We just concluded a year’s study on the Book of Genesis in BSF. A great study of human nature as we covered the first families and saw they were as dysfunctional as they are today. During the sharing night many spoke of their admiration for Joseph, whom I admired too the first time I did this study, but this time around…he didn’t stand out so much….
OK yes, Joseph went through a lot. At age 17 he was so hated by his half brothers they plotted to kill him, but they spared his life and sold him as a slave (actually for less than what a slave was worth) to Egypt. Just when things were starting to look up, as he became the General Manager of the Captain of the Guard’s entire estate, the Captain’s wife framed him for rape because he wouldn’t sleep with her. So he was thrown in prison. Then he had an opportunity to have his case brought before Pharoh when he correctly interpretted the dream of a Royal Cup Bearer. But the Cup Bearer forgot about him. Time creeps along and Joseph is now 30 years old. Pharoh has disturbing dreams his magicians and advisors cannot interpret. This triggers the memory of the Cup Bearer who then tells Pharoh about Joseph. Joseph gets released from prison. Interprets the dreams. And suddenly finds himself promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharoh himself. Acting on the interpretation of the dreams, he saves hundreds of thousands of lives. Including the lives of his brothers…who make peace. And this family goes on to being the line from which Jesus Christ descended, and is also the nation of Israel today. Amazing story. Incredible story. Joseph. Wow.
Let’s look at Judah.
He’s the one who suggested the brothers not kill Joseph but sell him as a slave to Egypt instead. Not sure if that deserves any points for that. He marries a heathen woman and has three sons who are so wicked that God Himself kills two of them. Tradition of the time stipulates that the daughter-in-law be given in marriage to the next living brother in order to preserve the line of the elder brother if he dies. After Judah’s two elder sons die by God’s hand, he blames her as the source of bad luck, and does not give her to his youngest son. Meanwhile, being accustomed to using prostitutes, he impregnates his daughter-in-law, who had dressed as a prostitute to get what is her right: a child in Judah’s family. He almost gets her burned to death for prostituting herself until he realizes she’s carrying his child and that he was wrong to have treated her the way he did by withholding his son from her. That’s Judah. Wow.
And the shocker, or it was a shocker when I first figured it out, is that JUDAH, not Joseph, is whom Jesus descended from. Joseph SAVED Judah, saved the whole family and provided a place for this rag-tag tribal family to grow into a great nation…but he is not in the lineage of Christ.
To paint a slightly more complete picture, Judah had transformed over the years such that he was willing to take his youngest half-brother’s place as a slave in Egypt. He became a very different man from the guy who willingly sold Joseph into slavery at a bargain price. The Bible doesn’t record what else transformed about Judah, but some thoughts that I have managed to gather is this:
- God’s grace is truly amazing. His work in someone’s life can literally turn a lost-causes into warriors, heroes and kings. I’m challenged to consider those who I deem as hopeless or a lost cause, and to see instead that God’s specialty is taking the unlikely and using them in mighty ways. I should not be so quick to think their last chapter has been written.
- Only God can do something like this. Take zeroes to heroes.
- How successful and amazing you are right now doesn’t guarantee any kind of legacy. Sometimes I wonder if Joseph would’ve found it unfair God didn’t use his lineage, but if his character was as humble and upstanding as he sounds, then I don’t think he would’ve given it a second thought. Question for us is are we willing to be used however greatly or humbly that God intends?
- Neither a epic past failure (Judah) or an epic success (Joseph) matters in the long run for God. Hold onto neither as it shouldn’t matter to us either.