Summary: How to avoid creating the environment that produces sibling rivalries, bitter jealousy and self ambition in families.
Fixing Family Feuds
Forsaking Foibles that Fracture Families
This morning we begin a new series on the life of Joseph, which I've entitled, Fixing Family Feuds. The Title is actually inadequate—yes a family feud was fixed, but an incredibly gracious God and an incredibly faithful young man were involved. Maybe a better title, but longer one would be Fixing Family Feuds with an Enduring Faith.
At any rate, when it comes to the life of Joseph, we come to one of my all-time favorite Bible stories. It is the one Bible story which I cannot read or speak about, or hear about without being brought to tears. My three daughters know this very well. When they were very young, one of our practices as we would go on vacation and I would be driving was to tell them, as you might imagine, long drawn-out Bible stories. I still remember driving across Nevada on lonely Highway 50 as I told them the story of Joseph, and they may still well remember how often I ended up nearly sobbing as the story came to a climax, as there was finally repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation, and God's great blessing. I guess the story is one of my all-time favorites because it emphasizes just how great God's grace is, in spite of our great sin, and how faithful He is to those who are persevering faithful toward Him.
As we embark on this message series, there are a couple of things that are worth noting. First, what an incredibly faithful, godly man Joseph turned out to be, against all odds, even when everything repeatedly was going wrong in his life, and terribly wrong. Joseph is one of two godly men in the Bible, the other being Daniel, whose life stories are told without there being a mention of a specific sin which they committed. To be sure, they were sinners, but somehow, though severely tested, and I'm sure tempted, Joseph maintained his integrity in the most discouraging and impossible of circumstances—something that we can all learn from in our hard times.
The second thing is just what a totally dysfunction, read that, sinful and wicked, family Joseph came from. It was the family of Jacob, whose other name was Israel, for the very nation He would form. What cannot be forgotten here is that Jacob and his 12 sons, despite their great sin, we're God's chosen people. They were part of the line of descendants whom God promised Abraham, the friend of God, that He would bless. And we see just how great God's sovereignty and grace is in his ability to bless as motley a crew as this family turned out to be. To think, that the blessing of the Messiah, and the salvation of the world, depended upon rotten people such as some of these were, whom God was able to bring to repentance and bring blessing upon the whole world is just amazing. Yes, both you and are I blessed today through Abraham's family, this line of descendants, because through them would come the Messiah, Jesus, our Savior. And there are many parallels, fore-shadowings through this story of how God would redeem us, and that He would redeem us through giving His own son, even as Judah offered to give His life to save another, and thus demonstrated both His repentance and the repentance of His brothers regarding the great sin that they had committed.
One of my mother's favorite sayings, and a saying I'm sure we're all familiar with is this: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And that saying is certainly evident from the portion of Joseph's story which we'll deal with today. Thank God, God has the pound of cure and then some, because that's what it would take to overcome the foibles, that is, the tremendous mistakes that were made by this family early in its history.
So, some background. The great patriarchs of the Jewish faith, the forefathers, were Abraham, his son Isaac, and his son Jacob. Each of these men came to a personal knowledge of God and became part of the line of blessing. Then Jacob had 12 sons who would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel who would each receive a land inheritance in the Promised Land. Jacob had had 12 sons and a daughter ultimately through four different wives: Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah and finally his favorite wife, and yes Joseph would play favorites, even as his mother and father had, his favorite wife Rachel. Six sons and a daughter came first through Rachel's older sister, Leah, two would then come from Bilhah, Rachel's maid, whom she gave to Jacob in order to somehow give him children through her, and then the competition continued, as Leah gave her maid to Jacob, and Zilpah had two more. And finally, after 10 sons were born to the other three, Rachel gave birth to Joseph, and then, sadly died, sixteen years later, as she gave birth to the baby of the family, Benjamin.