Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practice divination?” And Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ 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. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we 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 comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.’ Now therefore, when 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, when 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 surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; 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 suffering that would come upon my father.”
“Here I am Lord, send me.” Ok, that passage from Isaiah is the wrong passage – but it’s the same sentiment. It speaks of self-sacrifice, just as Judah offered himself to Joseph as a slave in place of Benjamin. Self-sacrifice for the benefit of someone else – not just Benjamin, but also his father who needed Benjamin to look after him – having lost Joseph, his favourite, due to the plotting and jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, and believed him to be dead.
We read on and, of course, the father finds out that Joseph is not dead, but is still alive. I bet there was a party. There usually was when these things happened. Any excuse.
It also reminds me of any number of detective stories when someone will falsely confess to having committed a crime so that someone they love, who was actually guilty, might be set free. Now, I love my brothers and sisters (at LEAST 72% of the time) but would I be strong enough to offer myself in their place? It might take a bit of soul-searching that one.
And it doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see parallels with the New Testament. Someone who sacrifices himself for the benefit of others, someone who was dearly loved by his Father, to someone who would ‘come back from the dead’ and isn’t recognised by those who were once close to him.
Thank goodness that in Jesus we had, we have, someone who was prepared to make that sacrifice.
Lord, we thank you for your sacrifice that set us free. We offer to you our free lives, to do your work, to be your hands. We know that this will mean that we will have to make sacrifices and yet we say: “Here I am, Lord, send me” Amen
Leo Roberts is the Children and Young People’s Development Officer for the North Western Synod.