Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 8 February 2022:
Genesis 37:3 – “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.”
Children are not equal in character and competence, and there are some attributes that are more favorable in one child or another, but a parent should never love one child more than another or show favoritism. Israel sowed the seeds of hate and destruction in his family by showing favoritism to his children.
Genesis 37:4 – “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”
People may hate you simply because you are blessed. Again, envy is one of the most powerfully destructive emotions which often turns violent. Be careful to guard your heart against any thought of envy.
Genesis 37:5 – “Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”
Mastering human relationships requires knowing what to say and what not to say. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean the time is right to share it, and how you share it matters too. Knowledge has a tendency to puff you up, but love lifts up the other person. Verse 4 says that Joseph’s brothers “could not speak peacefully to him,” and then it says that Joseph shared his dream. So, it would seem that Joseph was intentionally goading his brothers. Proverbs says that a fool’s mouth invites a beating. Joseph, in pride, is acting foolishly, and it is going to cost him dearly. You may be right on concerning a matter, but it is never beneficial to incite a quarrel with others or to escalate an argument.
Genesis 37:12-14 – Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
Joseph had become an outsider to his brothers and was viewed as an enemy because he brought bad reports of them to their father. Joseph was not an agent of reconciliation. It is far easier to report a matter than it is to repair a matter, and it is easy to focus on problems over people. If we have a heart for others, we must find loving and effective ways to address the sins which are hurting them, but we must guard the relationship. We are called to be salt and light, but too much salt at once can at times ruin the flavor, and too much light at once can be unbearable to someone who has been in the dark for a long time. How well is your counsel being received by people closest to you?
Genesis 37:13-17 — “’Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem?… Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word….’ Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.”
The Bible records that Jacob sent his favored son alone to Shechem, the place where Jacob’s sons massacred a city. Jacob shows incredible negligence as a father here which is further evidenced by his careless disregard for the destructive behaviors growing in his family. If he couldn’t see what was going on between Joseph and his brothers, he was negligent. If he did understand the strife between them, he was irresponsible for sending Joseph out to report on his brothers. He should have clearly recognized the resentment his decision would incite. It is a parent’s responsibility to know the strengths and weaknesses of all their children and to develop their respective characters. Teaching kids to manage emotions and conflict within the home prepares them for challenges in the world. The home is intended to be the schoolhouse for character development, and the parent is the teacher, coach, mentor. The Bible then points out that, in fact, Joseph would have to walk another 13 miles in the desert to meet his brothers in Dothan. Would you walk 13 miles to meet a bunch of bullies who hated you and “could not speak peacefully to [you]?” Joseph was willing because he was incredibly diligent – one of his positive character traits. God has called you to proclaim the Gospel to people who will hate you. Will you do it? Would you walk 13 miles to take a beating simply because your Father told you to? Hopefully you would, but hopefully you would also share the Gospel in a way which could be received by the hearer.
Genesis 37:17 – “’And the man said, ‘They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan..”
The community is always watching you and your family and making judgments whether you realize it or not. You might be very surprised if you realized all that people notice and what they think of you from what they observe. Whether you accept it or not, you and your family are a testimony to something. Does your family’s character point to Jesus and glorify God? How about your church family? Jesus said that the greatest evidence the world would see concerning the truth of salvation and sanctification through Him would be how much we love each other and are united in love – “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:2-23)
Genesis 37:18 – “They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.”
Joseph’s brothers had transitioned from one of the most destructive of all emotions, envy, to the most destructive of all emotions, hate. This is the opposite of love. Love promotes life, and hate promotes death. When a person or a group are driven by hate, they are capable of unspeakable sins, things that would otherwise shock you from them.
Genesis 37:21, 23 – “’Let us not take his life….’ And Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.”
Reuben was still influenced by conscience, but he lacked requisite courage of conviction. Though he intended to save his brother’s life, he lacked the strength to control his brothers; so, he diverted to scheming, which didn’t work. He pretended to play along while working a hidden agenda to save his brother. How do you confront sinful popular opinion? Had he gone to trial with his brothers, he would have been found guilty too because, though he kept Joseph from being murdered on the spot, he didn’t do enough to protect Joseph. It is not enough to have ‘good intentions’, we have to fully commit to doing what is right. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How Reuben’s guilt must have consumed him over the years after Joseph was sold into slavery! Reuben’s life is a negative leadership lesson. Reuben was the oldest who committed incest with his father’s concubine and will lose his birthright to Joseph. Reuben wanted to be the leader of his family and obtain his eventual birthright, but he lacked the requisite integrity and moral courage to lead. Some seek positional authority, rank, or titles to claim leadership, but it is moral authority combined with competency that makes a true leader. Notice throughout the Bible, that when God calls a leader, it is usually not from the group of pre-established positional leaders. In the midst of priests, God calls His prophets from the ranks of laymen. Are you the leader where you are? The true leader knows the way and has the character and competence to lead others along the way. Jesus is the Way – do you demonstrate the character and competence to lead others to Him? A seminary degree is not a requirement, nor is a piece of paper or special clothing. In fact, those things can stand in the way if they promote pride and self-confidence rather than humility and God-confidence.
Genesis 37:25 — “Then they sat down to eat.”
Envy, jealousy, and hate can make a person ruthless. It is hard to believe that God could still use these terrible people who can casually eat lunch while torturing their younger brother. From what depths can God rescue a sinner today?
Matthew 27:22 – “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’”
Matthew makes reference to the fact that Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrected and ascension (and Final Advent) were all prophesied in the Old Testament – a couple of the most obvious and detailed prophecies will be provided below for your additional meditation today. In this instance, the prophecy mentioned in Matthew is found in our Bibles in Zechariah 11:12, 13 (not Jeremiah as stated in Matthew 27:22), causing many to question whether Matthew slipped up in his Bible verse memory. Most likely Matthew references Jeremiah because the Jews broke the Old Testament into three parts — the Law, Writings, and Prophets. (Luke 24:44) The Prophet scroll began with Jeremiah, hence Matthew’s reference.
Zechariah 11 is an interesting chapter. The sheep reject the shepherd so, the covenant between the sheep and shepherd is annulled (Zechariah 11:10), and those sheep doomed for destruction are then led by a foolish and worthless shepherd who devours them. Of Himself, Jesus said to the people —
“’I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.’ There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.” (John 10:11-19)
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was rejected by the Old Covenant sheep.
The Old Covenant is annulled, and through the blood of Christ we can enter into the New Covenant of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus –
- Luke 22:20 — And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
- Hebrews 8:13 — In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Matthew further records, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51) In the New Covenant of Christ, we have complete access to God and the Holy of Holies –
- Hebrews 10:19-22 — Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
However, as John records above – “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.” Some will choose to follow the Good Shepherd, and some will put their faith in foolish and worthless shepherds who only devour. Everyone will make a choice. No one can follow too shepherds, and there is only one Good Shepherd, only one who lays down His life for His sheep. Those who choose not to decide have still made a choice not to put their faith in the Good Shepherd and follow Him.
For further meditation and amazement, consider the below verses of Old Testament prophecy –
Isaiah 53 — Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Psalm 22 — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning…? All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him…!” Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen…! You who fear the Lord, praise him…! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Feb 22: Today, rejoice in your salvation through Jesus and your complete access to God. Read Psalm 23 and rest in your salvation. Focus on following the Good Shepherd closely today, and don’t be concerned about the wolves around you.