Genesis 43:1-15, The New Living Translation
But the famine continued to ravage the land of Canaan. When the grain they had brought from Egypt was almost gone, Jacob said to his sons, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
But Judah said, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food. But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either. Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
“Why were you so cruel to me?” Jacob moaned. “Why did you tell him you had another brother?”
“The man kept asking us questions about our family,” they replied. “He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ So we answered his questions. How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever. If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.”
So their father, Jacob, finally said to them, “If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this. Pack your bags with the best products of this land. Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake. Then take your brother, and go back to the man. May God Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it.”
So the men packed Jacob’s gifts and double the money and headed off with Benjamin. They finally arrived in Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.
I love this conversation.
It gives me glimpses of hope that all is not lost when I dream of somehow, someday, overcoming my own personal flaws and peccadilloes.
These two men are a mixed up mess of human emotions - greed, jealousy, rage, self-pity, entitlement - all tossed together with loyalty, commitment, love, concern.
Jacob is still the frightened, non-favored twin, convinced that the world is against him.
Judah is still the manipulator extraordinaire, bargaining with the lives of his brothers.
Jacob is ALSO the father who sees reason, who relaxes into the future, basically leaving to the sovereignty of God the life or death of his sons (with just a little generosity to help grease the wheels).
And Judah is ALSO the one willing to be the scapegoat, assuming full responsibility for this very scary trip to Egypt, offering himself as the one to bear both the shame and the blame.
What brings me hope in this vignette is that each of these rascals is a picture of transformation at work. They are not always messes. In fact, they are in the process of becoming less messy as this story unfolds.
Each of them still carries their early wounds and attachments - but...they are also each becoming someone different, someone more.
We'll look in on this story a few more times during our Lenten journey together and we'll find other pictures of this wonderful double truth: we are who we are - for good and for ill --- and we are also who we are becoming, by God's grace at work within us.
Hang onto that!
And see if this quote helps you do that:
"This is the way that God seduces us all into the economy of grace—by loving us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot, or will not, or dare not love ourselves. God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change; God loves us so that we can change."
- Richard Rohr
Sovereign God, you are the only one who can change us from the inside out. So, as this climb to the cross continues, give us eyes to see you at work within us, even as we see the changes in Jacob and Judah. Thank you that you never give up - even when we sometimes do! Guide us into becoming ever more completely that person you see in us, the one who bears a strong family resemblance to Jesus himself. Amen.
Click here for day one of this series and an explanation of what it's all about.