Gleanings from the Bible: Genesis 37-50

Joseph is one of those people who makes a bad start but matures into someone profoundly godly and wise.

Telling your parents and brothers that they are all going to bow to you one day is not the way to get your family onside, even if it is revealed in a dream given by God. And yet we can see that even this indiscretion and Jacob’s poor parenting (rather obviously singling out Joseph as his favourite) set in motion events which will bring about the purposes of God and preserve the future of Israel. It’s a lesson that our failures are not necessarily fatal when they are handed over to God. God can bring great good out of them, even though we must bear responsibility for what we do. It’s a lesson that is repeated through Scripture. We have seen it with Jacob and we see it again with David and Bathsheba, amongst others.

The deviousness of Jacob and his mother Rachel seem to have rubbed off on his children who, jealous of Joseph, sell him into slavery and fool their father into thinking that his son is dead (Jacob’s sins revisiting him!).

Joseph however goes against the family grain. He is morally upright and flees the advances of Potiphar’s wife (another lesson too frequently overlooked these days?). He is aware that God is with him, even when imprisoned and apparently forgotten (39:20-23). He firmly gives God the credit for the insights and interpretations he brings to the Pharaoh (40:8, 41:16).

As a result, Joseph is elevated to a position where his wisdom is used to deliver Egypt and the surrounding countries from the worst effects of a seven-year drought. This includes, of course, his own family. Through years of hardship, when it would have been so hard to see the hand of God at work, he was in fact working out a plan to bring Israel (Jacob) and his children to the comparative safety of Egypt, where they could grow into the nation, promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (45:5-8, 50:19). As we know in hindsight, this was just one step in an even greater plan for the world! (49:10)

Joseph stands then as a shining example of one who learns humility, who exercises grace and forgiveness and who recognises the hand of God in his life for the future of the Hebrews (The Children of Israel). But in the end it is God, working through the frailties and circumstances of human existence, who is the hero!

[A note about dreams:  They figure at intervals through Scripture as a way in which God reveals things to people. It would seem that most of the time dreams involve the subconscious putting together stories from fragments of experience.

I speculate here, but it occurs to me that God sometimes uses our subconscious to get through to us because our conscious mind is too actively engaged with everything that is going on. It is when we are quiet, or even asleep that we have a chance to “hear” God more clearly.

I hesitate to suggest that we experience God by perfecting some technique, but perhaps we do need to discipline ourselves to turn off the distractions, read God’s Scriptures written for our benefit, meditate on them and pray for insight. As we converse in this way we may find ourselves drawing closer to the One who is Spirit. At one level this is nothing new. It’s what Christians have proposed and done through the ages, but it’s an aspect of prayer that is surprisingly often neglected. We may complain that we don’t experience God, but perhaps we become so physically distracted (and so lacking in the expectation that God will speak to us) that we fail to be attuned to the Spirit and our Christian experience becomes mechanical and sterile.]

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