My spirit continues to ruminate around the mystery of who God is and the beauty of His intentional identification with mankind. He is for sure, the God of Israel, if one’s focus is on the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but He is also the Lion of Judah, and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the earth.
As God perfected the story of redemption, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, captured the life journeys of those who would come to represent Him and His love story. Yet, when He finally produces the seemingly perfect person of Joseph, a life most would have difficulty matching, He withholds His complete identity from this one of excellent character; the name of Joseph somehow lost from the list of patriarchs to whom He ascribes His identity.
Mid-story of the elevation of Joseph, with adequate background provided around the challenges of his eleven brothers, God seems to realign His identity through another son, Judah. This God of Israel, who wrestled Jacob into redemption, then moved Israel’s favored son into royalty, surely demonstrates His untiring patience with cunning men. Then, almost as if to imply the need for a deeper plot yet, God circles back to identify with those of us from a lesser lot, whose redemption would require more than mere love and generational patience.
Love and patience alone have seemed less than sufficient for me personally, though I have aspired to succeed as a “Joseph.” I seem to require repentance daily and a new start; the capacity for sin seems ever present in my being. I need at times, even an hourly advocate, if not the substitute of another’s righteousness. I need a Lion that roars His love above the agony my failures; one who is able to defeat the law of sin and death in my members; if, I am ever to aspire to dream and act like Joseph, let alone Jesus.
Thank God, through the patriarchs, our Creator gradually discloses His ability to produce both royalty and redemption; out of our very own lineage of sin and idolatry. From the ruins of the flood, past the arrogance of Babel, a descendant of Noah begins to follow after this Ark designing God. Yes, even before and during the deluge, He was perfecting a plan of salvation, an ark that we could run into, when overwhelmed with the torrential storms of our sinfulness.
From Noah’s son Shem came Father Abraham; and from Abraham’s journey, the eventual birth of God’s Son thousands of year later. During those intermittent years, God would paint a picture of His love for all mankind and His ability to shape the character of men, despite their own moral choices; almost as if another audience than humans was observing!
He would demonstrate what in a few generations could happen, when men like Abraham and his sons follow after this God of Noah. Taking risks, then correcting their course when they strayed; wrestling through the things they did not understand about themselves and their God; following their dreams even when evil befell them. Within four to five generations, Joseph is elevated as a peer to the Pharaohs; posturing the Children of God for entry into the Promised Land. God was able!
Just before Jacob passes, he offers blessings over all twelve sons. A story line that had before focused on Israel and Joseph, lays the ground work for a messianic prophesy to be delivered.
The message of the transformed Jacob: The scepter would not depart, not from Joepsh, but from Judah. He then delivers a description that could only be interpreted through the life of the suffering Christ; like a lion, He would tear through our bondage and triumph over the wrath of sin. Yes, God could redeem all mankind, just as He had proven Himself able through Joseph. Yet, now as His re-aligns His identity with Judah, those like me, who despite righteous rearing, by parents who loved God, are more prone to the stumbling of Judah and Jacob.
We were all created in the image of God, with access to the gifts of God, so why should we not dream like Joseph? However, not all of us have the spiritual stamina to deliver on those gifts. Those, more like Judah than Joseph would need a substitute, a vicar.
Even before Jacob’s prophecy, both of Judah’s seed had fallen victim to sin and disobedience. It would appear to the other brothers that Israel’s prophecy was just that of an elderly father, hoping against hope for a son whose family life was less than successful up until that time. I am referencing Judah’s episode with Tamar, his daughter-in-law. Shortly after the death of Judah’s wife, Tamar, committed to birthing a child though denied her rightful near-kin pledge, dressed as a prostitute and seduced Judah. She then conceives twins.
Even in her delivery, the human struggle is evident; the child Pharez, pressed himself passed his brother Zarah, though Zarah had been marked by the scarlet thread that traditionally secured the firstborn. Tradition (possibly religion) would not win this time, even though Zarah, out of the Tamar’s deep desire and zeal, was prematurely named as the “Light giver” by the mid-wife; a scarlet cord tied around his wrist upon his first attempt to break from the womb. However, the one foreordained by God to be the firstborn would instead be the carrier of the lineage of light, sovereignly prophesied by his grandfather, Israel.
Grace would hardly seem the same had Joseph’s lineage been chosen as the origin of the Christ. Joseph was the perfection of the transformed Israel. Judah and the situations described above seem more akin to the real world for most humans. Few of us really expect to achieve “a place in Pharaoh’s cabinet” like this prototype of the God-man.
Again, The Lion of Judah, the Christ of Bethlehem’s manger would provide a more appropriate identity for losers, life strugglers, the poor in spirit…men less perfect than Joseph. Yet Christ’s life would excel that of Joseph, providing hope and a source of righteousness, otherwise unreachable for the common man.
He would offer himself in love, declaring sinners innocent, providing a hope for their redemption, and a means for their dreams; though their character and ability to make righteous decisions would too often seemed flawed. He was the answer to mankind’s groan for redemption.
There is now hope for the hopeless, those whose lives more align with Judah than Joseph; for the child of Pharez, The Lion of Judah has broken through the womb of mankind and become the Lamb slain for our sins.