Joseph and His Brothers
I have made so many choices that I’m not proud of.
I’m imperfect. There have been times in my life when the guilt and shame were debilitating. I have had moments where being forced to look squarely at my own choices took my breath away. Guilt. Shame. Blame. Hurt. Heartbreak. Wrongdoing.
I’ve made the wrong choice more times than I care to admit. Sometimes, because God’s grace is so, so good, the ramifications of those wrong choices were minimal. I was convicted. I re-set my feet on the right path.
But other times…oh my.
There have been other times when my choices were vile. They were selfish. My motives weren’t pure. I made choices that were self-serving. I made choices out of fear, or envy, or to meet my own needs without regard for the needs of others.
I am a broken, sinful, fallible human. I need a Savior. I did before I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life at 15 year old, and I have needed Him every day of my life since then. I will need Him every day until I die, because I know that I will not always make the right choice. Left to my own devices, I am not always good, honorable and righteous. I want to be. I strive to be. But sometimes I fail.
The reality is that, right or wrong, legal or not, the choices that we make have a lasting impact on our lives. Our choices impact the people around us. Sometimes God uses our wrong choices in big ways, but that doesn’t change the wrongness them.
This reality played out in Genesis. Joseph was his father, Israel’s, favorite child. His brothers hated it. To make matters worse, Joseph had a dream that his brothers would one day bow down to him- that he would reign over his brothers.
I don’t think that helped the situation at all.
They were jealous of him. They didn’t like him much.
Then one day, they made a terrible, selfish decision.
Israel sent Joseph out to check on his brothers, who were tending flocks. When they saw him coming, they hatched a horrible plot.
I can just hear the whispering.
“We’ll show him.”
“Who is bowing down now, huh?!”
One son’s anger feeding off of another’s bitterness. Misery loves company. Contempt and conspiracy make great besties. You’ve seen it happen. A vent-fest turns into something more. It becomes gossip. Then gossip breeds conniving and conspiring, and conspiring becomes a choice.
When Joseph arrived, his brothers made a choice.
First, they decided to kill him.
Thank the Lord for Reuben, who tried to speak some reason into the chaos. “Don’t shed any blood,” He said. “Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” (Genesis 37:22) He’s hoping they’ll throw him in the cistern, forget about him, and then Reuben can safely return Joseph to his father.
Not gonna happen, Reuben.
Oh- they did throw him in the cistern, after stripping him of his beautiful cloak. But then the Ishmaelites showed up.
They realized that they didn’t have to kill Joseph to get rid of him. They could sell him.
So they did.
They made a choice.
In order to get rid of their brother, who made them feel small, irrelevant and jealous, they sold him into slavery.
THEY SOLD THEIR BROTHER INTO SLAVERY.
Then, to cover it up, they dipped his cloak in some blood and took it back to their father. They allowed this man to believe that his son- his beloved, favorite son- had been killed…devoured by wild animals.
Another awful, self-serving choice.
Can you imagine the grief? The overwhelming, debilitating, awful grief? Israel said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” (Genesis 37:35)
And these 10 young men just allowed their father to experience that. They were only concerned about themselves. They were caught up in their own worlds, in their own lies, and in their own emotions. They did not weigh the cost their choices would have for anyone else.
That cost was substantial.
To us, this sounds SO awful.
I mean, I would NEVER sell someone into slavery to get rid of him.
I’m a sinner saved by grace, but I was never THAT far gone…right?
How many choices have I made that were, in fact, this self-serving?
What about you, friend?
How many times have you made choices, only thinking about yourself, without any real thought or consideration for the other people who were going to be impacted?
I’m so thankful that God’s grace is sufficient for me in those moments. I’m thankful that God can take our sinful, selfish choices and create beauty out of ashes. I KNOW that he does this-not just because he has done it in my life, but because He did it with Joseph.
The story of Joseph doesn’t end with him being sold into slavery.
Fast forward. Joseph’s life is a wild ride, that ultimately lead’s him to Pharaoh. Pharaoh had two dreams and Joseph was the one summoned to interpret them. The dreams were deeply troubling to Pharaoh.
Joseph interpreted them, explaining to Pharaoh that they indicated 7 good years of great abundance followed by 7 years of severe famine.
Then Joseph made a suggestion. He suggested that Pharaoh put someone in charge of ensuring that food be collected and preserved during the 7 years of abundance, so that when the famine struck, Egypt was ready and it’s people were not devastated by the famine. Pharaoh loved the plan so much that he put Joseph in charge of it. As a result, Joseph rose in rank and authority. He became the second-in-command of all of Egypt. He was subordinate only to Pharaoh himself, who was regarded as god-like.
I bet Joseph’s brothers never anticipated that selling their brother into slavery would lead to him becoming second in command of all of Egypt.
Now, the period of abundance hit Egypt, and Joseph followed his plan. He stocked up on supplies. 7 years passed, and then the famine hit.
Egypt was not the only nation impacted by the famine. However, because of Joseph, Egypt was prepared. The storehouses were full, and Egypt was saved.
But it wasn’t just Egypt that was saved.
Other nations were also able to come to Egypt, buying food from their storehouses.
Joseph’s…relocation to Egypt ultimately led to multiple nations being saved from famine.
Joseph’s family felt the impact of the famine as well. They heard that there was food in Egypt, and traveled there in order to escape the impact of the famine.
The very people who sold Joseph into slavery were ultimately saved because of his preservation plan.
Through all of this, God reunited their family. The brothers and Joseph came face to face. Forgiveness, grace, and family restoration occurred. Israel was reunited with the son that he had mourned so deeply for so long. In fact, the entire family of Israel relocated to Egypt, where Joseph was able to ensure their safety and security.
God redeemed their story.
You see, Joseph’s brothers made an awful choice- A self-serving, sinful choice. What they did was wrong.
No matter how God ultimately used that choice, it was still wrong. God’s redemption doesn’t justify our selfish decisions.
Can you imagine being one of those brothers, seeing Joseph again for the first time? The relief? The fear? The anxiety? The guilt and shame?
Guilt and shame are so powerful, especially when we have made choices we regret. I’ve made some doozies.
We’ve all been a lot more like Joseph’s brothers than we want to admit.
You probably haven’t sold anyone into slavery. I haven’t. But I bet you have choices that plague you with shame. Maybe it’s sex. porn. addiction. abortion. infidelity. divorce. over-eating. anorexia. aggression. bullying. gossip.
Maybe you struggle with your internal dialogue and emotions. You battle depression. Anxiety. Jealousy (that’s what got Joseph’s brothers into so much trouble!) Inadequacy. Fear. Fear and inadequacy have led to SO much of my terrible decision making.
And all of these things lead you to a deep, debilitating sense of shame.
But there is good news.
There is good news.
God does not leave us in the midst of our guilt and our shame. He redeems our stories, just like he did with Joseph and his brothers. He sets us free. God can, and will, use the choices you have made- the ones that fill you with guilt and shame- to impact the world. You matter. You are still valuable to God.
You still have Kingdom impact.
Nothing is beyond the reach of God. .
Even though Joseph’s time in Egypt led to nations being saved from famine, his brothers’ decision to sell him into slavery was still wrong. God’s redemption doesn’t justify our selfish decisions.
It just means that God is so, so good. It means that his power, his grace, and his love for us is SO much bigger than any choice we could ever make. His love is bigger than my sin, my mistakes, and my insecure internal dialogue.
God can heal. God can make new. God can set free.
Maybe your choice isn’t about slavery. Probably not.
Today, you have a choice to make. You can choose to walk with God now, instead of making the same old choices, that lead to the same old problems. You can choose beauty from ashes.
You can choose to let God use your story.
Lord, thank you for stories like Joseph’s. Thank you for reminding me that you are still at work, even when I make the wrong choice. You know the choices that I have made. You know my ugliest, most broken, sinful places. Forgive me, Lord. Set me free. Redeem my story. I’m offering myself up to you today, asking you to use my choices in some way to share your love with the world. Help me walk with you. I want to walk with you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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