Please read Gen 37: 1-11 beforehand
The Word-loving reader may ask why we are skipping chapter 36; is that chapter not also part of God’s inspired Word? Yes, certainly it is and certainly there are many precious lessons to be learned from it, but unfortunately, when writing a book, one has to restrict its pages, or it becomes too bulky. For this reason, one has to concentrate on certain portions and leave the rest to be dealt with some other time.
A. JOSEPH AS A TYPE OF CHRIST (Gen 37-50)
- Studying the life of Joseph, imparts a special blessing to the reader, because it so vividly pictures the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A pure lifestyle
Firstly, Joseph’s character is unblemished, even during the first 13 years when he was experiencing severe tests. This is in contrast with other anointed servants of God, who stumbled in one way or the other, for instance Moses who’s anger flared up and, in disobedience struck the rock with his staff, instead of speaking to it as God had commanded.
Then there was David, the king after God’s own heart who committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. Jesus, of course, never sinned. He was the spotless Lamb of God. In this, Joseph’s character is a pointer towards Christ.
The nature of Joseph’s ministry also has many similarities to that of the Lord Jesus, the most important being that he was rejected by his own people but used by God as a saviour, as a “’preserver of lives,” not only for his relatives, but also for the heathen world.
God’s dealings with mankind
The record of God’s dealings with mankind, is indeed a work of art, a tapestry masterfully woven of which the detail was sketched onto the cloth before the foundation of the world and of which the stitches are now artfully applied in a multiple of colour shades and over a period of thousands of years. At the end of the ages, when it will be complete, not a jot or tittle will be missing.
In this work of art on which God is working, your and my life also have their places, although it might be just two little stitches in the vast frame of the ages.
B. JOSEPH AND HIS DREAMS (Gen 37:1-11)
- Enjoying the present and expecting a bright future
The story of Joseph’s life has a delightful beginning. He was his father’s first-born son with his beloved wife Rachel. At the age of 17, it was clear to one and all that he was to Jacob, the apple of his eye and would most probably inherit his vast estate and not Reuben, his first born with Leah or any of his other older brothers. Jacob gave an indication of his fondness of Jacob by presenting him with a full length, long sleeved robe, the attire of a king. His, was a bright future while he daily delighted himself in the loving fellowship with his father.
Between the now and the then
His life would then also indeed end in a beautiful way – but only 93 years later, of which the first 13 hit him like an unexpected tornado. He would eventually receive much more than what he had even expected, – but it would not just fall into his lap.
Amongst the thorns
Like Christ, Who had to assist His Father in his carpenter’s workshop, Joseph, being part of a community of livestock farmers, at times had to herd their sheep and goats together with his brothers. Being with them day by day, he soon came to realize that there was a dark side to their lives which they hid from their father, ugly things not fitting a family chosen by God to become a blessing for the whole world.
This troubled him and, on returning home, he revealed it to his father who, of course, took it up with his brothers. This was a serious matter because it could even affect their future inheritance. That he, a young lad, could be such a thorn in the flesh to them, caused a root of bitterness to sprout in their hearts.
What should I do?
Did he do right by informing his father of what his brothers were doing? Answering the following questions might help us to find an answer:
- Was he taking revenge because they were treating him badly?
- Was he trying to win even more of his father’s favour?
- Did he first, although he was the youngest brother, speak to them regarding the wrong in their lives? They were probably already married men, while he was a boy of 17 – so confronting them would have been very difficult.
- Did he feel that he had a responsibility towards his father in this matter?
- Was it his intention to forestall bad consequences for his brothers and the family? (Sometime before they had to leave the area of Shechem when Simeon and Levi murdered the men of the city.)
These are questions which one would have to ask yourself should you land up in a similar position at work.
Many brothers but no friends
All that Scripture says in this regard, is that his brothers hated him and had no friendly word for him.
Jacob’s love for Joseph
For Jacob to have shown by his conduct that he loved Joseph more than his other sons, was the wrong thing to do. He had not learned from the faults of his parents, Isaac and Rebecca, who each had a favourite child. It not only led to envy and hatred by the elder brothers, but was also detrimental to Joseph himself, because it made him, the younger brother, the focal point of the burning hatred of ten men older than himself.
There was serious tension within this family. Jacob had, unknowingly, created a highly explosive situation and that, amid grown men, some of whom were already walking around with highly inflammable emotions within themselves.
Joseph’s explosive dreams
While this unrest was smouldering, Joseph one night had a very significant dream. He dreamt that he and his brothers were gathering sheaves in the fields, when his sheave stood upright, and his brother’s sheaves bowed down before it. All excited he told his brothers of this wonderful revelation which he was sure was of God.
They reacted with violent indignation, probably gesturing with their arms and faces red with anger, shouting at him, “Do you want to rule over us?”
The dust had hardly settled when the Lord gave him a similar dream in which he saw the sun, moon and stars bowing down before him.
Again, he told his family what he had dreamt. Now it was not only his brothers, but also his father that was affronted and he sternly rebuked Joseph yet kept the dream in mind.
Joseph’s testifying of God’s blessings
Was it right of Joseph to tell his brothers of his dreams (dreams that we will later see were clearly from God?)
Considering the tense relationships experienced within the family, it was humanly speaking an unwise thing to do, adding brush wood to the smouldering fire. Did he later regret doing so or was he certain he had done the right thing, notwithstanding its consequences?
When should a Christian testify of God’s supernatural deeds?
When we want to testify of the blessing we received from God, the following factors are of importance:
- Generally speaking, it is very important that we share, with the right people, what God told us, for in so doing, our faith is strengthened, and we work together with Him to bring about His plans. Should we later on, due to difficult situations that arise, be tempted to doubt whether we had heard correctly, we can think back of the occasions when we had shared our vision with others and will remember how convinced we were of what we had heard of God.
- There are however qualifications attached to the bearing out of our testimony namely:
- Is it to give vent to our joy, to bless others and to glorify God, or are we boasting about the exceptional favour we are experiencing from God? In other words, is it all about me? What is my motive; what do I want to achieve?
- For whom did God intend these revelations: for me only, or also for others? Was Joseph’s prophetical dreams only for his own information or also for that of his relatives? Looking at it superficially, it seems that they were intended only for him; with the purpose of strengthening his faith during the difficult time that lay ahead.
- The Lord Jesus also warned that one must not cast your pearls to the pigs; that is, not speak of these precious revelations you received from Him, to people that are only interested in worldly things and especially in dirty things, people that would take offense of your words and use them against you (Math 7:6). You must exercise wisdom.
Love … is not jealous (1 Cor 13:4)
The other side of the coin is that if the brother’s relationships with God and with Joseph had been right, they, who’s father, grandfather Isaac and great-grandfather Abraham, had been used to receive revelations from God, would have seen these dreams of their brother in a different light and would, like their father, have thought deeply about them to discover what they meant. They would also have glorified God for the favour bestowed on them as a family.
God’s directing of events
Irrespective of our view on this matter, God allowed this unpleasant family strife to serve as a link in the chain of events that would lead to Joseph’s abduction to Egypt, his later ascending to the thrown and the saving of the lives of his people.
His brothers would also, some 20 years later, when they bowed down before him in Egypt, have recalled the prophetical dreams that he had shared with them that had made them so angry. Yes, they would then realize that they had unknowingly rebelled against God.
God loves using families
Let us also note how the Lord communicated, not only with great-grandfather Abraham, but also with grandfather, Isaac, then with father, Jacob and now with great-grandson, Joseph of the fourth generation.
The Lord loves working within families, generation after generation, therefore, thank the Lord in all humility if you are so privileged to be part of a believing lineage and pray for those that are from a very murky, worldly background and had not been exposed to the light of God’s revelation from early childhood.
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