In my flirtings with the Bible over my life I’ve often read the first few chapters of Genesis. Recently, I read through the entire book. This wasn’t a part of my regular Bible study, I just wanted to start a casual straight read through of the Bible that I do in my spare time. I remember my dad doing that when I was a kid. He’d just start at the front and work his way through it. Then at some point you’d see him doing it all over again. That picture of him sitting there on the couch doing those read throughs has never left me (my brother recently showed me that my dad still owns that same exact Bible that he’d sit there and read through, which blew me away). I hate to get off track in the first paragraph, but I do just want to mention to those of you with kids or around kids, it’s not always your words that they remember, it’s your actions. My dad didn’t make a production of his Bible reading. He grabbed it, sat there silently, and read. Yet it’s one of my most vivid childhood memories of him.
Okay, so back to the Bible. As I read through Genesis a few things jumped out at me. First, it’s super long! In my ignorance, I always thought that Genesis is just the creation story. Man, I was way off! There are an incredible amount of stories and history in this book. I wasn’t expecting that. This book really crackles with life, which is awesome.
Like I said, I had no intentions of using this particular read through of the Bible here in this blog, but when I got to the story of Joseph I knew it was something I had to write about. There are three major things about Joseph’s story that forced me to pick up my notebook and start scribbling notes.
Joseph had ten big brothers. They were his half brothers. Joseph’s dad showed special favor to him. You’ve got these ten older brothers, and then you’ve got 17 year old Joseph who is obviously dad’s favorite. That’s already a situation that’s going to create tension and jealousy. It doesn’t help that Joseph might’ve been a bit of a brat. The Bible doesn’t say that, particularly, but as I studied it I couldn’t help but picture him as that quintessential annoying little brother, the one who is the parent’s favorite and he knows it. The Bible even documents a time Joseph “gave a bad report” to his dad about some people, which makes me picture him as a bit of a tattle tale. Joseph also wore a special robe of many colors that he got from dear old dad. A special robe for a special boy! I’m sure the brothers loved that.
Genesis 37:4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Joseph was given amazing dreams by the Lord. These dreams were pretty clear in that they depicted Joseph in a place of power over his brothers. So what does Joseph do? He goes and tells his brothers all about the dream. Keep in mind, this is a time period when birthright and birth order are a big deal. And here comes little brother, his special colorful robe billowing behind him, talking about a dream he had where he’s going to be ruler over all of his brothers.
It came as no real surprise to me when I continued to read and found that his big brothers plotted to kill him. Well, 9 of the 10. His brother Reuben isn’t into the plan. Eventually, the brothers toss Joseph into a big hole in the ground and leave him there to die. Reuben’s plan is to come back later and rescue Joseph. Well, he never gets a chance. The brothers come across some enterprising folks and decide, hey, we should make a little money off of this situation. So they sell Joseph into slavery. They rip up his colorful robe, splash it with some animal blood, and go home and convince dear old dad that his favored son got killed in the wilderness.
I was somewhat surprised when I read that Joseph is great at being a slave. He was raised with special privileges, used to getting his way and getting extra attention from his dad. He displayed some truly bratty traits, and all of that made me think that he would not adapt well at all to life as a slave. But, in a display of his deeper character, Joseph excels as a slave. His new master appreciates and trusts him and eventually puts Joseph in charge of his entire Egyptian household.
This really amazes me, and I don’t want to skip over this. Imagine that your family betrays you and sells you into slavery. Your life as you know it is over, and now you’re the possession of someone else. Are you going to be happy? Are you going to work hard and try to excel in your new role as a slave? I know that I wouldn’t. I’d be in despair, I’d probably just want to die rather than live a life of slavery. But the Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph.
Genesis 39:3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.
Joseph is at his worst point in his entire life, but who else is there with him? God’s there. It wasn’t my intention to even make this point but as I arrive at this part of the story I just had to stop and say it. God’s in the bad times! When someone does us wrong, when our circumstance gets flipped upside down through no fault of our own, when we find ourselves in terrible times, we are not there alone. I just feel like it’s important to hammer this until it’s stuck in my brain. God doesn’t just exist in the church, He’s not just with me when I pray, and He doesn’t only come out in the daylight. God is with us in the worst of times, just as He is in the best of times. Joseph’s been betrayed by his own brothers, he’s been ripped from his homeland and sold into slavery, and the Lord was with him, showing him favor and causing all that he did to succeed.
CLOSING AND PRAYER
I’ll look deeper into that final concept later in this study, but I just want to state it here too. God can do good in bad situations. He doesn’t depart when storm clouds gather, He doesn’t disappear from us when the battle’s about to begin. He is the God of the morning and the evening, of the light and the dark.
For prayers today, I want to do something a little different. Joseph was someone who had some family issues, as obviously he wasn’t on great terms with his ten big brothers. This being the month of Thanksgiving, family is just on my heart. I wanna ask that you pick out a difficult family member and pray for them. Maybe this is someone who’s never treated you well, or someone you had a falling out with once, whatever the case, just find one person in your family and lift them up to God. Pray for healing in the relationship between the two of you if that’s what is needed. Or just pray for them to be blessed.
Obviously I’m just getting started with my study of Joseph and I’m so excited to continue this study in the coming days and weeks. I hope everyone’s week is off to a great start. I love you guys and never ever doubt that God loves you, too. He loves us so much, guys. Sometimes I think about it and it’s just nuts how much He loves us.