“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you.” (Genesis 49:8)
There is a sharp contrast between the word spoken to the previous three sons and the words spoken to Judah. The tribe of Judah was not due the birthright or the opportunity of the firstborn but, nevertheless, displayed great moral strength when put to the test. True, Judah had made some tragic mistakes but, when feeling the pressure to keep his word to his father concerning Benjamin, he was true to his purpose. Judah exemplifies those who are most certainly capable of error but are quick to repent and do the right thing. Though he had stumbled in times past, he still exhibited the markings of a true leader by putting his neck on the line when called upon.
Consequently, Jacob declares that the one whose name means “praise” will be admired by his brothers and, in time, will be the one who all the brothers identify as. In other words, even though Israelis may be of a different tribe than Judah, the world today regards Israel to be equivalent to Jews (Hebrew is Yehudi) — a monicker derived from the name Judah. His brothers admired him so, they adopted his name as theirs. For example, Esther’s kinsman, Mordechai, is called Yehudi (Jew) even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin (Esther 2:5).
From this we glean that, regardless of our past failures, a commitment to follow Messiah, to do what is right and to fulfill our purpose can change everything. A person can go from one who is scorned by others to one who is so admired that people want to emulate their good attributes. Solomon put it this way: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
As followers of the Messiah, it is our mission to be this type of person — someone whose name is trusted and admired. However, any admiration given to us should be because people recognize the One who lives in us. It should be obvious to others that any noble characteristics present within our lives is because we have been transformed by the Almighty and it is He who deserves the praise. May we always live in such a way that any praise offered us ultimately glorifies our King.
Blessings and Shalom,