In His Hands

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. Genesis 37:36

I saved the last verse for its own devotional. This is the place in the story where it gets really interesting…and complicated. All of what happens next will bypass his family’s knowledge. They still believe he had become a mere slave.

I say complicated because what we’re about to see for ourselves is the Sovereign Hand of God intervening in the affairs of one man, Joseph. Even though Joseph was a much better man than the rest of his family, he still had his flaws and quirks. God worked in his situation as we’re about to discover in more detail. It wasn’t because of what Joseph had done, but because of God’s earlier promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From Joseph’s perspective, though, his family betrayed him…twice. He was now being sold to someone he had never met so he’s totally in the dark about his situation. Again we have the benefit of 3000 years and a recorded history of the events in Joseph’s life. Joseph was just doing what he could to survive. At this point in his journey, it’s all he could do.

Everything was in God’s hands.


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His Sins Caught Up with Him

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him. Genesis 37:31-35

On the way back home to Jacob, Joseph’s brothers had to be dwelling on the story they would tell their father. As far as we know, only Reuben didn’t know about the Midianite merchants, but he knew they all threw down that cistern.

These are really bad people. Everything about their story is a lie.

Recall, however, how Jacob started out and all through his growing up years. He was a deceiver from Day One. Jacob was now on the receiving end of a series of deceptions and outright lies. Even as he mourns for his son, they are continuing the deception, except Jacob didn’t know he was being deceived. He was mourning in good faith.

It took a couple of decades for Jacob’s sins to catch up with him, but eventually they did. Some people go to their graves with their sins not catching up with them. But it doesn’t mean they are faultless or guiltless. One day they will have to pay for their sins and answer to God for them, no matter how minor or seemingly insignificant.

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Family Trust

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 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.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” Genesis 37:26-29

Before closing out this chapter, we need to talk a little bit about trust. Up to this point in the story, none of Jacob’s sons could be trust, with the possible exception of Joseph. When they had sold Joseph to the Midianites, they didn’t let Reuben know about it. He panicked when he found out Joseph was no longer in the cistern. Even when he explained to his brothers the dilemma he found himself in, there’s no indication that they told him the truth, so the perpetuated the lie with another lie, this time about Joseph’s ornate robe.

The sheer number of deceitful acts Jacob’s family has committed – and these are only those we know about – is stunning. Just imagine what was never revealed about the family. It’s obvious that family trust was tossed out the window long ago. They didn’t trust each other. They didn’t trust their father. Their father didn’t trust them.

On the other hand, not many families air out their “dirty laundry” for generations to read.

As mentioned before, we all have family characters from our past that were not pleasant to be around nor did they set any morality standards. In fact, they might have lowered them. For some, though, these individuals are not in the distant past but are in the present. You know about them and you really hope all your friends don’t ever find out about them.

Fortunately, though, you are not responsible for your relatives, no matter how reckless or bad they are. You are responsible for you and your actions. You can of course pray for these relatives that God would get a hold of them and draw them unto Himself. You probably won’t trust them still, but you can pray.

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What is Wrong with People?

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Genesis 37:23-25

These were some very cold people in this family. They tossed Joseph – their brother – in the well and then sat down to eat. All in a day’s work.

Knowing how it ends doesn’t minimize what they did to their own brother. For what it’s worth, Reuben did spare his life.

There’s a local talk radio host who reads current stories such as this, pauses, and says, “What is wrong with people?” He gets it because as King Solomon said later, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” People were messed up back them; not much has changed. Wrong thinking leads to wrong actions.

School has started for many around the country or will start very soon. You leave your children with people you hope have right and godly thinking. The kids are with them for 6-8 hours a day.

Pray for the children in your life. They are easily susceptible to beliefs that may be contrary to your own. Satan desperately wants the minds of this next generation and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve it. Pray for God’s protection on these kids’ minds and hearts as they go through this school year. Engage with them; probe their thinking, and pray that God would draw them each close to Him.

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What If

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. Genesis 37:19-22

With friends like his family, who needs enemies? Reuben the oldest had a slightly soft heart. “Toss him into the well but don’t kill him.” Had I known this family, I would not have wanted to associate with them. They are just terrible. And we’re just getting started with this family.

But God saw things differently. Oh, I’m sure He believed many of the things they did was terrible, but he also gave them the honor of being in the direct line to David and later to the Messiah. If it wasn’t Abraham’s line, it would have been another flawed sinner’s line. We just get to see the flaws with this family because they were the chosen ones. I’m sure they had no idea that their entire lives would be under scrutiny when they lived. We only get to see glimpses of other family lines.

It brings us to an interesting question, however. If you knew your actions would be visible for the entire world to see, would you do things differently? They say that the anonymity on the internet makes people meaner than they would normally be in person. I think that’s entirely true. You can vent and fume and hide behind a computer screen. Nobody has to know who you are or what you do.

But, again, what if the world was not so private and all your actions, words, and thoughts were flashed on a super large projector screen? Would you do things differently?

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