The Temptation of Judah and Joseph, Part 3
Topic: Expository Passage: Genesis 38-39
Genesis 38-39 | The Temptation of Judah and Joseph, Part 3
Good morning! Welcome to Sunday school! Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 39. And let’s start with a word of prayer.
Genesis 39. We are back in our series on temptation, and we are currently studying the temptations of Joseph and Judah, his brother.
We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, but I would be doing you a grave disservice if I concluded these lessons about Joseph and Judah without telling you “the rest of the story.”
Did you ever listen to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”? I can remember hearing him on the radio while riding in the car with my dad as a kid. We’ve talked about the stories of Judah and Joseph. [Elaborate some.]
So those are their stories. Now, what is “the rest of the story”? First, let’s talk about Joseph.
1. The “Rest of the Story”
Short term: his obedience cost him dearly (vv. 11-20).
Think about what Joseph lost as a result of his obedience. First, he lost his coveted job as Potiphar’s right-hand man–a job that took years for Joseph to earn! It probably wasn’t normal for a slave to progress like Joseph did. I mean, for being a slave, he had a cushy job! Joseph had no human hope of ever landing a job like that again!
Of course, losing his job was the least of Joseph’s concerns! Because he was also thrown into a terrible dungeon! Joseph got sent to the place where the Pharaoh threw his worst enemies! And I don’t know how sentencing was handled in ancient Egypt, but I can only imagine that from an earthly standpoint, Joseph had no hope of ever getting out of there alive! He was going to rot in prison till the day that he died.
And then, on top of it all, Joseph lost his reputation. He was labeled as a rapist and basically sentenced to life.
What do we learn from this? We learn that obeying God will not always make your life easier, especially in the short-term. Sometimes obeying God will make your life worse! But we don’t ultimately obey in order to have easy lives, do we? We obey in order to please God. That is really all that matters!
From God’s perspective, your entire life is considered “short-term.” Someday very soon, you will take your last breath and go to be with God in heaven. And at that point, your previous job title will not matter. It will matter whether you lived in a dungeon or in the palace. It will not matter what anyone else said or thought about you! The only opinion that truly matters is God’s opinion. The only commendation you will care about is the one that comes from your heavenly Father, when He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Joseph obeyed God, and in the short-term, it cost him very dearly. But what about the long-term?
Long-term: his obedience bore fruit beyond his wildest dreams.
Yes, Joseph’s obedience landed him in prison, but in the providence of God, it was in prison where Joseph met a man God used to change his life forever.
You probably know the story. God blesses Joseph in prison so that the prison keeper puts him in charge. That leads to Joseph’s meeting Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer, who had been thrown into prison. Both men had dreams in prison that were troubling them, but Joseph interpreted their dreams. Not only that, but his interpretation came true! So, two years later, when Pharaoh has a troubling dream, the chief cupbearer (who had been released from prison and restored to his former position) remembers Joseph and mentions him to Pharaoh. Pharaoh calls for Joseph, they pull him out of prison, he interprets Pharaoh’s dream, and he becomes viceroy of Egypt–second only to Pharaoh–all in day! It’s one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in the entire Bible!
So, in a roundabout way, Joseph’s obedience leads to his exaltation! He becomes powerful, saves Egypt from famine, and serves Pharaoh very well. He gets married and has two sons. From a human perspective, Joseph’s story ends with “happily ever after.”
But it actually gets far better than that.
Because Joseph saved not only Egypt, but also his family from starvation, thus preserving the Messianic line.
Now, let me be clear. If Joseph had disobeyed, God would have saved His people some other way. We learn about that in the story of Esther. Do you remember what Mordecai said to Esther in that story? In one of the key verses in the book of Esther, Mordecai says to her, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
So if Joseph had disobeyed, God would have protected His people in some other way. But that in no way diminishes the fact that God chose to use Joseph! Like Esther, God put him in Egypt “for such a time as this.” And in the providence of God, it was Joseph’s obedience that led to his being used in that way! God saved His people through Joseph, using his obedience!
The implications of that truth are massive! In the fullness of time, the angel Gabriel appeared to a Jewish girl named Mary and told her, “You are going to give birth to the Son of God.” And she did! And that Son grew up and became a man who died on the cross for our sins so that you and I could be saved! And, as one theologian quipped, all of that was made possible (humanly speaking) because Joseph kept his zipper up!
What would have happened to Joseph’s family had he failed to walk with God in Egypt? God would have saved them some other way! He might even still have used Joseph! – (God can use sinful people)–but Joseph would have missed out on the opportunity to receive both earthly and eternal rewards as a result of his obedience! How short-sighted would that have been? For him to trade the chance to play a key role in God’s plan, all for a fleeting moment of pleasure? With the benefit of hindsight, it all seems so clear! But we often don’t think that way when we are tempted to sin!
What do we learn from all this?
Brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in resisting sexual temptation! Because you have no idea how your commitment to purity may change the course of history for the better. You may remain happily married to your wife, raise two godly children, and one of them ends up becoming a missionary who leads hundreds of people to the Lord! You just don’t know what God will do! But I can tell you this: if you obey Him in this matter, God will do great things! Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
You’re not going to save the Messianic line, but your purity will bear fruit beyond your wildest dreams! So be faithful! Fight sin! Resist temptation! And do what is right!
However… some you may be asking, “Pastor Kris, what if I’ve already blown it? Does that mean I’m out of the race? That I might as well give up?” Oh no! And boy oh boy, do I have a story for you!
What is the rest of Judah’s story?
This is where you probably expect me to tell you all of the horrible things that happened to Judah as a result of his sin and to warn you never to follow his path! However, surprisingly, that is not where this story goes! Instead, it takes an unexpectedly glorious turn!
So, what happened to Judah?
Short term: he was humbled by the results of his sin and had a change of heart.
You say, “Pastor Kris, where on earth do you get that from?” It’s all in the text. First, Judah’s change of heart is evidenced by his confession (38:24-26). This was a public admission of guilt! Now, notice that Judah didn’t say, “Tamar is innocent,” because she wasn’t! However, he admits, “I am guiltier than she is. This is mostly my fault, not hers.”
Brothers and sisters, you must confess your sexual sin! God’s grace flows to the humble, and the path to restoration starts with confession.
There’s a simple little song that I learned when I was a just a child:
“It's me, it's me, O Lord,
Standin' in the need of prayer;
It's me, it's me, O Lord,
Standin' in the need of prayer.”
“Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord,
Standin' in the need of prayer;
Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, O Lord,
Standin' in the need of prayer.”
The other verses go on to say, “Not the preacher, not the deacon,” “not my father, not my mother,” “not the stranger, not my neighbor,” but it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” I am the problem here! When you can admit that out loud, to others, you have taken a massive first step!
God is good to allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin, isn’t He? Because those consequences are often what wake us up and drive us back to Him! That was certainly the case in Judah’s life! By all accounts, Judah was a proud, self-righteous man! But Tamar absolutely humiliated him! And that was what Judah needed.
If God has exposed your own sin lately, count that as a grace from Him! If you have been humiliated–if you can still feel the sting, count that as a loving spanking and jump back into His arms!
Confess your sin! Confess it to God first of all, but then confess to the person whom you’ve sinned against! Don’t make excuses. Call sin what it is. Ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate real repentance. Humble yourself!
Maybe no one else knows about your sin yet. Then confess it to a spiritual authority in your life who can help you get help! Whatever you do, do not buy the lie that nobody else needs to know! “This is between me and God.” Saying, “Me and God can handle this” is like saying, “I can handle this,” because God has given you a resource in the church, and if you are refusing to use that resource when you know you should be, then you are in a sense refusing His help! The longer your sin stays hidden, the more powerful it will become. But once it is exposed to the light, then you can begin to get victory!
Judah’s change of heart was evidenced by his confession. It was also evidenced by his taking of responsibility and earning his father’s trust (43:1-14).
In this passage, Joseph’s brothers are preparing for their second trip down to Egypt to buy food because of the famine. On their first trip, they met Joseph (but didn’t know it was him), and he gave them a hard time and told them not to return unless they brought Benjamin. Jacob their father didn’t like that, so he waited till the last possible moment before sending the brothers again. Finally, when they ran out of food, Jacob had no other choice but to send them! But he still didn’t want to send Benjamin!
Now, notice, who was the spokesman for the brothers in this story, and who was finally able to convince Jacob to send Benjamin? (It was Judah!) Woah, where did that come from! I thought Judah was off in Timnah hanging out with Hirah the Adullamite! Apparently, since Genesis 38, Judah had returned and mended relationships with his family. Not only that, but he had proven himself trustworthy to the extent that Jacob agreed to send Benjamin in Judah’s care, when he had flatly refused a similar offer from Reuben! Judah was now acting responsibly, and he had regained his father’s trust!
It takes time to regain trust, doesn’t it? Some of you know, it’s a slow, painful process. But it’s also a process that genuinely repentant people willingly submit themselves to. Genuinely repentant people don’t demand trust right away. They take the time to rebuild that trust, and as a result, their efforts are often successful. I think it’s quite remarkable that despite all of his failures, by Genesis 43, Judah is leading his brothers, and Jacob his father trusts him in a way that he doesn’t trust anyone else.
Judah’s change of heart is evidenced by his taking of responsibility and earning his father’s trust. But even more so, it is evidenced by his offering of himself in exchange for Benjamin.
So the brothers return to Egypt a second time, this time, with Benjamin in tow. And Joseph makes a feast for them and they spend time together… but then he concocts a plan to test them. He says to his steward, “Put each man’s money back in his sack, but put my special silver cup in Benjamin’s sack.” Then early the next morning, he sends them away. But he doesn’t let them get very far! He sends his steward after them and tells him to accuse them of theft!
Of course, the brothers adamantly deny this! They willingly submit to a search, and promise that if Joseph’s special cup is found in any of their sacks, the person who stole it will die and the rest of them will become Joseph’s slaves! (They still don’t know that it’s Joseph.) But the steward says, “No, whoever stole the cup will be the slave and the rest will go free.” Of course, to the brothers’ dismay, there is their money in the mouth of their sacks, and Joseph’s silver cup is with Benjamin! So they tear their clothes and return to the city.
Let’s pick up the story in 44:14 (44:14-16). So once again, Judah is confessing his sin. But this time, it’s the sin of selling Joseph all those years ago! Judah says, “We will all be your slaves.”
But that isn’t exactly what Joseph wants. Let’s continue reading (v. 17). What is Joseph doing? He is testing his brothers to see if they have changed. Two decades ago, they were more than happy to get rid of Joseph! But now, Benjamin is the new Joseph. Joseph perceives this very clearly. So will the brothers treat Benjamin just like they treated him? Will they abandon Benjamin as a slave in Egypt too?
This is where Judah speaks up in what turns out to be the key speech of the entire Joseph story (44:18-34)! Wow! I can’t even read that without crying! Not only does Judah refuse to forsake Benjamin; he offers himself in Benjamin’s place! And he does so (of all the possible reasons) because he loves his father! The is the guy who sat idly by while Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned many days over Joseph! He sure didn’t care about his dad’s feelings then! What happened? Judah is not the man he was!
So in the short-term, Judah had a change of heart. But that’s just the short-term! We haven’t even talked about the long-term yet! What is the long term? It’s that Jesus came from the line of Judah!
Long term: Jesus came from the line of Judah!
In 49:8-10, when Jacob is blessing his sons, here’s what he says about Judah (49:8-10). The fact that Jesus came from the line of Judah makes his story (in my opinion) one of the greatest stories of redemption in all of the Bible.
What do we take from this? I hope that the applications are clear. No matter how bad you have failed sexually, God can forgive you and use you! So do not lose heart! Confess your sin, change your ways, and see what God will do with your life!
God is so loving, isn’t he? Most people like to think of themselves as Joseph. But the fact is, we have a whole lot in common with Judah! We are all sinners in need of grace! Praise God that He saves and uses broken vessels!
Why Did Jesus Come from Judah?
A few weeks ago, Tom Sharky asked me, “Why did Jesus come from the line of Judah, and specifically, through Tamar and Perez, who was the result of incest?” I can think of two reasons.
First, God loves to use weak, broken things. From the virgin Mary, to Balaam’s donkey, to David’s five stones, to a band of uneducated fisherman–we see time and time again that God loves to use weak, broken things! 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 tells us why this is. It says, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’”
Why does God love to use the weak and the broken? So that He will get all the glory!
But there’s another reason why I think people like Judah, or Rahab, or Ruth are in the line of Christ. It’s because God loves to highlight stories of redemption that model the point of the cross! Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous! He came to save people like Judah! And once you know the rest of Judah’s story, you can’t help but be slapped in the face with that fact every time you read in Matthew that Perez is one of the great grandfathers of Jesus.
If you’re here this morning and you feel like, “My life is just such a mess!” I’ve got news for you: if God can save Judah, He can save you! And the main saving you need is not a change of circumstances, it is a change of heart. You need to be born again.
Judah didn’t just get a change of circumstances; he had a change of heart. Judah was saved. All of that was made possible because one of Judah’s descendants died in his place on the cross. And you can be saved if you will repent of your sins and throw your life upon Jesus. If you have questions about that, please talk to someone about it today.
Brothers and sisters, isn’t God gracious? Let’s revel in the grace of God ourselves, and let’s not forget to extend that grace to others. If God loves the Judah’s of this world, then we should love them too, amen? Let’s pray.
 D.A. Carson, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzF5CLC6R1o
 “Standin’ in the Need of Prayer” Hymnary.org. Accessed February 12, 2020. https://hymnary.org/text/not_my_brother_nor_my_sister_but_its_me.