Joseph #10 “Greater Love . . .”
Genesis 44 November 7, 2004
SI: When we started this study of the life of Joseph back in August, told you I
received tremendous insight from some sermons by Dr. Robert Rayburn of
Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington.
Wanted to mention that again, give credit where credit is due.
Because the heart of my sermon this morning comes from Dr. Rayburn’s insights.
INTRO: If you are ever on the Blue Ridge Parkway northeast of Asheville,
have to stop at Mount Mitchell and take the short hike from the parking lot
to the top—because Mount Mitchell is highest point east of Mississippi.
The view is beautiful and it is also very satisfying to look out over the Smokies,
pick out other mountain peaks in the distance—know you are higher than all.
A question: What is the highest mountain peak of the Bible?
What is the mountain top of God’s work of salvation?
All Christians know it is the cross.
Everything else in the Bible either leads to or results from,
Jesus Christ laying down his life on the cross.
Even the Second Coming is not the mountain top—the cross is.
The Second Coming is just the consummation of the salvation power
unleashed by the cross.
The mountain top of God’s work of salvation is Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, in love, laying down his life for sinners.
Another question: What is the mountain top of the Joseph story?
Is it when Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream made second in command in Egypt?
Is it in next chapter when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers? “I am Joseph.”
No—those events are two sides of the mountain.
The mountain top is this chapter—44.
Specifically, the words of Judah in verses 33 and 34. Let’s read them again.
Judah said to Joseph:
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.”
Underline those words in red!
Here we have the fourth brother Judah, out of love for his father,
and love for his father’s favorite son, his half-brother Benjamin,
offering himself as a slave in Benjamin’s place.
Judah could have walked away. Joseph gave him an open door.
Go back to your father in peace. I’ll only keep this youngest brother as slave.
But Judah, in love, laid down his life for the love of his father,
for the sake of his brother, when he was given the chance to walk away.
At this point in the story, the moment Judah speaks these words,
the rifts of this dysfunctional family are healed.
The rifts caused by years of jealousy, hatred, violence, deceit—
the terrible sin the brothers had kept hidden for 22 years—
those rifts were mended by Judah’s self-sacrificing love.
The 12 sons of Jacob became for the first time, the family of God—
brothers united by their commitment to the Lord and love for each other.
Of course, in the story itself, there are wonderful things yet to happen—
Joseph will reveal himself to them, kiss them, talk to them.
Jacob will be reunited with Joseph and all his sons.
Blessings of wealth of Egypt and God himself will flow to this reunited family.
But the power unleashed for all of those good things to happen
came at this act of self-sacrificing love by Judah.
The surprising twist to the Joseph story is that the brother who most clearly
points forward to Jesus Christ is not Joseph, but Judah.
The worst of the brothers,
is the one whose life is most transformed by the Spirit of God.
The brother who goes his own selfish way for most of his life,
in the end, gets the greatest reward from God.
Joseph did great things, Joseph was a faithful man,
but it was Judah who laid down his life in Christ-like love.
Judah foreshadowed what Christ the Savior would be—
one who gives his life as a ransom for many.
Judah’s story also shows you that it is God himself who enables you to
love other people with Christ-like love.
Throughout your life, God gives you opportunities big and small to show that love.
And when you do give yourself as Christ did, wonderful things can happen,
and you are assured of great reward.
This story is so full of God’s grace. So rich in details.
Pull down to two points—but feel like just skimming the surface.
1. God enables you to love other people with Christ-like love.
2. God rewards you when you love other people with Christ-like love.
One thing that is so clear—self-sacrificing love does not come from us naturally—
MP#1 God enables you to love other people with Christ-like love.
it is a supernatural work of God in our hearts.
What do we know about Judah,
brother who offered himself as slave in place of Benjamin?
Remember when the brother kidnapped Joseph and threw into the dry well—
going to leave him there to die—Judah was the one who suggested selling him.
This was not done out of a soft heart.
Judah had no concern for Joseph’s life, just saw a way to get rid and make money.
Then, you remember chapter 38, a whole chapter devoted to Judah.
Summary of his life during the 22 years Joseph was in Egypt.
While Joseph faithful, Judah abandoned his family, rejected faith of father.
Identified completely with pagan Canaanites.
Best friend a Canaanite, wife a Canaanite.
Raised sons who were so evil God put two to death while still young men.
Judah refused to care for his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar
as custom required—tried to get rid of her.
Then, at lowest point of life, committed incest with Tamar thinking she was
a pagan shrine prostitute. When she conceived as a result, he accused her
of immorality and insisted that she be burned to death.
But just at that lowest point—do you remember what happened?
God awakened Judah’s frozen conscience.
Two hints that a true change had taken place in his life.
“She is more righteous than I.” First time in life, submitted to God’s judgment.
Other hint: He did not sleep with her again.
A man who had done whatever he wanted to do for whole life, changed.
Sin had become sin to him again.
Shortly after birth of Tamar’s twin boys—Judah was back with his father/brothers.
Once again identifying with his family—only followers of God.
Judah, remember from last chapter, guaranteed safety of Benjamin,
finally convinced Jacob to let him go to Egypt.
That was Judah. Man who lived most of his life without any regard for other people
or for God, doing whatever he wanted to do no matter who he hurt—
but a man who, it seems, God was humbling and changing.
Now to this part of the story.
Joseph put the 10 brothers to the test—planted silver cup in Benjamin’s sack—
accused him of stealing, said he was going to make him a slave.
Benjamin, remember, Jacob’s favorite son, second son of favorite wife Rachael.
The rivalry between Rachael and her sister Leah, Jacob’s other wife,
the one he didn’t love or want that had caused the hatred in this family.
Joseph was testing these brothers. Had they changed?
Had they repented of what they had done to him?
Would they treat this other son of Rachael as a brother?
Of the ten brothers, who steps forward as the spokesman? Judah.
Clear at this point that God has been at work in this man—
he is not just their spokesman, but spiritual leader, moral conscience.
Look at the first thing he says to Joseph.
“What can we say? How can we prove our innocence?
God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.”
Judah didn’t protest his innocence. Blame Benjamin.
God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.
He is talking about the guilt of their sin 22 years ago of selling Joseph.
Judah is admitting that guilt as spokesmen for the ten brothers.
Still didn’t know who Joseph was, but Joseph knew exactly what talking about.
Then Judah offers all of the brothers as slaves in Benjamin’s place.
As remarkable as that offer was, Joseph didn’t take it. One more test.
No—don’t want all of you as slaves—just the guilty one, youngest brother.
Holds the door wide open. Go back to your father in peace.
Brothers truly faced with option of walking away from father’s favorite son.
Getting rid of him as easily as they got rid of Joseph 22 years earlier.
But at this point Judah speaks again, what follows is the longest,
most passionate speech in Genesis.
What is most remarkable about this speech is that Judah says,
that this boy Benjamin is his father’s favorite son—
Because of that, because he is his father’s favorite,
and his father’s life and happiness tied to this son of favorite wife,
that Judah offers himself as a slave in Benjamin’s place.
Think for a minute about what a remarkable change this is.
His father’s favoritism was no longer something that made Judah jealous or angry,
it was in fact, the main reason Judah was willing to sacrifice himself.
Judah’s heart had been changed so much by God that he loved his father
without qualification and was willing to sacrifice himself as an act of love.
And that is exactly what Christ-like love is—not just words, deeds. Giving self.
Christ-like, sacrificial love is a supernatural work of God in your life.
You cannot love people because of your inherent selfishness.
Shows itself when God brings unlovable people into your life.
People who don’t give back.
A parent who shows favoritism to another sibling,
a wife who is demanding, a husband who is aloof,
a neighbor who is nosy, a relative who stirs the pot,
a friend who always takes and never gives.
But God can pour out his love into you through the Holy Spirit.
When you know he is calling you to love sacrificially—gives opportunity—
step out in faith and do those works of Christ-like love.
Remember once minister told about a woman who came to see him—
her elderly father-in-law had come to live with them.
He was so critical—she hated him. Knew she shouldn’t but did.
Talked about Christ’s love for us in our sin.
What can you do as an act of love?
I’m doing everything now and not getting any appreciation.
Yes, he persisted—what else. Know he likes fudge.
Make him some. She did. An act of sacrifice—time, money, effort.
Don’t think the old man ever changed. Continued to. Act of sacrificial love.
But God poured out his love into her heart and changed her.
May not be offering yourself as a slave in Egypt—probably cup of cold water.
Even small sacrifices, are the work of Christ in you.
The Christian life is all God’s grace. All the work of Christ.
He enables you to give yourself sacrificially to other people, gives opportunities.
Then the Lord turns around and rewards you for those acts of love.
MP#2 God rewards you when you love other people with Christ-like love.
God enabled Judah to love his father and brothers—
it was God who did the work in Judah’s heart and life,
God who gave him this tremendous opportunity to love family—
Then, God turned around and rewarded Judah for this act of love.
As I said earlier—the most surprising twist of the Joseph story
is that the hero—humanly speaking—is not Joseph, but Judah.
Joseph was the most talented and gifted of the brothers.
He was the most handsome and the most confident.
Joseph trusted God from his youth—
he was faithful in the most difficult circumstances.
One commentator said that God dealt Joseph a great hand,
and Joseph played that hand well. Good summary of Joseph’s life.
God rewarded for his faithfulness.
But it was Judah who was given the opportunity for the greatest
demonstration of Christ-like love and it was Judah who got the greatest reward.
We are told this in an unmistakable way.
At the very end—17 years after the events of this chapter—
father Jacob was about to die and was blessing his sons.
Joseph was blessed as the prince of his brothers.
He is given a double portion of his father’s blessing—as if the eldest.
But the greatest blessing is not given to Joseph—given to Judah.
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons will bow down to you. 9 You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. 11 He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.
Judah’s blessing is that the rest of his brothers will bow down to him—
catches attention, since Joseph had dreamed brothers would bow to him.
Not only will Judah rule over family, conquer enemies.
Will be like a lion grabbing his prey, daring anyone to challenge.
Kings will come from his line until one particular descendant comes—
and to that son of Judah will belong all the nations.
When that descendant of Judah reigns, time of incredible prosperity.
Donkey tied to vine—wouldn’t tie there, eat grapes.
But so many, who cares what donkey eats.
So much wine, washes robes in it. Description of king’s beauty.
What was promised to Judah? What was his reward?
Nothing less than that the hope of all the world should come through his line.
The King, the Christ, the Messiah would come through Judah’s line.
The brother who was willing to give his life for his brothers
is the one worthy to be the king of God’s people.
Jesus Christ proved this by giving up his life on the cross for us.
So you see, in the end, it was Judah, not Joseph,
who is the truest Christ figure in this story.
How does this apply to you?
What is the reward that God gives you when you love other people
with Christ-like love?
The reward is this: You also, become like Judah, a Christ-figure.
When God enables you to love sacrificially,
and then gives you opportunities big or small to demonstrate that love,
you become a living figure of Jesus Christ, hope of the world.
People see Jesus Christ in you and through you.
And sometimes Christ’s reign will flow through your acts of love
into the lives of other people and change them forever.
Just this week someone was telling me about a visit made years ago
to a woman who was hospitalized, did not know, asked to visit by mutual friend.
A hospital visit, long forgotten, but done out of love and obedience to Christ.
But recently, in God’s providence, reacquainted with this woman and husband,
it seems that God is using that visit so many years ago as an opening
to point them to Christ—a hospital visit, loving sacrifice of few hours of time
to encourage someone.
But what a great reward—to see God honoring that visit,
to see it opening doors for him to represent Christ.
Just this week someone else was telling me about how a Christian woman
she had never met found out about a need she had and reached out to her
in love and provided for that need.
Person who was telling me this said that it was as if Lord himself had touched her.
So thank God for every opportunity to love someone sacrificially—big or small.
Be mindful of those regular opportunities for love—
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church—every day.”
But also, be alert to these opportunities that come out of blue.
It is through these act of love that Jesus Christ himself is seen in you.
God delights in rewarding those who show Christ’s love.
But perhaps the most amazing thing about this is that, like Judah,
your sin does not disqualify you from giving Christ-like love,
and being rewarded for it.
Judah was probably the worst brother—one who had sunk lowest.
But God brought him to repentance—
gave him a great opportunity for love,
then blessed him extravagantly.
CONC: What is the highest peak of God’s saving work?
It is the cross—Jesus Christ laying down his life for sinners.
What is the highest peak of Joseph story?
It is Judah, laying down his life for his brother.
What will be the highest peak of your story?
May it be when you too, give yourself in love to others
as Christ has loved you.