"Break Through the No-Go Zone"#87-24
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 9, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Genesis 43-45
My breakthrough moment in wind surfing happened in October of 2008. My teacher, Sam, he was telling me, "Stop fighting it, Michael. Lean into it." And something clicked for me. It was a breakthrough moment.
Now, wind surfing was invented when somebody stuck a sail on a surfboard, and it got to be a really popular sport in the late 70s, early 80s, and I think that's the era that my first wind-surfing rig was from because this thing ... my wife got it from a garage sale, and compared to the carbon fiber boards that you can get today, this thing was the Titanic. And we took it out on a lake nearby our house, and I could stand, but I could not get going on the thing. I kept getting flipped around and dipped into the water. And so, finally we just gave up and stored it back in the garage.
Several years later though, we were visiting some friends in North Carolina, out on the Outer Banks, and my friend Sam asked me if I wanted to try wind surfing, and I told him, "I've already tried it. I'm terrible at it." And he said, "You just need a good teacher." And that's what Sam was. He took me out, and he was telling me, "Don't fight the wind, Michael. You're trying to muscle it. Just let the wind do the work, lean into it." And it clicked. It was a breakthrough.
You've probably had your own breakthroughs in different settings—maybe not wind surfing, maybe in something like a crochet. Can you have breakthroughs in crochet? Or maybe it's in cooking, or in the batter's box, on the putting green, in a relationship or a profession. When you're starting in something new, you need a breakthrough to get you into it.
Over the last five weeks on this program, we've been listening to the climax of the book of Genesis. And this part of the book has been about the family of Jacob, who got his name changed to Israel, which means the God-fighter. And most of the focus so far has been on Israel's eleventh son, Joseph. But now, in these chapters, in 43-45, the focus shifts to his fourth son, to Judah.
Now the name Judah is a big name in Scripture. Judah is supposed to be the forefather of the Messiah, the One who is going to crush the head of the serpent, the enemy of God, the One who is going to bear the curse of God, the One who is going to sacrifice His life for the people of God. That's Judah's heir. But right now, Judah, as we see him in the book of Genesis, he is not behaving in a way deserving of this honor.
As a preview, we get to see the Spirit of the Messiah at work in Judah. He has a breakthrough. Now, up until now, he's largely been living for himself. After his breakthrough, he gives himself. He breaks the cycle of jealousy and self-preservation in his family. He breaks the pattern of guilt and self-loathing. He stops fighting the wind and leans into it.
Before his breakthrough, the Judah we see has been living for himself at the expense of others. He and his brothers, they wanted to kill Joseph because he was their father's favorite. Then Judah changes his mind, and he convinces his brothers to sell him as a slave, instead. Now, it could've been that Judah felt sorry for Joseph, or it could have been that he didn't want to miss an opportunity to make some extra cash. Either way, Judah splits the money with his brothers, and Joseph is sold as a slave in Egypt. Judah is living for himself at the expense of others.
We see Judah's character on display again in the very next chapter, chapter 38. He tries to cover up a one-night stand with a prostitute. The prostitute ended up being his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. Tamar was the daughter-in-law that he now wanted to put to death. And why did he want to put her to death? Because he found out that she had gotten pregnant working as a prostitute. He didn't realize that the only client she'd ever had was him. And she sought him out because he had promised to take care of her, and he wasn't. And when he finds out that the baby is his, he changes his tone. He doesn't want to put her to death anymore, but he confesses, she, "Tamar is more righteous than I am." And Judah is starting to see that he's been living for himself at the expense of others. Judah needs a breakthrough.
It was the winds of famine that brought Judah's breakthrough. His family's got no food, so they go down to Egypt to buy grain. There's a wise man there, Pharaoh's second-in-command, and this man has saved mountains of grain during the years of plenty. And so, Judah and his brothers, all of them except for Benjamin, the youngest, his father wouldn't let Benjamin go, they go to Egypt to buy grain from the man. It ends up being Joseph, their long-lost brother. They don't recognize him, but he recognizes them, and he devises a test for them. He puts them in a situation where they can, once again, make a quick profit by selling out a younger favored brother. Here's how he does it. First, he accuses them of being spies, and then he takes their brother, Simeon, hostage and he tells them, "If you bring your youngest brother here to me, I'll let Simeon go free." They return home to get Benjamin, but Israel, their father, won't let Benjamin go. And that's where the story picks up here in Genesis 43.
"Now the famine was still heavy on the land, and it happened after they had eaten all the grain that they had brought back from Egypt, their father, Israel, said to them, 'Go back and buy a little more food for us!' And Judah said to him, 'The man warned us. He warned us, "You will not see my face again unless your youngest brother is with you." So if you will send our brother along with us, we will go and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go.'
"And Israel said, 'Why did you bring this evil on me by telling the man that you have another brother?' And they said, 'The man was questioning us about ourselves and our family. How are we supposed to know that he was going to say, "Bring your brother down here?"' Then Judah said to Israel, his father, 'Let the boy come with me. I give myself as a pledge of safety for the boy. You can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back before you, I will bear the blame before you all my days.'
"And Israel said, 'If it must be, take your brother. Take him, and let God Almighty give you compassion before the man, and let him send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.' And so, they got up and they went down to Egypt, and they stood before Joseph. And Joseph saw Benjamin with them, and he said to the man who was over his house, the manager of his house, he said to him, 'Take these men to my house, and I will eat with him at noon time.' And so they went.
"And the manager of the house brought Simeon, their brother, who had been in prison, brought him out to them. When Joseph came home, they all bowed down to the ground before him. And Joseph saw his brother, Benjamin, the son of his own mother, and his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he hurried out of there and went into his private room and wept. And after he had washed his face, he came out again, and controlling himself, he said, 'Serve the food,' and portions were brought from Joseph's table to the brothers, and Benjamin's portion was five times more than anyone else's. And they drank and they feasted with him.
"And then Joseph said to the manager of his house, 'Fill the bags with as much grain as they can carry, and then take my cup, the silver one, and put it in the bag of the youngest one.' And the man did as Joseph commanded him. When morning had dawned, they were sent out with their donkeys, and when they had not gotten far from the city, Joseph said to the manager of his house, 'Get up. Chase the men, and when you overtake them say these words to them, "Why have you repaid good with evil? Is it not from this that my master drinks? This is an evil thing that you have done."' And when he overtook them, he said these words. And they said to him, 'Why does my lord speak these words? Far be from your service to do anything like this. How could we steal gold or silver from your master's house? Whichever one of your servants is found with it, let them be put to death, and the rest of us, we will become your master's slaves.'
"And he searched them, and he found the cup in Benjamin's bag, and they all tore their clothes. And each man saddled up his donkey, and they returned to the city. And Judah and his brothers came to Joseph's house, and Joseph was still there. And Joseph said to them, 'What is this that you have done?' And Judah answered, 'How can we answer? How can we justify ourselves? God has uncovered the guilt of your servants. And now, look, we are all your slaves, all of us.' And Joseph said, 'Far be it from me to do something like that. Only the one in whose hand the cup was found will be my slave. The rest of you, you're free to go. Go to your father in peace.'
"And Judah went up to him and said to him, 'My lord, let your servant speak some words into my lord's ears and do not be angry with your servant even though you are equal to Pharaoh. My Lord asked your servants, "Have you a father? Have you a brother?" And we answered, my Lord. We said, "We have an elderly father and a younger brother, and his brother is dead, and he is the only one left of his mother's children. And his father loves him." And then our father, he said, "You know that my wife had two sons. One of them is no more, and I have not seen him, and if you take this one from me too, and some harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow." So now if the boy is not with us, when I go back to your servant, my father, he will die. You see, I gave myself as a pledge of safety for the boy, and I said to my father, "If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my days." So then, please, let your servant, let me, remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy. And send the boy back with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? Oh, do not let me see this evil that will come upon my father.'
"And then Joseph, he could control himself no longer. He called out, 'Everyone leave my presence!' So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he said to them, 'I am Joseph. My father is still living?' They could not answer him because they were terrified at his presence. And he said to them, 'Come close to me. Come to me. I am Joseph, your brother, the one you sold in Egypt. And now, do not be distressed. Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me because it was to save lives that God sent me here ahead of you, to preserve a remnant for you, and to rescue you by a great deliverance. And so it was not you who sent me but God. So get up and go. Go to my father and say to him, "This is what your son Joseph says. God has made me the lord of all Egypt. Come down to me. I will provide for you."' And Joseph, he kissed all his brothers, and he wept over them. And as they were leaving, he said to them, 'And don't fight along the way.'"
In windsurfing, it's called the no-go zone. You can't sail when your board is pointed directly into the wind. You can sail when it's at a 45-degree angle to the wind. But if you cross over that 45 degree angle and point your board against the wind, you're dead in the water. It's called the no-go zone. There is a no-go zone for life in God's world. And it's where Judah had been living, living for himself at the expense of others. And it's where I often find myself. Maybe you can relate.
The no-go zone is when I am centered on myself, when I am trying to play God for myself. If that's where you are, turn your board, turn to Jesus. All the winds of heaven and on earth are pointing you, are moving you to Jesus, and one day you will see Him. One day you will meet Him when He comes to be the judge of the living and the dead. He is crucified and risen for you. He is ruling and returning for you. He is the Way. He is the Life, and He is the way to go to life.
The no-go zone is living for yourself. Giving yourself is the way of Jesus. And like Judah before Him, Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice to break the cycle. Now, unlike Judah, Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice. It wasn't clouded by guilt. It wasn't forced by fear. It was offered in love. He offered Himself in love for you, and His sacrifice wasn't just for Jacob's family, it was for all the families. For you, for me. So turn to Him, go with Him, stop fighting Him, lean into Him.
A few months after my friend Sam had helped me with that breakthrough in wind surfing out on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, he asked me if I wanted to go again. And we went out on a lake that was near his house. And as soon as I stepped on that board, it clicked for me again. And I am holding onto the boom of that sail, holding the power of the wind in my hands, and I am flying across the water. And it wasn't until I got out in the deep, out in the middle of the lake, and this is a big lake, that I realized that eventually I'm going to have to turn around and get back to where I started.
And as I was trying, I couldn't find the sweet spot between forward movement and the no-go zone. And I'm just flailing around out there for the better part of an hour. I'm lying on the board, and a friendly boater cruises by, and he asked me if I want some help. And I said, "Yes, please." So, he throws me a line and tows me back to the shore.
And so it is with following Jesus.
It's been said that windsurfing is a creative expression within nature's grandest elements: wind and water. In my experience in following Jesus, the grandest moments come from His creative expression, not mine. My breakthroughs happen—not when I'm racing along feeling His power—but when I am dead in the water. That's where He keeps finding me, and that's where He will find you. And if you're willing, I invite you to pray with me. Lord Jesus, You are my breakthrough. With You, I'm just getting started.
Note: The Lutheran Hour is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio at lutheranhour.org. It includes emotion and emphasis not reflected in the transcript.
Reflections for February 9, 2020
Title: Break Through the No-Go Zone
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For free resources and information about the program and its speakers, visit our website, lutheranhour.org. Now back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thanks, Mark. I have with me today a regular guest speaker for The Lutheran Hour, Dr. Dean Nadasdy. Thank you, Dr. Nadasdy, for joining us on the phone.
Dean Nadasdy: You're welcome. Good to be with you.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. I was talking with a pastor from Illinois, and I was mentioning I was going to have a conversation with you, and he said, "Oh, Dean Nadasdy, it was the best class of my whole seminary experience was with him." You are a much-loved professor and preacher in our church bodies, and thank you for your service.
Dean Nadasdy: Oh, I appreciate that. Thanks.
Mike Zeigler: I also appreciate you working with me on this series that we've done on the book of Genesis, this concluding part with the focus on Jacob and his 12 sons. One of the new insights for me that's stood out as I've gone back to this story is how much Judah plays a role later on as a Christ figure. He's got to take some lumps on the way and get woken up a bit, but he really comes through in this text we just heard for today. What were some insights that that stood out for you?
Dean Nadasdy: I think really it's got to be, for me, for lack of a better term, I guess, the providence of God—that it's just amazing to see how involved God is in the turmoil of Joseph's family life and how Joseph at the end can look over his shoulder and maybe see it, and it's like being able to look over your own shoulder at your family and all the turmoil you've gone through and all the chaos that's been there, and then to finally say, "Wow! Look at what God has brought from all of that, the good that God has brought." I think that's the overwhelming message of the Joseph story for me.
Mike Zeigler: One thing related to that that's stood out to me is how often in the dialogue people speak to God's hand in things. The brothers are asking each other, "What's God doing to us?" in the midst of this. Even the master of Joseph's house credits that "God put treasure in your bags." We don't know if he's saying that kind of tongue-in-cheek because apparently he put the treasure in the bags, but he says, "The God of your fathers—He's put this treasure in your bags." Even the characters along the way are looking for God's involvement in the minute details.
Dean Nadasdy: It is, after all, a story about God. It is the story of Joseph and his family, but my goodness, look at what God is doing here.
Mike Zeigler: Exactly. If someone were to ask you, "Why should a follower of Jesus spend time in these Old Testament narratives?"—why is this important for us today as the followers of Jesus?
Dean Nadasdy: Yeah, that's a great question, and I know we have some Old Testament scholars around our church that would love to see us preach more on Old Testament texts. I'd have to stay with this thought that when we read the Old Testament, we're reading the story of God in His relationship with His creation. As you read through the Old Testament, you learn more and more of what God is like: God's attributes, what God says, what God does. We get to know God through these stories.
The seeds of the Gospel are actually there in the Old Testament. We see sin all over the place. We see God's steadfast love, God's holiness, God's justice, God's forgiveness, God's sacrifice for the sake of atonement. It's all over the Old Testament, so that in the end, the Old Testament, from beginning to end, seems to beg for the Messiah and ask for Jesus along the way of God revealing Himself.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah. These narratives help us get to know the God that they're all about. It makes me think of when I got married to my wife, Amy, and I thought I knew her, but then I didn't really know her until I got to know her family more. It brought depth and understanding to who she is. I think maybe, could you say something similar, that getting to know the family of Jesus, you get to know, and how God worked in that family, you get to know Him?
Dean Nadasdy: Exactly. That's a good analogy. That really works. Yeah.
Mike Zeigler: Next week, we're going to hear from you. You're going to tell us about Genesis 50 and share a message on that. What are some things, as you've studied that text, Genesis 50, and looking back as the capstone or conclusion of this series, what are some of the things that really spoke to you in studying that text?
Dean Nadasdy: Yeah, I think for me, it's especially as you look at Genesis 50 and the ultimate reunion of Joseph and his brothers, Genesis is a story of families: Adam and Eve and their family, Noah and his family, Abraham's family down through all those generations, all the way to Joseph, and all these dysfunctional families. It's a lot of family history in Genesis, and all designed ultimately to do what? To bless the families of the earth, as God gives His promise and call to Abram, that all the families of the earth might be blessed.
I'd love for the listeners, as they prepare their hearts in prayer, in reading Genesis 50, to consider their own family and ask the question, "How might God use my family to be a blessing for other families?" Because in the end, you can't read Genesis without sensing that God is going to do great things through families. That's how God operates in the Scriptures.
Mike Zeigler: Genesis is a story about the God who is family in His essence and wants to use families to bless all the families of the nations.
Dean Nadasdy: That's a great way to say it. Yeah.
Mike Zeigler: Well, if you're able to tune in again next week, please take some time like Dr. Nadasdy said, to reflect on this passage from Genesis 50 to get your heart ready and then to think about how your family can be a blessing to others. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Nadasdy.
Dean Nadasdy: It was my pleasure. Many blessings, Mike.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Thy Strong Word Did Cleave the Darkness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)