Redeeming Failure

The One Year® Chronological Bible (Tyndale, 2013), January 16 

imagesThe last words Joseph hears before he is sold to a band of traders are from Leah’s son, Judah. It was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh” (Gen. 37:26-27). Mission accomplished. No brother, no fulfillment of his dreams, and no bowing down to the favored son. No brother, no more favoritism from their father.

The twenty-two years between Judah’s treacherous decision to sell Joseph and the brothers’ sojourn to Egypt taught Judah a thing or two about hurt and bitterness:

Those who operate out of a father’s love-deficit often attack those who know a father’s love-surplus out of jealousy.

Bitterness hardens people to the hurt they inflict on others; experiencing similar loss, however, softens hearts and brings redemption.

It was Judah whose two sons, Er and Onan, were “taken out” by the Lord because of their wickedness (38:6-10). It was Judah who became a widower (38:12).

It was Judah who experienced a tremendous amount of heartache. Judah now understands the grief that occurs from the loss of sons.

It is Judah who volunteers to take full responsibility for Benjamin: “Send the lad 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” (43:8-9).

Judah knows firsthand what it is like to lose, not one, but two sons. Therefore, he seeks to spare his father a second loss of a son, Benjamin: “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (44:33-34). He is now ready to give up his own life in place of his younger brother’s life.

This story is especially meaningful in a world where broken families have become the norm. Sibling rivalry is challenging enough without the complications of additional relationships. This blended family, like those in our day, was a seedbed for hurt, jealousy, and bitterness. Believers who’ve grown up in such homes don’t have to operate out of a love-deficit, but a love-surplus.

We have a Father in heaven who is perfect, who loves perfectly, and who gives hopeless people another chance.

Questions from today’s reading (Genesis 42:1-45:15)

How does the Lord reveal the dishonesty of the brothers in their past dealings with Joseph? What does this reveal about God?

What does the conversation in front of Joseph reveal about Reuben?

What do the testings of his brothers by Joseph reveal to him regarding his brothers?

How have all the brothers (including Joseph) matured during the years between their betrayal of Joseph and their move to Egypt?