Our text for this sermon is Gen 44: 30–34. In this passage, Judah said to Joseph about Benjamin, “for thy servant became surety for the lad onto my father, saying, If I bring him not onto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father forever”. Then in verse 34 he asked “For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me”?
If you are not aware of the history of this story, you can read what happens in Gen 37, and 39-45. Twenty one or twenty two years before this conversation between Judah and Joseph took place, Judah and his brothers had sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites who sold Joseph into slavery. They lied to their father about selling him, leading their father to believe that Joseph had been killed by beasts.
In Egypt, Joseph was a faithful servant to Potiphar. And after he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he became a trustee to the keeper of the prison. Both men knew that the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered.
While he was in prison he interpreted dreams for a butler and a baker. The dreams came true just as God had given the interpretations to Joseph. A couple of years later, Pharaoh dreamed and no one could interpret his dreams. The butler remembered Joseph and Pharaoh sent for him. Not only was God able to use Joseph to give the interpretation, but Joseph was able to wisely counsel Pharaoh on what to do about it.
As a result, Joseph was promoted to be the second ruler of the country. And in that capacity, he ruled over all of Egypt. He stored a fifth part of all the corn produced in Egypt during seven years of plenty. And then he sold it to the Egyptian’s and other people who came to buy corn during a famine.
Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy corn. Yet, he would not let them take Benjamin, because he did not want evil to befall him after what had happened to Joseph. When the brothers came to Joseph, they didn’t know him, but he knew them.
He accused them of being spies and told him that they had to prove that they were true men by bringing their younger brother Benjamin the next time they came to Egypt. [There are more details given in the audio of this sermon]. It was at this time that the boys realized the strange circumstances occurring to them were the result of their sin against Joseph years ago.
They made it back to Canaan. But when it came time to return to Egypt, Jacob wouldn’t let Benjamin go. Judah finally convinced Jacob to let them take him by promising to be surety for their younger brother, Gen 43:9.
When they got to Egypt, they presented Benjamin to Joseph and feasted. After buying the next load of corn and starting back toward Canaan, Joseph tricked the boys into having to leave Benjamin behind in Egypt as a bond servant.
If then they had the same mindset that they had when they sold Joseph, they would have gladly left Benjamin in Egypt and returned with the corn. However, because Judah had pledged to be surety for Benjamin, Judah plead with Joseph to allow him to be the bondman so that Benjamin could return to his father. There was no way that Judah was going to return without Benjamin. He would rather die in Egypt a bondman than see “the evil that shall come on my father’s face”, Gen 44:34.
In the particular passage we have chosen for this sermon, Judah was willing to save Benjamin’s life by offering his instead. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us.
The point of this sermon then is simple. We have to be like Judah to be earnest enough to see folks saved for whom Jesus died.
Paul said, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing the witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. Four I could wish that myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites”, Rom 9:1-4a.
Paul would willingly have traded places with the very people who were persecuting him everywhere he preached, just to see them saved. He was willing to be surety for them, just like Christ. He bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
We must be willing to be a bondservant to the Lord (typified by Joseph) to make sure that the Benjamin’s of the world can get back to our Father (typified by Jacob, here).
We are too content to come and get some bread and return without souls. We must decide that we aren’t coming home without Benjamin, no matter what it may cost us. It was this earnestness in Paul that compelled him to keep going after the lost until they finally killed him. Even Peter’s faithful service to the Lord finally ended in his death as martyr.
Are we willing to be surety for the lost? Or are we satisfied to get home to heaven without the Benjamin’s for whom Christ died? He died for all, 1 Tim 2:3-6 and he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Pet 3:9. We must be like Judah and be surety for the lost who will be stuck in bondage in this world if they don’t get saved.