I started reading through the Bible this year using the One Year Bible. I'm a person who needs structure. Without it I seem to meander. I like that the One year Bible has an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, a portion of a Psalm and Proverb.
I have been reading about Joseph in the last few days. Like me, you probably have heard several sermons based on Joseph's life. If you're not familiar with him, read Genesis 37 as an introduction to his life. I have tried to look with fresh eyes even though I know the end of his story. If you read Genesis 37: 1-4 you might come away thinking that Joseph was a bratty, tattle-tale of a younger brother. His father, Jacob favored him and made an ornamental robe to wear which seemed to incite his brothers' jealousy.
Joseph has two dreams in which he is elevated above his brothers and he brazenly shares them with his brothers and his father. By this time in the story, I'm thinking this kid has major entitlement issues and somebody better set him straight! Jacob does rebuke Joseph for his arrogance, but he "kept the matter in mind."
Jacob then does something that baffles me. He sends Joseph out to spy on his brothers who are tending their flocks near Shechem. Jacob seems to be clueless about how his other sons feel about Joseph. When the brothers see Joseph coming toward them from a distance they plot to kill him. Wow! This jealousy must have been brewing for quite some time because it's now turned murderous.
Reuben, the eldest brother talks them out of murder and proposes a compromise. "Let's just throw him in an empty cistern," while secretly intending to go back to rescue Joseph on his own. Along comes a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt, and Judah, another brother suggests they sell Joseph into slavery for profit. They all agree except for Reuben who is on his way to rescue Joseph. When Reuben discovers that Joseph is gone he is beside himself, because as the eldest, he will bear the responsibility before his father. They decide together to create a ruse that will exonerate them from responsibility. They took Joseph's robe, dipped it in blood and brought it back to Jacob. Seeing the evidence, Jacob concluded that Joseph had been "devoured" by a ferocious animal and he mourned his death "for many days."
"Meanwhile" the text says Joseph is sold in Egypt to a wealthy man named Potiphar.
If you know this story, try to suspend yourself from jumping to the end of the story. Just on the basis of what you know now, what are you thinking?
- Does it seem like Jacob sets Joseph up for resentment?
- Does Joseph purposely try to incite his brothers' jealousy?
- Why doesn't God intervene to prevent this ruse?
- What do you think Joseph is feeling when he is being sold by his brothers?
- How do his brothers justify or rationalize their actions?
I'm not going to answer these questions because I want you to give them some thought. Why? Because I think all of us are in the middle of our own story. We haven't figured everything out and sometimes we wonder what God is doing. We ask ourselves questions: wondering if we've somehow taken a wrong turn; or made a bad decision that is irreversible.
As we move through Joseph's life, I hope the question, "Am I where I am supposed to be?" will be answered.