By Linda Kay Upton
“The Lord said to me, ‘You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that My Word is fulfilled.’ They keep saying to me ‘Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it now be fulfilled!’” Jeremiah 1:12, 17:15
JOSEPH: LOVED, HATED, DREAMER, PROPHET, GRACIOUS RULER
“Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.’” Genesis 50:19-20
Joseph and his coat of many colors is a well-known story and is even presented as a musical play on many stages. There is so much more to Joseph’s life than the brief time he spent with his family where his father loved him and presented him with the ornamented tunic (coat, long-sleeved robe). Jacob, Joe’s daddy, overtly loved Joseph more than all his other sons (and he had 12 altogether). Joseph was next to the youngest. In those days, the oldest son was to take over leadership of the extended family when the father passed away. When Jacob gave that special tunic to Joseph, he announced, without a family meeting or discussion, that Joe would be the one to lead the family. Yep, Jacob played favorites! You would think he had learned the lesson of the harm that does to a family since his parents, Rebekah and Isaac played favorites too with disastrous results! But that’s another story. In case you’re wondering if Jacob had totally lost it to choose Joseph out of 12 possibilities, you need to know the “technicality” that would allow this. Jacob had 2 wives and 2 concubines. Joseph was the oldest son of Jacob’s second wife, Rachel. Also, Jacob didn’t really trust 10 of those other brothers. The entire family was shepherds. The older 10 brothers were not exactly honest in their dealings, (again, a story for another time) and Joe told on his brothers. Genesis 37:2c says, “and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.” So when Jake gave the special robe to Joe, “his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers [and] they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” Yep. Those 10 older brothers could not speak or interact with Joseph without conflict or hostility.
Now one would think, Joseph would notice and try to do and say things to help fit in with them. But, no! Not good ol’ Joe! Joseph had too much integrity and honesty to keep quiet when he saw a wrong or something pressing from the Lord to say. He had some dreams and boldly told his brothers and even his father these dreams. None of them missed the meaning of the dreams. In one dream Joe related that he and his brothers were binding sheaves in a field. Joe’s sheaf stood up and the others bowed down to his sheaf. Now that made the brothers even angrier at Joe. “And his brothers said to him, ‘Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” (Genesis 37:8) I can hardly believe, except God’s Word is true, so it must have happened just this way. Joseph dared to tell about his second dream. He told his brothers and father that the sun, the moon and 11 stars bowed down to him. So this time his dream included his 10 older brothers, his father and his wife, and his younger brother, Benjamin. While the brothers became even more incensed against Joseph, his father scolded him but pondered the matter. (Genesis 37:9-11) Now his brothers hated him so much they actually had murder in mind for him. One day while the 10 older brothers were busy shepherding, Jake sent Joe to see what those devious brothers were up to. Uh-oh…. “Now when they saw him afar off …they conspired to kill him.” (Genesis 37:18). These conniving brothers even thought up a great lie to tell their dad, Jacob. They were going to kill him, throw his body in a pit, and tell dear ol’ Dad that some beast must’ve gotten his beloved little Joe. But Reuben’s, conscience pricked him. He convinced the brothers not to kill him but throw him in a hole anyway. He thought he could rescue Joe and take him back to Jacob. But before Reuben could affect the rescue a caravan of traders passed by and another brother, Judah, got the brilliant idea that they could be rid of Joseph and get rich at the same time. He sold his brother to the traders who headed for Egypt. Joseph was only 17 years old.
Joseph was in Egypt for the rest of his life. Lots of good and bad, mostly bad stuff happened to Joseph for 13 years. He spent that time as a slave and mostly as a prisoner in jail. Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, had some troubling dreams and God revealed the meaning of those dreams to Joseph. Joseph was permitted audience with Pharaoh and prophesied that God was going to allow seven years of bounty before sending seven years of famine to the entire region. Pharaoh recognized the Divine Spirit working in Joseph and promoted him from prisoner to vizier, a ruler of Egypt at the age of 30, second in command under Pharaoh. Joseph used God-given wisdom to store enough food in seven years to feed all of Egypt and the entire region for another seven years. Meanwhile, back in Canaan, Joe’s family ran out of food and Jake sent the 10 older brothers to get some in Egypt. He kept the youngest, Benjamin, Joseph’s full brother, home. They bowed before the vizier of Egypt and asked for grain/food. Joe recognized them immediately, but they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams he’d had at least 20 years ago. Later Jacob, Benjamin, and the entire clan traveled to Egypt and were re-united. Joseph’s prophesies were fulfilled. His entire family bowed down to him as the second-in-command ruler of Egypt.
Some 17 years later, Jacob died. Now the brothers feared that Joseph would retaliate for the wrongs they had committed against him. Joseph was now in a position of power and they would be powerless against anything he chose to do to them. They were afraid! Even Jacob must have believed that in his position of power, Joseph might not have actually and fully forgiven them as Joseph had already indicated. “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve posterity for you in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God.”(Genesis 45:5, 7-8a). It must have been very difficult to understand such grace and mercy. The 10 older brothers were too afraid to seek an audience with Joseph. They sent a messenger to tell Joe that Dad said, “Please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” (Genesis 50:17) Then Joseph wept because they did not get it! They still did not know him at all! But Joseph, true to God and his own honest and integrity-filled character said to them directly (not through a messenger): “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21) What a gracious brother! He had much to forgive, yet he understood God’s grace and showed it not only to his brothers, but also to a nation (Egypt) and the surrounding region that would have starved and become extinct if not for the wisdom God gave Joseph.
Joseph was a loved son. He was a hated brother. He was a dreamer. He was a prophet. He was a gracious and generous ruler. Which of these traits has God bestowed on you? How will you use those traits to work for the good God has intended? How will you show God’s grace and forgiveness to family or others that have wronged you?
(For the full story of Joseph and God’s miraculous work of salvation, forgiveness and grace read Genesis 37, 38-50)