Saturday, October 8, 2016

TheLifeOfJoseph : Genesis 37:1-17

I find the story of Joseph fascinating. Not unlike the true-life story of Ruth, we don't see the Name of God written on every page. But that doesn't mean He isn't there. This side of walking together through the whole story of Joseph, I just wonder if that is something that the LORD would see fit to teach all of us: just because we don't see Him on every page of our lives, it doesn't mean He isn't there. So within the first paragraph we meet the secondary characters. There are already a lot of things we could discuss, but I've chosen five: parental strategy/family dynamics, teenagers and their growth, God's Sovereign Hand and parallels to Jesus and His life (which we will re-visit many times over in the story of Joseph as there are many parallels).

Parental Strategy/Family DynamicsRight away, we see the first problem with these characters: there have been choices made by Joseph's father (and by his father before him) that has affected all of them greatly. Jacob has two wives (not uncommon in this culture; but what is the norm, as we all know, isn't always a good thing), and from those two wives we have the brothers, who despise, are angry and jealous of Joseph. We learn that Jacob makes a coat or jacket-like symbol of him being the favourite. I don't know a lot about parenting (as I don't have children of my own) but I do know this - one of the most destructive things for a parent to do is to communicate to their children that one of them is a favourite. Jacob chose, for whatever reason, to make Joseph stand out; he literally gave him a symbol of that favoritism for all the world to see and his brothers despised him for it. Why Jacob chose to do this isn't clear, but this definitely sets the stage for the remaining aspects of Joseph's story.

Teenagers and Their Growth

I know a bit about teenagers and their minds (I can also remember a fair bit about my own teenage years; which I'd rather not repeat again, thank you!) as I’ve worked with them for many years. At the beginning of this story, we meet Joseph when he is seventeen years old - a very pivotal part of Joseph's life. As mentioned already, the family dynamics and the choices Jacob has made set the stage for the rest of his life. But as we'll discover, God's hand has been in it from the very beginning. We meet Joseph in his formative years, and for all intents, may chuckle a bit at the choices he's made. Joseph, a seventeen-year-old young man, wearing (literally) the marks of ‘The Favourite’, does one of the stupidest things (to us) and shares his dreams with his brothers, and then his family around the dinner table. Maybe Joseph didn't understand the ramifications of his actions, because he was only seventeen, but you'd like to think he would have a bit more smarts before disclosing a dream that blatantly proves that he believes himself to be better than everyone else in the minds of his brothers and then the rest of his family (which, I believe, wasn't his motive at all to 'share the good news' that he was better than anyone; I think we see a very na├»ve and oblivious 17-year-old here. But we do see what I’ve seen over and over – teenagers think they’re the centre of the world. You know it and I know it, because we all thought it). But this is the world of Joseph as a teenager. But teenagers grow up. We all do. But those years really mark us for the rest of our lives, don’t they? The choices we make then can really pave the way for how we are to be and what we are to do with our lives.

God's Sovereign Hand

As said already too, we'll see more of God's hand as the story of Joseph unfolds, but for now, we can only trust, because this story is in the pages of Scripture, that we will see it all unfold as yet another story of a life well-lived because the LORD had His hand in every part. I believe in the authority of Scripture and the simplicity of 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that says, 'All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work' (emphasis mine). If we read these verses in relationship to Joseph's story, we can come to a better knowledge of the LORD and His hand in His-story. We, just like Joseph, live our stories with the intent on learning, growing, being corrected, training so that we would be adequate and equipped for every good work. Joseph's life, just like our own, needs each of these aspects to make up a good story. Our stories, as they are being written as we speak, still have within then the great, awe-inspiring truth, that the LORD can (and does) walk with us to make every and all of our stories to shine with His Sovereign Hand as the LORD we can trust in. We may not see His hand all that easily sometimes, as I'm sure at this stage of Joseph's life he was thinking the same thing, but He's there. As the hymn-writer put it, Trust and Obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus is to truth and obey. Simple lyrics to a classic song, but with simplicity comes great wisdom.

Parallels to Jesus and His Life

It will be most fascinating, I'm sure, if we read the story of Joseph with Jesus in mind. I believe that all Scriptures point to the Saviour who was to come into the world. I believe it with all my heart. So in order to take the story of Joseph and to glean all that we can, I believe we need to constantly see Jesus weaving His way through this story in order for His own story to be a eureka moment when He finally arrives. But through the eyes of the characters in this Old Testament story, all we can do is trust and obey; reading the story in hopes that God is really who He said He was (we know how the end of the story goes, but it's a very good thing to see how the story begins as well). Warren Wiersbe writes in his Old Testament Commentary that "Joseph is like Jesus in that he was beloved by his father and obedient to his will; hated and rejected by his own brethren and sold as a slave; falsely accused and unjustly punished; finally elevated from the place of suffering to a powerful throne, thus saving his people from death. The major difference, of course, is that Joseph was only reported to be dead, while Jesus Christ did give His life on the cross and was raised from the dead in order to save us".

So maybe, like the story of Joseph, we can see 'glitches' in our own parental strategy (or the way our parents parented us), or too-harsh reminders of our own teenage-choices in our present-day lives, but let us all remind ourselves that the Sovereign Hand of the LORD has always been and will always be the reason why we continue to live our stories. Jesus is the Reason, not only for Christmas (as the popular slogan goes), but for all of our lives as well. May we live our stories, and read the story of Joseph, with this in mind.*

*Donald Miller has written a very practical work-book entitled StoryLine 2.0. I would highly recommend it as many of the concepts of 'writing our own stories' that I have described here have been taken from his book and his thoughts have greatly encouraged me to see the story of Joseph in a different light. It has also has encouraged me to write my own story as an all-encompassing worship-lifestyle. 

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