Audio message for all five scenes of Joseph’s life: Play Audio!
The story you’re about to read is one man’s journey through many painful and difficult years in a strange land – one he later called, “the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52).
His name is Joseph. His story unfolds in Genesis 37-50.
Joseph was a late born son to his father Jacob who took particular delight in this boy. He was a reason for Jacob to be happy. He was a reason to live.
But the fatherly love Joseph enjoyed became poison in the hearts of his older brothers. They clearly noticed dad’s favoritism and resented Joseph for it.
Joseph was loved and then hated for being loved.
He was loved disproportionately compared with his other siblings. This stirred sibling resentment. Some parents are unaware when they tend to favor those who satisfy them the most.
Joseph did not choose to be the object of parental favoritism and sibling hatred. The choices of others (his father and brothers) plunged Joseph into unimaginable circumstances. Joseph life involved a series of abrupt and confusing setbacks that were beyond his control.
A large and important time of his life appears to be defined by the misdirected love of his father and the bitter envy of his brothers.
Joseph‘s story is one of suffering, perseverance and recovery.
The way Joseph endured and overcame his adversity is a great example for people who battle hardships, particularly when their troubles come from wrongful treatment by others.
This is an invitation to journey through one man’s story and to learn from his responses to life’s painful turns.
What you are about to read could change your life.
Those who struggle with discouragement and despair or with resentment and forgiveness or with restoring broken relationships will especially benefit from the truths woven through the life of Joseph.
And those who counsel others facing these struggles will be better equipped to help them.
Joseph’s story teaches us how to protect our hearts from the poison of bitterness and the prison of despair.
Even more, Joseph will guide us in relating to God when life appears to be controlled by other people and prayer doesn’t lead to any immediate change in our circumstances.
This is a training manual in a story.
Joseph was a man with many human reasons to justify an angry and bitter life. But he made choices in response to his sufferings that shaped his life and profoundly affected others. It always works this way.
Suffering is unavoidable, but how we respond to our trials is another matter.
Joseph was well aware of his sorrows. We know this because he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble…” “… because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.””(Genesis 41:51,52)
Joseph’s life – Joseph’s life unfolds in five main scenes.
1. Life in a dysfunctional family
2. Life as a slave
3. Life as a prisoner
4. Life as a ruler in Egypt
5. Life at the family reunion
I will post a section on each scene throughout the week. Let’s start with scene one:
Scene 1 – Life in a dysfunctional Family
It all began for Joseph with a dysfunctional family. Many painful and difficult stories begin in the same place. Joseph came from a large family. He had many brothers but his father loved him more than any of them. Favoritism from his father came with benefits but soon turned tragic.
Like most people, Joseph’s earthly journey was shaped by the responses of others.
Joseph became the object of sibling envy (see: Genesis 37:11). When only seventeen years old, “his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4).
As an object of two opposite human responses (parental favoritism and sibling hatred), Joseph was plunged into unimaginable circumstances.
Making matters worse, Joseph had those dreams portraying his brothers as his future servants. Later these dreams proved to be divine revelation but perhaps with youthful naïveté, he shared his dreams with his brothers and they responded, “‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said” (Gen. 37:8).
One day, without worrying about Joseph’s well being, Jacob sent him to check on his brothers. When his brothers saw Joseph coming from a distance, “they plotted to kill him.” “‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these wells and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’” (Genesis 37:18-20).
Instead of killing him, “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing – and they took him and threw him into a well.” But “the well was empty; there was no water in it” (Genesis 37:23-24).
Another brother said, “‘Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. “So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the well and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt” (Genesis 37:27-28).
This act of hatred (inspired by envy) changed the direction of Joseph’s life for a very long time. It will be at least 15 years until he sees his father again.
But far from family and all that was familiar, Joseph maintained his faith in God, his care for others and a deep personal integrity.
These should have been some of the best years of life. Youth merges with adulthood, career, marriage and family, and the blessings are multiplied as they are shared with extended family. But Joseph didn’t even know if his family was alive during these years.
How many times did he pray to be restored to his family? Why did his prayers go unanswered for so long? How could he trace the hand of a good God in what he would later call, “the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52)?