Monday, September 12, 2011

Genesis 37:20-28

As I have been reading and rereading today’s passage, the LORD has been convicting me of how my own behavior has, at times, mimicked the behavior of Joseph’s brothers here. Let’s look at what is in their hearts as they see Joseph coming:

“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 37:20)

Look at what motivated their hated of Joseph: jealousy. They were contemptuous of his dreams that indicated he would rule over them. And they were jealous of the attention their father paid to his favorite son. Jealousy fed leads to hatred. Think about people around you who provoke envy in your heart: neighbors who seem to have an easier life (or easier kids), co-workers who appear to be getting farther ahead than you, a sibling who has a better marriage... Envy comes from a lack of contentment and gratitude. If we are truly thankful to God for the MANY blessings He has given us freely, we do not need to be stewing over who has it better - we can be happy for those who are doing well, not jealous.

Note that eldest brother, Reuben, makes an attempt to mollify the brothers in order to rescue Joseph:

When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. (vs. 21-24)

Why didn’t Reuben just call his brothers out on this whole thing, rather than give them another option? They ripped off the offending robe and threw him into a waterless cistern in the middle of the desert! Now, apparently Reuben intended to come back and rescue Joseph, but he did not show moral courage or leadership here - he vacillated and, therefore, became as guilty as his brothers. We’re not told where Reuben went to, but verse 29 would indicate that Reuben had stepped away for a moment, because he was not there when the brothers proceeded with their actions against Joseph.

As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. (vs. 25-28)

How callous were these brothers that they could sit down and eat their meal while their brother was surely crying to them from the bottom of the cistern? Judah steps up, just like Reuben and makes a half-hearted attempt to mitigate what they’ve done. “Hey, bros, this is not going to help us if we kill him - we’ll be in deep trouble then - so let’s just get rid of him, because, hey, he’s our baby brother!” He was just trying to put lipstick on this pig. They technically wouldn’t be guilty of murder, but, as Jesus pointed out, they had already committed murder in their hearts.

So they sold Joseph to an Ishmaelite group of traveling salesmen for some silver (just like Jesus was sold). Problem solved! The brother was gone, and now they would have all of Dad’s affection, right? Wrong! We’ll look at the results of their actions tomorrow, but for now, as we sit in on judgment of these nasty boys, can we even identify just a bit with what they did??? Both Reuben and Judah showed more concern for what others thought of them than for doing the right thing. Has this ever happened to you?

This is where God convicted me this morning! It is so difficult to stand out in a group and call out gossip for what it is. It’s easier to laugh at tasteless jokes than to admit offense. When the mob we hang with is ready to lynch someone’s reputation, do we find the courage to call it wrong? It is HARD to stand up for what is right, but Jesus did not call us to EASY! Do you see the parallel here between Reuben and Judah with Pontius Pilate in listening to the mob crying out for Jesus’ blood? He washed his hands of the mess, as if it took away his guilt in the murder. Moral courage calls for more.

We’ll see tomorrow that they really didn’t solve their problem with Joseph. Sin never makes things better...


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