Exploring Joseph's Story, part 1

One of the most fascinating stories of the Bible is the story of Joseph. I am assuming that all of you know the story. And if you don’t, I am inviting you to explore the story with me. It is important and interesting. The book of Genesis has fifty chapters, and fourteen of them are dedicated to just Joseph’s story. That is over twenty-five percent of the book. From kids, we have learned and can tell the story, but I am inviting you to explore and examine it. There must be more we can learn from this story. As you learn more about Joseph, it is almost impossible not to see yourself in the story.

If you ever had difficult times in life, if you have ever been discouraged and troubled about life’s uncertainties, let us explore this story, and I can almost guarantee that you will see life differently. Joseph is a model of faithfulness, of walking not by sight, but by faith. I would ask you to take time at home or any chance you get. Don’t rush into that story, but take your time. Take time to enjoy it. When I was a kid, growing up in hard times, they gave me food, and it was so good, but so small. There is a word you used back then: it is called in Creole, “pinoche”. If they give you just a little piece of rice, you eat it one little grain at a time. You take it a little at a time so that you can enjoy it. I want you to take the story of Joseph the same way. As you explore it, I want you to see the many ways in it to make it personal to you. After you read it, you should claim it. You should say, “This was written just for me.” You should see at least one hundred ways that Jesus was a foreshadowing of Christ. There are many great men in the Bible, but Joseph is one for which there is no recorded sin. That doesn’t mean that he never sinned, but it was not recorded for him. Even when he was born, that was a miracle. Joseph was a great deliverer of the people of God, just like Jesus, not with weapon, but with exhortation and humiliation.

Before we go into the scripture, let’s see what family Joseph came from. Things were set up for him. Just like when you were born, you didn’t get to choose your mom and dad; they were there for you. Things were set up for you. But peace and love were not ready at Jacob’s house like you would expect from the man of God. From the beginning, when he got married (you know the story; we’re not going into every detail), but he thought he married Rachel, but he found out when he woke up in the morning that they gave him the ugly sister. That was a disappointment. So now he had to work seven more years to get the one he loved. You see that from the beginning, there was a quarrel in that household, because he had two wives. Then, because Rachel had no children, she said “Take my servant and give me children by her.” Now he had three wives. Thee are half-brothers and half-sisters. Then Leah said, “Take my servant also,” and he had four wives. In a house of brothers and sisters with the same mother and father, things are hard enough. Now to make matters worse, Rachel prayed again and God decided to bless her with one child. This was the child of his love, and you can’t begin to imagine how Joseph spoiled that kid. So Joseph had ten half-brothers (which are also half-brothers to each other), and one half-sister. It is a miracle for Joseph to come out as he did, because this wasn’t a house that had peace in it.

Genesis 37:1-2
  1. And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
  2. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

Joseph was seventeen years old. Of course, he probably was with his dad for a long time, and was very close to him. So being with his ten half-brothers, he cannot imagine why they were so mean (you can imagine what kind of kids they must have been!). Does that make him a tattle-tale? I don’t know, but you can imagine that if he was telling on them, then there was something to tell about. And also there is no record of them regretting their actions.

Joseph was in harmony with his father. As the scripture says,

John 5:19
  1. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

You remember Jesus said, “I must be about my father’s business.” I imagine that was the kind of attitude Joseph had. He was spending his time being about his father’s will. Whenever Joseph or Jesus was doing something to be in the will of the father, they would ask “Is this something that will please my dad?” The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the fear of man is a snare.

Proverbs 9:10
  1. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Proverbs 29:25
  1. The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

So Joseph had to choose whether to be in fear of his dad or to be in fear of his brothers.

Genesis 37:3
  1. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

Regardless of his love for Joseph, it is not a good thing for a parent to manifest his love toward a particular one of their children. But Israel did worse than that; he made him a coat of many colors. Now realize that the coat “of many colors” doesn’t have anything to do with colors. The language means “with extra pieces.” A regular working-man’s coat had no sleeves. But a coat with sleeves meant you were the boss. So when Joseph wore this coat, he wasn’t there to work; he was there to supervise.

Genesis 37:4-10
  1. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
  2. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
  3. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
  4. For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
  5. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
  6. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
  7. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Do you think that there is something wrong with Joseph at this point? Why in the world would he be telling this dream? I don’t know whether he intended to hurt them, to provoke their jealousy even more. But one thing I see, that he said “I pray you.” He wanted them to hear; he wanted to be nice to them. They didn’t have anything nice to say to him, so he probably wanted to be friendly; he wanted to share. Also I see that Joseph was always with his mom and dad, because this was the true marriage, the true husband and wife. Joseph and Benjamin were their only two children, and the others were outsiders. I imagine that Joseph, at seventeen years old, didn’t have a clue about what was really going on. Did you ever meet a seventeen-year-old who didn’t have a clue? I think that he didn’t understand how badly his brothers hated him. Or maybe he wanted to tell the truth, regardless. Maybe he did want their anger. I doubt that, but we will look at all the possibilities.

There is a huge difference between dreams that we have and dreams that God has for you. Do you understand? It’s okay to dream yourself, but it’s something else for God to have a dream for you. Joseph was only sharing the dream. He didn’t make it up; that was God showing what he wanted. When God has a dream for you and for me, there is a long time, because God has to take time to build character in you, to shape you and get you ready. We know by reading his story that Joseph went through a lot. He got wise by dealing with those situations. If he had that wisdom, he would not have told his dream, but at seventeen he was pretty naive.

Genesis 37:11
  1. And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Joesph was basically innocent. If there was somebody to be hated, it was Jacob himself; Joseph didn’t do anything wrong. Now, looking at his brothers, I can imagine that you would say “these guys were bad.” But I want to take a little time to look at ourselves. The Bible says that his brothers envied him. And we know that envy is our natural physical desire. It is possible to be envious of anything.

The desire to have what another person has.

Somebody has something and you desire to have that, it is still not wrong to have a desire. But envy is not simply a longing to have what another person has. The envious person wants to have something instead of the other person having it. If another person has something, it’s okay to want to have it too. But the envious person wants to have it instead of the other person having it. You see the difference? Because of envy, when you want to have what some other person has instead of them having it, but you don’t have it because that other person has it, now you hate that other person.

Almost anything can be envied: it can be thing, or a good voice, or making a basket; almost anything. Sometimes when you have something, you try to generate envy by saying that you have it. It used to be that everyone wanted to “keep up with the Jones”. But now they want to exceed the Jones. Every one of us could live way lower than we do, if it wasn’t for our neighbors. Every single one of us could live with one pair of shoes. You don’t even need your sandals, because you could go into the shower and wash and dry your feet, and go into your room. Remember on the ship, when you lived with all you had in your bunk, and you lived. But now you go home and you have all this space! So you have a lot of junk, too. Don’t get me wrong, I have those things, too. But I am aware that I can live with a lot less. The Bible says that if you have clothes to wear and food to eat, you should be content. That doesn’t mean that if you have more, you should get rid of them, but you should be aware that you have more.

Genesis 37:12-13
  1. And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
  2. And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

Like Jesus, Joseph was hated by his brethren.

John 1:11
  1. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Like Jesus, Joseph was sent into the world, into Shechem. If you don’t know, that was a very bad place. That was where all the people were killed; it was a dangerous place.

Genesis 37:14
  1. And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

So obviously Jacob was enjoying the reports. Now “Hebron” means fellowship, and Shechem is like the world. Joseph was enjoying the fellowship with his dad, and now he was called to go into Shechem to his brethren, into the world to save those who were in the world. But just as the parable of the servant who was sent and the people did not receive him, the father sent his own son and said “They will receive my son as they receive me.” But the people said, “Let us kill the heir, so that everything will be ours.”

Genesis 37:15-17
  1. And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
  2. And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
  3. And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.

Now, “Dothan” means double-sickness. That is an even worse place.

Genesis 37:18
  1. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.

That’s exactly like the parable that Jesus told. They wanted to kill the son.

Genesis 37:19-20
  1. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
  2. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

His dreams really troubled his brothers. We talked about the difference between God’s dream and your dreeam. Man cannot destroy God’s dream for you; it will come to pass. Man can put you into the pit, but the Bible says that God wars with the devil, in the pit. When the three Hebrew children were in the furnace, God was with them in the fire. Don’t allow the pit to steal your dream. Dreams don’t change just because circumstances change. God’s dream remains the same regardless of the circumstances.

Genesis 37:21-23
  1. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
  2. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
  3. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;

Remember Jesus was also stripped out of his clothes. They grabbed the coat first because the coat generated jealousy.

Genesis 37:24-28
  1. And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
  2. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
  3. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
  4. Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
  5. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

It seems to be a confusion about who bought him and who sold him, Ishmaelites or Midianites. But the Midianites were the sons of Esau, the brother of Isaac. Ishmaelites were the sons of Ishmael, the son of Abraham through his second wife. So they were all close.

Genesis 37:29-32
  1. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
  2. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
  3. And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
  4. And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.

You know the Bible says whatsoever a man sows, he shall also reap? This should remind you that Jacob stole his brother’s blessing with the skin of a goat, and by the blood of a goat his son was stolen from him. Know that your sins shall find you out.

Genesis 37:33-36
  1. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
  2. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
  3. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
  4. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.

I want to leave you this morning with that verse. Joseph was dropped into that pit like Jesus was into the tomb. Of course, he was resurrected after that, so it was like taking Joseph out was a resurrection. But there was that call of Joseph to go into Egypt. The only person he loved was Jacob, his father, because by then his mom had passed away. He was among his brothers, but they didn’t like him. Now this caravan was taking him to a place to be a slave. That is were he is going to experience life, to experience hardship, to learn what life is truly all about. That is where he is going to prove what kind of faithful man he really is.

There is an encouragement here for you. Whatever it is that comes against you, think about it. Before you get discouraged, think “That might be my caravan to take me to Egypt, where I am going to experince life. I want to be a type of Joseph. I am going to be faithful. I am going to endure, because it is not my dream that I follow, but God’s dream for my life.” If that is your attitude, then you will be successful.