by Frans Bakker
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise. —Genesis 49:8
The patriarch Jacob is on his deathbed and he blesses his sons. By faith he characterizes and prophesies what will happen to each of his sons. They stand before him one by one. In our text we see that it is Judah’s turn. He steps forward and stands before his old father. Jacob, moved by God’s Spirit, speaks, “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.”
We see here clearly that Jacob speaks through the Spirit. If it were his choice, he would have said: “Joseph, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise.” We also would have expected that Joseph would be the one who the brethren would praise. For after all, he became governor of Egypt. But God’s ways are different from our ways. Here the Lord speaks through Jacob: “Judah, thou art he.” Who would have expected that?
Was Judah pious and godly? No, we know the dark pages of his life, including his sin with Tamar in Genesis 38. And yet it is promised that the Savior would come forth from the line of Judah, even through Perez his son, born from adultery with Tamar. Perez means “tear” and by his sin, Judah had torn the bond of the covenant. But God, in faithfulness, continues with Judah and his son Perez.
We stand in deep awe and amazement that Christ would later on not be ashamed to say: “Judah is my father and Tamar is my mother.” Christ humbled Himself so far and deep to be incorporated into such a family. This was necessary for the salvation of a guilty people, who had torn the bond of the covenant. The black pages of Judah’s life could only be washed by the blood of the Lion who would come forth from Judah’s tribe.
The tribe of Judah was no better than Judah himself. The prophet Jeremiah complained much about the people of the tribe of Judah. Hosea also said, “The LORD hath a controversy with Judah” (Hos. 12:2). Malachi said, “Judah hath dealt treacherously” (Mal. 2:11). Judah also went into exile because of their sins. It is not because Judah was better that Jacob here says, “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise,” for the same Judah rejected Christ. Christ was born from the line of Judah and He was cast out by Judah. The disciple who betrayed Him came from the tribe of Judah. We know from Scripture that there was no worthiness in Judah, yet God chose Judah.
That is how matters are with God’s people. Apart from grace, the children of God would be just as bad as others, but they still have something that others do not have. They have God’s grace as a fruit of His merciful election. God works grace in their hearts, and His sovereign grace is the only difference between them and the wicked. Dear friend, you have no worthiness in yourself; salvation is all according to His good pleasure. Never forget that, and humble yourself before God.
From The Everlasting Word by Frans Bakker, compiled and translated by Gerald R. Procee. Reformation Heritage Books and Free Reformed Publications, 2007. Used by permission. For further information, click here.