October 5, 2014: World Communion Sunday

Posted on : Oct 2nd, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Have you ever been “sold out” by your friends or family? If so, you know exactly the family dynamics between Joseph and his brothers.

In our continuing journey through Genesis, this week we focus on the third “big name,” also known as the third “patriarch” of the family of faith, Jacob and his family. Jacob, as you may remember, was the second born of twins. His father (Isaac) loved his first born son, Esau, the most. His mother, Rebekah, loved Jacob the most. This family rivalry reached its peak when Jacob stole his father’s blessing and bought his brother’s birthright. That in essence moved him from #2, to #1 son. But it came with a very high price. Seeking refuge, Jacob ran away to his uncle Laban, who lived in a different land, and ended up working for his uncle for 20 years. He fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel and worked 7 years as payment for her hand in marriage. But just as Jacob tricked his father and brother, Laban tricked Jacob and “gave him” his oldest daughter, Leah, as his wife. Jacob was so drunk from the wedding festivities that he didn’t notice he was sleeping with the “wrong” daughter.

Just in case you’re wondering, at this time in history marriages were not ceremonies that were performed by religious or civil magistrates. Marriages were negotiated. Men negotiated the deal with the father of the bride. Then there was a wedding feast to celebrate, but the wedding wasn’t finalized until the couple had sex together. That’s why Jacob didn’t notice – because he was drunk – that Laban had given him his older daughter (Leah) when Jacob thought he was getting the younger daughter (Rachel). Just imagine Jacob’s “morning after!”

In the end Jacob ends up with four wives, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. Jacob’s 11th son and the first born son with the wife whom he loved most, Rachel, is Joseph. Jacob loved Joseph more than the other ten sons who were born before him. In fact, when Joseph was in his teenage years, his father gave him an ornate robe (tunic). The Hebrew words that are used to describe this robe are not clear, so tradition has it that the robe was a robe of many colors. In other words, it wasn’t your plain old, every day, off-white linen robe. It was elegant. It was something that when you wore it, you were noticed.

Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph because his father favored him over all of them. Even worse, Joseph was a “tattletale.” He was constantly dissing his brothers and getting them into trouble. His brothers were shepherds. The image of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus is quite “cleaned up.” Shepherds were known as a rowdy gang. They were rough, tough and had a reputation similar to that of “gang members” today. They also never missed an opportunity for sex since they spent an awful lot of time alone in the fields. Anytime they got near a town, debauchery was the norm. So, having their “baby brother” tattling to their father about everything they did didn’t exactly earn Joseph the most favored brother spot in the family.

One day when Joseph was about 17, his father sent him to check on” his brothers and the herds. Wearing his ornate robe, his brothers saw him coming while he was still a great distance away. One of the brothers suggested the perfect way to solve “the Joseph problem.” Kill him. Then take his blood-stained robe back to his father and tell his father an animal attacked Joseph and tore him to shreds. Ruben, the oldest brother had an alternate idea and a secret plan to restore him to his rightful ranking as the eldest son. He suggested they not kill their brother, since they would then have their brother’s blood on their hands, but rather, throw him into a pit and leave him there to die.

There were many pits in the desert. Some of them were old wells that had been dug and dried up. Some were geological formations, kind of like “sink holes” today. Ruben’s secret plan was to rescue Joseph after he spent a few days in the pit, and then carry him back to his father. He was sure this would elevate his standing with his father. Unfortunately, Ruben’s plan failed. A caravan of traders came by and found Joseph in the pit. They rescued Joseph, only to sell him as a slave to another mercenary group of traders who took Joseph to Egypt as a slave.

Thus, Joseph’s own brothers in essence sold their younger brother into slavery.

As I read this story I am mindful of two things. One: anger and jealousy always lead us to trouble. And second, the problem with lying is, the only way out of a lie is to tell the truth. “Selling out” one another, and especially those we love, is not only painful, but destructive. More on this on Sunday.




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 37: 1-20

These are the generations of Joseph.

When Joseph was seventeen years old, he used to accompany his siblings, the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob’s spouses, as they herded the flocks. Joseph would tattle on the others to Jacob while they tended the animals, always presenting them in a negative light.

Now, Israel (aka Jacob) doted on the youth, because he was a child of his old age; he loved Joseph more than the others. And Israel gave Joseph a richly ornamented robe.

When the brothers saw that Israel loved him best, they were jealous and had nothing but words of contempt for the boy.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated Joseph all the more. Joseph said to them, “Listen to my dream. We were all out in the field binding sheaves, when all at once my sheaf straightened itself and remained standing upright, and your sheaves circled around my sheaf, bowing down as if paying homage to my sheaf.”

His brothers responded, “So you want to play the sovereign with us? Do you really intend to rule over us?” And they hated Joseph that much more because of the dream and how he interpreted it.

Then Joseph had another dream, which he told to his father and the brothers: “Listen to me, I had a second dream. In this dream the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to me.”

When he told them the dream, Israel (his father) scolded him. He said, “What is all this dream business? Are you saying that I, your mother, and the rest of the family will bow down to you?” The siblings were jealous, but Israel did not forget the incident.

The brothers had gone to tend the herds at Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are tending to the herds at Shechem. I will send you to them.”

Joseph replied, “I am ready.”

Israel told Joseph to see if things were going well and to report back to him. So Joseph set off from the valley of Hebron. When he arrived at Shechem and was wandering in the fields in search for the herds, someone asked, “What are you looking for?’

Joseph answered, “I am looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are tending sheep?”

The person said, “They have moved on. I heard them say they were going to Dothan.” So Joseph left that place and caught up with the herd at Dothan.

They saw Joseph approaching in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to murder him. They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer. Now’s our chance! Let’s kill Joseph and throw his body in one of these pits. We’ll say a wild animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what becomes of Joseph’s dreams!”

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