4rd July 2020
'the most surprising turnaround '
Prepare yourself for the most surprising turnaround of the Joseph story.
After three days Joseph released all but one brother from jail.
They returned to Canaan to report to Jacob,
their father, a weak shadow of an old man.
The brothers told him how Simeon was kept in Egypt
as assurance they would return with Benjamin,
the youngest brother.
Jacob had nothing to say except,
"You have bereaved me:
Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more,
and you want to take Benjamin.
All these things are against me"
Jacob played favourites, refused to discipline,
had multiple wives,
and upon hearing of the imprisonment of his son,
had a pity party.
What a prima donna. No wonder the family was screwed up.
But as we read further,
a light breaks through the clouds.
Judah, who once wanted to get rid of Joseph,
"Send Benjamin with me, and we will arise and go,
that we may live and not die,
both we and you and also our little ones.
I myself will be surety for him;
from my hand you shall require him.
If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you,
then let me bear the blame forever"
Is this the same Judah? The same man who said,
"Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites" (Genesis 37:27)?
The same brother who helped negotiate the slave trade?
Well, yes... and no. Judah, as it turns out,
has had his own descent into the pit.
After Joseph's abduction, Judah went on to have three sons.
He arranged for the eldest to marry a girl named Tamar. But the son died.
Following the proper protocol of his day,
Judah arranged for his second son to marry Tamar.
The son didn't manage the situation well and died.
Judah assumed Tamar was jinxed.
Afraid that his third son would meet the same fate,
Judah put the matter on hold, leaving Tamar with no husband.
Later Judah's wife died.
Tamar heard that Judah was coming to town.
Apparently she hadn't been able to get Judah to 'reply to her e-mails,'
so she got creative.
She disguised herself as a prostitute and made him an offer.
Judah took the bait.
He exchanged his necklace and walking stick for sex,
unaware that he was sleeping with his daughter-in-law.
(Oh, how lust blinds a man!) She conceived.
Three months later she reappeared in Judah's life
as Tamar, pregnant Tamar.
Judah went high and mighty on her and demanded she be burned.
That's when she produced Judah's necklace and walking stick,
and Judah realized the child was his.
He was caught in his own sin,
disgraced in front of his own family.
Things had come full circle.
Judah, who had deceived Jacob, was deceived.
Judah, who had trapped Joseph, was trapped.
Judah, who had helped humiliate Joseph, was humiliated.
God gave Judah his comeuppance, and Judah came to his senses.
"She has been more righteous than I," he confessed
For years I wondered why Judah's exploits
were included in the Joseph narrative.
They interrupt everything.
We just get started in chapter 37
with the dreams and drama of Joseph
when the narrator dedicates chapter 38
to the story of Judah, the hustler, and Tamar, the false escort.
Two dead husbands. One clever widow
An odd, poorly placed story. But now I see how it fits.
For anything good to happen to Jacob's family,
someone in the clan had to grow up.
If not the father,
one of the brothers had to mature to the point
where he took responsibility for his actions.
God activated the change in Judah.
He gave the guy a taste of his own medicine,
and the medicine worked!
Judah championed the family cause.
He spoke sense into his father's head.
He was willing to take responsibility for Benjamin's safety
and bear the blame if he failed.
Judah got his wake-up call,
and Joseph didn't have to lift a finger or swing a fist.
Vengeance is God's.
He will repay - whether ultimately on the Day of Judgment
or intermediately in this life.
The point of the story?
God handles all Judahs.
He can discipline your abusive boss,
soften your angry parent.
He can bring your ex to his knees or her senses.
Forgiveness doesn't diminish justice;
it just entrusts it to God.
He guarantees the right retribution.
We give too much or too little.
But the God of justice has the precise prescription.
Unlike us, God never gives up on a person.
Long after we have moved on,
God is still there, probing the conscience,
stirring conviction, always orchestrating redemption.
Fix your enemies? That's God's job.
Forgive your enemies?
Ah, that's where you and I come in. We forgive.
'While the cat is away....'