After revisiting a summary of chapter 36 of Genesis, we’ll look at why Joseph shared the bad report of his brothers to his father, and how it speaks of Jesus.
Genesis chapter 36 was devoted to Esau’s descendants. Beginning in Genesis chapter 37 and on throughout the Old Testament we’re given an account of Jacob’s descendants. That’s quite a disparity. So why does Jacob get all the ink? Well Esau was a great man of worldly talents, but represents the flesh, that part of you, of me, of every person which desires my own way, that part which wants to live for me, that part which wants to live without interference from God. Jacob represents the Spirit, and while God acknowledges the flesh, He’s primarily interested in the things of the Spirit because those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.(Romans 8:8)
In the first four verses of Genesis 37 we see Jacob is still living in the land of Canaan, in the same area where his father Isaac lived.
Jacob’s son Joseph is seventeen now. One time, while tending the flocks with his brothers, he brought back a bad report about them to his father.
Israel (Jacob’s new name given to him by God in Genesis chapter 35) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he was born to him in his old age. He made a special coat for Joseph. A coat that may have been distinguished by many colors, length of the hem, and size of the sleeves. When his brothers saw he was their father’s favorite, they envied him, to the point where they couldn’t speak a kind word to him.
At first glance we might think of Joseph as a sort of teacher’s pet and a snitch. But there could be another explanation. Keeping in mind Joseph is a picture of Jesus, I think it’s more likely he simply prioritized his relationship with his father above his brothers.
I think Joseph was about his father’s business, even as Jesus said to His earthly parents, “…I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49 KJV)
Joseph simply desired to honor his father even as Jesus stated, in John 8:49, “…I honor my Father…”
Joseph strove to do what pleased his father. Even as Jesus, speaking of His Father, said, “…I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29)
Joseph, like Jesus, was fiercely loyal and devoted to his father, and he had the spine and the spirit to back it up with his behavior, even at the expense of his reputation with his older brothers.
Like Joseph, Jesus was his Father’s favorite. When Jesus was transfigured, His Father said to Jesus’ disciples, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” By the way, When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. (Matthew 17:5-6)
And, Joseph’s coat and assignments given him by his father speak of his authority. Jesus too was given authority from His Father, for Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power… (John 13:3)
Finally, Joseph’s brothers envied him and hated him for his strong connection with his father, and the authority given him by his father, and the favor he enjoyed with his father, even as Jesus’ brothers envied Him and hated Him for precisely the same reasons.
What a powerful picture.
So what does this have to do with how you live your life?
Well, let me tell you a story about a different Joseph. His last name is Tson and he’s from Romania.
While under arrest his Romanian interrogator threatened to kill him because he refused to stop teaching people about Jesus Christ. Joseph Tson responded to his interrogator, “Sir… Your supreme weapon is killiing. My supreme weapon is dying. …I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.” (see previous post: Pastor Offers to Die)
I think both Joseph of the Bible, and Joseph Tson, as well as Jesus’ behavior all speak of the type of love they had for their respective Fathers/father. The kind of love where they could care less what others might think of them. The kind of love where they were unafraid and unashamed of the opinions of others.
This type of love obviously pleases the Father.
I don’t know about you, but I can stand to learn from their example. I need to live a life more abandoned to God the Father. And I think I might find an intriguing dynamic will occur as a result.
An interesting thing happened to Joseph Tson after he offered his life to his interrogator. They became afraid they would create a martyr if they killed him. So they didn’t. Tson said, “I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.”
I think you and I often try to save our lives, our social lives. We often choose to give more weight, usually much more weight, to what our friends and family think, and not nearly enough consideration to what God the Father thinks. We live our lives afraid of dying, socially. We live our lives afraid of dying, of embarrassment.
I believe the Father wants us to live like Joseph lived, like Joseph Tson lived, and like Jesus lived. We need to live for God the Father without regard for the opinions of our friends, and brothers, and sisters, and others.
We need to live for Him.
And when we do, ultimately, we’ll find the same freedom the two Josephs and Jesus found.
There’s freedom to be found in abandoning yourself to God.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…
Fear of man will prove to be a snare…
Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, (2000) IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament
Image via Lawrence OP – Creative Commons