Summary: Joseph overcame immense difficulties in his life that would have crippled the faith of a lesser man. How did he do it?
OPEN: Years ago there was a TV show called The Honeymooners (does anyone remember it)? Art Carney played one of the characters on the show Ed Norton - a kind of happy go lucky, but fairly slow thinking worker in the sewer systems of the city. Ed Norton once summed up his philosophy of life with these words:
When the tides of life turn against you,
And the current upsets your boat,
Don’t waste those tears on what might have been,
Just lie on your back and float.
Today I want to introduce you a man who repeatedly who saw the tides of life turn against him. Whose boat was upset more than once. A man whose difficulties would have crippled the faith of a lesser man. BUT, he didn’t sink…. (pause…) and he didn’t even float. He overcame AND he rose above the waves of adversity. He overcame these difficulties because of his “philosophy of life” - a philosophy of life was nobler and wiser than that of Ed Norton.
THE STORY: Who was this man? His name was Joseph.
We’re introduced to Joseph when he is a mere 17 years old. He’s born (to put it mildly) into a dysfunctional family.
His mother (Rachel) is dead. His daddy (Jacob) is now an old man who hasn’t always been godly.
Jacob has had 2 wives and 2 concubines from which he has fathered 12 sons and an unknown number of daughters. And they’re all living – pretty much – under the same roof.
That would have been difficult enough for some families to handle, but things were a little more complicated for Joseph – his brothers don’t much like him. And I’m not sure I blame them much.
· There was the time Joseph had been out in the fields with his half brothers - the sons of his father’s concubines – Bilhah and Zilpah. Joseph apparently observed these boys doing something they shouldn’t have. And he told dad.
· Add to this, the fact that Joseph was his daddy’s favorite boy (because his mother Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife) & this favoritism became painfully obvious when Jacob gave Joseph a fancy coat
ILLUS: Imagine taking one of your children out and buying them THE fanciest winter coat they’ve always wanted – but then you take your other kids to Good Will and buy them something off the rack. How do you think they’d feel?
Every time Joseph put it on, the coat reminded his brothers that they weren’t loved nearly as much as he was.
· AND THEN, to add insult to injury, it seems that even God favor Joseph over his brothers. God gave Joseph a couple of dreams. In the first dream he sees his brother’s sheaves of grain bowing to him. His brothers know what the dream means and they hate him for it. In the 2nd he envisions the Sun, Moon and 11 stars bowing down before him. Even his father rebukes him for that one.
Apparently, it was these dreams that finally caused his brothers’ anger to boil over. We’re told in Genesis 37:13, 18-19
(Jacob) said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them."
"Very well," he replied.
But (his brothers) saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. "Here comes THAT DREAMER!" they said to each other. "Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then WE’LL SEE WHAT COMES OF HIS DREAMS."
These dreams made Joseph’s brothers so angry they couldn’t hardly think straight. And, their hatred and jealousy was so strong that the 1st thing they wanted to kill him. But the oldest, Reuben, reasoned with them: "you don’t want to have his blood on your hands. Beat him up a little bit if you have to… but don’t kill him.
So, they took hold of Joseph, ripped off his hated coat and they threw him into a nearby cistern. And I suspect they intended to leave him there til he died.
Apparently they had not given up the idea of killing Joseph outright because Genesis 37:25-27 tells us:
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood."