32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, 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.
I think the story of Judah is one of the more fascinating stories in the latter part of Genesis. Of course, from chapters 37-50, Joseph is center-stage. But, as that story develops, we have chapter 38 totally focused on Judah.
Back in chapter 37, Judah shows himself to be a scoundrel. He suggest the sale of Joseph to traders. In chapter 38, we see him even worse in the whole incident with Tamar.
But, at the end of chapter 38, Judah shows genuine repentance. Now, in today’s reading, Judah steps up and pledges that he will be accountable for Benjamin’s safety in Egypt. When things go badly, we see Judah actually go up to Joseph and ask to be taken in Benjamin’s stead.
By the way, is it not interesting that it is the tribe of Judah from which the Messiah would come? Judah’s line will bear the greatest one to ever say to another, “Let me stand in their place; punish me instead.” The Lord Jesus is foreshadowed in the action of his ancient ancestor.
So, should this all be to the praise of Judah? Of course not. God is the one in control here. We have seen too much to think otherwise. What we see is how God uses circumstances, even our most horrible and embarrassing failures to shape in us the character he wants in us for his glory. God allowed Judah to be who he was, and that was sinful and devastating. God worked change in Judah over years, and by God’s hand, Judah became the brother who would carry the Messianic promise and a neat reminder of the coming Christ’s substitutionary atonement.