Saturday, October 01, 2005

Meanwhile, this Sunday Night in North Finchley …

Sermon preparation for the record and for the day ahead

Genesis 44:27-34

27 • Then your servant my father said to us,
‘You know that my wife bore me
two sons.
28 • One left me, and I said,
Surely he has been torn to
and I have never seen him since.
29 • If you take this one also
from me,
and harm happens to him,
you will bring down my gray hairs in
evil to Sheol.’

30 • "Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my
and the boy is not with us,
• then, as his life is bound up in
the boy’s life,
31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will
• and your servants will bring down
the gray hairs of your servant
our father with sorrow to Sheol.

32 • For your servant became a pledge of
for the boy to my father, saying,
‘If I do not bring him back to
then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’
33 • Now
therefore, please let your servant remain
instead of the boy as a servant to
my lord,
and let the boy go back with his brothers.
34 • For how can I go
back to my father if the boy is not with me?
I fear to see the evil that
would find my father."

In these three little clusters of verses we have no less than three kinds of substitution displayed to us in order. First of all we have Jacob filling the void in his life left by the actual death of his favourite wife, Rachael, and the supposed death of the favourite son, Joseph, by being exceptionally protective of the other son that Rachael bore to him, Benjamin. And although Joseph, unrecognized by his brothers, would be responsible for the death of his father if he kept Benjamin in Egypt as he unjustly planned to do, the older brothers take the blame that would accrue from precipitating Jacob's death onto themselves: 'and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.'

The most significant substitution is the third that takes place when Judah steps forward, out of the mass of his brothers to offer his life in place of Benjamin's.

He will pay the redemption price for the theft of Joseph's cup. He will divert Egypt's wrath away from his brother. He will be obedient to the charge given to him by his father. He will sacrifice himself for the family. He will bring reconciliation to them by the renunciation of his own place of honour at his father's side.

Now, we miss almost all of the significance if we don't see the connection with Judah's greatest decendant, stepping forward from his place of high dignity and taking mine to die for me upon a cross. What would substitutionary reconciliation mean if it didn't get focussed for us there?


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