As we read in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul came to the throne of grace with a wise and godly petition as he bowed his knees in prayer to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named:
“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
That petition is being answered perpetually! God has said YES to that prayer request down through the centuries. The Father gladly responds when that inspired, apostolic aspiration fills the hearts of His children. May this observation from the sacred record serve by God’s grace as a means by which He does that again.
Genesis 43:8,9 – “Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; 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.” (See also Genesis 44:14-34; 48:8ff)
Let’s begin with a bit of the background of this passage. Judah’s father Israel is also called Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. The lad mentioned in the passage is Judah’s youngest brother Benjamin, the darling of their father. Judah’s poignant words are spoken in the midst of the gripping history that centers on yet another brother, Joseph, the second youngest of Jacob’s sons. The narrative begins in Genesis 37.
When Judah spoke those words to Jacob, Joseph was in Egypt where he had risen from slavery and prison to a position of great power and authority in Pharaoh’s government. When his older brothers came to Egypt to buy grain because of a famine in their own country, Joseph temporarily disguised himself from them, the very ones who had sold him into slavery. It was disguised Joseph, treating his older brothers roughly, who demanded that young Benjamin be taken away from Jacob! But Joseph eventually returned to kindness, and overcame his older brothers’ grievous transgression with good. Like Boaz in the book of Ruth, Joseph serves as a foreshadowing of Jesus the great Kinsman Redeemer.
It required an altar and priests, several sacrificial animals, and a man standing ready to illustrate the redeeming work of Christ by way of the Law’s Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16. The same principle obtains here. Joseph and the other patriarchal figures of the Bible (themselves sinful people) together depict for us the exacting, exhaustive way in which the Lord Jesus Christ wrought righteous redemption for His people. The fragrance of Christ permeates the whole of Scripture. We might say that the entire canon is “incarnationaly flavored,” cf. Luke 24: 27, 32, 44, 46; John 5:39 et. al.
Jacob is part of the foreshadowing, but Jacob had shared with Rebecca in deceiving and manipulating Isaac. Joseph is part of the foreshadowing. But even he, though upright in the matter of Potiphar’s wife, is seen cruelly toying with his brothers when they come to Egypt; for a season terrifying them. Judah is part of the foreshadowing, but he is the man who went into a woman he thought to be a prostitute but who turned out to be his own daughter-in-law. Broken vessels all, but God makes Gospel ointment come out of them!
Back to our text. Judah puts himself under this oath to his father Israel regarding his brother Benjamin. Israel (Jacob) cherished Benjamin, and feared to see him perish as he believed Joseph had perished. Jesus would later affirm to His disciples (John 16:27), “The Father Himself loves you.” The eternal Father loved His children, even while they were yet sinners, and did not want them to perish forever.
Judah loved his father. So he declared, “If I do not bring Benjamin back to you, my father, put the blame upon me forever.” In other words, I am going to accomplish this for you, father, come what may or you can hold me accountable for the loss of your loved one. I’ll do whatever it takes to get Benjamin back home safely to you.
Therein is a glimpse of the eternal Son’s love for His Father. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.’ Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – In the volume of the book it is written of Me –to do Your will, O God.’ ” (Hebrews 10:5-7).
From all eternity the Son of God Who became also the great Offspring of Judah through King David covenanted that He would be the Surety for the eternal deliverance of His Father’s beloved children. And in His once for all perfect act of sacrificial obedience, He indeed was made accountable for all the misdeeds of many. Hallelujah, He settled that account!
The love of God the Father for that great family the apostle Paul mentioned in his Ephesians 3 prayer is declared through Jacob’s love for all his sons.
Jesus sent Paul to the Gentiles, “…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” The zeal of God the Son our Savior is declared through Judah the one willing to be surety for his brother whose presence was demanded by a ruler of dark countenance in a foreign kingdom.
Mercy’s triumph over judgment is declared through Joseph. He represents a severe alien power (sin and its consequences) poised to bereave the Father. Joseph also represents God’s gracious provision for the very undeserving wretches who had transgressed against their Provider.
God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, quickens us with power by the truth displayed here and which the apostle Paul inscribes indelibly in another place: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). Truly, “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,” (Hebrews 2:11). By the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, Christ Jesus the Savior successfully brings home safely to the Father those He is not ashamed to call brothers.
No wonder that as by faith we gaze upon the everlasting glories of redemption displayed in Revelation 5 we read, “Do not weep! Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals!”