Thursday, January 22, 2015

The God Who Changes People

In Genesis 49, Jacob, one of the patriarchs of Biblical faith, is dying and pronounces blessings on each of his twelve sons. But his blessings on two of them, Joseph and Judah, are the most intriguing.

Joseph is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. Despite being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he, unlike any human being I can name from Genesis--except the mysterious Melchizedek--maintains his faith and his integrity throughout his life. Because of this, God uses Joseph, in the midst of adversity, to save His chosen people.

But then, there's Judah. Judah is the guy who, in Genesis 37, first suggested to the other brothers that they sell Joseph into slavery and be done with him. Joseph was his father's favorite and the siblings didn't like him at all.  Judah, then, could be seen as a bad guy. And he was sinner. Judah was Joseph's Judas, in a way.

On the other hand, it was Judah who, years later, offered to become a hostage in order to save the youngest brother, Benjamin. Judah seems to have submitted to the melting of his heart so that the one who once set in motion a scheme that would have, effectively, been a death sentence for one brother, offered to take a similar sentence for himself in order to save another brother. Judah was a sinner in whom something seems to have happened.

Judah had, by the grace of God, grown. He had changed.

The grace of God, God's undeserved forgiveness, help, and favor, which He today offers to all people through Jesus Christ, can do things like this to people. Second Corinthians 5:17, in the New Testament, says: "...if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is here!"

So, did Judah "deserve" the blessing Jacob pronounced, which included that he would become the ancestor of Israel's kings, including the One conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of Judah's line, Jesus, the King of kings? No. Judah didn't "deserve" that blessing, no matter how his life had been changed.

He deserved it no more than Joseph deserved greater blessings. Joseph hadn't deserved the pain in his life. He hadn't deserved its success either. Joseph had been "set apart" from his brothers by God, but could, at any time, have chosen to turn from God, making his life easier. But God graced him with the power to turn to God instead. That wasn't Joseph's doing any more than the blessings granted to Judah were his. It was all God.

We don't know what plans God has for our lives. And often--maybe usually--they are different from the ones we make for ourselves. Sometimes, the plans of God can be painful to us--just ask Joseph. Still, to follow God's plan, to turn to Him daily in repentance and belief in God the Son, Jesus, is the better path. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we needn't fear. God will be with us.

A prayer: Change my heart, O God. Make it ever true. Change my heart, O God. May I be like you. In Jesus' Name. Amen [See here.]

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