Genesis 43:9, "I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:"
Many times people fail to consider the consequences of their actions or a line of thinking. For example, signing the "bottom line" connects us to responsibility for payment of something. Today's economic climate owes much of its distress to people failing to consider (or care) about the repercussions of agreeing to make payment of things that they were unable and then later unwilling to pay. In the theological climate today, many fail to consider the full ramifications of their line of thinking when put to the fullest examination of Scripture. We will attempt to look at some of the far-reaching consequences when considering the work of Christ and how that touches our lives and should touch our thinking.
In our study verse above, Jacob (Israel) is in a quandary of thought. He believes that Joseph (his wellbeloved son) is dead, Simeon is held in an Egyptian jail, and the rest of the family perishes in Canaan with hunger in the widespread famine. The only recourse that Jacob has is to honour the governor of Egypt's request to allow Benjamin to go with his brethren into Egypt on their second journey to buy corn. The problem in Jacob's mind is that Joseph is dead, while Benjamin remains as his only child left of his beloved Rachel. Should evil befall Benjamin as he believes it has befallen Joseph, he will be left childless from Rachel and go down sorrowing into his grave at the bereavement of his children.
Since the brethren report that the governor of Egypt will not even give them an audience (much less buy corn for food) unless their youngest brother be with them, the way for survival is clear: Benjamin must go. Yet, for their survival, how shall Jacob receive calm assurance as to the lad's safety? Earlier, an offer has already been made by Jacob's eldest Reuben. (Genesis 37-38) Yet, Reuben's request cannot bring Jacob hope and comfort, and only by the mouth of Judah is Jacob relieved in his mind about sending Benjamin with the rest. What we see in Judah's statement is a picture of what our Lord has done for us in protection, care, compassion, mercy, and love.
Since Judah agreed to be surety for Benjamin, we need to understand what surety entails. Many times, people confuse words that are similar yet still distinctly different. Such is the case between words like surety and security. When someone becomes security for someone else, that says, in essence, "I will do for them if they are unable to do for themselves." Until I was of proper age and on my own, one of my parents would always be listed as security for my bank accounts, car title, etc. Surety differs from security in that surety does not place the stipulation on "if they are unable to do for themselves." Rather, surety says, "I will do for them regardless." Judah does not tell Jacob that he will be there if Benjamin cannot protect himself, but rather, he will be there to protect and keep Benjamin no matter what comes.
Consider the resolve of Judah in this matter. Chapter 44 shows Judah to be the central character of the entire passage. Joseph threatens to detain Benjamin for supposed theft of his silver chalice. Judah stands in earnest defense and plea for his younger brother as his surety. Had Judah been security for Benjamin, he would have let Benjamin plea his case first and then taken over if the case went south. Yet, as Benjamin's surety, Judah does all the talking, and the matter rests on Judah's ability to convince Egypt's governor to release Benjamin. Judah's resolve is further identified in our verse above in that he will "bear the blame forever" should he fail in his ability to keep Benjamin safe.
Moving past the shadow, let us consider the source of perfect surety: Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 7:22) Just as Judah did not allow Benjamin to plead his case before taking over, Jesus does not give us "chances" to get things right before taking over for us. We do not have to speak before our accusers, for He speaks for us. He does not keep us if we cannot keep ourselves, but He keeps us regardless. Furthermore, should Jesus Christ fail in His work of surety for us, then He would be forced to bear the blame for failure forever. Since it is evident that our Lord sprang from Judah (Hebrews 7:14) as our surety of a better testament and covenant, Judah makes an ideal picture of Christ on the occasion of our study verse.
Many well-meaning, God-fearing people in this world have the mistaken impression that Christ died for everybody, loved everybody, and wants everybody to go to heaven. Should that be the case (which Scripture patently shows is not), what would be the ultimate consequence of that belief? What far-reaching conclusion would be made? As our surety, Christ would bear people's blame forever, should they not be restored safely to His Father. Just as Judah agreed to bear the blame for Benjamin before his father forever, so also Christ would have to bear the blame before the Heavenly Father forever should His care of one leave them to burn in a fiery hell forever. Perish the thought! What goes on in heaven currently between the Father and the Son will go on for all eternity: perfect pleasure and delight in the work and presence of one another.
Furthermore, many well-meaning people will charge the belief of finished redemption and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ as a "do-nothing religion." Some even lay the charge at Old Baptist's doorstep that they give or offer the hearers "nothing or not much to do." Let us consider what about Judah's case is different from Christ's. Judah agreed to be surety for Benjamin and had to defend his innocency before Joseph. Benjamin was not guilty of the crime laid against him, and Judah brought the case of Jacob before Joseph as the defense. In our case, Jesus – as our surety – defends us, knowing and pre-knowing that we were guilty, and furthermore bore the punishment so that we would not have to.
What is the far-reaching application or consequence of this line of thought? Have you ever heard the charge, "Doctrine leads to fat, lazy sheep"? Some even make the charge that discussions on the finished work of Christ are good, but there is not enough practicality being taught today. One of the striking things about the structure of Scripture is that doctrine serves as the foundation and perfect construct for practical godliness. As I heard growing up, "Good, doctrinal preaching flows into practicality like water flows in a river." When considering that Christ was willing to bear our blame forever as our surety, what far-reaching consequence happens? The feeling struck deep within our conscience should serve as the greatest remedy against licentious behaviour.
Since we were guilty before God, Christ agreed to do for us in our state. As such, He willingly and freely took our guilt, our sin, our repugnant odour, and bore it to the full. Therefore, knowing about the finished work of Christ, His surety for us, and what He went through for us should strike the following thoughts into our minds every time we come short of the glory of God: "My Saviour had to bear what I just did. He had to die for what I just thought or spoke." Furthermore, He did not just bear sins of commission but omission as well leading to these thoughts: "My Saviour had to die for what I have not done. He had to die for what I have not thought about or spoken about lately."
Therefore, whether it be transgressions of a committed nature in adultery, covetousness, theft, murder, etc. our thoughts should be stirred to consider that our Surety stood in our place to bear the blame for those things. And, whether it be trangressions of an omitted nature in failing to read the word of God, faithfully study it, meditate upon it, pray without ceasing, attend God's house, sacrificially serve Him and His brethren, etc. our thoughts should be stirred to consider that our Surety stood in our place to bear the blame for those things as well. Thankfully, we have the knowledge that He did not bear those things in vain, nor does He have to keep bearing blame for things (as though He could not quite finish the job or bear for something He did not foresee). Rather, we can be reconciled to God in our minds (at peace with Him – II Corinthians 5:20) that He really did put away our sins and thereby seek to serve Him more and better than we ever have before.