As we alternate our study from Genesis to the book of Revelation we can learn from the saints who were here on terra firma as we are now, how to prepare for our meeting with the Lord. We see both bad examples and good examples and can learn from both. As Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun regarding our fallen human nature (Eccl. 1:9-10) as we look at the sins of parental favoritism, envy, hatred and a plot to murder Joseph. Until 9/11/2001 we hardly ever heard the media use the word "evil" in describing man. We saw it then and here in Genesis and we must be aware that apart from Jesus any of us can do evil deeds.
"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) 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 seen only by God, pleased God as much as his role as a prince of Egypt.
Most commentators agree that Joseph was righteous in telling his father about his brothers' "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. Without vision My people perish, says the Lord. (Prov. 29:18) Satan's vision for our life: Look out for #1. The world's vision for our life: Look out for #1. God's vision for our life: Live for the ONE – Lose your life for My sake and you'll keep it for all eternity. (Matthew 16:25) Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. Spiritual vision ultimately comes from one place – intimate communion with the Lord.
Jacob's favoritism (the special coat probably meant he would have the privileges of the first born) of Joseph is understandable in one sense because he was the first son of his beloved Rachel and maybe even favored her. But in another sense it seems he would have learned from the pain of his own father's favoritism toward Esau. Yet note that the brothers punished Joseph for Jacob's sin. They should have been hurt and angry with the father more than with Joseph.
"His brothers were jealous (Hebrew for this is- envied) of him, but his father kept the matter in mind." Beware of envy; it is worse than coveting. Our advertising industry does not teach that envy is good but that it is good to be envied. "Envy is a raging fire, a spreading poison, a red hot coal. A poison-tipped arrow." (Os Guinness – Steering Through Chaos) Most of us may not be aware that we envy anyone until we find ourselves rejoicing in their misfortune or even their consequences for sin, but "Love does not rejoice in evil."(1 Cor. 13:6) Like Joseph's brothers we may justify our feelings by saying "that's just what they deserve." Envy is what killed our Lord. "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)
"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 and regain his favor. Or maybe it was because he felt more responsible as the oldest brother. But thanks to him and later 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).
"They stripped him of his robe and they took him and threw him into the cistern (See vv. 24-25) as they sat down to eat their meal." Note their hardheartedness as they threw Joseph in the cistern and sat down and ate a meal while he was crying out for mercy as they talk about this later in Genesis 42:21.
"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 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)
"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. 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) 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." 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 good 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 has not ended 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 China today. We must have a long-term perspective (heaven) 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? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."(Rom. 8:31, 37)
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
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 anyone until we find ourselves rejoicing in their misfortune or even their consequences for sin, but "Love does not rejoice in evil."(1 Cor. 13:6) Have you ever found yourself glad over someone's trials and problems? If so, what did you do about it?
How do the evil acts of Joseph's brothers strike you?
"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?
Scripture memory verse: "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 Amp.)