The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [Messiah] comes. Genesis 49:10
If I look for a biblical hero to emulate, Joseph is always a good choice. His fidelity to God amidst great suffering has inspired believers like me down through the ages. Of all of Jacob’s sons, Joseph gets the most attention. Yet, it is not from the line of Joseph that Jesus was born. The highly flawed sons of Jacob didn’t mess things up so severely that God disqualified them from His covenant of blessing. The promises of God prevailed over sin.
What was the purpose of Joseph’s life? It was to save Judah and His descendants. If Joseph had not assumed a place of power in Egypt, he could not have brought his father and brothers there to live. Jacob and all his descendants would have perished in a great famine. It’s hard for me to grasp that Joseph was used by God to save a scoundrel brother who had sold him into slavery. That seems twisted.
But God is wild and wonderful. He exalts the likes of Judah. He blesses adulterers like King David. He forgives betrayers like Peter. He saves persecutors and murderers like Paul. Judah, at the end of his life, offered to give his own for the life of another brother. He finally chose righteousness. The common thread in all of these stories was a heart of repentance. God’s forgiveness was so radical that an entire past was put under His atoning blood.
No family is perfect. Some haven’t seen their children and grandchildren in years. They grieve. They feel embarrassed. They fear they are entirely to blame. They dread being asked about family when they’re out with friends. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ relevant to them? Is it relevant to us in the very places we long to see the righteousness of God revealed in the lives of our family members? Yes.
This Christmas, as we hear the Christmas story and are tempted to zone out at the reading of the lineage of Jesus, let’s wake up and sit on the edge of our seats. When Judah’s name is mentioned, let’s worship the God who works in family messes. Let’s marvel, even if by faith, that no one is out of His reach. Let’s put that faith into action by praying for a renegade’s forthcoming repentance. God’s redemptive storyline spreads to the darkest corners of our lives.
For every family ‘Joseph’, there are tears of joy. For every family ‘Judah’, there are tears of faith. You are God over every family drama that is brought to your feet in prayer. Amen