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By Danny Saavedra
“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy . . .” – Genesis 44:33 (NIV)
The Bible is full of stories of authentic people. God didn’t shy away from showing our “heroes” of faith in their darkest hours. Why? So we can see people with real shortcomings and struggles; people like us.
One great example is found in Israel’s family. In this story, we see Joseph—loved by his father and hated by his brothers—sold into slavery. That’s right, because his brothers were so jealous and filled with malice, they lied about Joseph’s death after selling him as a slave.
But what happened? Joseph prospered! He went from son to slave to prisoner to steward to ultimately the prime minister of Egypt. Why? Because he honored and served the Lord.
Joseph became top dog in Egypt, helping people through a prolonged famine. Eventually, he gets a visit from his brothers—except for Benjamin, the youngest. They came because the famine had reached them, and they heard about the surplus in Egypt. Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him, so he pretended to be a stranger. Testing them so he could see if they had changed, he tells his brothers they can’t leave Egypt unless they bring their youngest brother there. So, he kept one of his brothers and sent the rest to get Benjamin.
They went back to their father, but Israel refused to let Benjamin go. Knowing his family’s need and repentant from what they’d done to Joseph, Judah said, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8–9 NIV). With that, Israel finally agrees.
They brought him to Joseph. Before they left, Joseph had his steward put a silver cup into Benjamin’s bag to make it seem as though he’d stolen it. This was their final test. When he decreed that only Benjamin would have to stay as his servant, Judah offered to take his brother’s place in prison. Judah’s actions paint a picture of what was to come through his descendant, Jesus, who came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay!
This selfless act also had a major impact on Joseph. Hearing Judah’s compassion and willingness to take his brother’s place, Joseph could no longer contain himself and reveals himself to his brothers. In Genesis 45:5 (NIV), he says, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” At last, after several years, we see a family reunited.
The Christmas season marks the perfect time for reconciliation. You see, Jesus came to reconcile us to God, to bring forgiveness and restoration. And the story of Israel’s children shows us that it’s never too late for reconciliation and forgiveness, for healing in our lives and in our families. Are there broken relationships in your life? Maybe old friends, siblings, or a parent? Just like he did for Joseph and his brothers, God can do the same for you. All you have to do is take the first step!