JOSEPH – THE MAKING OF A LEADER
Joseph, a seventeen-year old boy, went from being a favorite son to a slave in one day. Yet, God had called Joseph for a specific purpose, revealed to him in a dream. The specifics of when, how, and where God would fulfill this dream were not revealed initially, but unfolded by God’s prescribed circumstances. All of us have been called to be leaders- of our wives, our kids, or in our business. God must develop leadership qualities in us for that to be a reality. How He accomplishes that is His business. Joseph reveals the story of a man who experienced great difficulties in order to be and see God’s purposes in his life.
We could view Joseph’s life as a giant jigsaw puzzle. The individual pieces of this puzzle seem meaningless apart from the whole. Yet each piece is significant to fulfill the dream that God gave to Joseph. In this chapter we will examine the pieces of the puzzle. Then, we will see the problems with the pieces, and finally notice the purposes of the pieces.
I. THE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE 35:18; 37:2-28
There are four pieces that stand out in this chapter, which are key to God’s work in Joseph, as well as His purpose for Joseph being fulfilled.
A. Death – 35:18
Rachel, Joseph’s mom, died giving birth to Benjamin. No doubt Joseph was in his teen years and this would have been a difficult time. Death of his mom was a key factor in what takes place in chapter 37. If Rachel had been alive perhaps she would have intervened on behalf of her son, protecting him from harm. She would have counseled her husband to not show favoritism to Joseph above his brothers. She would have told Joseph to keep his dream private, instead of telling his brothers. God removed the one who could have stood in the way of Joseph experiencing the Lord’s best.
Further, Joseph was being prepared for another type of death. The grieving he experienced over his mom’s death would end with Joseph, having grown up, not having Rachel around to treat him as a baby. He would have to learn to depend on the Lord rather than a mother. Having walked through a death place, he would be prepared to walk through it again when his relationship with his family “dies.” Later, in Egypt, he would die to a position in Potipher’s house. Then he would die to being released from prison, and perhaps ultimately die to a dream that he had at seventeen years old.
B. Deeds 37:2-28
Three events or deeds took place that planted the seeds for the rejection Joseph walked through later in the chapter. Two of these deeds were attributed to Joseph, while one was done by Jacob.
1. The Informer v. 2
Joseph committed the unpardonable sin among siblings, he snitched on his brothers. It is unclear what the brothers had done wrong. Perhaps they were drinking too much, smoking rabbit tobacco, or talking about girls in an inappropriate manner. Regardless, Joseph came to Jacob and exposed their misbehavior.
On one hand we would certainly, as parents, want a child to report sin in the camp. But as siblings this is a “no-no.” The brothers no doubt began to withdraw from Joseph fearing that he would tattle on them every time they did wrong. You can imagine the scene when Joseph would come around. Everyone would stop talking about the story at hand, and they would all begin to chant, “tattletale, tattletale, hang your britches on a nail…”
2. The Inheritor v. 3-4
Jacob initiates the next event. It was probably already apparent to the brothers that Jacob loved Joseph more than the brothers. No doubt Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph related to his love for Rachel. After all, Joseph was the first born of Rachel. Now a more overt action would confirm this fact to the family. Jacob gave to Joseph a coat, a beautiful multicolored tunic. This coat not only signified the favoritism of Jacob, but also declared that Joseph would be treated as the first-born of his brothers. He would then receive a double portion of the inheritance. Thus, his brothers were upset over the financial hit they would take as a result of Joseph. This would be particularly hard for Rueben who was Jacob’s oldest.
3. The Dreamer v. 5-11
Joseph had two dreams, one in which sheaves in a field bowed to his sheaf. The next dream had the sun, the moon, and the stars all bowing down to Joseph. Joseph interpreted both dreams telling his brothers in each, they would be bowing to him. The brothers, in verse 8, hated Joseph even more because of the dreams. In verse 11 it says that Jacob “kept the sayings in mind.” Jacob knew about how God chose the younger to rule over the elder.
The deed here is not that Joseph had a dream, but that he told his brothers about it. This simply added to their ill will toward Joseph. When they eventually plotted to kill him, in verses 18-20, it was his dreaming that fueled their efforts. In their mind, killing Joseph would end the possibility of his dreams coming true.
C. Duty v.12-17
One day the brothers were out shepherding the sheep. Jacob wanted to find out how things were going, so he commanded Joseph to find his brothers and see about their welfare. Joseph’s response was, “I will go.” So Joseph traveled to Shechem and yet he did not find his brothers. Instead of returning home Joseph inquired about the brothers and continued on until he found them. Here we see the obedience of Joseph as a key piece of the puzzle. He not only obeyed initially, but persistently. This would not be the only time in Joseph’s life that he would obey and end up suffering for it. This was preparation for future suffering. The point is that being faithful as a son to his father, Joseph suffered ultimate rejection.
D. Dejection v. 18-28
Once Joseph found his brothers his life changed forever. They plotted to kill him and would have if Rueben had not intervened on Joseph’s behalf (v.21-22). Rueben had every intention of rescuing Joseph and returning him safely to his father. Another piece of the puzzle is that Rueben rescued Joseph from death. Further, God removed Rueben from being present to rescue Joseph from the brothers’ attempts to sell him into slavery. The brothers’ hatred became the motivation for rejection, i.e. the selling of Joseph into the hands of slave traders. Later, they even lied to their father, another significant piece of the puzzle. If Jacob had known what his sons had done and that Joseph was alive, he would have pursued Joseph to bring him home.
So we see that God allowed many evil circumstances in Joseph’s life in order to fulfill the dream. As painful as rejection is, it is still a piece of the puzzle. Rejection viewed alone only leads to bitterness, but when viewed through the sovereignty of God, frees us to see his purposes.
II. PROBLEMS WITH THE PIECES v. 23-24
Joseph was thrown into a pit. We do not know how long Joseph was in the pit, but he was there long enough to contemplate what had happened to him. Most in his shoes would have one of two problems, shame or blame. The blame certainly could be understood. After all it was his brothers who did him wrong. Even if Joseph had done them wrong in every area, what they did to him does not match the offense.
However, the shame part could have also played out in Joseph’s mind. In other words he could have second-guessed himself, and lived with guilt or regrets. Joseph could have played the “what if or the if only” game.“If only I had not tattled on my brothers,” is one potential regret. Another could have been, “If only I had put that coat in the closet and never shown it to my brothers.” Or, “Why did I tell them about those dreams?” Finally, “If only I had come home after not finding them initially.” The worst thought would have been, “Here I have obeyed God by doing what my father asked and now look what happened.”
This can be the problem with the pieces of the puzzle. As one looks at the individual pieces, the pain it caused, or the negatives that initially take place, one can become discouraged, fearful, or even bitter.
III. PURPOSES FOR PIECES
The only way one can avoid the mistake of focusing on the individual pieces and becoming bitter, is to see the Hand of the One holding the pieces and putting them together. The Lord is at work putting all the pieces in place to fashion a beautiful picture. In Joseph’s case the Lord was bringing about the fulfillment of the dream he had given to this young man. If God had spoken to Joseph saying, “Arise, go to Egypt, and I will make you a leader,” chances are he would have not obeyed. This is where we trust our all wise Heavenly Father to use every circumstance or person to fulfill His purpose for each of us. Little did Joseph know that his leadership dream would be fulfilled in the land of Egypt, years later. One has to live with an attitude of, “Lord my life is in your hands; it is up to you to bring purpose out of these seemingly meaningless or painful circumstances.”