Can a man change or is he doomed to remain the same, defined by the choices of his youth, or even by the choices he makes as an adult? Can a schemer, a con artist change his ways? Is it possible for fear, anger, guilt shame, greed, jealousy, envy, etc., to be removed from a life? Could those qualities be replaced with characteristics reflecting a maturing, deepening into the man or woman God always intended us to be? If it is not possible, if what God Himself tells us about what He is accomplishing in our lives is a mere myth, a fairy tale, then life is a bleak hollow lie where we might as well “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
“But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘Behold I am about to die, so of what use then is the birthright to me.’ And Jacob said, ‘First swear to me;’ so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.” Genesis 25:31-33 New American Standard Bible
Jacob the schemer stole the birthright from his brother for a bowl of lentils and some bread. Esau certainly played his role in giving up what was rightfully his. It is quite obvious the birthright wasn’t very important to him, at least a that moment. And Jacob knew as the second born son he would be under Esau’s authority as Esau would inherit the greater portion of Isaac’s estate as his birthright. How often is the greater treasure, the greater blessing traded off for instant gratification?
Family history was repeating itself, God had made a promise to Rebekah concerning Jacob. He would become the head of the family, the Promise first given to Adam and Eve, then to Abraham and Sarah would be carried on through Jacob and his family line. There was no need to worry, there was no need to scheme, there was no need to help God fulfill His Promise! But we humans are an impatient lot, we can hardly wait for the microwave popcorn to finish popping!
Family dynamics reveal themselves no matter how hard we try to break the cycle of childhood experiences, even those we refuse to bring into our own parenting. Unfortunately, some sneak by anyway no matter how hard we try to do differently than what we were taught. Our parents faced the same dilemma, as did their parents, etc. All the way back to God, the Perfect Parent, whose kids rebelled. Imagine, perfect kids rebelled!
Abraham lied about Sarah twice, claiming his wife was his sister for fear he might lose his life if the truth were known. As it turned out, the lies caused way more damage than if he had told the truth. Isaac later made the same choice as his father, with similar results. Both men found it extremely difficult to trust God would protect them and their much loved wives.
Their decision was much like Adam’s when he could not conceive God rescuing Eve from her deadly choice, and choose to join her in what they expected would be instantaneous death. I can’t imagine the fear, pain, humiliation, shame, and guilt enveloping them as knowledge of their actions burst through their supposed “euphoria,” just what they have done and the consequences of their choice.
“Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And the brothers listened to him.” Genesis 37:26,27 New American Standard Bible
Judah was “a chip off the old block,” a schemer in his own right. We see it in his dealings with Joseph on that day of infamy when Judah convinced his brothers to sell Joseph. He reasoned why not make a little money out of the deal and keep our brother’s blood off our hands. Judah the schemer, who when he was to fulfill an obligation to his son’s wife, chose to ignore his obligations and ended up meeting his match in scheming in his daughter-in-law, Tamar. (One of the four women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus.)
Judah the schemer, had become the spokesperson for the band of brothers as they faced this most powerful of Egyptian rulers. Joseph sat on his throne wondering, “Has time changed them? Are they the same men who had sold him into slavery? How far would they go to save their own necks? Would they sacrifice their younger brother to save their own lives?
As the brothers fell to their knees before Joseph, he threw the accusation at them like a spear, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?” After speaking these words, Joseph settled back into his throne and waited to see if these brothers have remained the same, or had the years changed them?
It can be very difficult to have seen people make mistakes, errors, blunders, drop the ball, etc., and allow for the possibility they may have changed. It can be an enormous challenge to believe someone has changed for the positive, especially if you have a negative history with that individual. Have they really changed? How do we trust this possibly-changed person when only God can see a heart?
The truth is we can’t judge whether they have or have not changed. It is often appropriate to have boundaries in place, which can be done without deciding where someone is in their re-creation and transformation as it is carried out by God. As we experience each other, support each other in the process called God’s Grace, we will note differences in other’s ability to do life.
The most notable changes in ourselves will be a revealing of Trust, exercising of Faith, desire for the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and hunger for God’s Love as it is portrayed in 1Corinthians 13. We will recognize this is a process instigated by God, accomplished by God, before we even knew what He was doing. At least that describes my story, my conversion orchestrated by God through many avenues without my knowing He was even involved in saving me from me.
For me, the really amazing thing about God’s Grace is He doesn’t leave us alone. Just as He went looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He comes looking for us, calling out our names, inviting us to come. As He did with Jacob the Schemer and Judah the Schemer, He does with us, giving us New Hearts and Minds, and New Names carved into the palms of His hands.
“And now, my lord I cannot go back to my father without the boy. Our father’s life is bound up in the boy’s life. When he sees the boy is not with us, our father will die. We will be responsible for bringing his gray head down to the grave in sorrow.” Genesis 44:30,31 New Living Testament
Just as God was changing Joseph over those 17 years, he was changing Joseph’s brothers. Judah once the Schemer, is now Judah the humble offering himself in Benjamin’s place, pulling out before this Egyptian ruler the “skeletons in the closet”. For all that matters now is the saving of Benjamin’s and Jacob’s lives, even if it means offering his own life for Benjamin’s.
“Please my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I cannot bear to see what this will do to him.” Genesis 44:33.34 New Living Testament
Judah pleads for the life of Benjamin, he begs before this Egyptian seeking some form of mercy for his youngest brother, aware that he did not show this same mercy for Joseph. Judah realizes he cannot change the past, however maybe— just maybe he could atone for that as well as send Benjamin home safe to his father.
The question: Has Judah the schemer changed? Have you? It’s not hard to begin the process. Very likely the Holy Spirit is already at work, but there is a great blessing in inviting God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and in offering them Carte Blanc in your life.