Commentary by Walter Albritton


November 4, 2007


God Does Not Give Up on Us Because of our Poor Decisions  


Genesis 37


Key Verse: Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. – Genesis 37:5   


There are no heroes in this lesson. This chapter is a record of poor decisions and poor judgment by Jacob and his sons, including Joseph, the one who eventually becomes a Super Hero. However, at this point in the drama Joseph is more of a young whippersnapper, a spoiled brat, or an arrogant tattle-tail.

Jacob must shoulder much of the blame for his son Joseph’s arrogance. Jacob let it be known that Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn, was his favorite son. He showed his favoritism in many ways but especially in giving to Joseph a colorful robe that set him apart from his brothers. The robe made Joseph proud. He strutted around in his nice robe, talking about his dreams, while his older brothers did the hard work of tending the sheep.

Jacob’s favoritism stirred up jealousy and resentment in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. A wise father would have known that playing favorites with children will lead to disastrous consequences in a family. Jealousy often turns into hatred. Hatred can lead to murder. Marriages and families are sometimes destroyed by jealousy. In showing favoritism for Joseph, Jacob made a poor decision and proved himself a foolish father

Joseph’s dream talk did not bother his brothers as much as his interpretation of his dreams. That God spoke to people through dreams was a popular belief back then. What irritated Joseph’s brothers was that Joseph portrayed himself as the Big Cheese in his dreams with his brothers bowing humbly before him. Little wonder that his eleven brothers reacted angrily.

Their anger only increased when Joseph went on to tell them of another dream. In this one Joseph saw his parents, Jacob and Rachel, as well as all eleven of his brothers bowing down to him. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for his brothers. They had had enough. They were ready now to entertain the idea of killing their brother. Their hatred had reached the boiling point.

The plan to kill Joseph was thwarted at the last minute by his brother Reuben. He convinced his brothers to leave Joseph in a pit to die rather than kill him. Thus it was that Joseph’s life was preserved so that he could be sold to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt.

The real hero of this lesson is God. Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers win no merit badges for their behavior. Actually they remind us of ourselves and the way we too screw up our lives with poor decisions.

A pastor friend of mine confessed to me recently that he was about ready to give up the ministry. He was discouraged by his own failures, and the moral failures of some of his own children. I tried to get under with him the load of guilt he was carrying and hopefully ease his burden some.

But I also reminded him that, even if he was ready to give up on God, God was not about to give up on him. In fact, I told him, the only people God can turn to are folks just like you and me – folks who have a gift for screwing things up real often. There are no perfect, righteous warriors to whom God can turn for service.

This is the good news of the gospel. God does not give up on us because we make poor decisions. Jacob made his share. Joseph made his. Joseph’s brothers made theirs. But through it all God was at work. God had a plan for all those men, not merely Joseph. God used each one of them to accomplish his will and he did so despite their imperfections and foolish choices.

Chapter 37 thankfully is not the end of the story. Before its conclusion we shall see all these men make good decisions that bring honor to God. That gives us hope for our own lives. If we will hang in with God, he will hang in with us. Along the way, if we continue to make ourselves available to him, God will give us the grace to forgive ourselves, accept his forgiveness, and start making better choices.

Jacob did. Joseph did. His brothers did. We can too, by the grace of God. And one day he will welcome us home to the place where imperfect children may spend eternity being perfected by the loving Father who never gives up on his own. Glory! Just thinking about such a God makes me want to sing, “Lord, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!”

Winston Churchill made famous the phrase, “Never give up!” Allow me to use it in this way: You will be wise to never give up trusting in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

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