Summary: Generational Conflict is not new. We learn from the Joseph story that Humility from the Old will encourage the young to accomplish great things, and Respect from the young will provide honor that is due to their seniors.
An article in “Christianity Today” suggests that many churches have become segregated - not by race, but by age. Mollie Hemmingway writes about a newly started church that meets in a movie theater. All of the attenders are under 30. They are single, professional, independent and hip. Except that many of them soon discover that a movie theater is not the most practical place for important events in life, such as weddings. And no one can remember a funeral in the churches ten year history.
Hemingway, Mollie Ziegler. "Segregated In A Whole New Way." Christianity Today 54.1 (2010): 62. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 June 2013.
As we will see from our story of Jacob and his sons, Generational Conflict is not new. It seems that every generation laments over the loss of tradition. Older members of society fear the demise of all that is dear as reckless youth promote their new and untried ideas.
We will draw two principles from this portion of the Joseph story:
Humility from the Old will encourage the young to accomplish great things
Respect from the young will provide honor that is due to their seniors
I. Signs of Generational Conflict in the Story of Joseph.
Four developments in the Joseph story indicate generational conflict between Jacob and his sons.
FIRST, in Gen 42:1we discover that Jacob is a frustrated old man. Genesis 42:1–2 "When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” " "He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”"
A new temptation faces us when we get old - FRUSTRATION. We can’t do the things we want to do. Our health diminishes as we realize that many of our goals remain unfulfilled. Notice the description by Solomon. Ecclesiastes 12:1–5 "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— " "before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; " "when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; " "when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; " "when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets."
The description in Ecclesiastes is somewhat depressing because it focuses on the physical realities of diminishing strength. Praise God that we are more than just a physical being! We have hope because there is more to our existence than just our mortal body!
My good friend Paul Bubar summarized the frustrations that often accompany old age. He said to his wife, “Shirley, when ladies get old, they start to nag, and when men get old they start to get grumpy. So if you don’t nag, I won’t get grumpy!”
We can lean from Paul’s advice!
The SECOND evidence of generational conflict in this portion of the story is found in Genesis 42:24 where we discvoer an impatient young man named REUBEN. Genesis 42:22 "Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”"
Reuben’s impatience and frustration with his younger brothers shows as he reprimands them for disregarding his advice over twenty years earlier when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Reuben has his own frustrations, but they are with himself for failing to adequately lead his brothers and protect the young Joseph. Kurt Alland writes, “A telltale sign of lost influence is a failed leader’s gasping protestation, “I told you so!” K. A. Mathews, vol. 1B, Genesis 11:27–50:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 786.
A THIRD indication of Generational Conflict is seen in the way that Judah steps in to gently confront his father Jacob in Genesis 42:1-5. Here, we see a Capable Son. Genesis 43:1–5 "Now the famine was still severe in the land. " "So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.” " "But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ " "If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. " "But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ ”"