Yesterday, I had the opportunity to lead my daughters through Genesis 37 as I played substitute for my wife. They have been reading through Genesis this year in their homeschool curriculum, covering the major themes surrounding the creation of the nation of Israel. As we read through this story, several lessons came to mind, which I’ll write in bold throughout this blog.
To refresh your memory, this is the story of Jacob (aka Israel) and his twelve sons. Now Jacob was a pretty messed up dude, and you have to go back to his upbringing to understand why. He had an older brother, Esau, who was rightfully in line to be the primary heir of his father, Isaac. However, Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, loved Jacob more than Esau. This favoritism led Jacob to steal his brother’s birthright and blessing from his father, and led to severe consequences when he became an adult. Not only was there tension between him and his brother, but it also influenced his life as a husband and a father. Lesson #1: Don’t show favoritism among your children (or with anyone). It only leads to strife.
Jacob married two women, Leah & Rachel, and fathered at least 12 children from four different women, and he also had a favorite child, something he no-doubtedly learned from his mother. His favorite child was Joseph, whom he adorned with a beautiful robe to signify to his siblings his status as Jacob’s favorite. This favoritism created intense jealousy among his brothers, so much so that they plotted to kill him. When the oldest son, Rueben, stepped in and talked some sense into his siblings, they changed from plotting to kill Joseph to simply finding a way to get rid of him, eventually selling him to traders on their way to Egypt. Lesson #2: Jealousy/envy always leads to other sins.
Rueben was unaware of their actions to sell Joseph to traders, so when Rueben returned in an attempt to save Joseph, he could not find him and was filled with sorrow at the loss of his brother. To cover up what they had done, Joseph’s siblings killed an animal in order to have blood they could spread on Joseph’s robe. Their hope was to prove to their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal, and that they were innocent. Upon hearing of his son’s death, Jacob tore his clothes and cried out, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” The pain of losing a child is an unquenchable sorrow, making every day a reminder of that which was lost. Lesson #3: Our sins affect more people in more ways than we could ever imagine.
Joseph found himself, at no fault of his own, on his way to a foreign land in the hands of men who only planned to use him for monetary gain. It must have been beyond scary to be in chains, heading to an unknown land with no idea of what the future holds. Would be live or would he die. Would he be enslaved or would he be free. Would he ever see his family again or would he forever be estranged. It was completely out of his control. Lesson #4: Sometimes bad things happen that aren’t our fault, yet God will use it for His glory and for our good.
As you may remember, the story of Joseph and his family took a wild detour. The year, possibly decades, following Joseph’s migration to Egypt led to him eventually being exalted to the highest place of honor in the kingdom, and a severe famine drove his family to Egypt in search of food. God had placed Joseph in a position to offer aid to anyone that had need, and a divine meeting had been set. So many years had passed that Joseph’s family didn’t even recognize him, but God had placed him there to not only save those in Egypt, but his family as well. Lesson #5: Even when the story doesn’t make sense, God is working out His plans, which cannot be thwarted.