Summary: How do we feel when we are alone and discouraged? When we are beat up by the world wondering where God is in our lives? God is right beside us.
Last week we read a portion of the account of Jacob’s life. We read how Jacob had fallen in love with Rachael, but he was tricked into marrying Rachael’s sister Leah first. We looked at the children of Jacob, and who they were. And we looked at what would become the twelve tribes of Israel. So now let’s look at the life of Joseph. At the start of Genesis chapter 37, we read that Joseph was out in the field with his brothers. He came back home and gave Jacob a bad report. Jacob loved Joseph more than any of the others. His father had given him a brightly colored outer coat that he wore to stand out among the rest of his brothers, and they were tired of it. Actually they were sick of it, and quite frankly they were filled with hate and never wanted to see him again. Joseph, only a young man in his mid-teens had the gift of dream interpretation, certainly important during those days. His first dreams had to do with his brothers bowing down to him and his second included the sun, moon and eleven stars - a young man, perhaps slightly prideful in his youth as the favored one. Yet as we read on, Joseph never once abandoned his relationship with God.
Joseph’s eleven brothers are out in the field working and Jacob sends him out to find them to make sure everything’s OK. He asked that Joseph return with an update. So he puts on his multi-colored coat and heads off into the fields in the heat of the day. And he would walk four or five hours until he would find them, but they saw him approach first. (I wonder how they recognized him from afar.) They said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say; ‘Some wild beast has devoured him. We shall see what will become of his dreams!” But the first-born brother Reuben (son of Jacob and Leah) spoke up and said, “let’s not kill him.” Instead put him in a pit (in the middle of nowhere, but on the main trade route on the way to Egypt.) Reuben wanted to spare his life, but remove him from the picture, thinking at some point he may return and bring Joseph back home. But that wouldn’t happen. Reuben and his brother’s stripped Joseph of his coat, threw him in a deep pit without water. After doing so, scripture tells us they brushed the dust off their hands and sat down together for a meal. They hear a noise, look up and see a company of Ishmaelites (also known as Midianites) coming from Gilead with their camels bearing spices, balm and myrrh on their way to Egypt to sell their wares. The brothers took advantage of the situation, pulled Joseph from the pit and sold him for twenty shekels of silver (the price of a disabled slave.) After all, no blood would be on their hands. So the Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt, an unfamiliar land with an unfamiliar language. Then the brothers took Joseph’s multi-colored coat, killed a goat and dipped the coat in the blood. What an amazing scheme. They took it to their Father (probably scheming and laughing all the way home – although Reuben was deeply troubled) and asked Jacob if he recognized it. Of course Jacob did believing a wild beast had devoured his son and scripture says he mourned and wept for many, many days. His eleven sons and his daughters tried to give him comfort, but Jacob told them he would go to his grave grieving for Joseph. And then we learn that the Ishmaelites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard. Other translations refer to Potiphar as the captain of the bodyguard. This group was an elite, courageous band of rugged men. Potiphar was actually the “chief of the executioners.” No matter what title you give him, Potiphar was nobody to fool around with; he was a man of seasoned military experience with power over life and death. Yet Joseph not only adjusted to his new situation, he flourished in it – and for one major reason. Joseph was better than all of the rest, and he knew it? In difficult situations, Joseph could tune himself out and just dream? Dream, dream, dream? No, the reason emerges in a beautiful phrase that appears a number of times in Joseph’s story. “And the Lord was with Joseph.”