Fellowship at Cross Creek
This Sunday begins a new unit or section or person of study. So far we have explored, Abraham and Jacob in depth. Now the Bible’s story of Beginnings or Genesis…turns to a very special character or person, the story of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, the Christian’s story. Joseph’s story is our story. Certainly chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before reaching his God-ordained purpose, and what a purpose it will be. As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering, your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…have a purpose (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
Intro… As teachers do your best to explore, petty family rivalries and jealousies. Who are the family favorites? Who feels slighted and why? And how are both the offended, and yes, perhaps jealous party, as well as, the golden child who seems to do no wrong dealing with it? Stir up the kids. Stir up the family dysfunction.
Get it out there, because brother, it is there. Do not kid yourself. Church, home churches, the Learning Center do not exist to make everyone feel good about their family or personal Spiritual dysfunction. It is about growth, change and maturity. It is about becoming more Christ-like. If you need to tell a story about your own family dysfunctional history or ask them about theirs to get things going. Get them going. And don’t even think about getting it all solved. Not in a million years. But what you can do, is get kids to thinking how we all play the family game. You can help them to understand that just as they are imperfect, so are their families. The question is are we going to allow Christ and the Scriptures to affect how we deal with our rivalries, pet jealousies or insecurities. Does the world win? Will Evil win out? Or can God use us to be his Spiritual lights within our family dysfunction…even if that is bringing up something difficult within the family…and not just because I have something to gain, but something that seems out-of-whack? And am I willing that I may even be dismissed, laughed out or ignored. Why? Because my family is NOT perfect. God’s grace to you. There’s a real opportunity here…
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator raises up, chooses and greatly blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s trusting caretaking Now passes to succeeding generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua…)
• The Story of Jacob…Gen. 25-35.
• Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham dies leaving everything to Jacob’s father, Isaac. Gen. 25.
• Isaac has twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
• While the twins are still in their mother’s womb and jostling, their mother Rebekah discovers from God that there are two nations within her womb, that the younger twin’s descendants will be stronger of the two and that the older twin’s descendants will serve the younger twin’s descendants (25:23).
• The starving, impetuous older twin Esau foolishly sells his sacred first-born birthright to his wiser, younger twin brother Jacob for a bowl of stew (25:27ff).
.• Aided by his mother, Jacob deceives his blind, elderly father Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. Gen. 27:1ff.
• As Jacob flees from his now angry, older brother, in a dream at Bethel (which means house of God), Jacob not only witnesses angels ascending and descending from heaven, but God reveals to Jacob that indeed, through his father and grandfather, Jacob is the true heir to God’s special promises. Gen. 28:1ff.
• Jacob is blessed and grows a very large family of eleven sons and a daughter in the land of his mother’s clan. Gen. 29:1ff.
• After 20 years away, God prepares Jacob for his return to home by blessing him with massive herds of sheep, goats and other livestock. Gen. 30:25ff.
• As he leaves, Jacob enters into a peace treaty with his father-in-law Laban. Gen. 31:22ff.
• After wrestling with God all night at the ford of the Jabbok and surviving, Jacob receives a new name from God–Israel…One who strives with God. Gen. 32:1ff.
• Jacob’s greatest fears don’t come to pass. Instead a blessed Esau welcomes his brother Jacob back home. Gen. 33:1ff.
• Jacob’s sons mercilessly wipe out an entire village in revenge for their sister Dinah’s having been raped by its chief’s son. Gen. 34:1ff
• Jacob returns to Bethel to build an altar of thanksgiving to God; in response, God renews his original Covenant promises to Jacob. Gen. 35:1ff.
• Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel dies giving birth to their youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob buries her at Bethlehem and then buries his father, Isaac as well. Gen. 35:16ff
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
37:1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. So if only tending flocks with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, and NOT Leah’s sons, that that would mean he was tending flocks with Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. What was the bad report? Apparently the writer did not think it pertinent to the story, but it does make one curious, and apparently, it was bad enough for Joseph to “rat” on them, or was Joseph a “brat”?
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.
4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Jealousy. It seems to be the nature of human attraction or love that the less-loved are often envious of the more-loved or attracted to…interesting…the nature of sin or imperfection? One can only imagine what was said amongst themselves or to others. Often times, it becomes an unaccountable “piling on” of the victim–an orgy of spewing venom.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. It only gets worse…fuel to the fire…
6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:
7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. So, a bad report, jealousy of a father’s favoritism and now two dreams…
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” It does appear that Joseph is a bit naïve, trusting that telling his brothers and father the truth about his dream would not further incite even greater jealousy…
11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. What does a father do? Or this just another case of Jacob avoiding the difficult? Oh my, will it momentarily cost him, and yet God has a plan.
• Joseph brings back a bad report to his father from when four of his older brothers were tending sheep.
• Born to Jacob late, Joseph is the most beloved of his father’s eleven sons. Because of this favoritism, his father makes for him a beautifully ornate coat.
• When his brothers’ see their father’s favoritism towards Joseph they become extremely jealous of Joseph and having nothing good to say about him.
• Joseph tells his brothers of a dream he has in which they were all binding sheaves in field when the sheaves his brothers were binding bowed down before his suddenly exalted and risen up sheaf.
• Of course, this only infuriated his already jealous brothers all the more, who mocked him, asking do you intend to rule over us?
• Then Joseph has another dream in which the sun, moon and stars all bowed down to him. Once again, naively, he tells his father and brothers. This time it is his father who rebukes Joseph asking, do you think your mother and I and your brothers will bow down before you?
• Despite Jacob’s rebuke of his son, he is well aware of their jealousy of Joseph, but keeps this all to himself.
Summary: Because of Joseph’s bad report concerning four of his brothers, his father’s favoritism towards Joseph and two dreams in which his family is bowing down to Joseph, Joseph’s brothers’ anger, jealousy and hatred towards him is about to reach a boiling point.
Bottom line… For three significant reasons, Jacob’s older ten sons deeply resent and hate their youngest brother and their father’s favorite, Joseph.
Why? did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• Whether we like it or not, people are born sinners; we are flawed, selfish, self-interested human beings; some, worse than others. Put them together; grow them together, and just as there is the potential for love, cooperation and togetherness, there is also the potential for much sin, imperfection, insecurity, jealousy, anger, hurt…even hate. In fact, whether we like it or not, all families have some level of dysfunction within them, and some more than others–even large families. And apparently, Jacob’s now very large and extended family is no exception. I say, “extended” because for the most part, if Joseph is the youngest at 17, one would have to imagine that most of his kids are now married and are either having children or beginning to have children. So as is the case with most families, as this family as grown, children have gotten married, had children of their own, and perhaps almost all have remained in the family occupation of shepherding large herds of flocks of sheep and goats, this family is prime for family infighting and jealousy. In this case, Joseph has become the family whipping boy where all of this immaturity can momentarily focus upon.
• People, even parents, teachers, bosses…everyone has their favorites. Right. Who knows why? Perhaps they are alike; perhaps one sucks up to the other or tells the other what they want to hear; perhaps the one being favored is really just more competent or gifted; perhaps they are less trouble; perhaps they are the goody two shoes, but for whatever reasons, and it too happens everywhere, with respect to favoritism, one quite often takes the lead or separates him or herself from the others, and then the others complain to one another, He or she can do no wrong. Now all of sudden, the one or ones not favored are strapped with a liability and unequal playing field; they must do more than the favored one in order to survive, and so the game begins to play itself out. Now while children will complain, and complain loudly, that they are being discriminated against— It’s not fair!–even if it is not true in order to manipulate or guilt their parents into getting what they want, adult children, it would seem, complain less to the authority figures, or to the ones allegedly doing the favoritism, than to others. Whereas children are pretty much safe in knowing that if they complain their parents are not going to dump them, adults with jobs are different. If they fear loss of their employment, rather than complain to the powers that be, they will passively-aggressively whine to others, while still maintaining their job, with the whine becoming their psychological vent. I remember sitting down with a group of teachers for lunch on the first day of school. They were all grossing about their jobs, the kids, teaching…I couldn’t take it. It was the last day I ate with teachers. After that, I ate with the kids, mainly younger. It was tons more fun.
• So, family dysfunction, favoritism and the passive-aggressive response by others to alleged favoritism. What’s next? Ganging up; naivete; the costs of telling the truth; prophetic dreams and a father’s alleged helplessness or denial in dealing with his family’s sin or dysfunction.
• With respect to “ganging up,” isn’t it interesting to watch, observe and follow the progress of how alliances are birthed and forged? Not, if you have been the victim of one of these someone grouses. I have been there and experienced that, and not just once, and not just by a few, but by many. It is painful, scary and a ton more feelings, thoughts and emotions. The mob loved Jesus, then crucified him. The mob was against Moses, then for him, then against him, then for or with him. Mobs are like fire, fickle where they lead and destructive. Seemingly they take on a life of their own. And some are fire starters. In essence, they are cheaters. They will not play by the rules or be accountable or fair. They cheat, including downright lying and deception, gossiping, using innuendo, passive aggressive communication. To them it is about the numbers—who is my side? Who can I win over? Like Satan, who can I steal? Who can I get to first? It makes me sick just thinking about it. Rather than searching out the truth, or hungering for the truth or righteousness, or being accountable in their communication and tactics and allowing the chips to fall where they may, it is a war of attrition. Only, in the end, eventually the chickens will come home to roost—alliances will be broken or threatened and emperors will be betrayed and assassinated. The same tactics used to climb the ladder will bring the ladder down. Such will be the story of Jacob’s sons. Ill-achieved, initial victory will NOT be final victory—thank God! And perhaps, that is the larger lesson in all of this. Despite man’s ill intentions, God is still in control; God is still sovereign and will work his will for his glory and his children’s Spiritual benefit. So never despair over Evil’s temporary victories, my children. Our God reigns…
Gen. 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Rom. 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Psalm 47:8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
Psalm 146:10 The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
• Finally, with respect to Jacob’s denial or helplessness in dealing with his extended family’s dysfunction, jealousy and rumblings…deal with it. Deal with it, even at costs. Odds are, it will NOT get better. At the same time, don’t micromanage either. People should be accorded the freedom to choose and live. Dictatorial too tight is NOT good, that is if you want children to turn into competent self-sufficient adults, making wise choices. On the other hand, have some boundaries; be willing to jerk the chain or choke collar; be willing to endure some family conflict. Pay me a little now or pay me a whole lot later. If you need help, then get help! Get to the truth, then stay on top of it. You were placed here on this planet for a purpose. It’s a fallen, sinful world, and you being placed here wasn’t just to take up space or use up good air. Make a difference—a useful, beneficial difference. Be used by your Creator with the Spirit’s inspiration to intervene with respect to or curb evil. In doing so, you will grow up yourself.
Praise… I am very thankful for the time I had, experienced and enjoyed with my adopted family in remembering our very special, unique and especially later-in-life, peddle-to-the-meddle, Spiritually-thriving mom. It was a heck of a send off, good-by, remembering and imaginary family documentary…of a large family running behind and alongside the chugging, overloaded family van through the Eisenhower tunnel, or of a smart-alec teenager who said in the presence of a policeman, “I smell bacon,” to which his mother responded by immediately grasping him by his shirt collar and informing him that he would smell NOTHING! in her presence!…or of a stepson describing, in tears, how his step-mother became his mother…or how a husband gave up the comforts of alcohol because of his wife’s discomfort with it and in so doing saved his marriage… Perfect. Special. Beautiful. Thanks, God. Thanks, my beautiful adopted family. I also witnessed another family, a little lighter this week. Not out of the woods by any means, but in what has been a long struggle within a vastly-changing business in a difficult economy…a moment of lightness. And though I have known them for a long time, this may be their finest hour. Someone brought me wood when we were out this week, and it has been very cold…with the prospects of cutting more this weekend, and not just for me, but for others as well. Thank you, Lord. Got a ton of writing done last week, with Shelly continuing to work out the kinks in getting what I write posted to my blog. I am very blessed.
Struggle… Balance. Indoor work versus outdoor work; writing versus teaching; pastoring versus studying; the week versus the weekend; energy versus fatigue; rest versus stress; the Story of Sin versus Sustainable Love; Spiritually more secure families versus Spiritually less secure and less present families; financially more secure families and financially less secure families. Balance.
Truth… Families, because they are made up of imperfect sinners, will struggle…with either genuine or perceived favoritism, jealousy, complaining and even unrighteously “ganging up” upon one of its individual members. It’s just a fact. And as opposed to avoiding it, dads and leaders should wisely face the family dysfunction. And yet despite, all this family dysfunction, including dads or leaders avoiding the dysfunction, as we will find out, God is still in control and can and will bring about his greater good and purposes.
Application… I am imperfect; my family of origin is certainly imperfect; my own family is imperfect and my Spiritual family is imperfect. God give me the wisdom and grace, not to pull the trigger too soon…to be a hovering helicopter pastor as some moms or sports dad are alleged to be towards their children. At the same time, please don’t allow me to put my head in the sand and ignore the conflict. Give me the balance, the wisdom, Your Spirit, truth, courage…to face the difficult, particularly at the edges where sheep may go astray. And in fact, I am Spiritually grinding on several as I write. Just pulled the trigger on one of them; may pull the trigger on another very quickly and wait on a third…and that is just three. No doubt there are many many more. But despite what I try to do under your leadership, I rest in the truth that you have a plan, despite man’s flaws…including mine (Rom. 8:28; Gen. 50:19-21).
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?) Now how does what happen here possibly relate? (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).