Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Some Plans Don't Work Out Very Well"

Genesis 44.18a, 33-34 NLT

“Then Judah stepped forward and said,… Please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I cannot bear to see what this would do to him’”.

Judah tried unsuccessfully to atone for past sin. Twenty-one years earlier, he orchestrated a plot to rid his family of Joseph. Judah hated his brother for the obvious favortism Joseph received from their father who lavished  upon him special gifts like multi-colored tunics (Genesis 37.3). Judah wasn’t alone in his angry feelings…

“…all his brothers… hated [Joseph] and could not speak with him on friendly terms.”
Genesis 37.4 NASU

Eliminating Joseph made perfect sense…
  • Joseph’s offensive dreams would come to an end
  • No remaining reason for Jacob’s absurd favoritism
  • All brothers would be on an level playing field
  • The inheritance would be shared equally
There was something unnatural about Jacob’s relationship with Joseph. It was unfair for a father to love a child that intensely. Killing Joseph would finally achieve the equality that every child in the family deserved. Equality was a noble virtue. If Jacob couldn’t treat all the boys equally, Judah and his brothers would force him to. In this case, the end clearly justified the means, or so the brothers thought.

It occurred to Judah that it would be more profitable to sell, rather than kill Joseph. Murder was such a messy thing. Sell the boy, make a buck and, best of all, no body to dispose of.

“Judah said, ‘What are we going to get out of killing our brother
and concealing the evidence? Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites,…”
Genesis 37.26-27a “The Message”

The disposal of Joseph had horrific side effects. While Judah and his jealous brothers did not approve of the depth of their father’s love for Joseph, they were not prepared for the intensity of Jacob’s misery and grief to follow. Twenty-one years later the tables radically turned. Judah found himself pleading for mercy from Joseph and freedom for Benjamin. The ‘Joseph Elimination’ plan had not worked out well. Jacob never fully recovered and he transferred his over-affection to youngest brother Benjamin. Nothing really changed except the sinister and relentless guilt that crept in every year since Joseph left. Judah and his brothers rarely talked of it but they all felt it.

Forced to face his past sin, Judah tried a new plan. He would become Benjamin’s savior and, in so doing, save himself. He offered himself in exchange for the life of Benjamin. Judah would make his own substitutionary atonement. Perhaps he could release himself from the unrelenting burden of shame that racked his soul. Perhaps, by the sacrificial offering of himself, Judah would finally achieve the inner peace that eluded him for over two decades. But this plan would not work out either. Judah could never sufficiently pay the price for his past sin. Judah (and the rest of humanity) would have to wait for God’s perfect plan of redemption with the arrival of one of Judah’s own descendants 40 generations later:

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of…
...Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus
who is called Christ… He will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:1-3a, 16, 21c NIV

Only Jesus, not Judah nor anyone else... only Jesus can rightly deal with the inequities of life. Only Jesus can release us from the awful burden of sin and guilt. Only Jesus can “save his people from their sins.” He alone is God’s perfect plan.

2 comments:

One Sided said...

one of my students is struggeling with the price to be paid for the sins committed. He can not get past the idea that he will be made to pay by God when it is his turn to stand before God and make account for his life. This accounting and subsequent punishment is consuming his thoughts.
As close as I can get is trying to say that the price has been paid and there is no punishment pending that at most in that moment of accounting we will be very aware of the cost of our actions and the full significance of the price that was paid for our freedom for punishment.

Dave's Bible Blog said...

Hi One Sided,

Ask your student to read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe". I just read it again for the first time in many years and was inspired by the love of Christ (Aslan in C.S.Lewis' book) and His absolute willingness to pay a heavy price for my sins. My salvation was not free. It was just free to me.

I will pray for your student. You're a good mentor to him, I'm sure.

Thanks for your comments.

Dave