Archive for tag: Joseph

6. Stand up for what is right

Last week we saw how Joseph was searching for his brothers. They were supposed to be at Shechem, but instead they went to Dothan. Finally Joseph found them at Dothan. But he didn't receive the welcome that he thought he would get. Even from afar they plotted against him to kill him:

"Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, "Some wild beast has devoured him." We shall see what will become of his dreams!" Genesis 37:19, 20

They have had enough of him. They were past the point of thinking rationally. They didn't like the fact that their father treated him better than all of them. Plus they were not where they were supposed to be, so they didn't want another bad report given to their father by his favorite son. Killing him sounded better to them at that moment. They didn't think it through but reacted hastily.

Now Reuben was the oldest of all of Jacob's sons. And even though he didn't like Joseph either, he felt that his brothers were not thinking straight and that killing him was not the best way to handle the situation. However he didn't have the guts to tell his brothers to leave him alone. He rather took the safer route and told them:

"Let us not kill him. Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him" - that he might deliver him out of their hands and bring him back to his father." Genesis 37:21, 22

Reuben's plan was that they cast Joseph into the pit and then later he will come back and get him out of the pit and take him back to his father. He didn't have the courage to stand up for what is right and to confront his brothers. They had to listen to him because he was in a position of authority over them as the eldest. But he didn't. He was either too afraid of them, or he wanted to still feel a part of them and he knew that they would treat him differently if they saw him siding with Joseph. Either way, he didn't stand up for what was right.

This decision haunted them all for decades to come. We see that in Genesis 42:21, 22 when they came to Egypt to collect grain:

"We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore the distress has come upon us." And Reuben answered to them, saying, "Did I not speak to you, saying, "Do not sin against the boy": and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us."

The brothers and Reuben especially suffered trauma for at least two decades after they had cast Joseph into the pit. Fortunately God had a purpose for Joseph and allowed all things to work together for good for him. But the brothers didn't know that for two decades and they were haunted by their actions.

The lesson here is: Think carefully before you act. Think it through, sleep on it, pray about it, and do not act hastily. You normally do the wrong thing then. All your actions have consequences. Yes, when you repent you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, but your actions still have consequences to be dealt with. Rather walk an upright path with God, follow His leading in all that you do and do not act out of your emotions. It normally just brings heartache and pain.

Secondly, when you know something is not right, stand up and say so. Reuben didn't protect Joseph from his brothers. Yes, he persuaded them not to kill him, but he still didn't stand up and told them to leave him alone. The same can be said of us. Many times at work, at school, between friends and associates we find that wrong things are being said, planned and done. It is then that we need to stand up and take a stand against it. We should not take the easy way out like Reuben. His plan of later rescuing Joseph backfired and it caused him so much regret, heartache and pain for twenty years thereafter. Do not allow that to happen to you. Rather face them head on and say your say. God will be with you. Maybe they will reject you and cast you out, but then I know that God will provide even better friends for you and will exalt you in due time for standing up for Him. Hallelujah!

Father, please give us the courage to stand up for what is right. Please help us also to think through our actions before reacting. Rather lead us with Your peace to the right thing to do. You are our Role Model, help us to act like You would have. Amen

5. God's protection in the lion's den

Last time we saw how Joseph told his brothers about his dreams that they will bow before him. Joseph was still very young and immature as he bragged about his dreams to his brothers who already hated him. We learned that we must be emotionally intelligent and wise as to what to tell other people. We shouldn't brag about how God blesses us. We should rather help other people and reach out to them. And be an example to others in our deeds.

As we read further about his life we see that Israel didn't send Joseph with his brothers to care for the flock. Israel kept him at home whilst his brothers had to work. We don't know the reason why, but we can assume that it was because he was his father's favorite and his father didn't want him to get hurt. But what his father did do was to send him to see what his brothers were up to:

"Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks and bring back word to me." Genesis 37:14

Now I am sure Israel had noble intentions by sending Joseph, or maybe he wanted to check up on his sons, as Joseph had in the past sent back gossip about his brothers' wrong doings to his father. Whatever the reason, Israel sent Joseph to look for his brothers and the flocks and bring back word to Israel.

Now as it happened Joseph's brothers weren't where they were supposed to be. They were supposed to be at Shechem, but upon arrival Joseph didn't find them there. Instead a stranger told him that they had decided to rather go to Dothan. Joseph then set out after them and found them there.

And it was there at Dothan that Joseph walked into the lion's den. He had no idea what was waiting for him there. We will look at the detail next week, but let's just say his brothers weren't too keen on receiving him as they knew that Joseph would send a bad report back about them as they weren't where they were supposed to be.

We might all face Dothan situations in our lives. Some might be our own doing, but most of the time we walk innocently into a situation, only to find that we have walked into the lion's den. After all the Bible tells us that the devil walks around like a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour. He is prowling around regularly and given the chance he will pounce. In the natural a person without any armor will have no defense against a hungry lion in the wild. He won't stand a chance. But yet, when he has armor on, plus weapons his chances are better to fight back. But the best, basically full proof protection is if there is a sturdy electric fence between the man and the lion. Then the lion might be roaring and looking for prey, but the person would be safe.

We are often in very difficult situations. We find ourselves surrounded by trouble, whether it is relationships, sickness, financial difficulties, crime etc. We might innocently be in the wrong place at the wrong time, prey for the hungry lion. But when we have the armor of God on and the sword of the Word, we can fight back and know that we are protected. And when we walk in the shadow of the Almighty, so close to Him that we can feel His breath, when we take Holy Communion and anoint ourselves with the oil of His grace, then it is as if an electric fence is erected between us and the hungry lion. In the presence of the Almighty is our protection and we can know that He will work all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

"He who dwells  in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust." Psalm 91:1, 2

Joseph stepped into the lion's den, and yes he was captured and taken away, but he wasn't killed and God was with him every step of the way, ensuring that His plan prospers and that Joseph be exalted in the end. We might also wait years to see the good outcome that God has ordained for us, but know that it is coming. He will most certainly allow all things to work together for your good. With God by our side, we have protection against the lions. We should just remain with Him, side by side, knowing that we are safe within His will for our lives.

Father thank you that You are our protection and fortress in the lion's den. If we walk close to You all things will work together for our good, we look forward to it and we trust in You. You know best. Amen

4. Use your God given emotional intelligence

As we saw last week Joseph wasn't really popular with his brothers. He tells tales about them to his father and he is clearly more loved by their father than them. Jacob made that perfectly clear when he gave a unique multi colored tunic for Joseph and not for the rest of them. They hated Joseph for that. And then something happened that made them hate him even more. Joseph had dreams.

The first dream was:

"There we were binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." Genesis 37:7

His brothers hated Joseph even more after this dream, and understandably so. I don't know what Joseph expected after telling them that, but he didn't learn his lesson, for when he had another dream he didn't hesitate to tell them:

"…this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to me." Genesis 37:9

Now I don't know about you, but I don't know how I would react if someone told me something like this. I would think them arrogant and boastful, definitely not humble as the Bible requires. But I realize that Joseph was still very young and immature. Maybe he wanted to get even with his brothers for treating him badly by telling them the dreams, or maybe he was just genuinely young and naïve, thinking that they will respect him when he told them this. Whichever way, we can definitely learn from this.

We should be very careful to boast about things, especially if it is things that we believe that God is doing in our lives. For example we shouldn't brag about how quickly we got rid of the flu to someone who genuinely struggles to feel better. We shouldn't brag about how well our child is doing in school academically to someone who we know has a child who struggles. We shouldn't brag about our child's sporting abilities to someone whose child genuinely tries but just doesn't have the talent. That is not testifying about God to other people, that is pushing them away.

We had that experience now in COVID. We own two coffeeshops in a hospital and needless to say it has been a tough time for us since March 2020. Now God has looked after us and provided for us, but we had a 60%+ decline in business year on year. Then clients would come into our shop whose businesses are in either telecoms or electronics or supermarkets. Now these industries did extremely well during the pandemic. Then they will say how much God has blessed them and that they are just so glad that He has looked after them and they would go on and on. Now they believe their testimony is great, but in fact it made us feel worse. It made us feel as if they prayed and it went great for them, but we prayed and it didn't. So what is wrong with us? Now I realize most of them meant well, but we need to learn from it and not do the same to people who are not strong in the faith. Fortunately we are strong and we have learned many things from Above during this time, but we all need to be very careful that our 'testimonies' do not cause damage to other people's faith.

God wants us to testify of His goodness and grace, He does. But we need to be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit so that we testify when we should. But also that we rather keep our mouths shut and listen and support others when it is not going that well for them. In supporting and encouraging others when they are down in the dumps does much more good than to 'brag' about all the blessings from God whilst we can clearly see that it is not going that well with the person in front of us. We need to use our God given emotional intelligence and rather live as an example to God and support others where we can.

I believe God gave these dreams to Joseph to encourage him and give him strength in the difficult times that lay ahead for him. I don't think it was dreams to share with his brothers, especially when they already had a strained relationship. His dreams did come true when his brothers bowed before him in Egypt, but I truly believe that those dreams were the forerunner to encourage Joseph and to show him the future. These dreams helped him to see his gift with dreams and to enable him to unveil to the Pharaoh his dream when the time came.

Father thank you for blessing us with so much. Please help us to know when to share these blessings with others as a testimony and when to rather keep quiet and help others where they need it the most. Please give us the emotional intelligence to know the difference. Amen

3. Treat all people the same

As we have learned last week, Joseph was born into a house filled with jealousy. His aunt was jealous of his mom due to his father's devotion to her and his mom was jealous that her sister had six sons and a daughter and she had only Joseph. But love Joseph she did and his father also. He was Jacob's favorite son by far. We don't know much about Joseph's early childhood, for when he is introduced in chapter 37 of Genesis he is already seventeen years old.

Now when he is introduced he is feeding the flock with his brothers. Upon returning home he brought a bad report about his brothers to his father. Whether they deserved that bad report we don't know, but judging by their character that we read about in the Bible, I bet that it was true. On the other hand it made him very unpopular with his brothers. Joseph was still very immature and didn't think through the consequences that his actions might have.

We are often in situations like that too. Often people disappoint us, do things that hurt us or simply do things that are not right. We then need to sit still, assess the situation, pray about it and ask God for guidance and even sleep on it. Most of the time we will take much better action, than when we rush head on into a situation and simply make matters much worse. I have experienced this several times in my life, where I was so sorry that I didn't just wait before reacting. If I had waited I would have been calmer and I would have handled the whole situation differently. Joseph's actions didn't win him any favors and if he was more mature I am sure he would have handled it differently.

Now Jacob on the other hand was mature, but he also didn't act correctly. The Bible tells us:

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son in his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors." Genesis 37:3

This was not right of Jacob. Yes, I understand that personality wise you might get along with one of your children more than the other, but you love and treat them the same. You should never differentiate between them.

Jacob didn't just secretly love Joseph more than the others; he also blessed him with a tunic of many colors. Such a beautiful tunic was unheard of in those days. His other sons being shepherds probably had dull robes with which they can look after the flock. But Joseph was special and received the best of the best. And this made his brothers mad:

"But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him." Genesis 37:4

Jacob's love for Joseph was no secret and it made life more difficult for Joseph. No doubt he liked the love and attention from his father, but it made his day to day life difficult with brothers who hated him and who couldn't speak well or positively to him.

Sometimes we do the same. Maybe as a parent we subconsciously treat the one child better than the other, or as a teacher you give the student you like a better mark than the others, or as a boss you want one of your employees to succeed more than the others even though they are not the best candidate for the job and so I can go on. We need to be careful not to give special privileges to one and not the others in the same position. At the end of the day we are not truly helping that person as the others will see it and treat them with disdain and maybe even make life difficult for them. Of course we cannot like all people the same, but we need to treat them the same when we are in a position of authority over them. Rather leave the promotion to God. He will lead the right person upward based on His divine plan for their lives. In HIs hands they are safe.

Father, please help us to behave in a correct and godly way. We don't want to react too quickly to people's actions towards us and we want to treat all people that we have authority over in the same way. Please help us with that. In our flesh we are weak and we cannot do it, but with You by our side all things are possible. Amen

2. God can bring good out of any situation

In order to understand the situation into which Joseph was born into, we need to have a look at his parents. His father was Jacob and his mother was Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel with all of his heart. The Bible tells us that he had to work seven years for her father Laban to get her as his wife. But his love for her was so strong that the seven years seemed like only a few days to him (Genesis 29:20). Finally the day came for their wedding. But Laban her father deceived him and gave him her sister, Leah, instead. Jacob was devastated, but Laban insisted that it was their culture to give away the eldest daughter first. A week later he gave him Rachel as a wife too. Jacob was thus forced through deception to have two wives. Now I don't know about you, but where more than one wife is mentioned in the Bible there is trouble. And this was no exception.

Leah hated Rachel, for Jacob didn't love her as he much as he loved Rachel. And in turn Rachel started to hate her sister, because Leah easily conceived and bore Jacob many sons, whilst she herself was barren. In desperation she insisted that her maid servant, Bilhah bear children on her behalf. Apparently Jacob didn't learn from the mistake that his grandfather Abraham made by doing the same thing. I am sure you all know how Sarah couldn't conceive and how she also told Abraham to have children through her maid servant Hagar. And once Hagar conceived the strife began. It was truly a mess and it brought many so much heartache and pain. This situation with Jacob was no different; he was in the middle of a battle between the sisters. First Leah bore four sons to Jacob, then Bilhah bore two sons to Jacob, then Leah saw that she was beginning to lose, so she gave her maid servant Zilpah to Jacob and she bore him two sons. Leah continued on her winning streak by bearing Jacob another two sons and a daughter. All in all it was eight sons for team Leah and two sons for team Rachel. The bitterness and strife was just terrible and the children could also feel the tension and the competitiveness amongst them all. It was in this milieu that Joseph was born, Rachel's own son. Jacob loved and adored him more than all his children, because Joseph was Rachel's own son, his beloved wife. But more on that later.

I don't believe that God planned this strife amongst the sisters and I know for certain that it didn't please Him. But He used this situation to work out His plan of salvation. God works in the number  twelve. You will notice it in so many things, for example Jesus had twelve apostles, the New Jerusalem has twelve gates, there are twelve months in the year etc. And here amidst this strife He started the twelve tribes of Israel from the twelve sons of Jacob (Joseph's brother, Benjamin was born later).

For me personally their family set up looked like a mess. Two wives, two concubines and twelve sons and one daughter, with Rachel and her two sons as the favorites. It is a recipe for disastrous relationships. But God used this to start His nation Israel. The brothers certainly weren't outstanding citizens if you read about their lives in the Bible, and yet God used them to bring forth a mighty nation, a nation through whom would come salvation to the world.

We might also find ourselves in difficult situations sometimes. Some of them might be our own doing and some may not, but it is so reassuring to know that God can even use these situations to turn them around for our good. The situation might seem bleak to you and the future not that bright, but God can use it all to bring His purposes to pass. All we need to do is to surrender to Him and to walk this road trusting Him explicitly like Joseph did. We will have a look at that, but for now know that God can turn your situation around and bring forth diamonds out of it that is a blessing not just for you, but for others as well.

Father thank you that despite all the terrible situations around me that good can come from it. I leave it in Your capable hands and know that You know what is best. I look forward to walking this road with You. Amen

1. There is only one way to go and that is UP

I am so excited to start with our new series on the life of Joseph. God placed Joseph specifically on my heart and I truly believe that it is because He wants to teach us many lessons, especially now as we have all experienced so much loss on different levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of us lost our health, others lost loved ones, and others lost a whole lot financially, whilst others lost so much time with loved ones as well as doing what they loved to do. All of us lost something along the way, even if it was just our freedom to be able to do things when we want to do them and where we want to do them.

Joseph lost a whole lot too during his lifetime. He lost his freedom, he lost his family, his homeland, in fact everything he held dear and on a material level he just had the clothes on his back. And later on he was even thrown in jail for something that he didn't do. He literally had nothing left and nowhere to go. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who has literally lost everything. Everyone has lost something, but no one has lost as much as Joseph. And as you all know, once he hit rock bottom, there was only way to go and that was UP. We will go through all the details in the coming weeks, but for now I would like to start this series by motivating you that God is by your side through all of this.

God never ever left Joseph's side. However I can just imagine his emotions throughout his lifetime. He must have wondered how God can allow his brothers to sell him as a slave. He must have wondered on the road to Egypt if he will ever survive this. He must have wondered where God was when he was falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and sent to prison for something he didn't do. He must have wondered where God was when he stayed in prison for years, and the people that he helped in prison forgot all about him. He must have been at a very low point there in prison. Far away from everything and everyone he loved with no future and no way of getting out. BUT GOD! God never left his side and in the end in hindsight everything worked out just as it should. Joseph learned lessons that he would never have learned in other ways and he was placed in a position where he could be exalted in a moment's notice. He was given a position of influence where he could influence a whole nation. God had a plan and He was with Joseph every step of the way.

Today God also has a plan for us. He has a future and a hope for every one of us. He has led us through this pandemic and has taught us so many things. I will expand in future weeks on a couple of things that I have learned. But God has been patient and kind. And I truly believe that He is going to use all these things that we have learned for our benefit in future. And not only our benefit, He is going to use us to help others going through the same struggles. I know that our loss and our pain will become our victory. He is going to use it in mighty ways.

In any job interview you can be sure that work experience counts a lot. People with experience in certain areas, plus the qualification, will most certainly have a great chance of getting the job.  We all have the qualification as children of God, and we are all busy getting experience in many areas of our lives. And soon, we are going to be unleashed in our specific jobs where we will make a huge difference in many people's lives. I look forward to it, don't you?

Yes, we have lost much, but we have gained experience and if we learn from that and move on, God will use it for our good. I can't wait to see how He works it all for our benefit and for the greater good of all.

Father thank you that our lives are in Your hands. Even what we have lost, You will count it as gain for us and use it to bring glory to Your Kingdom and Your Name. Hallelujah, what a wonderful God we serve. Use us for Your glory! Amen