Seldom will we encounter a righteous person who does not wish he or she could change something done in his or her past. People who reflect on their past often are people who wish they could change some things about their past. It is not unusual to hear a person of the experience produced by years of living say of a younger adult with little experience, "I wish he (she) would grow up!" In the absence of experience there is often the folly of arrogance.
Joseph as an adult was a righteous person who had an incredible trust in God and His purposes. However, as a teenager he had a sense of privilege and self-importance that specialized in offending people. When he was seventeen, he was with the sons of Bilah (Dan and Naphtali) and the sons of Zilpah (Gad and Asher) [see Genesis 35:24, 25] pasturing Jacob's flocks. Though he was too young to be responsible for the flock, he made "a bad report" concerning his brothers. He informed his father of his older half-brothers' faults rather than seeking to help them by speaking to them. He deliberately attempted to get these half- brothers in trouble.
His father loved Joseph more than his ten other brothers. He showed Joseph favoritism. The favoritism of the father was not ignored by all the half-brothers. The results were it stirred these men's hatred for Joseph, and they refused to speak to him peacefully.
The situation intensified when Joseph had dreams. The first dream implied he would reign over his brothers. He delighted in telling his brothers the dream (it was too good to keep to himself). In this way, Joseph intensified his brothers' resentment. "Do you (Joseph) actually think you will rule over us (the brothers)?"
The second dream implied his mother and father would bow to him as well. When he told his father and his brothers this dream, his father rebuked him. His father felt it was inappropriate for him to suggest that any of the family would bow to him. The brothers were jealous, and the father was curious.
The depth of the brothers' resentment is seen in what followed. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers (apparently all of the older ones born to Bilah, Zilpah, and Leah) who were tending Jacob's flocks. When the brothers saw Joseph in the distance, they plotted to kill him, and Joseph's dreams are specifically mentioned as a reason for their resentment. Though Joseph was sold into slavery rather than killed, the brothers acted on a resentment fueled by jealousy and hatred. Joseph was not a beloved younger brother who was adoringly cared for by his older half-brothers!
The astounding transformation is seen in the faith-filled, responsible adult this self-centered teenager became. It was not until he lost his position of privilege that his faith governed his life! Privilege produced the arrogance of self-importance! Hardship produced the faith of dependence on God! Joseph literally went from existing as the favorite son of a wealthy man to being a slave, from a master of slaves to being a slave! Rather than turning to bitterness, he turned to dependence on God.
Evidently, Jacob did a commendable job in teaching Joseph about the God of Abraham. It is highly doubtful that Joseph would depend on the God he did not know. Joseph's answer to Potiphar's wife when she sought to seduce him is profound: "There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). He could not abuse a kind master or sin against God! NOT, "I have been the victim of a great injustice--I must look out for myself in my unfortunate circumstance."
Three striking expressions of Joseph's faith must not be overlooked. (a) His faith in the incident with Potiphar's wife. (b) His faith expressed in his ability to interpret dreams [Genesis 40:8 -- "Do not interpretations belong to God?" Genesis 41:16--"It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."] (c) His view of his past as a slave [a horrible experience filled with injustices lasting for years]. "Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, 'Behold, we are your servants.' But Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.' So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them" (Genesis 50:18-21).
Do not think an early self-centered arrogance in life destroyed your ability to turn to and depend on God. Do not think the occurrence of the undesirable in your life is your enemy--at times [if the person lets it happen] the undesirable produces dependence on God instead of dependence on self. Let God work in your life in every circumstance you work in! Let everything that happens to you in your life turn you more deeply to God, not against Him. He or she who spends his or her time feeling sorry for self wastes his or her life. Never waste your life by inactively dwelling on injustices. Always remember, everyone deals with the reality of injustice!
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 7
previous page | table of contents | next lesson