What is in the name Judah? Praise to Jehovah
From the most slovenly teenager, to the über-organized air-traffic controller, our systems crave order. Order is in our DNA. It is our bodies echoing back to what could have been before the fall of man. We can’t imagine having sunset in the morning, nor think about building snowmen to commemorate Independence Day; gloves go on the hands, and shoes fit nowhere else except the feet. French toast for supper is a strange feeling … and pizza for breakfast? – well okay there are some exceptions.
It doesn’t take too long in Bible study to realize that God is a God of complex and elegant order. Take the Hebrew man, Judah, for instance. He wasn’t first of 12 brothers, but Judah had his place in the grand design of the heavenly Father. He was the fourth son of both Jacob and Leah. He, along with Reuben, talked their brothers into sparing the life of their cocky younger brother, Joseph.
However, there was the Tamar incident that consumes an entire chapter in the Old Testament (Genesis 39). Judah had a sexual encounter with Tamar, his dead son’s widow. Horrible as it was – there was still good in Judah, and even redemption reigns in the lurid reports of this chapter.
Judah shows himself to be the broker for the deal in rescuing Benjamin from the clutches of Joseph, masquerading as a despot, making him instrumental for rescuing Jacob’s family from starvation. So there was some good to this fourth man. Judah was also the predecessor to Jesus Christ, which could really take up the rest of today’s column. But, I am talking about order – the beautiful, divine order of God.
Judah was fourth, yet in his way with the Lord, he became first.
You see, God has determined there are first things in the life of a worshipper. The first thing God tells us to do is to praise Him. Praise is the first order of business for both the individual and the corporate worship experience. In the model prayer from Jesus – we are told at the top, “Hallowed be Thy Name.”
Even in his great distress, Job knew that first things were first …
“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped,” Job 1:20.
Other passages (just a sample):
“Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,” Ps. 95:1-2’
“Come before His presence with singing,” Ps. 100:2;
“And one [seraphim] cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’” Isa. 6:3.
What does this have to do with Judah, the fourth born? In the final, bittersweet blessing time of Jacob to his sons in Genesis 49, despite Judah’s sins, Judah receives a stunning blessing. After this, in Scripture his name disappears for around 400 years, being mentioned in a genealogy in Exodus 1 then unmentioned again until the end of the book in some familial organizational detail.
But in Numbers 2, when the encamped Israelites would pack up and move on in their 40 years in the desert, Judah always went first – right after the ark. I can just imagine the mighty Judean banner flapping in the wind as the grand 74,600 children (largest tribe of Israel) of the fourth man followed the ark.
Judah was first.
Now all of today’s verbiage from me is significant because the name Judah means “Praise to Jehovah.” His praise led the Nation of Israel on their pursuit of the Promised Land, once again proving that God’s order of things is a pattern to follow – physically, verbally, emotionally and spiritually. God is a God of radical order. His entire 66 books, from the encampments of men to the lineage of Jesus, cry out in one single voice.
First things, first! Praise. (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)