January 10, 2021
Joseph, the Favorite Son
Where did all of those slaves come from? That is the question that will follow us throughout this sermon series. We can look back now, and see that it all began with Jacob. Jacob whose name was changed, by God, to Israel.
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:22-28) (NIV) (25)
In this passage we saw God change Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob wrestled with God all night, into the dawn. We too, are to wrestle with God, all night, if that is what it takes; wrestling with Him in prayer and meditation. God knows how much we want something – and we need to know, also. We need to face it by this wrestling, that shows us how much we do or do not want something.
We can also keep in mind that God changes peoples’ names at significant times, remember Abraham and Sarah? God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah and Abram’s name to Abraham and then made the Old Testament “Abrahamic Covenant” with him. (Genesis 17:5 & 17:15) (11)
But the whole story would not have turned out the way it did except for Jacob’s son Joseph. So, let’s begin with Jacob which will lead us to taking a closer look at Joseph. Joseph, Jacob’s youngest and favorite son is the key to the answer to the question, Where Did All Those Slaves Come From?
Let’s begin at Genesis 37:1 – Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. (NIV) (28)
That’s the very same Canaan the children of the Egyptian slaves entered when they crossed over the Jordan River. Biblical history always builds upon itself and proves itself through fulfilled prophesy. You may also recall that Moses did not cross the Jordan with them because he had disobeyed God. Those 400 years of slavery ended with the Exodus and eventually with the children of the Israelites who left Egypt crossing the Jordan… carrying the bones of Joseph. Wait, what, why would they have been carrying Joseph’s bones? Let’s find out. This sounds like a good mystery novel. Flash back with me, about 440 years.
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. (37:2) There was already some animosity between Joseph and his brothers because Israel (Jacob) had shown favoritism to his youngest son, Joseph. Something bad or wrong happened out in the pasture that day and Joseph told his father about it. He was actually telling on his brothers, which was going to make his life even worse.
Shortly after the tattle-tell incident, Israel gave Joseph very fancy robe. 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 a richly ornamented robe for him. (Genesis 37:3) This is the famous “coat of many colors” we have always heard about. For all the other brothers this was the last straw. They began to plot on how they could get him out of their way, and out of their lives. 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. (37:4)
While the brothers did their plotting, Joseph was having dreams. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 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.
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.” (37:5-9)
In 37:7 Joseph tells his brothers that they were all harvesting wheat and in the end all of their sheaves bow to Joseph’s. Later in 37:9 Joseph tells his brothers that even the sun, moon and 11 stars would bow down to him. The 11 stars were his brothers; the sun and moon were his father and mother.
Later, Israel sends Joseph out to check up on his brothers. As the brothers approached Joseph to kill him, Reuben, the oldest, talked them into just throwing Joseph into a pit, a cistern, in the desert and leaving him. Reuben really didn’t want to shed Joseph’s blood. And besides that, Reuben had the bright idea of “finding” Joseph sometime later and “saving” him to gain favor with his father. Then as the brothers were eating they saw a caravan passing by. (37:25) Those in the caravan were called Ishmaelites. Can you derive who these people might be? They are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s first son whose mother was a servant, and who was sent into exile under God’s instruction.
But back then, for the brothers, this was not an issue. They decided to sell their brother instead of shedding his blood. Then they took home the coat of many colors with one more color added, the blood of a goat. They deceived their father Israel into thinking his favorite son was dead.
The mistreatment of Joseph by his brothers in Genesis 37 is just the beginning of a long, strange trek for Joseph. And, as I’ve said we need to watch Joseph and his reactions as to how he is treated. You will see that regardless of how he was treated, in spite of unfair and false accusations, even though, he was rejected, abandoned, abused, maligned, and forgotten he refused to become resentful or bear a grudge or succumb to bitterness. Joseph gives us a great example of how we all should act under adverse circumstances.
One of the main problems the brothers had was Jealousy. Jealousy, if allowed to grow and fester can cause great problems. Proverbs 27:4 says Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (468) Obviously the brothers could not.
As time goes by we will see that God rests His favor on Joseph. Joseph will rise from the pit to the penthouse in Egypt. The problems brought to Joseph because he was Israel’s favorite son, and how he responds teaches us much. He will show us how to respond to mistreatment. Bostwick UMC 1/10/21
(For those of you who read these sermons but do not attend with us at BUMC, the numbers in parenthesis at the end of Scriptures are the page numbers of the pew Bibles in our Sanctuary.)