5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.Genesis 37:5-8 ESV
What was Joseph thinking?
Many sermons over the years have tried to interpret his motivation and perspective on the world as the favorite son of the well-known patriarch Israel. According to various teachers, he was selfish, foolish, prideful, innocent, trusting, oblivious, attention seeking, or sheltered. I do not claim to really know. Very few places in scripture unveil the full thought life of these people that I like to think I know so well.
Maybe he was a little of all those things. Maybe he needed a trip to Egypt via a hole in the ground and an Ishmaelite caravan to become the God-fearing man that would save his extended family from starvation.
As God matures me, I am growing more thankful for the hard situations that he walks through with me. I would not be who I am without those pits and detours. In this chapter we see some of the crafting of Joseph’s character. Even his brother Reuben recognized the harshness of the situation that Joseph’s other brothers intended and tried to spare Joseph from it.
21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.Genesis 35:21-22 ESV
29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?”Genesis 35:29-30 ESV
No person can “rescue” another person from the path that God intends to use to grow them. God loves our souls more than our bodies, our eternity more than our temporal. The pharisees in the New Testament and many of us in the church today still struggle with valuing our bodies a little too much.
38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he [Jesus] did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”Luke 11:38-44 ESV
“Give as alms those things that are within.”
Joseph was forced to lay down his life and his agenda. I don’t think I ever considered the bougie life he was accustomed to. The favorite son. Enviable wardrobe, spared from working, clearly felt secure enough to say whatever popped into his head. In that state and environment he was not yet ready to be used by God. God had to make it vividly clear that those outer trappings had no value in His economy. Joseph had everything taken from him so he could learn to serve God with his inner character, to give alms to God of the only commodity he had left in the trials that would follow, himself.
May I daily learn to live out the same truth regardless of the challenges brought my way. Trusting God in words, heart, and actions.
Dear Precious, Loving, Good Father, You are Holy and Wise beyond comprehension. Help me continue to grow in my trust in you and all you are accomplishing on earth throughout history. Give me what I need today and tomorrow that I may rest in both your blessing and sufficiency. I desire to forgive generously, just as you do. May I walk in purity and boldness through whatever path you lead. In Jesus name, amen.