Monday, January 31, 2011

Judah Puts His Own Integrity and Relationship With His Father On The Line - Genesis 43:8-10

And Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones.  I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him.  If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever.  For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.”

Jacob has said “no, Benjamin cannot go with you to Egypt”.  He has blamed his sons for putting him in a difficult situation.  Now Judah steps up to the plate recognizing the necessity of another trip to Egypt to get grain, if the extended family of Jacob is to survive.

He goes to his father and effectively says, “Trust your son with me.  Let him come with us.  We must get to Egypt for if you don’t let us, we will all die.  You will die, father.  Your grandchildren will die, too.”  As a father and a grandfather, I am not sure that I could deal with that.  The decision before Jacob reminds me of the old movie, Sophie’s Choice, starring Meryl Streep, where she needed to choose which child of hers would be killed by the Nazis in order to save the other.  God forbid that any of us should ever be in that kind of position.  But it gives us a little glimmer into how Jacob may have felt.

Even with those arguments, Jacob does not seem to budge in his position.  It is then that Judah plays his strongest card.  He tells his father his relationship with him will be the surety Jacob will have.  If Judah does not bring Benjamin back, he will give up all rights to his relationship with his father and he will bear the blame the rest of his life.  We have to understand child-parent, and especially father-son relationships of the day and culture.  First there was great respect for a parent by a child.  Second, albeit not always evident, there was great pride of a son by his father.  (This arrangement continues today in many Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries.  My own father never told me how proud he was of me, but he kept telling his friends who told me.  Not always easy to swallow that way, but once I realized his love for me; I was able to accept it.)  The idea of Judah being prepared to give up this relationship, and probably rights to any inheritance, was a significant offer.  Then add to that the sincerity of being willing to live the rest of his life as the one being blamed for the death of Benjamin should he not bring him back, and you had an offer no father could refuse.

Judah, then drives the logic of what he was asking for forward with one last argument, that of the simplicity of the task before them.  He says to Jacob, “look we could have gone and come back twice by now if we went when we needed to.”  The ball was clearly in Jacob’s court.  Would he hold on to it or would he entrust it to the rest of his team?

What does it take to convince you to let go of an idea or a person or a thing that has been dear to you?  We often tell our young people who have fallen in love with someone who wants to be moving on to another romance, “if you love them, let them go; if they never come back, it was never meant to be”.  The expression does not apply in this case as it was meant to – between two people.  Benjamin was not the one here who wanted to be set free to go to Egypt.  But the saying has some relevance if we escalate it to a meaning between man and God.  If God wants us to let go of something or someone dear in our lives, are we prepared to do so?  Are we prepared to find out what God has in store for us if we obey Him?  That is the question for us here from this passage.  Some of us need to apply it to our children, our ministries, and our belongings.  Let us be so close to God that doing so would become much easier and His blessings, so much more revealed.

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