February 10, 2014 by Chris French
This week we’re camping out with Joseph. He becomes one of the major characters in Scripture in Genesis 37. By this time he’s 17 years old, but life has been rough for him. His sister, Dinah, has been abducted and raped. His brothers killed an entire city of men for this infraction (Gen. 34). His mother died giving birth to his brother, Benjamin, when he was just a boy and not to much later his grandfather, Isaac, dies (Gen. 35.19,28).
When we first encounter Joseph it’s easy to not like him. Forget everything you know about the rest of his story and read Genesis 37 thru his brother’s eyes. That little punk was a tattle tale! He’s telling their dad all the stuff they were doing. They were grown men! Who did this little punk think he was! Kinda makes you wonder how Jacob heard that Reuben had slept with one his concubines doesn’t it (Gen. 35.22)? That particular concubine was Joseph’s mother’s servant so I’m betting Reuben put two and two together (Gen. 35.25). He was always getting them in trouble, but on top of that Jacob was obviously partial to Joseph! He had made him this awesome coat and was always giving him stuff and making excuses for his bad behavior. What was excused in Joseph was condemned in them! Now he walks up to them and tells them about this dream he’s had about them bowing down to him, not once but twice! He’s lucky he made it to 17 without finding the bottom of a cistern somewhere!
What I find interesting is that his brothers “could not speak peacefully to him.” (Gen. 37.4) Why was that? Check out verse 3. Apparently up until the gift of the coat Joseph’s brothers hadn’t really thought about him being dad’s favorite, but after Jacob gave him that coat they hated him. They were jealous of Joseph. His brothers wanted the kind of relationship he had with their dad. They hated him because he had it and they didn’t.
It’s pretty easy to see when they throw him in the pit. They see him coming from way off and hatch this plan to kill him, but Reuben talks them into just tossing him into one of the empty cisterns that was close. So when he finally got to them “they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore.” They don’t have a plan for the robe yet, that comes later, but now I don’t think they can stand the constant reminder that Joseph is dad’s favorite anymore. They showed him by stripping it off of him.
Are there people you just can’t stand? You find yourself in their company biting your tongue, because anything you say would be loaded with venom. Joseph’s brothers had the same problem. The reason they couldn’t say anything nice to him was because of their jealousy. Could it be the same reason that person’s presence sets your blood to boiling? They’re probably rude, annoying and arrogant. Joseph was. But it wasn’t Joseph’s personality that grated on his brothers. In fact, it didn’t really have anything to do with Joseph at all. The reason Joseph’s brothers hated him had everything to do with them and not much to do with him. They wanted what he had. It wasn’t his fault he was dad’s favorite, but they attributed the fault to him. Look down into the reason you can’t say anything nice to the Joseph in your life. Skip over their annoying personality and the fact that they’re selfish, ignorant or mean and see if they have something you want.
Your first thought may be, “That person doesn’t have anything I want!”, but check the goals you’re going after in life and see if in some way that person hasn’t achieved one of your goals. It just might be that something you’ve longed for they’ve somehow stumbled upon.
Why is it so important for you do to this soul-searching? You can’t change that person. I’m betting Joseph’s brothers tried to “change” him. They probably told him off often, but apparently it didn’t correct what they saw in him that they hated so much. It didn’t work because what they hated in him wasn’t actually his fault. They just wanted what he had: the preeminent place in their father’s heart. It just might be that what you hate in your Joseph isn’t their fault either. The arrogance, meanness and selfishness is their fault, but it may not be the root cause of your anger toward them. We do this soul-searching because jealousy can’t be allowed to thrive in us. You can try throwing them in the proverbial pit thus getting them out of your life, but if you don’t deal with the jealousy you haven’t accomplished anything. In fact, this tactic might end up hurting you in the long run.
Is there someone in your life that you find it hard to be civil to?
Do they have something you want? Check your goals in life and the things that you long for. Maybe they’ve achieved a character trait you would like to see in yourself. Have they come into possession of the thing you want so badly?
If not why do you find it so hard to be nice to them? What have you done to mitigate your feelings toward them?