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Genesis 37:1-36 - Brotherly Hate - Part 5
After another exiting God sighting last week we conclude our text today.
Vs. 29-36 - “When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”
Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.”
Gotta go back to the background a little bit - Jacob is no stranger to deception. You remember his father-in-law Labon took him for quite a ride, and now here his own sons are doing the same. You remember how this whole thing got started - Jacob deceiving his own brother and his own father - you remember mom glues a bunch of goat hair on him so blind dad thinks he’s his hairy brother. And I find it interesting that he deceived his own father with goat hair and now here’s his sons deceiving him with goat’s blood.
Notice here that Ruben goes back, and again, remember that Ruben was the firstborn, so he’s supposed to have a little more sense than the rest of the guys. But he doesn’t exhibit that greater sense of responsibility here, does he? And again, his whole idea of having him thrown into the pit was that he could circle back later and rescue him. So Ruben was evidently not around when his brothers sold him into slavery.
Ruben is an example of what you and I might call a people pleaser. He’s a picture of the person that’s always trying to make everyone happy. Think Pilot. There are those people who are very careful not to offend anyone. We all know these people. They just don’t want anyone upset with them and trying to keep everyone happy all the time. And, of course, that is impossible. And because of that, people pleasers tend to really struggle in this area of being decisive. Had Ruben stood up initially and siad: “Look man, this is wrong, over my dead body are you gonna do this to my brother.” Sure, he might have upset his brothers, but he wouldn’t have ended up in this messy situation here.
So, indecision - well, that’s a decision, right? As the theologian (Not the “musician”) Neil Peirt said: “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
James puts it this way: “If you know what you should do and don’t do it, that’s sin.” (James 4:17).
So what we’re seeing in Ruben is: if we live our lives trying to make everybody happy, there’s going to be a compromise, there’s going to be sin, and the end game to all that is your just going to be miserable as Ruben is discovering here.
So what we are starting to see here is that even when, as Calvin puts it, the world appears to be aimlessly walking about, the Lord is everywhere at work. The center of God’s will, at times, may take us into the eye of a storm. We should never seek to confirm God's will by the absence of adversity.
Consider the staggering words written about Jesus in Isaiah 53:10 - “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer.”
We can take heart in Rom. 8:31 - “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Ten bad-apple brothers and a whole caravan of hardcore desert traders are no match for the teenage boy who appears to be the helpless victim in this story - GOD WAS WITH HIM! God will accomplish His purposes even though for the time being it appears that everything has gone south. There is no denying Joseph’s distress at being sold and at anticipating the years of slavery and suffering that lay ahead of him.
These events are a reminder to us that, as AW Tozer once said: “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
It takes the test and trials to make us useful to God. Some of us are not as useful as we might be, for in attempting to shy away from trials, we may have missed God’s blessings. We don’t have the tender hearts that come from night after night of tears. We don’t have to seek the tears, but they will indeed come from the Father’s hand. And they will come that we might be prepared to accomplish His will in our lives and in the lives of others.
Blessings to you all.