When Jacob prepares to meet Esau he places the maidservants and their children in front of his delegation (the most dangerous position) followed by Leah and her brood. He places Rachel and Joseph closest to himself (Genesis 33:1-3). Wonder what this did to create sibling rivalry?
Jacob’s designing a “rich ornamented robe” for Joseph to wear only increases the distance between the brothers and further distinguishes Joseph as Jacob’s favored and loved son. Then he has those dreams with interpretations and implications far too clear to miss. Poor guy never had a chance!
Life does that to people. Sets them up for challenging relationships and harsh circumstances. But God (great words) transforms those challenges into providence and uses them to propel His redemptive purposes. He did that with Joseph and He does that with His people today.
Bitterness, hatred, betrayal, retaliation are mere man-made chisels upon the stone of Joseph’s life and the seminal nation of Israel to fulfill His promise to Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14).
Jacob’s favoritism and the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers reveal several truths about family dysfunction and providence:
- Bitterness, hatred, betrayal, retaliation, vengeance, etc., though formed in the heart of man intent on evil, provide the tools that He uses to bring His people “out with great possessions”. He takes and uses the evil that men do to transform those whom He loves.
- God wastes nothing, including unfair treatment, abuse, etc. He doesn’t cause them, but He utilizes them for His own redemptive purposes.
Joseph’s story gives an example of a life-time view of family dysfunction and providence, when the story continues with, “Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard” (Genesis 37:36). Meanwhile. What a hope-filled word! Something else is always going on that eye cannot see or mind understand, but that faith in God can grasp.
The truth that, “God uses what He hates to perform what He loves.” should warm our hearts with possibility. How will God use this in my life?
"Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them. "Very well," he replied." (Genesis 37:12-14)
Years before in Jacob's life one single act of obedience changes his life as he obeys his mother's instructions to go to Haran to Rebekah's family. What he thought would be for a short while (27:43-45) actually turns into twenty-plus years. Years filled with family additions, increase of wealth, and a lot of conflict. That single act of obedience changed the course of his life. Who knew?
Many years later David's father, Jesse, sends David to check on his brothers who are engaged in warfare with the Philistines. That day changes the course of his life as he encounters and deals a death blow to Goliath. Though he spends the next thirteen years fleeing from King Saul he eventually becomes Israel's beloved second king. One simple act of obedience places him on the trajectory toward coronation.
Back to Joseph as he is sent by his father to check on the welfare of his brothers. One act of obedience separates father and son for more than twenty years. Joseph spends those years experiencing more betrayal, false imprisonment, the presence of God, and finally, elevation to the position of prime minister. All because of one act of obedience.
Who knows how one act of obedience will define or redefine you? Only God knows.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Genesis 37:1-39:23
- How does Jacob's partiality toward Joseph affect Joseph's relationship with his brothers? (You'd think Jacob would have learned his lesson about favoritism!)
- How do Joseph's dreams change his life?
- Which brother came up with the idea to sell Joseph?
- What do the brothers think their selling Joseph to Midianite merchants do to Joseph's dreams?
- How do the brothers deceive their father?
- What does Judah's marrying a Canaanite woman and his following actions tell you about his relationship with God?
- What character trait keeps Joseph from tampering with his bosses' wife?
- List the events that occur following Joseph's dreams which seem to contradict the dreams given to him by God.
- What does this tell you about God and His ways?
Ask the Lord to help you see the seriousness of every act of obedience and disobedience.