Summary: Insights on how Joseph was faithful to God even in an imperfect family.
When Life is the Pits
A Study of the Life of Joseph
Sermon # 1
“Dealing with an Imperfect Family.”
Genesis 37: 1-11
The term dysfunctional is used quite often today in regard to families. The word refers to the sense of disintegration produced in a family where there is a lot of hurt. From a Christian perspective it is a home that is not functioning as God intended. It could be the result of divorce, lack of communication, rivalry among the children, self consumed parents, addictions, child abuse, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, extramarital affairs, pornography and the list goes on and on.
One of the strange dynamics in family life is that when children grow up they often repeat the mistakes of their families. The truth is that what we know about marriage and parenting for good or bad we learned in our homes. The end result is that dysfunctional families can create dysfunctional families often for generations. I believe that this is at least a part of what the Bible is speaking of when it says in Numbers 14:18, that God visits “…. the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” (NKJV).
Living in such a family it can be very difficult to live for God. But it is not impossible, as we will see. Joseph is proof that it can be done. Joseph was raised in a home filled with angry, jealous and deceitful people, yet he became one of the two men who’s lives are recorded in the Bible about whom there is not one word of criticism. Joseph was faithful in an imperfect family and we want to examine his life today and see what insights we can gain for our own lives.
“Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. (2) This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. (4) But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. (5) Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. (6) So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: (7) There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” (8) And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (9) Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” (10) So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (11) And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (NKJV)
I. Joseph had Imperfect Parents.
Joseph’s family was so unbelievable that it could not even be made into a soap opera for television. He had three stepmothers, ten step-brothers and a step sister all living in the home at the same time. Just try to imagine the turmoil in this family. Jacob, Joseph’s father was polygamist, a passive parent, who openly showed favoritism among his children. Jacob’s wives were jealous and insecure. Joseph’s home had four unhappy women.
Joseph had a weak and ineffective father. Jacob was the classic passive parent. Earlier great tragedy had befallen the family. As they travel across country Jacob daughter was raped by the son of the mayor of Shechem (34:1-2). When Jacob learned what had happened he did nothing. His sons however when they saw that their father was going to do nothing took matters into their own hands. They devise a plan and killed all the men in the city (34:29). When Jacob learned of what they had done his chief concern was about bad public relations with the rest of the people in the land. But still he did nothing. Later, his oldest son, Reuben had a sexual affair with Bilhah, his concubine (35:21).