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Joseph, No Ordinary Joe

As we’ve studied through Genesis, people often have a hard time interpreting or misunderstanding God’s choice of people, why he chooses one over another, and that’s what’s going to happen now here in the case of the hero that’s going to enter center stage for the rest of the book of Genesis 37-50.

Thank you for tuning into another podcast of Rizen Fellowship. We appreciate you listening to us as we go through different books of the Bible, and we’ve been going through Genesis. As we’ve studied through Genesis, people often have a hard time interpreting or misunderstanding God’s choice of people, why he chooses one over another, and that’s what’s going to happen now here in the case of the hero that’s going to enter center stage for the rest of the book of Genesis 37-50. He is the fourth and the final great person of the second division of the Book of Genesis. We’ve studied about Abraham and then Isaac and Jacob, and now Joseph. He’s the hero.
A couple of years ago at the Sight & Sound Theater in Branson, they had the production of the story of Joseph, and they were selling T-shirts that said No Ordinary Joe, and obviously, this young man with the hand of God upon him was quite the extraordinary person. Let’s look at this hero now as he enters into being the main character of the rest of the Book of Genesis in chapter 37.
Verse 1 says, “Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings and in the land of Canaan, and these are the generations of Jacob,” and that statement that says “these are the generations of Jacob” raises the curtain on another act of the drama of God working in the history of mankind, and the leading role, as I said, will now be Joseph. He’s mentioned twice as much as his father Jacob during these next 14 chapters. Jacob won’t be ignored, but we have to realize it’s time for Joseph to shine as the leading man.
Now, the history of Joseph from the story of Joseph can be read on many different levels, three to be exact. First of all, it can be read on a level about literature. It’s fascinating story of a doubting father and a pampered son with jealous brothers and conceiving wife and an international food crisis. The story has inspired creative artists for centuries. In 1742, Harry Fielding patterned the hero of Joseph Andrews after the biblical Joseph. The next year, Handel produced his oratory of Joseph. In 16 years, over a period of 16 years, the German novelist Thomas Mann wrote four great novels based on the life of biblical Joseph. Even in our time, we have the rock cantata of the rock opera that’s called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the song that’s so popular that was Any Dream Will Do.
But Genesis 37-50 is so much more than just dramatic literature. As you dig a little deeper, you discover that the story has a profound theological implication as well. It’s the hand of God is seen evident in every scene, ruling and overruling the decisions that people make. In the end, our God builds a hero. He saves a family, and he creates a nation that will bring blessing to the whole world. Behind this story is the heart of an everlasting God who always keeps his promises.
But for the Christian, there’s a third level to this great story, and it is this. It is one of the richest illustrations of the life of Jesus in the Old Testament. You see, the similarities that Joseph is like Jesus in that he was beloved of his father and was obedient to his father’s will. He was hated and rejected by his own brother, and they both were sold as slaves. They were both falsely accused, and unjustly punished. They both were elevated to a place from a place of suffering into a powerful throne, thus saving people from death.
The major difference, of course, is this, that Jesus did give his life on the cross and was raised from the dead in order to save us. That being said, we must recognize and acknowledge the fact that there is no New Testament authorization for us calling Joseph as a type of Jesus Christ, yet there are so many parallels between the two that the evidence cannot be ignored.
As a matter of fact, there’s only two places in the New Testament that Joseph is mentioned, and that’s in Acts 7 when Stephen is giving his speech about his faith in Christ before the Sanhedrin, and then in Hebrews 11, the great chapter of the people of faith in chapter 11 verse 21 and 22, Joseph is missing.
Now Genesis 37 reveals the destructive dynamics of a family that knew the true and living God yet sinned against him and against each other by what they said and what they did. Many people think Joseph was the catalyst for those problems to occur inside their family, but the presence of Joseph in that home didn’t create the problems. It simply revealed the problems that were there, but let’s consider these destructive forces that were at work in his family.
First of all, there was hatred. You know where there’s one husband and four wives and 12 sons? That is an equation for multiplicity of problems, and remember, Jacob came from a broken home, and he brought that infection with him. But you almost have to ask yourself why do the brothers hate Joseph so much.
Well, verse 2 of chapter 37, it says this, “Joseph being 17 years old,” just a teenager, “was pasturing the flock with his brothers, and he was a boy with the boys of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father,” and Joseph as a teenager, who was his father’s pride and joy, it was his life to please his father, and when the brothers didn’t, Joseph was the whistleblower, and we all know how the guilty parties hate whistleblowers.
He had integrity, but Joseph also was the favorite son. Verse 3 of chapter 37 says, “Now, Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the son of his old age.” If you remember, it took many years before Rachel was able to give birth to a son for Jacob. Jacob made for him a coat of many colors, and when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all the brothers, they hated him. It even tells us that they could not speak peacefully to Joseph.
You would think after the fracture that Jacob experienced in his own family over favoritism, you would’ve thought he might’ve learned lessons from that and did everything he could do to avoid that at all costs, but this coat of many colors, or this richly-ornamented robe, it was a robe that went all the way down to his ankles, and it had long sleeves. It was more of a garment of a rich ruler than it was the attire of a shepherd, but more important than the fashion statement it made was the symbol of this coat.
This was Jacob’s way of letting the family know that Joseph had been the one that had been chosen to be his heir. Jacob’s intent, if you remember, of his heart, was to marry Rachel, but his father-in-law Laban tricked him and gave his daughter Leah to him, and Leah had the first four sons that Jacob had. Jacob might’ve reasoned in his own mind that in God’s sight, Rachel was the wife that he wanted, and that would’ve been his first wife had it been up to him, and Joseph was the firstborn of Rachel, so if that were the case, then it would be no surprise at all that the rest of these brothers would’ve hated Joseph. Jacob knew that and brought it up even on his death bed.
Hatred is a very terrible sin, and it generates other sins, and like another sin that comes from hatred is envy. We find in chapter 37 that Joseph has these two dreams, he begins to tell the dreams first to his brothers and then to even his father, and then revealing that he was going to, interpreting these dreams, to assume the position of ruler over the family.
It’s been said and been written that envy is the most precious daughter of the devil because it follows his footsteps by hindering good and promoting evil. Matter of fact, evil causes inward pain when we see others succeed.
But should Joseph really have told his brothers and his family about these dreams that he has, or is this just a moment of like, adolescent immaturity? I mean, these two dreams but couldn’t help but irritate his brothers and made things worse for Joseph, but really, Joseph, becoming the ruler, that the entire family is going to bow down before … The whole idea seemed preposterous to all the other brothers, but Jacob had the same dreams from God as we’ve read in chapter 28 and chapter 31, so you would think maybe Jacob may have just thought that the Lord might have spoken to his son, but it didn’t seem to even cross his mind.
Perhaps Joseph could’ve been a little bit more diplomatic in the way he shared these dreams with his family, but since we know the rest of the story, and we know that God was working behind him, surely, he was right in talking about them. This wasn’t adolescent enthusiasm. This was the will of God, and had the brothers paid attention, they might’ve been prepared for what was going to take place with them 20 years later, and if Jacob the father had grasped the significance of these dreams, he might’ve had faith to believe that Joseph was still alive and he would see him again when he went off the deep end and thought that Joseph had been killed.
But again, it’s easy because we know the rest of the story, and it’s easy for us to criticize the characters in it. But it brings about an interesting question that we should deal with right here about today. Does God speak to us in dreams today, or do we get our guidance only from the Holy Spirit of God and using the Word of God as we pray and seek God’s will?
Now, the one thing I would say, we need to be very cautious about dreams because they can be self-induced or even Satan-influenced. I have known people in third world countries that literally have shared their testimony, and God revealed Himself to these people in a dream, and many missionaries have come back saying that their first connection with people to God came to them through dreams and because of those dreams, they sought out the Bible, and through the Bible, they found Jesus Christ, but it really was the Word of God, Jesus Christ that finally brought them to the Savior.
If God is sovereign, which I truly believe that He is, He can use dreams to accomplish His will if there are no other means available, but His normal way, not the only way, but the normal way for Him to communicate is through His Holy Spirit through the teaching of the Word, which John 14 and John 16 are very clear about.
Now, later in Joseph’s life, we know that he would also interpret other men’s dreams, but there’s no indication in his life at this point as a 17-year-old boy that he understood exactly what those two dreams meant at that time. Then later, as he would be put in prison, there was no doubt that the meaning of those dreams became clear and became an encouragement to him to keep continuing on, though the circumstances were not what he wanted them to be at that time.
Understanding God’s plan that God had some purpose for him in mind gave him direction in how to deal with his brothers when they would be meeting up again 20 years later; however, the immediate result of Joseph’s sharing of his dreams was that his brothers even hated him more, and they envied him in their hearts.
Since Jacob watched Rachel envy Leah, her sister, Jacob’s other wife, he knew something about the effects that this sin would have on the home. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and he had chosen him to receive the blessings of the firstborn, and wearing that special garment, and now being the recipient of very strange but important dreams, you have to ask why was Joseph selected to be so special and what would happen next.
Well, because the brothers hated him and envied him so, it brought him about to violence, and in chapter 37 verse 12-28, we see that the brothers didn’t kill Joseph, but their growing hatred of him was equivalent to murder just as Jesus taught in Sermon on the Mount, and the brothers were pasturing their flock some 50 miles away from home, and you have to wonder why Jacob would send his favorite son Joseph, the one that the brothers hated and envied so much just to check on them when any other servant could’ve performed that task.
The answer is this. The providential hand of God was working to accomplish His divine purposes for Jacob and for his family and for the whole world. The brothers had motive: hatred and envy. Now all they needed was the opportunity. It just happened to present itself on that day when Joseph found them pasturing the flocks.
At first, the Bible tells us that they were going to kill him, but then they saw the opportunity to sell him into slavery and not only get rid of the one that they hated but also make some money on the side. It was a win-win situation for them both ways is the way they saw it. We can see how hardened and poisoned their hearts were for immediately after selling Joseph as a slave. They literally just sat down and ate a meal without any kind of remorse or any kind of guilt or any kind of shame. How calloused, how depraved sin can really make us because every human being is made in the image of God, and we all belong to the same human family, yet it seems interesting that we can’t seem to get along with one another in this world. Everything from family feuds over lottery winnings to civil wars blamed on ancient injuries gives evidence to that kind of depravity in this world, and it shows that this world is desperately in search of a Savior who alone can make hearts new.
Then after selling their brother, they deviously prepared a story to be able to give to their father. Picking up this story in verse 31 of chapter 37, the Bible story reads like this. “Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood, and they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, ‘This we have found. Please identify whether this is your son’s.'” Notice it’s not “our brother.” But notice they said, “Is this your son’s robe or not,” and he, Jacob, identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him.”
Now, realize, the brothers didn’t make up that story. They just presented the robe. It was Jacob who jumped to the conclusion to say, “A fierce animal has devoured him.” Joseph is, without doubt, torn to pieces. “Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for son many days, and all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, ‘No. I shall go to Sheol with my son, mourning.’ Thus, his father wept for him.”
Meanwhile, the Midianites who the brothers had sold Joseph to, the Midianites had sold Joseph into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. From this story with Joseph and his brothers, we see that one sin leads to another, and the brothers fabricated this evidence that would cause their father to think that his favorite son had been killed by a wild beast. As tragic and treacherous as this was, Jacob was only reaping what he had sown years ago by using a kid goat to deceive his own father.
As the story will progress as we study in future podcast, Jacob is going to cry out and say that all these things are working against him when in actuality, they were working for him. As Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good.” It doesn’t say, “All thing are good,” but, “All things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are the called according to His purpose,” and Joseph and Jacob were obviously called and were fulfilling God’s purpose in their life, even though they weren’t perfect.
It doesn’t mean that God engineered the brothers’ hatred and deception or that they weren’t even held responsible for what they had done. What this means is that our God is so great that He can work out His purposes, even when we as His people are doing their very worst.
In coming podcast, we’re going to go ahead and study through the life of Joseph until the end of Genesis, and we’re going to see how God’s providential workings are indeed awesome and should be a source of encouragement for us today as we endure difficult circumstances of our life. Thank you for watching and listening to this podcast. I’d love to hear from you. If you have questions or comments, please just email me at mike@rizen.church, and I would love to be able to hear from you, and I will respond to you. Thank you, and may God bless you.