering what life is all about. Others will grow up like I did: getting a decent job and raising a family but not feeling significant. Maybe you too wonder if there’s more to life than this.
In the book of Genesis, there are seven major people or groups of people that the author focuses on. They are:
- Adam & Eve
- Cain & Abel
These are what we would consider to be the significant people in Genesis. Drilling down further, it appears that the most significant of Jacob’s 12 children is Joseph. In fact, Joseph is so significant that Genesis devotes 13 chapters (26%, more than a quarter) to Joseph’s amazing history.
I love Joseph. His love, patience, and ability to handle sexual temptation are all very inspiring qualities. Don’t you love Joseph?
But there is a child of Jacob who is even more significant than Joseph. Far more significant. Can you guess who it is? That person is Judah.
Now, in the book of Genesis, Judah is not significant at all. In fact, Judah’s mom was “hated” by Judah’s father (Gen 29:31), so you could say he grew up in a dysfunctional home. Can significance come from dysfunctional homes? In addition, neither was Judah the firstborn child of Leah; he was Leah’s fourth. What’s more, Jacob loved his brother Joseph the most. Joseph was a firstborn child…of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. Judah just doesn’t have a lot going for him.
But that’s not all. Gen 38 records a part of Judah’s history, oddly nestled among the pages in Genesis discussing Joseph. Here we see that Judah takes a Canaanite girl as his wife. It was already established that the people of the Promised Land were not to take Canaanite women as their wives. Not good.
Even worse, Judah winds up impregnating his daughter-in-law Tamar, rather than giving her to his son Shelah. Oops. Tamar has twins, Perez and Zerah. Remember that name Perez…we’ll come back to it later.
Just to make sure we know that Judah is not a great guy, we read in Gen 37 that the plan to sell Joseph into slavery to the Ishmaelites was planned by none other than Judah. While it could be argued that Judah’s plan was instrumental to what would then happen to Joseph, the fact remains that Judah isn’t exactly a guy we cheer for and tell kids about with admiration in Sunday school.
The final nail in Judah’s coffin of significance is that when his father Jacob is dying, Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. Judah, not surprisingly, is nowhere to be found.
But wait a minute. If you turn to Matthew 1:2, the genealogy of Christ doesn’t say “Jacob father of Joseph and his brothers”; it says “Jacob father of Judah and his brothers.” Judah? The guy who couldn’t do anything right…and schemed to do things wrong?
But don’t stop at verse 2 in that genealogy. Verse 3 says: “and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron.” So Gen 38 is important after all. Remember that name Perez, three paragraphs ago? Here he is again…Judah’s odd son/grandson, part Canaanite child, is listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Wow.
Do we know anything else that Judah or Perez did? No. They were as insignificant as they come, when it comes to accomplishments. If you were to ask either of them on their death bed whether they felt significant, I bet both of them would agree with you that they were lived insignificant lives.
But Judah and Perez are part of the lineage of the Messiah! You and your child, no matter how unlikeable they may be, no matter how insignificant they may think they are, matter to God. No one knows how the Lord will use you or your child for His glory. You may not see it in your lifetime, and your child may not see it during his/her lifetime either…just as Judah and Perez didn’t. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a plan for you and your child.
As I write this post, there’s an article today in the Wall Street Journal about the number of trophy homes Oracle CEO Larry Ellison owns. Some of his homes are worth $108 million dollars. That’s not even his net worth; it’s just one of his many homes.
Are you or your child feeling like life is just a grind, or that your life isn’t amounting to much? Be encouraged! God has a plan for you to be significant! Not in a monetary or physical possessions way b/c Christ already condemned those as insignificant. Rather, your significance comes in your family’s multi-generational legacy. Genealogies are used in both the Old and New Testaments for a reason: the offspring you raise are what’s significant, not the stuff you buy with your wallet. If you are a parent, continue to raise your children and your grandchildren for God’s glory. If you are a child, continue to love the Lord your God with all your soul. It is the soul, after all, that is what’s significant.