Thursday, March 22, 2012
That we never know what's in store.
The Bible is full of heroes of faith, but although this instance may be overlooked at times, I can't help thinking one of the most stirring speeches is found in Genesis 44: 18-34, from a man we don't necessarily think of as a hero. It is Judah's plea to the governor of Egypt to allow his youngest brother, Benjamin, to return home to their father and take him as a slave in his stead. Little does anyone know, the governor happens to be their own brother, Joseph. I'll recap some of what Judah said in the language of The Message Bible, which is so easy to relate to.
"... Can't you see that if I show up before your servant, my father, without the boy, this son with whom he is so bound up, the moment he realizes the boy is gone he'll die on the spot... So let me stay here as your slave, not this boy. Let the boy go back with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? Oh, don't make me go back and watch my father die in grief!"
What an awesome, sacrificial offer from a man who cared deeply for his elderly father. No wonder it was at this point that Joseph caved in, gave way to tears and revealed his identity. We have no way of knowing for sure how long he intended to keep toying with them but Judah's words penetrated straight to Joseph's heart.
Is Judah the sort of guy we think of when we want to teach our kids some great examples? Well, not really. An earlier incident with his daughter-in-law did not show him up in the best light (Genesis 38), and besides that, he was overshadowed by his half-brother. Joseph was the one with the snazzy, multi-coloured coat and the amazing prophetic dreams. He was the one with such a great story, we make movies about him. Joseph was the son of their father's favourite wife. Jacob never seemed to make any attempt to conceal his favouritism of Rachel's boys from his other sons. "I'll not let you take Benjamin because then, if anything happens to him, I'll have nothing left!" Well, that made it clear to the other ten where they stood. And knowing this, Judah still had the loyalty to make his plea to the governor.
I love it that God valued and appreciated that streak of heroism deep within Judah. He, not Joseph, was destined to be the father of the kingly lineage which included such heroes as Kings David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah. Most wonderful of all, he turned out to be that son of Jacob; the one who was set apart to be the ancestor of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. I guess anyone around at the time who'd got a glimpse of God's plan might've been forgiven for saying, "Well, I'll be! I was certain it would be Joseph." But Jesus was called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, not the Lion of the tribe of Joseph.
I guess the moral of Judah's story is that the spotlight and accolades aren't necessarily a sign of what God plans to do through you. You don't have to be the focal point of attention to make a tremendous difference in the world. I'm thankful for faithful plodders like Judah, the unsung heroes who have such awesome futures.