The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), January 14
Joseph never had a chance with his brothers.
When Jacob prepares to meet Esau, he places the maidservants and their children in front of his delegation (the most dangerous position) followed by Leah and her brood. He places Rachel and Joseph closest to himself (Gen. 33:1-3). Wonder what this did to impact sibling rivalry?
Jacob’s designing a “tunic of many colors” (37:3) for Joseph to wear only increases the distance between the brothers and further distinguishes Joseph as Jacob’s favored and loved son. Then he has those dreams with interpretations and implications far too clear to miss. Poor guy never has a chance!
Life does that to people—sets them up for challenging relationships and harsh circumstances. “But God” (great words) transforms those challenges into providence and uses them to propel His redemptive purposes. He did that with Joseph, and He does that with His people today.
Bitterness, hatred, betrayal, and retaliation are mere man-made chisels upon the stone of Joseph’s life and the seminal nation of Israel to fulfill His promise to Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen. 15:13-14).
Jacob’s favoritism and the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers reveal several truths about family dysfunction and providence:
- Bitterness, hatred, betrayal, retaliation, vengeance, etc., though formed in the heart of man intent on evil, provide the tools that He uses to bring His people “out with great possessions.” He takes and uses the evil that men do to transform those whom He loves.
- God wastes nothing, including unfair treatment, abuse, etc. He doesn’t cause them, but He utilizes them for His own redemptive purposes.
- It takes a lifetime to comprehend how God uses the evil that men do to further His redemptive purposes. Therefore, it is always too soon to cast judgment on God (why is He allowing this to happen? Why didn’t He intervene?) or to withhold forgiveness to offenders.
Joseph’s story gives an example of a lifetime view of family dysfunction and providence, when the story continues with, “Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard” (Gen. 37:36). What a hope-filled word! Something else is always going on that eye cannot see or mind understand, but that faith in God can grasp.
The truth that “God uses what He hates to perform what He loves” should warm our hearts with possibility. How will God use this in my life?
Questions from today’s reading (Genesis 37:1-39:23; 1 Chronicles 2:3-6,8):
How does Jacob’s partiality toward Joseph affect Joseph’s relationship with his brothers? (You’d think Jacob would have learned a thing or two about favoritism!)
How do Joseph’s dreams alter his life and the life of his brothers?
The narrative regarding Judah and Tamar cannot be glossed over since Jacob isolates Judah from his brothers as the one through whom God will continue His redemptive promises (Gen. 49:10). How does the LORD bypass Judah’s indifference regarding his future descendants? What does this reveal about how God works?