“For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
The story of Joseph is as familiar as the day is long. Joseph is sold into slavery. Joseph becomes second to Pharaoh. Joseph’s brothers come down to buy food and are forced to bring Joseph’s brother, Benjamin, back with them. Today’s verse is Judah talking to Joseph.
People like to point out the change in Joseph’s brothers at this point in the story. None of these brothers wants anything bad to happen to Benjamin. Reuben offered his sons as surety for Benjamin’s safety. Judah offers himself as surety for Benjamin. It is this last that struck me this morning.
Judah has changed so much that he makes himself the substitute; pleads with Joseph to take him in Benjamin’s place. Why does this strike me? Because one of Judah’s descendants—one Jesus, by name—will later take the place of all of humanity. In this passage, Judah gives us a glimpse of Jesus and what the cross is all about. The cross is all about our slavery to sin. Humanity was in slavery, just as Benjamin was about to be. Judah offered to take Benjamin’s slavery on himself — Jesus took our death on Himself. For this brief and beautiful moment, Judah becomes a type of the God-man that will come from his line.
I think it is also possible that this passage gives us some insight into why God saved us. Judah says he must take Benjamin’s place and cannot return home without him or he will have to face his father’s deep, deep sorrow. It is possible that God saved us because to not do so would have caused Him a similar sorrow. Judah says, in essence, that Jacob would mourn for Benjamin until Jacob died.
Do I understand redemption in those terms? I don’t think I fully grasp the magnitude of God’s sorrow over each and every soul that is lost to Him. Each person who rejects what Jesus did on the cross; each person who shuns Heaven and prefers the only alternative available pierces the heart of God. Those who are saved pierced God’s hands and feet and sides. Those who reject salvation pierce His heart.
God, please help to see things in those terms. Please help me to fully understand Your heartache over each person lost to You because they chose not to be with You. And when Jacob sees his sons again in the scripture, please remind me that his joy over seeing his son alive pales in comparison to the joy You show over each person who chooses life with You.