Friday, November 4, 2016

TheLifeOfJoseph : Genesis 44

This story is packed-full with twists and turns! As mentioned in the last entry, the writer seems to slow right down to make sure the reader catches all the important pieces of this magnificent story; and this chapter is no different. But all of a sudden, we start to see the 22 year-old delay unravel. 

Joseph has a plan as to how to reveal himself to his brothers. It is clear that his motive is to be reconciled to his brothers. It is clear that he grieves the loss of them, especially his youngest brother Benjamin. And so intentionally sets a trap for them. He instructs his trusted servant to hide his own cup in Benjamin's sack and sends them on their way. None of the brothers realize that Joseph did this, but rather than waiting until they traveled back to their father (like was done before), he sent his servant to 'overtake them' (vs. 4) before returning home and made sure they came back, and quickly, by accusing them of stealing. (Note how much this story has been a play by play much like the movies today)

Why did Joseph plan out this strategy in this way? He could have very easily just laid out the family-history to them like a good professor of history in university or college. It is obvious that he would have had a captive audience. Joseph has used is power to give, and give again, to his brothers (and to his family). It seems strange why he would allow them to leave, then bring them back under false accusations. It is a mystery. But, perhaps, Joseph knew his brothers well. More especially, perhaps, he knew Judah well. Or at least he hoped he did.

We learn that this speech we find Judah speak to Joseph once they all arrive back in Joseph's presence after being 'caught with the cup' is the largest repentance-speech in all of the Old Testament. Judah definitely had the time to form his sentences as they walked back to Egypt and into the house of Joseph for yet another time. I can't help but think of The Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32). Just like Judah, the prodigal son rehearsed a statement. But unlike Judah, his speech was interrupted. Judah was given the opportunity to share his whole heart with Joseph. Perhaps Joseph wanted to know who Judah really was now. He was clearly searching for something specific. 

Right now, if you've never read the story of Joseph, you don't know how this elaborate  story ends (so I won't give it away). We, this side of knowing more, even if it is on a tertiary level, know that there is reconciliation. But as said before, we need to slow down and take in all the events one at a time, just like we need to do with our lives. 

What I find to be a very important part in this speech of Judah's is his heart for his family. It is very clear that he has learned his lesson about what it means to care for each of his family members. He is not a perfect man, and he finally humbly acknowledges this - he has most definitely made some mistakes along the way - but here we see a humble, Christ-like attitude. Instead of allowing Benjamin to be taken into slavery, Judah offers himself. I believe that this is an echo that will then be spoken very clearly into our souls in the New Testament. Like a conductor who knows the end from the beginning, God, in His master-plan, has designed this amazing story of reconciliation; His finger-prints are all through every story in the Old Testament, leading up to the New.

May we learn and emulate the heart of Judah here. This is genuine repentance. Again, let me say that Judah knows, in this specific instance with the cup found in Benjamin's sack, that they are not guilty of stealing it. Yet he is willing to sacrifice himself in order for his family to live. He was willing to the suffer the consequences because he knew that they were innocent. Maybe Joseph, in his wisdom, is hoping that if Judah spoke with these kind of heart-felt words, he would do the same with the memory of his brother Joseph. Knowing we may never get a sincere apology from people is a hard aspect of our lives. But Joseph hears his brothers' change of heart (and life-style) and is left with a decision as to how to respond. I can't help but see the parallels (and contrasts) with our relationship to Jesus in this speech of Judah's.

The miracle of miracles is that we are not 'set up' to respond in repentance to Christ, but as Paul writes, God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). It's as if we haven't made the speech, we haven't had a change of heart, we haven't decided to change our ways. While we're sinning, Christ died for us. So, rather than being 'set up' to repent, we're actually set up to realize that we can never earn the love of Christ. Because it is clearly nothing of our doing but all because of our Heavenly Father's grace. Undeserved grace. Undeserved mercy. Interwoven in this story is the story of Christ.

May we seek Him and find Him (Rev. 3:20).

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