– George Burns
Some of the best jokes are born out of pain, and I am sure that many of us out there can relate to that joke at some time or another. Family is a fantastic thing, and even when it feels a little rough or abrasive, it is still good for us. I heard a guy say one time that there is no greater tool for developing your character in Christ than the family. I believe that is true, and that is why I have placed Family as my 2nd core value.
Last week I said that I had chosen to put God as the first value in my life. In doing so, I am giving Him the opportunity to work in not only my life, but the life of my family as I am (hopefully) leading them the way God wants me to. If Ia m doing that, then I can have my family in the right spot because having them second only to God is exactly where I want to be in their lives too! As we grow closer to God, we grow closer together.
Lately I have been reading through the book of Genesis. It has been very interesting as I take my time and intentionally look at these stories and see how the family dynamics are played out. I think sometimes in church we look at the big Bible stories, but we don’t take the time to see the smaller stories that are taking place. Remember that we have a God who speaks in a still, small voice to our hearts, and if all we look only for the billboard messages of God, we are missing so very much more.
The stories of the Patriarchs and their families are inspiring on one hand, and on the other would be almost a normal week on a show like Jerry Springer.
- Abraham – Fathered a son that he later sent away because his wife and that boy’s mother didn’t get along
- Isaac – Fathered two boys, but his obvious affection for his eldest son resulted in his wife and youngest son conspiring to steal the family blessing.
- Jacob – Fathered 12 boys through 4 women. Loved only one of the women and her two sons had value above the other ten.
- Reuben – Hatched a plan to deceive his father by “rescuing Joseph” and gaining his father’s affection
- Judah – Sold his brother as a slave. Slept with and fathered children with his daughter-in-law after thinking she was a prostitute.
Yes. these people were God’s chosen people, and like us and many of our families, they were a mess sometimes.
The neat thing is that we can see God’s redemptive work in the story of Joseph. I want to touch on a few verses regarding Judah and see his transformation:
Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. – Genesis 37:26-27
Judah wanted Joseph dead, but why just kill him when we can make a little money instead? I’m a big brother, and I have had times that I did not get along with my younger brother, but I never wanted him dead, and I never wanted to sell him either! (See, Wade! That’s love, bro!) Judah was a very angry man!
Later we see Judah loses two of his sons. One was a wicked man that God killed, and the other sinned before God and was also killed. After this, Judah learned about how sin done in secret comes to light after he went looking for a prostitute and ended up sleeping with his daughter-in-law without knowing it. She got pregnant and ratted him out in front of everyone. I think this was a pivotal moment for Judah.
After Joseph has been gone for at least 20 years, Judah and his brothers go to Egypt to get food due to a famine in the land. As we all know in the story, Joseph is in charge of the world’s first food bank, and recognizes the guys that sold him as soon as he saw them. Joseph then takes them on a little adventure to play with their minds. Eventually, the older brothers come face to face with bringing Benjamin (second favorite son) to Egypt against their father’s wishes. Jacob is terrified that he will lose Benjamin like he did Joseph.
Judah is now experienced int he loss of children, and has also had secret sin brought out into the open. Hearing the pain in his father’s voice must have made it hard for him since he knew what he had done to Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. He steps out and even though he does not tell the truth, he takes ownership of the next stage of his life:
And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9I will be a pledge of his safety. 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. – Genesis 43:8-9
Judah already felt the blame for selling Joseph. He knew what he had done, and while he was not willing to own up to it at this time, he was not going to make the same mistake again. They go back to Egypt, and as Joseph continues taking his brothers through a crucible of mental anguish to test their hearts, the thing Jacob feared most came to pass. Joseph sets things in place to make it appear Benjamin is a thief and that he will be kept in Egypt. Judah doesn’t even hesitate:
Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 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.” – Genesis 44:18, 33-34
As I read this passage today I was struck by the way Judah stepped in. Judah offered himself as servant to Joseph in order to release his father’s favorite son from punishment. Step forward several centuries and you will see a descendant of Judah known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah offer Himself in payment to redeem the lives of His Father’s most favored creation – mankind. Think about that for a second. Imagine Judah, watching Christ being nailed to the tree. I wonder if he might think about how he stepped in to save Benjamin. After so many mistakes, he then gets to see one of his descendants do something to save the world!
Family is important. If you think about it, God made man to worship Him and then made woman and told them to start a family. If you follow the logic of God, then it would make sense that the family is important to Him. So much of the Bible speaks of the family and the importance of building it up and protecting it. If God thinks it is important, shouldn’t we?
The family should never come before God, but how many different ways can we include God in our families? The list is endless, and God is just waiting for us to try some of them. He wants to enter into our families through teaching, through fun, through hard times, and through serving each other. He wants to see us look to Him and recognize that He is our source of all that is good, and our sustainer when things are hard. He wants us to show our children how we can trust Him for the big, the little, the miraculous, and the mundane.
I want the best of my family. Unfortunately, I have only myself to work with! Thankfully, I am a child of God, and if I seek Him, and show Him honor in my life, my family will get a much better me than I could ever provide.