I know our series at Trinity CRC is supposed to be about Joseph, but on Good Friday we spent a good chunk of time considering his half-brother Judah. He makes a speech biblical scholar Terence Fretheim in his commentary on Genesis calls “a literary masterpiece” in which he pleads to the Egyptian governor (who, unbeknownst to the brothers, is Joseph) on behalf of his younger brother, Benjamin.
Benjamin has been framed for stealing Joseph’s silver cup. All the brothers appear before Joseph and are given the opportunity to walk away from their trouble simply if they leave Benjamin behind in Egypt to live the rest of his life as the governor’s slave. Essentially, they have the opportunity to do to Benjamin the exact same thing they did to Joseph years before: Betray and ditch their little brother and be on their merry way.
I am happily astonished at how much Judah and his brothers have changed (something I started exploring in my last blog entry). Instead of abandoning Benjamin, Judah begs the governor, “Please let your servant [i.e. me] remain here as my lord’s [i.e. your] slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return [home] with his brothers.” In his commentary, Bruce Waltke observes that this is the very “first instance of human substitution in Scripture” – where one person willingly gives up him- or herself in place of another. And Judah’s the same one who years ago said, “Come, let’s sell [our brother] to the Ishmaelites!” It’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same person! That Judah, by the grace of God, has changed is undeniable.
God, in His grace, invites me to change, too. He loves to see me grow in Christ. Sometimes in some areas, the growth will be as dramatic as Judah’s. At other times in other areas and perhaps more often, it will be more subtle. But, as the Holy Spirit directs, grow I will. In fact, as I’ve said before, it’s impossible for followers of Jesus not to grow. Anything that’s alive will grow! Without growth, our spiritual muscles will atrophy, our convictions will become fuzzy, our obedience to Jesus increasingly sporadic.
It makes me want to look back over the past week, month, and year to see where God has been making a difference in my life and helping me grow more and more “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (to quote Peter). Maybe you’d like to consider that, too.
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You can read my Good Friday message here. It touches on growth, but focuses more on how Judah’s willingness to take his brother’s place anticipates the perfect “substitutionary atonement” of Jesus through His death on the cross.