How is your life going at the moment? When all is going well, we can fall into complacency or pride; when difficult, into envy and resentment. Come into the presence of God for a restored perspective (see Psalm 73:17).
37 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: 7 we were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.’
8 His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
One of the hardest things to come to terms with is that people less deserving than us (so we think) are more successful. The book of Genesis is full of such outcomes. Younger sons are more favoured than rightful heirs: Abel is favoured over Cain, Jacob over Esau, and Joseph over his older brothers. This is even more galling when the ‘successful’ individual is a cheat (as in the case of Jacob), or insensitive and arrogant (as in the case of the young Joseph).
This introduction to Joseph does not paint him in a favourable light. And yet, as the story unfolds, his dreams turn out to be accurate: Joseph’s brothers do bow down before him (50:18) as his dreams predicted.
Jacob (v 11; see Mary in Luke 2:51) does not discount the call of God through Joseph’s dreams. God insists on the right to choose how to use people (see Romans 9:19–21). Moreover, in the story of God, a small nation of shepherds turns out to be more important than mighty Egypt.
Offer to God your hopes and disappointments, successes and resentments: I am no longer my own but yours / Put me to what you will … / I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things / to your pleasure and disposal (The Methodist Covenant Prayer).
Deeper Bible study
‘… encourage one another and build each other up … be patient with everyone.’1
Contemporary culture encourages people to dream. It peddles the delusion that any dream will do; if you believe it enough it will come true. How different is the dream Joseph had. Coming from God, it didn’t reveal Joseph’s personal ambition, even though that’s what his family thought. It laid out the future God was planning, which was surprisingly different from the one his brothers assumed.
Like in any new TV series, the first episode introduces the main characters. We learn a great deal about them. Joseph is young, precocious and a telltale. Perhaps by way of explanation, the writer informs us he was a spoiled child, Daddy’s favourite, evident from the special robe his father gave him which may even have hinted at royal pretensions. Could Jacob not see that his treatment of Joseph had all the potential for family friction? Jealousy boiled over when Joseph reported to his brothers his dream that suggested they’d become his subordinates. A second dream indicated that his parents would also submit to him, which invited a rebuke from his doting father. Victor Hamilton comments, ‘Jacob has already bowed before his brother (33:3). Must he now bow before his son as well?’2
None come out of the story well. Joseph needs to grow up. What he believes is right, but he needs to learn to communicate the truth more wisely. Jacob needs to show greater wisdom in leading the family. The brothers need to learn patience, overcome jealousy and trust the God who doesn’t always work in predictable ways. But what encouragement there is here! God stakes the future of the covenant on a flawed family and a young dreamer. Such is his grace. Surely that gives hope to you and me.
Who can I encourage to mature in Christ today, especially, perhaps, a young person just starting to serve him?
1 1 Thess 5:11,14 2 Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50, NICOT, Eerdmans, 1995, p411
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Jeremiah 47,48; John 17
Pray for Scripture Union
Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world and a Spanish version of Guardians of Ancora is in the early stages of development. Please pray for the project manager Julio Cesar in Bolivia, for partnering organisations across Central and South America and Europe and for all the finances, logistics and coordination to make this happen.