Online Text Sermon - Jacob's Love for Joseph, Genesis ch.37 vv.1-36
|Preacher||Rev. Achille Blaize, London|
|Sermon Title||Jacob's Love for Joseph (Highland Bible Conference)|
|Text||Genesis ch.37 vv.1-36 |
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Permit me to introduce to you the history of Joseph in these words. The history of Joseph is one of the most fascinating histories in the Holy Bible. Throughout the ages the attention and affection of God's people have been drawn toward it. Some of the reasons for this may be the combination of common and of saving grace found in Joseph. For instance, his patience and perseverance in tribulation, his deportment under accusation, provocation and hatred, his blameless character and purity of life and conduct, his self control under extreme pressures without bitterness, resentments or rancour, his natural abilities to attain, to receive and to convey information, his gifts, wisdom and discernment, God's presence with him in his afflictions, successes, negotiations and interpretation of dreams are marvellous.
When he found himself in the position of authority or in the position of responsibility he was neither pompous nor arrogant. He was courteous, kind, generous, affable. In his history we find he conducted himself impeccably. Before his God he was humble. Before his enemies, friends and family there was a godliness in Joseph that was both contagious and envious. Joseph possessed not only the natural biological abilities or common grace of his ancestors but also the spiritual qualities of his fathers. He had the dignity and the faith of an Abraham. He had the purity and piety of his grandfather Isaac, the shrewdness and the skill of his father Jacob.
This brief summary forces us to ask: how may we account for the origin of his leadership, his quality and the kind of man he became? We know that he had ten half-brothers, one half-sister, three stepmothers, two grandfathers alive with their part and parcel of his training, of his cognitive development. What moulded his character and made him such a remarkable young man? According to Genesis 37 and verse 2, he was only seventeen years of age when the public, as it were, cast their eyes on him, and when his own eyes were closed according to Genesis 50 he was a hundred and ten years old. But what were the God accounted providences designed to mould and to shape the character of this young man?
This and many other things I could say to introduce Joseph to you. But I think that may give you a little appetite in terms of what we are going to see tonight concerning him and throughout the weekend. And if I were to sum up what I have to say, I would sum it up in these words. Joseph was given the place of pre-eminence in dignity and pre-eminence in power. Why do I say this? I say this for various reasons and I want you to observe the first reason for saying that is to show or to dismantle the notion that some have concerning his father and so our first point will be the accusation brought against Israel or Jacob, Joseph's father.
THE ACCUSATION BROUGHT AGAINST JOSEPH'S FATHER
The reason for the accusation is spoken by Moses in verse 3 of Genesis 37. We are told that "Israel loved Joseph more than all his children." (Genesis 37, 3) Because of this, some have accused Israel of favouritism. Others have condemned him and said he was over-indulgent. Many speak of his excessive love for one at the expense of the other and thereby making Joseph his pet. There are a number who say we can understand why the jealousy and hatred of Joseph's brothers was such because Israel fomented it.
Joseph himself has been censured for his dreams and for telling them as if he himself invented his dreams or was in control of his dreams or he was the source, the genesis, the author of his dreams. We have no evidence to show that Joseph was either cocky, proud or too sure of himself. He was mature we can say at age seventeen according to Genesis 37. And although in his dreams Joseph's father rebuked him and yet at the same time Jacob had the insight and foresight to sense that his rebuke must be measured because it may be God has purpose for the lad that he himself does not understand.
Now having seen the accusation briefly what I want to show is this. The accusations brought against Jacob is unproven and unfounded because there is no evidence to state that the love he had for Joseph was a love of favouritism, selfishness, carnality. It is a misinterpretation of that love that has driven people to think negatively of the patriarch and of his son. So I want to demonstrate that to you to dismantle that argument in two ways:
(1) THE HISTORY OF JACOB'S LOVE FOR JOSEPH
What were the reason or reasons for the supernatural disclosure that the Holy Spirit gives to us of Joseph's dreams and the raising up of this young man to be the given instrument in God's hand to bring about so much good, not only for His own people but for other peoples as well. Here Moses is writing under the direction, the inspiration, the light of the Spirit, as a holy man, taken by the Spirit of God to write the Word of God. What are the reasons? There appear to be three reasons:
(a) REUBEN'S SCANDAL
The failure, it seems to me, that many manifest and go about condemning Israel is a failure to ascertain the historical, theological background of Genesis 37 and it is this, Reuben's scandal, the scandal of Israel's firstborn son, Reuben. Let me explain.
Pitching his tent between Bethlehem and Hebron in the promised land, Jacob experienced what must have been a severe and painful depressing humiliation, a scandal that was such it shook the patriarch. I want you to note how Moses penned this for us. Look at Genesis please and chapter 35 and verse 22. Look what we are told - a brief summary: "And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard [it]." (Genesis 35, 22)
Now Reuben's scandal was so gross and I will use the biblical term of abominable. His incest was such that his father was so disgusted with what his son had done he removed him out of his mind from the position of pre-eminence in power and dignity and gave that position to Joseph who was, remember, the firstborn of Rachel. Reuben's defilement of his father's bed had such a profound effect not only upon the patriarch but upon the whole history of redemption that it altered the genealogy completely. You say well this is a bit far-fetched. Where can you find that? Okay. I do not want to weary you by turning here there and everywhere in the scriptures but, because it is a conference and because we have our bibles opened before us, let me ask you if you will please to turn to one verse that the sacred historian used to give us a bird's eye view into the radical effect that Reuben's conduct had upon not only Israel and the immediate family, but the whole genealogy of the house of the patriarchs. Please turn with me to 1 Chronicles 5. I will not weary you and give you many scriptures, but this scripture is crucial to understanding what really happened here. Look at 1 Chronicles 5 and note verse 1 carefully:
"Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he [was] the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright." (1Chronicles 5, 1)
Do you get this? There is a radical alteration not only that his action affected his father profoundly, affected the rest of the immediate family profoundly, it affected the whole genealogy of the house of Jacob. Reuben made two abortive attempts to regain his position of pre-eminence and dignity but both were rejected. In Genesis 37, trying to rescue Joseph from the murderous intent of his brothers - that was a complete fiasco, and two, his determination in Genesis 42 to be responsible for Benjamin in going down to Egypt. His father rejected him outright saying, "My son shall not go down with you." (Genesis 42, 38). So you see the effect the scandal had and we need to interpret Genesis 37 in the light of this.
(b) REUBEN'S GREAT LOSS
The second thing about Reuben is this, the second reason is this, Reuben's great loss. Reuben lost the blessings, or the blessing singular, that belonged to the firstborn. His father never ever forgave him, not even according to Genesis 49 when Jacob was on his dying bed. He refused to forgive his son. Please look at this in Genesis 49 because I need to marshal my arguments that you might not think I am being wild in my interpretation, it is far-fetched or it is speculative. Note what his father on his dying bed says to Reuben: "Reuben, thou [art] my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou [it]: he went up to my couch." (Genesis 49, 3)
Here is the dying man. Energy, fire, vigour is in his bones, contempt. He is shocked, even after years. And so he gave to Joseph the blessings, or singular the blessing, of Abraham in Genesis 49: 25, 26 and the blessing of the firstborn - the two portions that belong to the firstborn, the inheritance of the firstborn - he gave those blessings to the sons of Joseph in a reversed order. Ephraim was the younger, Manasseh the older, but he placed Ephraim before Manasseh in Genesis 48: 14-16.
(c) ISRAEL'S ACTION
So we begin to understand a little something about the history of Jacob's love. There were three reasons: 1. Reuben's scandal 2. Reuben's great loss 3. Israel's action - not the activity on his dying bed but the activity from here recorded for us by Moses in Genesis 37.
And it is this. Before his death, Israel made it publicly known that he had given the place of pre-eminence in dignity and pre-eminence in power to Joseph and he confirmed that pre-eminence in two ways: 1. By the love of distinction. And that's the reason I take it for verse 3a of Genesis 37 that he loved Joseph more than the rest. 2. Not only was there the love of distinction, but you know what he did? He illustrated the love of distinction by giving to Joseph a robe of distinction. It was not only a matter intellectual, a matter internal. He wanted the whole family to know that Joseph is now the heir, the firstborn, and it is the robe I want to open up to you, the robe of distinction that may help us to understand what the father did. Now as for the robe the significance of the robe was not in its length, whether it was long sleeves or short sleeves, whether it was multi-coloured or variegated.
Let me emphasise again that the significance is found not in the colour or length or shape or design of the robe but in the robe itself. It is the robe itself. And the scripture shows us the persons who were privileged to have on this robe of distinction. There were persons of distinction, for instance, this was the kind of robe people wore in the high office of state. For instance, it is the same word that is used for the robe of the High Priest and the priestly garments of ordinary priests. So wherever you see a person dressed in that particular robe you knew what their office was according to Leviticus 8, Numbers 20:28, Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Furthermore, this was the kind of official robe that the man in state during the period of David's reign, they wore this robe of state. Hushai and Eleakim had this robe and when they had it on they were official representatives of the theocracy according to 2 Samuel 15: 22, Isaiah 22: 21. Furthermore, this was the kind of robe that Solomon's wife wore as a queen, if you like, or as a princess, if you like, according to the Song of Solomon 5:8.
So the robe, the significance of the robe, we should not look for it in whether it was short-sleeved, long-sleeved, multi-coloured, or what have you. It is the robe itself, what it signifies, what it says to the public. And wonder of all wonders we find this particular robe was worn only by the princesses during the reign of David. And when you saw a princess or a person with that kind of robe you knew she belonged to the royal family. Now all the other cases I have given you the scriptures and referred to them.
Now I ask you please to turn with me to 2 Samuel 13. Note carefully in verse 18 how Princess Tamar, David's daughter, dressed: "And [she had] a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters [that were] virgins apparelled." (2 Samuel 13, 18) You see that? Not all the princesses - those who were married could no longer wear this robe. But only those who were not yet married who were virgins in their father's house wore this robe. And look what happened to Tamar, or what Tamar did, in verse 19: "And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that [was] on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying." What had happened to Tamar? You know the history according to the chapter. Her half-brother had violated her, defiled her. And as far as she was concerned she tore the robe in a sense of grief and anger and shame and went into oblivion. From that day we have no other statement concerning her. This was the kind of robe, this was the robe that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. It was a robe of distinction.
(2) GOD'S VINDICATION
So it is pointless accusing Jacob of all the things I said in the introduction without bearing in mind the significance and the history, the theological, the practical argument of the context. I said to you I want to defend that in two ways. 1. Jacob's action. The second is: 2. God's vindication.
(a) GOD VINDICATED JACOB
God vindicated Jacob himself. Let me explain. God vindicated Jacob's love of distinction by giving to his son two supernatural revelations in the form of two dreams. God was making it abundantly clear to Jacob himself, to Joseph's eleven brothers themselves that He in His absolute sovereignty and inscrutable wisdom was going to raise Joseph up as the head and leader of the house of Abraham. And I would like you to note carefully in Genesis 37 how Moses related to us the two dreams. Look at dream number one in verse 7 of Genesis 37. Note what he's saying to the others: "For, behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf." (Genesis 37, 7) And look at verse 9: "And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." (Genesis 37, 9)
What is he saying? Now Joseph was not in control of his dreams. Joseph did not go about dreaming dreams. God revealed to him the future and he was relating to them what God had revealed to him in the future. God had appointed Joseph over all others, even those who were greater than himself, because in verse 10, note carefully how his father interpreted the dream: "And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" (Genesis 37, 10) You see that? Joseph, shall I, your mother and the rest bow down to you?
But in the midst of all of this, the resentment of his brothers, the father had the discernment to refrain from saying much more. But that was not the case with Joseph's brothers. They resented the dreams. They resented the sovereign choice of God and they went about in their determination, as far as it was humanly possible to thwart the purpose of God. In Genesis 37, 19-20 they went about and they sought to murder Joseph whom they called the "dreamer" and note the reason they gave. Note the reason they gave in verse 20. Look at the language: "Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams." (Genesis 37, 20)
In their hatred and jealousy Joseph's brothers were prepared to smash the heart and mind of their father Jacob by sending the robe dipped in animals' blood and ask him to recognise whether this was the robe of his son. In verses 32-35 when Israel recognised the robe the patriarch was dejected. The patriarch was in a state of despair and he refused to eat and to drink and he concluded he would die and go to the grave to meet his son. Now, it was not only the love of a father that was involved - that was indeed there - but it was more. The subterranean turmoil of his soul was more than the affection he had for his son. Namely, what was there was this. In Joseph it seemed that the blessing of Abraham would be conveyed. And he had singled Joseph out in terms of the love of distinction, the robe of distinction, the supernatural revelation. What has happened to the cause of God and truth? The poor patriarch was in a state of despair. And little of years later we come in to Genesis 45: 26. When Jacob heard that Joseph was still alive he had what we would call today a mild cardiac arrest. The news was too much. And yet God revived his soul. And the old man at age 130 was determined to make the journey all the way to Egypt to see Joseph himself. God had not forgotten him. God had not forsaken him. And the divine vindication stood.
(b) GOD VINDICATED JOSEPH
So God vindicated Jacob himself. Secondly, God vindicated Joseph himself. Because remember when he told his dreams his brothers hated him. The very idea that he was junior, the very idea that he was the youngest apart from Benjamin, the very idea that he was inferior to them as they considered it, how could he, a pipsqueak, become their leader? God fulfilled the dreams of Joseph in a reversed order. When Joseph was appointed the second most powerful man in Egypt, Pharaoh the king invested him with all the paraphernalia regalia of office and called upon the entire nation to reverence him.
Turn to Genesis 41 for an illustration of this. And note what we are told here in the language of verse 41: "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him [ruler] over all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41, 41)
Now his brethren did not know that but when God was pleased, as we will see, in his common grace to send bread, Joseph's brothers were forced to eat their own words and they were compelled to do what they refused to do years earlier. Why do I say that? Look at Genesis 42 and note verse 6: "And Joseph [was] the governor over the land, [and] he [it was] that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him [with] their faces to the earth." (Genesis 42, 6) But look at Joseph, verse 9: "And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them." (Genesis 42, 9) See. When he saw the ten men prostrated before him, he remembered when he was aged seventeen back home how he related to them what God had revealed to him and their bitterness, their hatred, their jealousy. They wanted to murder him. Here they are all prostrated before him.
Ladies and gentlemen, God has a marvellous way to make us eat our stubborn words. When we rebel against his authority, when we rebel against his sovereignty: "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge." (Psalm 46: 10,11) And: "Put not your trust in princes, [nor] in the son of man, in whom [there is] no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy [is he] that [hath] the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope [is] in the LORD his God." (Psalm 146: 3-5) "Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert." (Jeremiah 17: 5,6) "Cursed [be] he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully." (Jeremiah 48, 10) Here is the language. God knows how to humble the mighty and how the mighty have fallen! Sharpen their faces, lick in dust while Jehovah in His absolute sovereignty, power, greatness, majesty rides on triumphantly.
And the kind of puny deity you believe in is not the God of the Bible. He is almighty, splendid. It was said whilst Whitfield was preaching there in New England there was a little boy, and children remember that. There was a little boy, they said, who went every evening to hear Whitfield preach. And the other boys were amazed. They said well, "Why are you going up to hear Whitfield preach?" He said, "I tell you, because Whitfield's God is so big." My friends, to cave in and to give the impression our God is so small is to dishonour Jehovah.
So then, this is the background, the history, theological, practical behind Israel's love. It was love of distinction, it was a coat of distinction, and God in his determination was going to fulfil His will, come wind, come weather. He calls in the armies of heaven and abounding inhabitants of the earth as it pleases him, and none can say to him, "What are you doing?" There is no counsel of God that can be thwarted. No man can thwart the purpose of God. It may appear that man in his stubbornness and his pride may hiss in the face of almighty God and put his fingers in his ears and say, "I will not listen to you. I will not obey you." Jehovah has His way to humble man.
Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him? I do not know not the LORD. Get back to your slavish activity." Jehovah said, "Pharaoh, for this very purpose, I have raised you up that I'm going to demonstrate my absolute sovereignty, my majesty, my greatness. There is only one Totalitarian government for all in this world and it is the government of God. It is my government and I'm going to teach you a bitter lesson." The same with Nebuchadnezzar. He walked from the veranda of his palace upon the great Babylon that he had built. What a great city. He refused to take exhortation. He refused to take the warning of Daniel and then in a moment God took his mind. He had to return to the dust and eat grass like a cow.
And in the New Testament, Agrippa the first (Acts 12) killed James, apprehended Peter, gave a massive speech and they gave him a round of applause, an ovation. There's nothing wrong with ovation but it was the language, "[It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man." (Acts 12, 22) And the man didn't say to the people, "No, I am a mortal man like yourself." He gloried in it. In a moment, he was smitten. And read Josephus' vivid illustration of what happened. That will indeed instruct our minds. What is happening? God says, "my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." (Isaiah 42, 8) And brethren, the God whom we serve in spite of these days of small things, in spite of atheism, immorality, you name it. As a nation we have hit the bottom and we are likely to despair. We are likely to say, "Things will never be as they once were." Perhaps they may not, perhaps they may. We do not know, but one thing is certain: "I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46, 10)
And there is a verse in that Psalm that we take as a promise. It is: "Be still ..." There's nothing wrong in taking it as a promise, don't get me wrong, but really speaking it is not a promise - it's a command given to the nations - and it could be translated "Let be" or "Be quiet" or, if you like, could be colloquially, "Shut up! And know that I am God, not you." That's God speaking.
When Jesus Christ stood before Pilate, the highest authority in the land pompously said, "Don't you know that I have power to crucify you? And I have power to set you free?" Jesus said, "Yes, Sir, wait a minute." Put colloquially, "Hold your horses, Mr. Pilate. You, a little pipsqueak like you! You would have no authority over me except that authority was delegated to you from above." Pilate had to back off and when he backed off Christ said, "The ones who delivered me to you have the greater sin." He did not say Pilate had no sin. See. Those who exalt themselves, He is able to bring down.
And throughout the history of the world we have seen this. So here, these men, in their murderous intent were determined to get rid of Joseph the man God had singled out, predestined to be the head and leader. They thought they would murder Him and frustrate the purposes of God. "I will work and who can hinder it?" says God. Man, there is no power in heaven or on earth that can hinder the progress of the kingdom of our God and of His Christ. Christ says, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18, 36) Life does not come by observation. No camera crew will lead you behind the scene to see people getting converted. Well, "The kingdom" He said, "is like yeast, yeast that a wife and mother takes, or bakers take, and then silently, yet effectively, it's working its way through the batch of dough and God is establishing, achieving His purpose, establishing His Church, bringing about salvation, conversion of the most unlikely individuals."
So, this I submit to you. Now I had other practical applications here, but I think probably that's enough for tonight because I want you to come back tomorrow, so I will give you a foretaste and hoping that you'll be back. Thank you for your patience.
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