Fellowship at Cross Creek
13 Years a Slave!
Last week began 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… Sometimes life comes at you fast. It certainly did for Joseph. He was simply going in search of his brothers at his father’s request. Little did he know he was walking into a trap? Ever done that before? Everything seemed okay, normal, but you didn’t see it coming. Suddenly, WHAM! And the next thing you know, like being tossed by a tornado or bounced around in a car accident, you are just hanging on for dear life. Well, that was the way it was for Joseph. At first his brothers were going to kill him, then they put him into a pit, then they sold him to slave traders, and finally he ends up in Egypt as the servant of an Egyptian officer.
Ever had an experience in which life was happening so fast, there was nothing you can do until it stopped? How did it feel? What was the end result? If so, then be Joseph in this story and imagine what it feels like to have this much life thrown at you at once. If Joseph was naïve before, by the time, he reaches Egypt, he will have certainly learned a lot. And yet, he has still not seen the end of misfortune…not by a long shot. You might call this part of the story, The Education of Joseph.
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 Scriptures 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 jostle within their mother’s womb, their mother Rebekah discovers from God that the two sons within her womb are really two contending nations and that the older twin’s descendants will serve the younger twin’s descendants (25:23).
• After the twins are born and become young men, one day, 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 sympathetic mother, Jacob shrewdly deceives his blind, elderly father Isaac into giving his older brother’s blessing to Jacob. 27:1ff.
• As Jacob flees from his now angry, older twin, Esau, at Bethel (house of God) Jacob has a dream in which he not only witnesses angels ascending and descending from heaven, but God reveals to Jacob that indeed he is the true and rightful heir to same special promises that God made previously to his father and grandfather. Gen. 28:1ff.
• In the land of his mother’s clan, Jacob is blessed by God and grows a very large family of eleven sons and a daughter. Gen. 29:
• After 20 years have passed, God prepares Jacob for his return back to homeland by blessing him with massive herds of sheep, goats and other livestock. Gen. 30:25ff.
•As he flees, 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 do not come to pass. Instead a now blessed Esau welcomes home his brother Jacob. Gen. 33:1ff.
• Now back within the land, in revenge for their sister Dinah’s having been raped by the village chief’s foolish son, Jacob’s sons mercilessly and shrewdly kill all the village’s men. Gen. 34:1ff
• Jacob returns to Bethel to build an altar of thanksgiving to God; in response, God renews his covenant promises to Jacob. Gen. 35:1ff.
• Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel dies while giving birth to their youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob buries her at Bethlehem, and then soon after he buries his father, Isaac as well. Gen. 35:16ff
And Now Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Joseph’s older brothers grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
12 Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem.
Does the village of Shechem have any correspondence to the person of Shechem whom the brothers murdered for his having sexually taken advantage of their sister in an earlier story?
13 Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “I will go.”
Unsuspecting of any foul play?
14 Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
Had the brothers tarried? Had they not reported in for awhile? Why was Jacob seemingly so concerned? How long a journey was this for Joseph?
15 A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, “What are you looking for?”
What does this man or Joseph’s wandering function within this story?
16 He said, “I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.”
17 Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
How much further is Dothan? Is this why Jacob had heard nothing from his sons…because they had moved on from where he previously thought them to be?
18 When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer!
They had to act, discuss and plan quickly…
20 Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”
This reveals Joseph’s brothers low state of morals. They thought very little of having massacred Shechem’s village; they seemingly think nothing of killing their brother. Where or what are their values? They seemingly act as mob or sub-tribe…they certainly are flawed people.
21 But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.”
One brother, the brother who earlier slept with his father’s lesser wife and two of his brother’s mother, now intercedes on his younger brother’s behalf.
22 Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.
So Reuben has his own flawed plan to save his brother?
23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;
What must have a stunned Joseph been thinking?
24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.
How deep was the pit?
25 Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.
Are we to assume that these Ishmaelites were descended from their great great half-uncle Ishmael (Abraham’s oldest son by his wife’s maidservant Hagar; 16:15)? If so, these were their cousins, perhaps second or later, cousins? Did they view them as such? The passage doesn’t seem to indicate any kind of close familial bonds.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?
27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
So a second brother has other thoughts as well?
28 Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Is there any connection between Midianites (also descendants of Abraham, but through his later wife, Keturah…25:2) and Ishmaelites? Was twenty shekels very much (8 oz. of silver BKC vol. 1 p. 88)? At the current prices of silver, this doesn’t amount to very much.
29 Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments.
30 He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?”
So why doesn’t Reuben ask what happened to the boy or why do the brothers not tell? Because of Reuben’s loyalties to the boy? If they tell him where, then Reuben will pursue the traders and redeem the boy back?
31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood;
32 and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”
33 Then he examined it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!”
So this is the unexplained explanation—wild beasts came and dragged the boy off? So now, this becomes the cover story?
34 So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.
35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him.
Our first mention of sheol…the place of the dead?
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.
• Jacob, perhaps foolishly, sends his most favored son to check upon his jealous older brothers who were shepherding in a distant village.
• As Joseph approaches his brothers, from a distant the brothers ponder the actual murder of their younger brother.
• But the oldest brother Reuben is able to persuade them to only throw in a pit; his plan is to return to the pit and rescue his younger brother.
• But as he is away, the brothers end up selling him to some traveling traders.
• When Reuben returns to the pit, he finds it empty. The brothers don’t tell Reuben what they have done, leaving him to assume the worst.
• To continue the charade, the brothers decide to kill a goat, stain Joseph’s coat of many colors with the goat’s blood and then let their father assume the worst.
• When Jacob identifies his son’s now-bloodied coat, his grief is inconsolable.
• Meanwhile, Joseph is sold to one of pharaoh’s captain of the guards down in Egypt.
Summary: Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers.
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?
• Good people can be quite naïve sometimes? If we don’t think of doing evil, why would others? But that is a false assumption. Others quite often don’t think like us. Jesus exhorted his disciples that he was “sending them out as sheep among wolves,” and in doing so they were to be as innocent as doves, but wise as serpents (Matt. 10:16). It would seem that neither Jacob nor Joseph saw this coming, but with each step farther away from home, Jacob was sending Joseph right smack into the jaws of his jealous brothers’ dangerous plotting.
• Good is not always rewarded in the short-term. Why? Often times, jealousy. Quite often, people think because they are good at something, they will be liked, loved or praised, and that may be true for some, and yet for others, talent only results in others’ envy.
• Group-think or the mob mentality is an interesting phenomena. Apparently, there is power in numbers. Most of the brothers it seems are ready to kill their younger brother. This is very serious, while two brothers, Reuben and Judah, while not standing up to their brothers, attempt to negotiate some compromises that eventually do save Joseph’s life.
• Lies and deception may lead to short-term gain, but have their perhaps longer-term even greater costs. Yes, perhaps in the short run Jacob’s sons have disposed of their problem, but have they really? NO! This is only the beginning of the story. Not only will they cause their father great grief and their younger brother significant sorrow, but in the end, their deception will be exposed and guilt revealed.
• Can we live with short-term pain? Can God’s people suffer, and suffer in the moment? Can we endure others’ sin and injustice for a time? I mean, this is NOT heaven! People lie, steal and cheat. It’s paramount that God’s people endure or weather the temporary storms, because sometimes, it may takes years for the chickens to come home to roost, but come home to roost they do, and if NOT in this life, in the life to come. The paradox of all this though is that it gives God’s people tremendous short-term and long-term power. If truth is on our side, then we can act differently; we can be mentally stronger, and in doing so, preserve or act courageously whether others quit and fail. Belief, confidence, trust and hope are powerful, powerful tools or weapons in surviving our hybrid existence.
Praise… I am burning wood this morning because of the graciousness of others. God provides. Another good teaching Sunday. Another good worship. Rhonda and I got to walk today because of a momentary break in the harsh winter. Another good home church evening. I think I have my sluggish computer finally backed up. That’s a relief, depending upon what happens with it next. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how central it has become to my life.
Struggle… The same…pacing, balance, trust, focus. A lot to do, it would seem. But remembering to do or be lead by what God wants or leads me to do is so so critical because I can get out there so far in front of myself, get lost and crash, because I am doing what I think needs to be done, as opposed to listening or sensing what God may have for me.
Truth… Good’s naivete; the Search; Evil plots its diabolical schemes…even seemingly by the normal Joe; the mob or group think’s power; cooler heads prevail in curbing the mob’s insanity; deception’s costs, both short and long term; the ability to suffer in the short-term until God or justice rights the wrong.
Application… There are no promises in the short run. One can go in search of his brothers, even going the extra mile, even doing or attempting to do what is right, hold others accountable for the greater good, at others’ orders, and it can still all go wrong. Life is NOT fair, at least not in the short-run. Expect jealousy; expect difficulty; expect suffering; expect lies; expect deceit. I have seen it again and again and again, sometimes within my own church, and definitely quite often in life, and certainly in the majority of churches. Why? People are sinful. Eternal salvation does not always mean change in the short-term or a change in heart or a change in attitude or belief or action. Often times, we cloak ourselves in the robes of religious ritual, but underneath we are quite modestly, Spiritually clothed. We are NAKED! Joseph’s brothers were morally naked. They crucified their brother over what turns out to be truth. Thank God the story is NOT over. This is still a time of suffering and suffering is okay. God still provides for us when threatened by death, as Potiphar’s slave and in prison. It’s not my outward circumstances that make me happy. It is the LORD, first, last and always.
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 hook; in their 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).