Brent Siemens recounted for us the story of Joseph from Genesis 44, but from the perspective of one of Joseph’s brothers – Judah, the fourth-born – as a testament to God’s working in the lives of scandalously-imperfect people. The story began in Genesis 37 with Joseph acknowledged as favourite of his father Jacob by his favourite wife Rachel. Judah, however, led his nine other brothers in mischief as they acted on their dislike of Joseph and sold him into slavery. Brent followed Judah through Genesis 38 as he lived a life of avarice, marrying outside clan to a Canaanite woman, who bore him two sons who soon died, and generally lived apart from God. Though the main narrative followed Joseph’s blessing at the hands of God, Brent continued with Judah through Genesis 42 and 43 when the family’s time of need brought them back together. Even when Joseph restrained Simeon in Egypt the first time the family came begging for food, one senses this is no act of revenge, but a test. So when the family returned to Joseph in Egypt once again to beg for more food, Joseph’s trump card was played – he seized Benjamin through trickery, and put the family to the test of loyalty once again. Judah, however, rose to the challenge, offering to trade places with Benjamin and remain in Egypt so as to allow Benjamin to go home to his father Jacob. Joseph had recreated the original test that led to his slavery, with Benjamin, in order to find out “Does hatred, jealousy and favouritism still rule the family? Can I trust them?” Joseph found out that the brothers have indeed changed, and that Judah has assumed the mantle of leadership with responsibility. Even the language of the passage changes from “the sons of Jacob” to “Judah and his brothers” reflecting the bond that overcame the failings of their father’s favouritism. Brent ascribed four lessons to this story, noting that:
- God doesn’t give up on people, even when people fail him;
- that God brings about transformation in his own time – actively with Joseph, more passively with Judah;
- God desires us to be our brothers’ keeper, to actively interfere in each others’ lives to good intent; and
- God asks us to look to each other sacrificial love, as Judah did for Benjamin, and Jesus (himself a direct descendant of Judah) did for us.
Greater love has no-one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends. [AP]