Joseph is a picture of the obedient son who was faithful in small things both at home and later as a slave in Egypt and his obedience cost him a lot. And his (and our) many small acts of obedience, sometimes seen only by God, pleased God as much as his role as a prince of Egypt. “He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10) As we look at the sins of parental favoritism, envy and hatred from Joseph’s brothers (which led to a plot to murder him) the message for us is, “there apart from the grace of God go I.”
Most commentators agree that Joseph was righteous in telling his father about his brother’s “evil deeds” (NIV says a “bad report;” also see Lev. 5:1) but they disagree on Joseph’s righteousness in telling his dreams to his brothers and father. The Scriptures seem to treat it more as youthful naiveté than spiritual pride and it inadvertently helps serve the purpose of God – for the brothers to envy Joseph and sell him into slavery. (Gen. 50:20) It also may have been this vision from God that sustained Joseph in his long and deep trial. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) Spiritual vision ultimately comes from one place – intimate communion with the Lord. Satan has a vision for our life: Look out for #1. The world has a vision for our life: Look out for #1. God has a vision for our life: Live for the ONE – Lose your life for Christ’s sake and be rewarded for all eternity (Matthew 16:24-27): Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.
Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph is understandable in one sense because he was the first son of his beloved Rachel and maybe even looked like her. But in another sense it seems Jacob would have learned from the pain he felt from his own father’s favoritism toward his brother Esau. The Bible pulls back the covers and lets us see the reality of a fallen world with sinful people and dysfunctional families even among God’s chosen ones. The world lies to us with Ozzie and Harriet soap operas and we hide and pretend (fig-leaves cover ups began with our first family) and deny or justify our own family dysfunctions generation after generation. For example we see the sin of lying from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to his sons. Exodus 20:5 says the sins of our fathers (mothers too) can affect us for generations. Little children have big ears (and big eyes) and mimic what they see the parents do and unless the family sin pattern is admitted, confessed to God and repented of it can continue on and on. Even then it takes the supernatural power of God to turn from ingrained flesh patterns that have marked our lives for years. But as believers with the power of Christ within us, we can be set free and break the sin cycle in our family lineage. (See Romans 7:14- 8:1-4)
“His brothers were jealous of him, (the Hebrew word here means, envied him) but his father kept the matter in mind.” Beware of envy; it is even worse than coveting. Our advertising industry does not teach that envy is good but it does teach that it is good to be envied. Most of us may not be aware that we envy someone until we find ourselves rejoicing over their misfortune. Envy is what motivated the Pharisees to kill our Lord Jesus. “For he (Pilate) was aware that it was [because they were prompted] by envy that the chief priests had delivered Him (Jesus) up.” (Mark 15:10) As Os Guinness says, “Envy is a raging fire, a spreading poison, a red hot coal, a poison-tipped arrow” (Steering Through Chaos) and should be quickly repented of. Look where it led Joseph’s brothers: "Come now, let's kill him… When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life.” Maybe Reuben was trying to make up for taking his father’s concubine in order to regain Jacob’s favor or maybe it was because he felt more responsible as the oldest brother. “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing- and they took him and threw him into the cistern. As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." Thanks to Reuben and Judah, Joseph was not murdered by them but sold as a slave for 20 pieces of silver (the going price for a young male slave – Lev. 27:5).
“Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe." Again note that when they lied to their father about what happened they referred to Joseph as “your son” not “our brother.” Once again we see God’s poetic justice as Jacob the deceiver (liar) of his father is deceived by his sons and even using a goat in both cases for their deception. (Gen. 27:9; Numbers 32:23) And we see the generational sin of lying continue its damage.
“Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him.” Here in this scene of deep despair and the consequences of the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers – Jacob weeping inconsolably and Joseph being sold as a slave far away from home in a strange country; here against the darkness of evil and despair we see the light of God’s plan begin to dawn with the very last verse of this chapter: “Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.” (See Judges 8:24 – Midianites and Ishmaelites are used interchangeably) Joseph should have ended up as a common field slave and never been heard of again. But God had a plan to connect him to Pharaoh and in Chapter 39 he is falsely accused and sent to Pharaoh’s prison by Potiphar. “Joseph's master (Potiphar) took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's (Pharaoh’s) prisoners were confined.” (Gen. 39:20)
“The hiddeness of God” – God often works behind the scenes in our lives and we like Joseph must have a robust faith in His love, power and plan for our lives as we are faithful and obedient in the little things and ready and willing to be used however He chooses. Joseph will pass many more tests of injustice, integrity and long-suffering as God prepares him to rescue Egypt and his own people as they come to Egypt for food during the famine and remain in the womb of Egypt to become the nation of Israel some 400 years later.
But often in the Scriptures and in history, faithfulness to God may not end well in this life; Jesus being the greatest example, along with His disciples, Paul and the early church. And look at the obedient saints in many countries today who suffer and even die for their faith in Christ. We must have a long-term (heavenly) perspective for our short-term life here on earth and ultimately we can say with Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us.”(Romans 8:31) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
Where is the Lord calling you to be faithful and obedient in “little things” that are difficult? How can Luke 16:10 encourage you?
Most of us may not be aware that we envy someone until we find ourselves rejoicing in their misfortune. Have you ever found yourself glad over someone’s trials and problems? If so, what are we told to do about it?
How do the evil, murderous acts of Joseph’s brothers strike you? (See Romans 3:9-18)
“The hiddeness of God” – Have there been times in your life (maybe right now) when you can’t see God’s good plan being worked out? How did you or are you dealing with it?