The Story of Joseph
Cherished Son; Despised Brother; Beloved of God (Genesis 37)
God has a wonderful plan for your life! God’s wonderful plan includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23), “persecution” (2 Tim 3:12), “hardships…affliction”, (2 Cor 4:9), “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” (Rom 9:2). God’s plan for your life is never promised to be easy, but it is wonderful because it involves you becoming more like Jesus. Today our sermon series in Genesis continues with the story of Joseph. We begin in Genesis 37 where we learn that Joseph is a cherished son and a despised brother. Most importantly, however, we learn that Joseph is beloved by God. God had a wonderful plan for Joseph’s life that included many trials and troubles that God helped Joseph endure. We shall see that Joseph is:
Cherished Son (1-11)
Father’s Selfish Love (1-4). Jacob loved his son Joseph more than all his other children because he was “the son of his old age” (3). Joseph was the favorite son of the favorite wife—Rachel. Do you see the problem brewing in the family? Jacob showed favoritism. This preferential treatment of Joseph is given at the expense of the other brothers. Maybe Joseph is oblivious to it or maybe he is using it, but in verse 2 Joseph “brought a bad report” of his brothers to their father. This shows that Joseph is alienated from his brothers. In addition to this, Jacob gave Joseph a special robe to demonstrate his love to him. Joseph’s brothers were enraged with the favoritism and in verse 4 we read: “when his brothers saw that their father loved him [Joseph] more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him” (4). Joseph’s father’s selfish love is a cause of contention in the family.
God’s Sovereign Love (5-11). In verse 5 we are told about Joseph’s dreams. These dreams are special because they are revelations from God to show what will happen to Jacob’s family—especially Joseph. In the first dream Joseph said they were binding sheaves in the field. Then “my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf” (7). The brothers instantly knew what this dream meant as they said to Joseph, “Are you really going to reign over us?” (8). Joseph had another dream and in this one “the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (9). Once again the interpretation of this dream was not difficult to ascertain. Jacob replied, “What kind of dream is this that you have had…Am I and your mother and your brothers really going to come and bow down to the ground before you?” (10). These dreams were given to Joseph by God to reveal that God would raise up Joseph as a ruler and his father and family were going to acknowledge his authority.
Despised Brother (12-36)
Brother’s Bitter Rage (12-20, 23-28). The bad report and the special robe were hard for the brothers to endure and they “hated him” (4). The dreams, however, were the breaking point. After the first dream, “they hated him even more” (8) and his brothers “were jealous of him” (11). Jacob sent Joseph to check on the brothers who were watching their father’s flocks. Verse 18 says the brothers “saw him in the distance, and before he had reached them, they plotted to kill him” (18). They called Joseph the “dream expert” (CSB) or more literally, the “the lord of the dreams” (19). Their resentment for Joseph was so strong that they plotted to murder him. They wanted to kill him to “see what becomes of his dreams” (20). In other words, let’s kill him and see whether or not we bow down before him.
Reuben’s Selfish Mercy (21-22, 29-35). Joseph is saved through the actions of his eldest brother Reuben. When “Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from them” (21). Reuben wanted to “rescue him from them and return him to his father” (22). Sometime after this Reuben left the brothers. While he was gone, the other brothers decided to throw Joseph into a pit. Then they sold him into slavery to Midianite traders who were traveling to Egypt. When Reuben returned he saw that Joseph was not in the pit. He said to his brothers, “The boy is gone! What am I going to do?” (30). Reuben’s desire to save Joseph was noble but Reuben was most likely thinking about himself more than Joseph. Remember that Reuben was the one who sought to overthrow his father by sinning against him with Jacob’s wife, Bilhah (Gen 35:22). Reuben might have thought this would be a good way to get back in his father’s good favor. This is indicated by Reuben’s response: Reuben did not say, “Poor Joseph!” but “what am I going to do?”.
God’s Sovereign Grace (1-36). While it is true that Reuben acted to prevent the murder of Joseph, it is more important to note that God is the One who graciously protected Joseph from the rage of his brothers. It was God who allowed Joseph to be sent to Egypt and not killed. In fact, all throughout Joseph’s story we will observe God graciously protecting Joseph from great harm. Joseph is not protected from all harm, but is preserved so that God’s wonderful plan to save the people of Israel would come to fruition. If we fast forward to the end of Joseph’s story we find Joseph saying to his brothers: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people” (Gen 50:20). God’s plans for Joseph—revealed in his dreams—were not going to be thwarted by jealous brothers (or anyone else).
Beloved of God
The story of Joseph is wonderful because it is a reminder that God’s love for His children is unwavering and unconditional. As we continue this study of Joseph’s life, let us be comforted that we belong to Jesus. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. God is faithful to guide our steps. We must be faithful wherever we are because we are confident that God has intentionally placed us here. Rest in the peace of God knowing that He has a wonderful plan for your life. When this wonderful plan seems difficult, trust that Jesus will guide you every step of the way. Do not give in to fear and worry. Live each day knowing that Jesus is guiding your steps and bringing good to you and to others.