The story of Joseph in Genesis 37 has been on my mind a lot here lately. Here we have Jacob son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Renamed Israel by the Most High, and inheritor of great promises, Jacob has many sons. Among these sons, Joseph is the favorite because he was born of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel when Israel was an old man.
The fact of Jacob favoring Joseph is no secret. As a constant reminder, Joseph is given a coat of many colors. And Joseph’s older brothers hate him for it.
But then Joseph tells his family his dreams. And these require little imagination to interpret as expectation that he will one day have the place of chief importance and authority. The sun, moon, and stars will bow to him, and these represent his father and mother and brothers. Again, Joseph’s older brothers hate him for it.
So when their father sends the favorite son to check on what his other boys are doing in the field, they hatch a plan to kill him as they see him coming from a distance.
As a mercy and point of conscience, the voices of reason among the older brothers decide to take the coat of favoritism from Joseph and throw him in a pit. Then they sell him into slavery and tell their father Joseph had an accident.
That’s Not All, Folks
Being sold into slavery by his brothers is not the end of Joseph. As a slave in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, Joseph proves his worth and is put in charge of the household. Then he is falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife.
But this also is not the end of Joseph. In the prison, Joseph again shows his excellent character. And in due time, God orchestrates not only his release, but his meteoric rise to power in Egypt as second only to the Pharaoh, preparing the country through seven years of plenty to withstand a foretold seven years of famine which will follow.
Then comes the famine, and Joseph’s brothers are sent to Egypt to buy grain from the stores Joseph has prepared as instructed. And when Joseph sees them, he has every ability to destroy them. But in Genesis 50:20, Joseph says a remarkable thing when he reveals himself after toying with them awhile.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
What God Means for Good
Envy and jealousy are all too common human temptations. And from Cain and Abel to the present, no shortage of human actors have been seized by these and consequently rationalized all manner of destruction against the objects of their wrath.
In my own circumstance, it is easy to see parallel scenarios in which a pursuit of excellence for the Father’s good pleasure is appreciated along the same lines which led Joseph’s brothers to toss him in a pit and sell him into slavery.
What strikes me as remarkable in the story of Joseph is not the all too common evil of his brothers, but rather the enduring faithfulness and goodness of God.
And humanly speaking within the narrative of Genesis, there is no hint of bitterness on the part of Joseph. Perhaps this too is a miracle. But maybe instead of seeing it as supernatural, we should see the steadiness of purpose and calm resolve in Joseph as an inevitable product of trusting the promises and enduring faithfulness of God.
We too may find ourselves set back as we see it by jealous rivals and their schemes. But we must look to God to be our avenger and deliverer.
As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:28,
“…We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
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