Summary: First in a series on Joseph’s life and character. This one deals with his family background and how God removed him to build him into a man He could use.
Trinity Baptist Church June 11, 2006
Character on Display
Exiled for Good
People have said that character can be measured by how you act when no one’s watching -- and how you treat people who can do you no good -- and how you treat people who can’t fight back.
We want to talk about character this Summer. Specifically, we’ll scrutinize a man’s life under the lens of Scripture, taking a look at what I’ve called “character on display”.
The NT tells us that OT accounts like Joseph’s story were recorded "for our instruction". God provides OT biographies for a pointed reason: to remove truth from theory and teach it to us through the flesh and blood lives of every day people.
Joseph’s life and character will speak to us as believers. We’ll be challenged as we see how God builds character into His man. Joseph will model integrity for us -- for instance, when a brazen woman throws herself at him. Then he’ll sit in prison for years, waiting for God to move. Both in slavery and in prison, he’ll exhibit faithfulness in serving well. In the end, as a powerful government official, Joseph will choose grace and forgiveness when revenge would be a lot more natural.
Character on display. We need to take a hard look. Because the character God created in Joseph’s life is identical to the variety He wants to build into ours.
Joseph is one of few people about whom Scripture says almost no negative word. Considering his family of origin, that’s pretty amazing.
You may remember that Joseph was the son of Jacob’s old age. He’s the son of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. Since she was his favorite, Joseph automatically became Jacob’s favorite son. And everyone knew it.
Jacob had other issues. He’d been his mother’s favorite. He had connived and manipulated with her to cheat his brother Esau out of his birthright and out of the blessing of his dying father. Then he ran from his angry brother -- he went off to live with Uncle Laban, a man as deceitful as Jacob. Somehow the two managed to peacefully coexist -- long enough for Jacob to gain two wives and put together a large herd of livestock and gain servants and possessions. Then -- deceitfully -- they parted company.
The reunion with brother Esau wasn’t completely forthright. The pattern Joseph had seen in his father was largely living life his way. Jacob knew God, he’d encountered Him on a more than one occasion, but the evidence is God never became His object of worship, or passion or the center of his life. Life for Jacob was all about Jacob. Toward the end of our study, when Jacob’s other sons return from Egypt and report they must take Benjamin with them back to Egypt, Jacob whines with words that reflect his immaturity: he says, all these things are against me!! Jacob is a materialistic man who’s consumed with his own welfare. He’s also a passive husband and father.
His passivity as a parent was most visible in Genesis chapter 34 -- where Leah’s daughter Dinah goes out to visit some young women nearby. In Shechem, Dinah was approached by a prince of the land -- he saw her -- was infatuated with her and he raped her. Then when he sought to take her as a wife, there was zero response from Jacob -- but there was from his sons. They deceived the prince and other men of the land, and in a scheme, ended up killing all the men in the city.
Jacob heard what they had done and he was angry! Not angry that his daughter had been raped. Not angry at himself for having done nothing about it. Not even angry at his sons’ revenge -- he was upset because, he said, his sons would bring trouble down on him.
So the account of Jacob describes a passive, scheming, deceiving, self-centered father.
Enjoying his father’s favor. (37:1-4)
As I said, Joseph was Jacob’s firstborn from his favorite wife, Rachel. He was born in Jacob’s old age, and he seemed to give the old man a new lease on life. He doted on him. Gave him the honored place, even before his much older brothers, who were mostly grown by then.
But Jacob’s other boys weren’t fools. They watched things transpire and likely did a slow burn, watching their elderly father turn this young son into a pet.
Look at chapter 37, verse 3. …Israel -- Jacob -- loved Joseph more than all his sons because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.
Blatant favoritism. Swindoll says, “passive fathers tend to favor the child who’s easiest to raise.” If that’s true in this case, Joseph was probably super compliant. And why wouldn’t he be?