Thursday, August 07, 2014

Family strife

"Joseph Tells His Dreams"
by Rembrandt

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 37:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons..." Genesis 37:3 NIV

The events in today's reading make for a great story—but not so great if they are happening to you. Joseph, son of Jacob's best-loved wife Rachel is now a teenager and out in the field with some of his brothers. The list of family frictions recorded in this story begins with his tattletale reaction to their misbehaviour (Genesis 37:2). It carries on, illustrating family dysfunctions of:

Favouritism: Joseph's father makes him a distinctive coat (Genesis 37:3).

Jealousy: This special treatment makes his brothers hate him even more so they can't even be civil to him (Genesis 37:4).

Boasting vanity: Joseph rubs in his favoured status by telling his two dreams where family members bow to him (Genesis 37:6-11).

Hatred — and murder (almost): All this bad will eventually ripen into the brothers' scheme, when the opportunity presents itself, to murder Joseph. (This plan changes when a Midianite caravan passes by. Selling Joseph to these slave traders makes it possible for the brothers to rid themselves of their sibling pest without actually killing him (Genesis 37:20, 27-28).

And in tomorrow's reading, there's more.

Of course we know how the story ends—that even in and through those dysfunctions, God works for good so that Joseph and all his scheming brothers are eventually preserved. Joseph himself understands and explains God's hand in these things years later: " for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive" Genesis 50:20-21.

Most families have some dysfunction in them. Inevitably circumstances dovetail with personalities to bring about unfairness, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, deep-rooted grievances... But this story gives hope to crippled families. God is able to turn even the most unlikely family situation into something good.

PRAYER: Dear God, You know the issues in my family. I pray that You are even now transforming them into something that will work for good. Amen.

MORE: The irony of Joseph's dreams

Speaking of Joseph's dreams in a 1981 sermon, John Piper says:

"They helped produce their fulfillment. They made Joseph's brothers so angry that they sold him to some Midianite tradesmen on their way to Egypt. The irony here is terrific: by sending Joseph to Egypt to get rid of the vain dreamer, they set in motion the very events that fulfilled the dream. That's the way it is every time we try to resist the purposes of God. We always wind up fulfilling them—even when we do it like Judas" - John Piper, from a 1981 sermon "God Meant it for Good" (By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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