Picture“Joseph Makes Himself Known to His Brothers” by illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others.

Below is our fourth and final Advent Poem for 2016. We have throught about the coming of Jesus through the stries of Leah, Rachel, and Jacob. This final one looks at Judah, an unlikely part of God’s plan, but a reminder of the mercy we all need.

The great promise to Abraham was of a coming seed –
A deliverer who would meet humanity’s need
For reconciliation, restoration, and forgiveness,
Providing the remedy for our fatal sin-sickness.
Yet beginning with Abraham, the surprise in God’s plan
Was that he always would use the most unlikely man.
Abraham was old, and children an apparent impossibility,
Until God gave Isaac to Sarah after decades of infertility.
Isaac’s son Esau, his firstborn and the picture of virility
Was passed over for Jacob, whose only apparent ability
Was fooling others to benefit his present impulse,
And causing those tricked to feel completely repulsed.
So of Jacob’s twelve sons, who would God choose
To carry the line to him whose heel would be bruised?
The one everyone would pick becomes blatantly clear
As we watch Joseph walk in faith and reverential fear.
From the pit to the palace, he lives before God’s face,
And seems to easily earn the right to be placed
As the heir of God’s promise, a key part of the line
That was slowly revealing salvation’s design.
And while his humble faith and God-given wisdom
Preserved the promise and Israel’s coming kingdom,
It was another unexpected son who was picked
To carry forward the covenant and God’s mercy depict.
Leah’s fourth son Judah, who had awoken his mother’s trust,
Was himself a man filled with greed and ravenous lust.
It was he who suggested they take Joseph from the pit
And sell him to traders for a miniscule profit.
He partook in the lie, holding forth Joseph’s coat,
Stained with the blood of an innocent goat.
Guilty Judah moved south and had three sons by two wives –
Sons who seemed to mimic all their dad’s selfish drives.
The first married Tamar, but his life was cut short,
As was his brother’s when he chose to resort
To a selfish scheme that robbed his brother’s bride
Of the protection that Judah was supposed to provide.

With two sons dead, Judah tried to ignore
This woman who he saw as responsible for
The deaths of his sons. But years later she sought
The justice that Judah had conveniently forgot.
In a desperate plot, she put her life on the line
Revealing Judah’s heart while preserving the bloodline.
When the dust finally settled, Judah then saw
The injustice he’d done to his daughter-in-law.
But more than that, he saw the need to repent
Of the ways sin and pride had savagely bent
His heart into one that ran over and crushed
The weak and the needy into the dust.
It was around the time of Judah’s great transformation
That a famine struck Israel and the surrounding nations.
So he and his brothers, minus the youngest, Benjamin,
Went to Egypt to get a taste of their own medicine.
It was Joseph they met, a leader in Egypt now,
But unrecognized by the brothers who before him now bowed.
He treated them harshly, and after a tragic second trip,
They seemed unable to stop this man’s plan to rip
Benjamin from their family, and thus Jacob’s heart from his chest,
Until Judah stepped forward and boldly confessed
All the sins of their past, proclaiming that he would submit
To the punishment due, asking the man to acquit
His brother for the sake of the father they’d grieved,
Thus paying for the years they’d lied and deceived.
What a change in this man, who’d cared nothing for others,
Now willing to die for the sake of his brothers.
And what grace from the hand of the brother they’d wronged,
Who, with tears, saw God’s hand and the family he’d longed
To bless with the wealth he’d acquired and possessed
And the forgiveness that finally brought his family some rest.

Joseph made sense, but Judah did not.
Yet through this lion’s line salvation is brought,
Arriving at another unexpected part in God’s promise
That to this day continues to surprise and astonish.
Jesus is not like Judah – he’s not surprising because
Of his failures and foibles, but the fact that he was
Born in obscurity and worshipped by shepherds,
Rejected by the religious and embraced by the lepers,
Killed for proclaiming to be who he said,
Then rising in victory, bringing life to the dead.
He’s surprising like the conclusion to Joseph’s long story –
The way God takes evil and turns if for good and his glory.
And if we’re looking for Judah in the miracle of Christmas,
We only need a mirror and eyes that, unlike Narcissus’,
Don’t see our own beauty, but the true reality,
That Judah is found in you and in me.
That our hearts are filled with the same lust and greed,
And yet God sent his Son to meet our great need.
For Judah’s and Joseph’s, Jesus comes to the earth
To make us new people through the gift of new birth.