Genesis 44:24-34 (ESV)
“When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’
“Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy's life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”
This is the speech that causes Joseph to crack and end the whole ruse. Judah says almost everything Joseph could want him to say. He cares about Benjamin and he cares about his father’s grief. He’s aware of the pain he has caused and he regrets it greatly. All the pieces of repentance are there.
The only thing he hasn’t done is specifically confess what he and his brothers did to Joseph. That may be what Joseph is trying to get him to do. Whatever the case, Joseph’s scheme ends here. Something at the end of Judah’s speech breaks Joseph down. But what?
“I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”
It’s love. The old selfish, conniving Judah is gone. The new Judah is pouring his heart out to what he thinks is an Egyptian lord. He’s pleading to be allowed to sacrifice himself for his little brother, whom he’s supposed to resent.
Then he makes it clear that his motive isn’t the consequences he might suffer; it’s his love for his father.
Love isn’t always easy. We’re called to love everyone, even our enemies. That sounds pretty complicated. Surely, there are times when letting someone off the hook is a bad idea – for us and for them too. Right?
Yeah, but let’s not focus on making excuses. Most situations aren’t so tricky. You don’t learn to love difficult people by reading book. You learn through practice.
But how are we going to get practice unless the Lord gives us difficult people to love?
Hmmm. Maybe trials do have a purpose.
We need to learn to see God’s amazingly wise hand in these things.
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