Thoroughly Equipped: Digging Wells

Today’s reading is Genesis 46:1-47:31, Matthew 15:1-28, Psalm 19:1-14, Proverbs 4:14-19.

In Genesis 46 we find a short account with a significant meaning.  Jacob set out for Egypt to be reunited with Joseph.  This was a permanent move for him.  He came to Beersheba and offered sacrifices to God and during the night he had a vision from the Lord.  I believe he stopped there for a reason.  This place, Beersheba, had a family history that Jacob would have been familiar with.  In fact, scripture says Jacob offered the sacrifice to “the God of his father, Isaac.”  And God spoke to him, calling him by name and identifying Himself in this way:  “I am God, the God of your father…Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation.”

Jacob was missing his dad.  Surely, it would have been good to have his father Isaac’s wisdom as he headed to a new land permanently.  So he stopped at Beersheba.

Beersheba was where Abraham had dug many wells.  He had a conflict with Abimelech there and they made a covenant that the well would forever be known as Abraham’s well.

Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock.  And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” He said, “These seven ewe lambs you shall accept from my hand, in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”  Therefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there both of them swore an oath.  When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines.  Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.

Genesis 21: 28-33

Notice the offering of the seven lambs.  It was a holy interaction.  Years later, Isaac, also dug wells at Beersheba.  According to Elizabeth Fletcher,

Jacob’s father, Isaac–Abraham’s son–“had made a similar pact about water with the same king (or his son, the meaning in the Bible is not clear). But there was trouble ahead. Isaac was extraordinarily successful at whatever he did. His crops flourished, his flocks grew, and he began to amass considerable wealth. But his success proved his downfall, since the local herdsmen thought he was using more than his fair share of available water resources. He was asked to leave, presumably with the threat of violence if he did not go. He went. Later on he returned. When he did, he found that the wells dug by his father had been filled with stones and earth, and thereby made useless. Undeterred, he set about restoring them, and in the process restored his own fortunes as well.”

This family history drew Jacob to pause and reconnect with his history and with his God before proceeding to Egypt for the last leg of his life.  He probably drew water from those wells that night and remembered the faithfulness of God throughout the generations.  And he was refreshed physically and spiritually.

Beersheba was located at the southern tip of ancient Israel.  It was the last bit of fertile land before the Negev Desert. Here, desert travellers watered their animals before heading into the heat of the desert.  The name, Beersheba, meant “Well of Seven” or “Well of the Oath”.  Even in modern times, the ancient site of Beersheba has been counted as strategically important because of  its crossroads location and reliable water supply.

In his vision from God, Jacob was given a glimpse into the future. God told him plainly that he would die in Egypt.  But there were three words of great conciliation and comfort that God gave to Jacob:

I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”

                                                                                                   Genesis 46:4

God promised to be with him.  God promised that he would not only see Joseph again, but that he would be with Joseph for the remainder of his days.  God also promised that He would bring Jacob back again.

Jacob would not have wanted to be buried in the foreign land of Egypt.  And God made sure that this happened at the end of Jacob’s life as we see in Genesis 50. Jacob was buried in the land of Canaan, the land promised to his people.

Though Beersheba is not mentioned in the New Testament, areas of land which were accessible to water continued to be very important in Biblical times.  One such area was bought by Jacob after he reconciled with his brother Esau.  It must have had great significance to Jacob as a place of refreshment–not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.  He was finally free of a 20-year burden.  He was finally reconciled with his brother, and the pain which impacted the whole family was finally gone.  It must have been in this understanding–in this common bond he shared with Joseph, who also was finally at peace with his family–that Jacob offered that land to his son, Joseph.

And beyond what I have given your brothers, I am giving you an extra portion of the land that I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”

                                                                                                    Genesis 48:22

And hundreds of years later we see Jesus at that same spot offering understanding and reconciliation to the woman at the well.

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

                                                                        John 4:5-26

We all dig wells. We all find sources of refreshment, sources to ease our thirsty souls.  But there is only one source of Living Water.  There is only one way to be truly satisfied.  And that source is Jesus Christ, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves; the One who perfectly understands our past, present, and future; the only One who can satisfy our every need.

It is precious to see how faithfully God led Jacob throughout his life despite his sin, despite his hardships.  God kept his promises to Jacob–every single one.  Genesis 46:26 tells us that the total number of Jacob’s direct descendants who went with him to Egypt was sixty-six.  This was an incomplete number for Jacob.  It was not the complete picture of God’s faithfulness. The total fulfillment of God’s promise would not be found until he got to Egypt.  When the process of reconciliation was complete, the number rose to 70 members of Jacob’s family in the land of Egypt, including Joseph and his sons.  Ten multiples of seven.  A perfect and complete picture of the faithfulness of God.

Scripture tells us the God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  His faithfulness to you is equal to his faithfulness to Jacob.  But like Jacob, it may take us a lifetime to see the complete picture.

Thoroughly Equipped: Tears in His Bottle

Today’s reading is Genesis 44:1-45:28, Matthew 14:13-36, Psalm 18:37-50, Proverbs 4:11-13.

As I read through the text today, I asked the Lord to reveal what He wanted me to see; to whisper a new truth or remind me of a truth I already embraced.  And immediately what came to mind was “Joseph’s tears”.  I began to think of the whole story and thought, “Yes, Joseph did seem to be an emotional guy.”  And rightly so.  He was betrayed by his family, sold into slavery, lied about and falsely accused, put into prison, and forgotten by an ungrateful cup bearer.  But as I began to look back at what I had already read, and then look forward to what the assigned reading will be in the next couple of days, I realized that his tears were not recorded in scripture during those hard times.  We don’t see that he wept during those times, though I am sure he did.  But what I felt drawn to study were the times it was recorded in scripture that he wept.  And I found some interesting things.  First of all, I found that there were 7 times that scripture records that Joseph wept.  Remember that holy number seven?  It means completion and perfection.  It was not recorded that Joseph wept until he had the upper hand, until he had won the battle.  It was not recorded that Joseph wept in any circumstance except in relation to his family–in relation to the ones who would represent the family of God.  And I believe that it is true that family evokes the deepest tears—both tears of pain and tears of joy.

Joseph wept 7 times.  And those 7 accounts of tears wrap up the story completely and perfectly.  Those tears were healing and redemptive.  Let’s take a look:

  1. Genesis 42: 24– Now he turned away from them and began to weep. When he regained his composure, he spoke to them again. Then he chose Simeon from among them and had him tied up right before their eyes.

When Joseph overheard his brothers talking about what they did to him he wept.  Did this remind him of the deep wounds of betrayal and hardship that still haunted him? It appears these tears were in anger because he tied up Simeon right after and in front of the others.  Why Simeon?  Maybe he was the main instigator of the betrayal.  We see later that his blessing from his father was more of a curse because of his wild and violent ways.  Regardless, Joseph shed angry, though understandable, tears in this first account.

  1. Genesis 43:29-30  Then Joseph looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother. “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” Joseph asked. “May God be gracious to you, my son.”  Then Joseph hurried from the room because he was overcome with emotion for his brother. He went into his private room, where he broke down and wept.

When he saw his full brother, Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion, with love.  He wept at the realization that he was finally seeing his own blood brother.  He was probably weeping for all the lost years, as well.  Benjamin had been very young when he had left; now he was almost grown.  And Joseph had been robbed of those years.

  1. Genesis 45:1-2 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

When Joseph told his brothers who he was, he was overcome with emotion.  These were the tears of the truth laid bare–of revealing who he really was to those whom he had known his whole life.  And yet, they didn’t really know him now did they?

  1. Genesis 45:14 14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same.

Joseph wept when he embraced Benjamin as a brother who was fully known, weeping in joy.  And then he wept over each of his brothers.  These were tears of reunion and reconciliation. It must have been a beautiful reunion, because after that, they began talking freely with him.

  1. Genesis 46:29  Joseph prepared his chariot and traveled to Goshen to meet his father, Jacob. When Joseph arrived, he embraced his father and wept, holding him for a long time.

Joseph wept when he was reunited with his father.  These were tears of joy in the reunion, and tears of grief in the years lost.  But mostly joy!

  1. Genesis 50:1-2 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph told the physicians who served him to embalm his father’s body; so Jacob[a] was embalmed.                                                                                                      When his father died, he threw himself on him and wept in grief.  It was the raw, anguished cry of grief.  I have experienced that before, as have most people.  It is raw and loud and my reserved personality would only want the most intimate of family and friends to witness it.  But it is vital in walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  When Mont and I were missionaries in Ecuador we witnessed the grief ceremonies of the Indian tribal people who lived near the jungle hospital.  They wailed and chanted in unison for hours and hours.  It was loud and long and uncomfortable for them and for those of us who witnessed it.  But they may be onto something healthy.  They didn’t stuff it or ignore it or think that being stoic equaled being strong or brave.  They felt it.  They mourned it, because it was valuable enough to mourn.
  2. Genesis 50:16-20 So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us  to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

Joseph wept when his brothers didn’t trust him; they lied and said their father instructed him to pardon them.  Were his tears because they didn’t trust him or was he overcome with emotion because of the beauty of forgiveness?  He then replies with his famous reply:  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all of good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”  He not only saved his family, he saved all the Egyptians who came to him for food.  When we see the full circle of redemption, it can bring tears of joy.

I think that the seven accounts of Joseph’s tears tell us something important.  God created us to shed tears.  Tears can be cleansing and healing.  They can express deep pain and inexpressible joy.  Tears are often apart of the complete and perfect work of God in our lives.  What does God have to say about our tears?

  1. He collects them for us and records us in His book. He sees each tear and each one is important to Him.

You keep track of all my sorrows.[a]

    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

    You have recorded each one in your book.

                                                Psalm 58:8

  1. There is an appropriate time to cry; to let it out, to mourn and grieve. But there is also a time to laugh and rejoice and keep living after the pain, or maybe even in the midst of the pain.

A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

                                                    Ecclesiastes 3:4

  1. Tears won’t last forever. Tears of regret or grief or pain will not last forever.  Joy will return and the tears will cease.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning

                                                            Psalm 30:5

  1. There will be a day when our sweet Heavenly Father will personally wipe away every tear.  And there will be a day when there will be no more reason to cry—except the joyful tears.  I think there will be a lot of those precious tears.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

                                                                Revelation 21:4

  1. God wants us to pour out our tears to Him, knowing He can be trusted with every one.

My friends scorn me,

    but I pour out my tears to God.

                                                                     Job 16:20

  1. We can trust that He will use our tears to water good seed which will turn into a good harvest of fruit for His Kingdom.

Those who plant in tears

    will harvest with shouts of joy.

They weep as they go to plant their seed,

    but they sing as they return with the harvest.

                                                                             Psalm 126:5-6

  1. Our tears can be an act of worship. As we weep with gratitude or even regret over our sins, we are worshipping Him, the One who sees our tears and values each one.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

                                                                                  Luke 7:44-47

I hope you will find hope and healing in your tears.  He sees you and will redeem your tears.

Thoroughly Equipped: We Can’t, He Can

Today’s reading is Genesis 42:18-43:34, Matthew 13:47-14:12, Psalm 18:16-36, Proverbs 4:7-10

You have now officially hit the “habit forming day”.  I have been told that if you do something for 21 days, it becomes a habit.  How wonderful to have a habit of studying God’s Word!  What impact that can have on our families. What strength and peace that can bring to our lives—every detail, good and bad.  And another word … if you are not there yet, if you have had a “hit or miss” approach to reading the Bible, no worries.  This is not to be a judgmental activity, nor is it to gain approval of God or man.  It is for your encouragement and edification.  So, wherever you are in this journey, keep going!  And that is just what Joseph did in today’s study.  He just kept going with God.  He grew in integrity, humility, and trust.  And at just the right time he was refined enough to be used of God.  And God’s timing was perfect.

Joseph rightly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.  It was a warning of a coming famine.  There would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.  (See those holy numbers?  This was from God.) And so it was that the prisoner was suddenly thrust into the position of prince of sorts.  Joseph was suddenly in charge of all of Egypt.  Only God!  There were seven years of bumper crops and Joseph wisely planned and saved during that time.  And then came the famine.  But even in the desperate times of famine God had (and does have) a magnificent plan.  He was bringing a family back together.

I believe God is all about relationships.  It is for relationship that He created man and then brought him woman.  It was for relationship He sent His son, Jesus.  It was for relationship He orchestrated an incredible chain of events in the life of Joseph.  God is the Redeemer and He wants to use us to redeem and repair broken relationships around us.  That is how we can be like Him.  We were, in fact, created in His image; therefore, we need to become like Him in this area as well.  Look what He says in Isaiah 58: 9-12:

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

We see that the famine pushed Joseph’s family right to him.  Jacob sent ten of his sons to get the grain, but kept Benjamin back for fear that something would happen to him.  This shows that Jacob still suffered greatly with the loss of Joseph.  And the brothers must have suffered greatly with shame, sin, and secrets.  Secrets are the heaviest burden to bear.  Joseph was now 30 years old.  Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery.  For thirteen years, they had all suffered.  And now in their minds, they believed they were suffering more due to the famine.  But God the great provider was about to end their physical and their emotional and spiritual hunger. Remember that God had told Jacob that He would be El-Shaddai for him–The “All Sufficient One”.  The One who was able and willing to supply His people with everything they needed.  It was no less true now, just because they couldn’t see or understand it for a season.

In Genesis 42:6 we find that Joseph’s prophetic dream was fulfilled.  His brothers bowed down to him and it was for want of grain, just as his dream predicted.

In today’s reading we see that after 3 days, (notice that holy number 3!) the plan of reuniting and redeeming and reconciling this family had begun.  In Genesis 42:21-22 we see a glimpse of Rueben’s character.  Remember that he was the firstborn and had many rights and responsibilities.  In Genesis 37:21 we see that Rueben succumbed to peer pressure.  Though he did suggest that the brothers not kill Joseph, it was his idea to put him in the cistern.  But through the years, Rueben had shifted the blame and the story itself had changed in his memory.

Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”

Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!”

Genesis 42:21-22

Later, when they all realized there was no way to survive unless they took Benjamin to see Joseph in Egypt, Rueben tried to make his wrongs right.

Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.”

                                                                                                  Genesis 42:37

But Rueben was not able to make his sin right.  He was not capable of wiping away his sin, even if he offered his sons as a sacrifice.  So what changed? What turned the story around? Judah, the fourth son, stepped up.  Judah did not offer to sacrifice his son if Benjamin didn’t return, he offered his own life.  He offered himself as a sacrifice.

Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.

                            Genesis 43:8-9

Now here is the important part.  Do you remember who Judah was?  Leah’s son.  She named him Judah, which means “This time I will praise the Lord.” In this instance Judah was reflecting the One who would later come through his lineage. It was through Judah that Jesus, the Savior, was born.  Judah stood up and offered himself to take away the sin and shame and suffering of his family.  He personally guaranteed it and was willing to bear the blame forever if he could not redeem the situation.  But of course, he could redeem it.  For the great Redeemer, the only Savior, was in his seed.

So what is the lesson for us?  We are like Rueben.  We sin, we shift blame, we try to make up for it in our own power.  Even if we offered our most precious possession, it still would not make things right.  We can’t obtain our salvation through striving, through our own sacrifices.  We can only obtain it through Jesus.  Only He can carry it.  Only He can make it right.

Thoroughly Equipped: Timing is Everything

Today’s reading is Genesis 41:17-42:17, Matthew 13:24-46, Psalm 18:1-15, Proverbs 4:1-4.

The next leg of Joseph’s life journey certainly brought the humility that Joseph needed.  He spent the next years of his life in slavery. He did have a choice, though.  He could have gotten bitter.  Instead, he not only maintained the seeds of integrity he had learned from his father, he also grew in integrity.  Hardship made him better, more mature, more faithful.  The dreams of his life would eventually come true, but he had to be refined in the fire of trials and tribulations which developed trust in the Lord.

Joseph found himself in an unexpected situation—one in which he could have succumbed to fleshly desire.  He had been sold as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer.  Because the Lord was with Joseph, he succeeded in everything he did.  Potiphar recognized the hand of God on Joseph and therefore put him in charge of everything he owned.  Because the hand of God was on Joseph, he was a blessing to all around him, even though he was in a position of slavery.  He had favor with God and man, despite his lowly position.  He bloomed where he was planted.

It is therefore a surprise that a terrible temptation came into his life, namely, Potiphar’s wife.  Had God’s hand been removed from Joseph?  No.  The scriptures say nothing about a change in his relationship with God.  So, we must conclude that either the enemy, Satan, sent this temptation or God allowed it because He wanted to test and refine Joseph’s character even more.  Maybe both was true.  Whichever the case, Joseph passed the test with flying colors.  First, he kept away from her as much as possible.  And when that didn’t work, he literally ran away from her, leaving his coat behind.  So, if he did the right thing, why did he still land in jail?  Why did God allow her to lie and mar his stellar reputation?  God did allow this bad situation and it was not because He had moved His hand of favor from Joseph.  God had a bigger, deeper plan.  If we are never in the pit, how can we be certain that God is able and willing to deliver us from it?  If we never have hardship, how can we experience his mercy and grace and peace which passes understanding?  There will be a day when all hardships cease.  It is a day I look forward to.  But until then we will sometimes have troubles.  We will sometimes be falsely accused and misunderstood.  That does not mean that God has failed us.  Jesus Himself warned us this would happen.  In John 6: 33 Jesus said this:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

No matter the hand we are dealt, God will overcome if we trust in Him.  No matter the circumstances we can find peace in Him.

Joseph had a lot of difficult days ahead.  And yet, we see that even in jail, Joseph used the gifts God had given him to glorify God.  In his younger days, he had boastfully told his dreams to his brothers. The emphasis was on him.  But the fiery trials had refined his character.  We see in Genesis 40:8 that even before he heard the dreams of the Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker, he gave the glory to God.

 “Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied.  “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”

Joseph had grown in his dependence on God and lessened his dependence upon himself.  He walked in the giftedness God had given him, but gave all the credit to the Giver of the gift.  And ultimately, this consistent walking in the giftedness God had planted in him, led to his release from prison and set him on a path of redemption for his entire family.

The ungrateful cup-bearer got out of prison and forgot all about Joseph.  How depressing that must have been.  But God stepped in at just the right time.  Notice the details of Pharaoh’s dream.  Seven fat cows, seven scrawny ones; seven head of grain, seven plump heads of grains.  Remember the holy numbers?  Seven is the number for completion and perfection.  Even among a people who did not know God, God was in control.  And God would use ungodly people to save his chosen people.

God can do the same for each of us.  If you feel as if you are in a prison of sorts today, trust in the Redeemer and Restorer to release you in His good timing.  Trust that He is writing a story in your life that is more than you could ever hope or dream or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

Thoroughly Equipped: A Tapestry of Redemption

Today’s reading is Genesis 39:1-41:16, Matthew 12:46-13:23, Psalm17:1-15, and Proverbs 3:33-35.  At the beginning of Chapter 37, we find that Jacob once again settled in Canaan, where his father had lived.  The word “settled” caught my attention in verse one.  He was finally settled.  He had his 12 sons of promise, had grieved the death of Rachel, and was living in the land God had promised his ancestors.  Life was good.  However, more grief was coming and Jacob had unknowingly contributed to its entrance.

It started with the common problem of sibling rivalry.  With twelve sons, it makes sense that this would be an issue at times.  However, Jacob exasperated the problem greatly by opening preferring Joseph over the others.  He said it was because Joseph was born in his old age.  But he was not that much younger than some of his brothers.  And he was not the youngest.  But at this time, Benjamin would have been very young—maybe even still a baby or a toddler. Not quite old enough to really catch the attention of a busy father.  And even if he had, surely Jacob was grieving the death of Rachel.  Perhaps Benjamin still conjured sorrow, even though Jacob had wisely overridden the connotation of the name.  But Joseph!  He was pure joy.  The long-awaited son by the beloved wife of his youth.  And in his weakness, Jacob openly favored Joseph over all the others.   And as a side note to parents and even grandparents.  This is a bad idea.  A terrible idea.  One that leads to heartache and insecurity.  Thankfully, our heavenly Father loves us equally, as seen by the fact that He sent Jesus for all of us, each of us.  If only one had sinned, He still would have sent Jesus, so precious and individual is His love for us.

But Jacob was human.  Jacob was flawed.  He had grown up with the element of favoritism.  His mother favored him, his father favored Esau.  And he brought those old habits into his own family.  He wove an atmosphere of jealousy within his family, which hit a tipping point when he decided to give Joseph a colorful coat.  This coat would have represented a princely status and should have been reserved for the firstborn.

And Joseph, perhaps having been spoiled by his father since birth, understandably fell into the pattern of a self-centered son.  As we look at yesterday’s reading, we see several negative patterns of behavior coming from Joseph.  Genesis 37:2 we find that Joseph “reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.”  What do you call that?  A tattle-tail.

And then there was the telling of the dreams.  Now, the dreams were from God.  They were prophetic dreams.  And they eventually came true.  But let’s contrast Joseph’s immature reaction when he received a grand prophesy about himself with Mary’s reaction when she received the most amazing news of all—she would give birth to the Son of God and the Savior of the world; the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  She surely could have boasted.  But instead we see humility.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.    

Luke 1:38

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

  Luke 2:19

Mary believed and waited.  She believed and acted like a servant.  She believed but she did not boast.  She saw the words of God to her as a treasure and she pondered them.

In contrast, we see 17-year-old Joseph, who was 4 years older than Mary when her prophetic news came and who should have known better, anxious to brag to his brothers and even his father about the whispers of God about his future.  What do you call that?  Arrogance.  An arrogant tattle-tail.  No wonder his brothers didn’t like him.  Their anger was understandable, but so very dangerous.

“When you are angry, do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4)

But even still, there is no excuse for what happened next.  In a mob-type mentality, his brothers—these that were of the 12 sons of promise—hatched a plan that would set in motion a series of events that only God could redeem.  At first they wanted to kill him.  Rueben tried to intervene, but not with the integrity of a righteous one.  He succumbed to peer-pressure and instead of defending Joseph, he simply hatched a different plan.  He was going to go back and make it right, but did not have the opportunity to do so and suffered the consequences greatly for it.  And so it is with us.  Sometimes we plan to go along with sin for a season, thinking we can make up for it later.  Often we can’t, and always there are consequences.

Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, and sold for silver coins. Remember Ishmael?  He was also Abraham’s son, but through the manipulative scheme of an impatient woman.  Sarah gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham because she was tired of waiting on the Lord’s good plan.  Ishmael was not the son of promise and here the consequences of not waiting on the Lord’s plan shows up two generations later. It is a bit confusing that this tribal group was referred to as Ishmaelites as well at Midianites.  The Midianites were descendants of Midian, a son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2). It is thought that all desert wanderers were referred to as Ishmaelites at the time, and points to intermarrying of the other sons of Abraham.  Regardless, it was the sons born outside of the righteous line who now brought Joseph into slavery.

But God was not finished weaving the story.  Throughout the story of Joseph, throughout the stories told throughout the Bible, for that matter, we see a gracious, patient God weaving a tapestry of redemption.  I am thankful that this is true in my own life, as well.