Judah, Fourth Child

(if you are viewing this via email, the website has a recording of this poem and commentary)


I’m slowly working my way through Walter Kaiser Jr’s “The Messiah in the Old Testament.” It’s one of the books my father was thinking through at age 86, shortly before he died. The margins are graced with Dad’s notes. Naturally, I’m reminded often of him and his devotion to the Messiah. Some fine day….

This poem reflects on something at once puzzling and confirming about the Bible: God doesn’t operate as we would. If we were arranging things for the eventual coming of the Messiah, we’d probably make sure his ancestors were admirable characters. Read Genesis, and observe what kind of character Judah was. Jesus’ ancestor was a run-of-the-mill sinner. On the other hand, Judah’s younger brother Joseph was a remarkable, admirable character. He’s the hero through much of Genesis. Again, if I had been writing the story, I’d have made the promised Messiah come through Joseph’s line, not Judah’s.

God doesn’t operate that way. Through the story he created, He says, “I promise to bring this thing about, and lest anyone should get the idea that man is clever, and earns what I give him, I’ll bring it about through normal, undeserving sinners.”

(background photo: an artist’s castoff)

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