Friday, September 9, 2011

Genesis 37:14b-20

Today’s passage is all about betrayal, and Beth Moore refers us to a passage from the Psalms that speaks to the pain of betrayal:

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. (Psalm 55:12-14)

Perhaps, like David, you have felt the pain of such a betrayal. We aren’t surprised when an enemy is against us. Even though it hurts, we can explain it away and brush it off. But, when someone we have been close with turns against us, the pain is deep and the scars lasting. This is the betrayal experienced by Joseph, whose brothers had grown to HATE him.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they 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.” (Gen 37:14b-20)

Before we get to the brothers, note that Joseph actually received help from the Shechemite, who should have been the enemy. Sometimes it seems like we receive better treatment from those outside of the church than our own brothers and sisters in Christ. That is truly pathetic! There were instances in the New Testament when Jesus was better received by Gentiles (the Roman Centurian, the Samaritan woman). And, of course, He was rejected by His own, who plotted to kill Him even early in His ministry.

Which brings us back to Joseph’s brothers. Joseph had traveled a great distance to check up on his brothers (and I can imagine that like all little brothers, he desperately yearned for the respect and affection of his big brothers). However, as soon as they saw him coming, their hatred reared its ugly head and they immediately plotted to KILL him! This never fails to shock me! I can understand their being truly annoyed with this kid brother wearing the obnoxious coat that screamed, “Dad loves me best!” (see verse 23) I could comprehend it if they had planned to “pants” him or taunt him - but KILL him?

This points out two dangers: that of nursing a grudge which feeds thoughts of revenge; and the danger of the mob mentality. When we stew over negative thoughts about someone we work with or about a family member or neighbor, we begin to fantasize ways to get our revenge - either through spreading gossip or finding the perfect nasty remark to make or ways to undermine their reputation, etc. Once we do this in our imagination, it’s a quick step to actually acting out our plots. A better solution? Jesus told us to pray for our enemies! Or go to them to work out a resolution and reconciliation if possible.

We know that people will do things in a group that they would never do by themselves. Every year I warn my fifth graders about the importance of choosing good friends in middle school and the need to hang out with kids who will encourage them to be their best, because if they hang with a bad crowd, they will surely do things they will regret. And the same is true for us: it matters where we seek fellowship. Do you surround yourself with believers who are like-minded, encourage you in obedience, support your marriage, cheer you on to continue to grow in Christ? Or are you hanging with the group from work that likes to party on Friday nights, or the women in your neighborhood who meet in the street to complain about their spouses, or the “friends” who counsel you to continue in an inappropriate relationship?

We know that the events here in Genesis 37 were used by God to work His eventual plan for the salvation of His people - but that does not mean He condoned the actions of the brothers. The greatest miracle is that God is able to work ALL things together for good - even the evil betrayal of brothers!


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