Summary: This sermon explores ’family’ relationships through the Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers. Because of his relationship with God, Joseph has decided to engage in his relationships differently.
Bibliography: Culture Shifts, Lesson 6
What we have before us is a very touching scene. This family has hurt one another incredibly.
Joseph’s story is one of the rich time honored stories that has been retold many times in life of the church. In recent years, an animated film about Joseph’s story has been released at the box office. You may know it as Joseph, King of Dreams.
Joseph’s father is Jacob - also known as Israel. Jacob had several wives. By these wives Jacob has had 10 sons and an unrevealed number of daughters. Jacob favors one wife, Rachel, over the others and shows favoritism to the two sons he has fathered with Rachel. Joseph is one of these sons. It has led to hate and discontent among these brothers. They are caught up in the “father-always-loved-you-better-than-me” syndrome.
Though it is understandable what led these brothers to have these feelings due to the actions of their parent, Joseph’s brothers did a horrible thing in their own right. They acted on their jealousy. Initially, in their hate they intended to kill their brother and tell their father Joseph had been eaten by a lion. Instead, an Arab caravan conveniently passing by led them to sell their brother into slavery.
Joseph, I would say, is not completely innocent in his relationship with his brothers. It seems to me that as I read this ancient story, there were signs of Joseph embracing his father’s favoritism.
When he worked in the fields, tending sheep, he would return and tell his father the things his brothers had done wrong and that his father would be displeased about. He had a dream in which he saw himself ruling over his brothers. I don’t think it would take a genius to figure out this wouldn’t make them happy, but Joseph doesn’t hesitate to share this vision of his future with them.
So Joseph is not completely innocent in the dysfunctionalism that exists within his family. Joseph definitely comes from the ultimate dysfunctional family. His story is a typical example of biblical family life and dysfunctional behavior. Their family history is not an odd, one of a kind narrative. Their family isn’t the first family in the Bible to have some relationship issues. It is an example of common human experiences in scripture.
The odd thing is, our modern society exhibits this biblical model of a multifamily unit than society did, say, 40 to 50 years ago. We have it in our heads that the perfect model family consists of one mother, one father, and 2 to 3 children which all stay together until death parts the parents. Such a modeld family may be ideal, but it didn’t exist in form in the Bible, and seldom does it exist for us today.
We can relate to relationship issue and dysfunctional families. Far too many of us understand the “yours, mine, and ours” of family life. We participate in such families as children, as adults, as grandparents, aunts or uncles. And whether or not our family exhibits the perfect model structure, or not, far too many of us can understand and relate to issues of getting along with one another. We can understand the resentment of Joseph’s brothers because we’ve been there. We have family gathering that resemble the situation that has led to Joseph’s family reunion. We can comprehend the feelings of mistreatment and injustice on Joseph’s behalf because we’ve been there too.
We read Joseph’s story and we respond in the affirmative. “That’s right,” we say. They have a right to be resentful, he is correct in feeling hurt and crying out against the injustice done to him, because we’ve been treated that way too in our own families.
When we catch up with Joseph in our story, he has been through a lot. It wasn’t just enough his brothers sold him into slavery. Other people have compounded the wrong doing of his brothers. In the home in which Joseph was sold into servitude, Joseph was falsely accused of trying to rape the mistress of the household. Joseph spent several years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. How do you think he must have felt about his brothers while he was there? What must he have been thinking all those years - “I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t have treated me that way.”
And now Joseph finds himself in a unique, and I would think somewhat awkward situation. Joseph has been able to turn his life around. Its definitely been a long road. But since coming into captivity, while he was in prison, the Lord has blessed everything that Joseph has done.
Initially he advances in the home in which he was a slave. In prison he advances as a model prisoner and example. Finally, he is taken into service in the household of Pharaoh, the king. There he also advances until he becomes the king’s right-hand man and second in command.