Imperfect people and God’s perfect family
Joseph had two amazing dreams about his future, both correctly interpreted by his family as meaning that, at some point, they would bow down to him and he would rule over them. As shocking as these dreams were for his brothers and even his father, they were unquestionably from God (as we know from how the story unfolds throughout Genesis 39 to 47) and gave Joseph a vision to hold onto during the difficult years he would go through before the they came to pass. No matter what stage Joseph was at in his journey – shepherd, slave, head of Potiphar’s household, prisoner or second-in-command to Pharaoh with authority over the whole of Egypt – he knew that God had a plan and a purpose for his life. He is a great model of someone who is consistent in faith across a range of hardships and an inspiration in terms of trusting God during the tough times.
Joseph is also very human, though. As a seventeen-year old he is a snitch, telling tales on his older brothers to try and get them into trouble and he basks in the role of ‘favourite child’. He has little consideration for his siblings and doesn’t exhibit the least humility or sensitivity when delivering the bombshell news to them about his dreams that place them squarely in a subordinate role to him. Although at this juncture, Joseph doesn’t come across as an appealing character, he is, nevertheless, the one chosen by God to save his family, and when we see him later in the book, he has become a loving man of integrity, who forgives his brothers for selling him as a slave. The message here is so affirming! God sees past our failings and gives us a unique reason for being, together with a path to follow and, in the process, we grow more like him! Living out God’s plan is the very best life we can have and it changes us from the inside out!
The description of Joseph’s family life may well resonate with many of us – either our own family or families we’ve known! A family favourite, sibling rivalry, unhelpful parenting. As a mother of one, I am very relieved that I never had to deal with sibling rivalry, but I am sure there were many episodes of unhelpful parenting! Families can be a hotbed of anxiety, grievances and discord as well as safe places of love, security and joy and if the truth be told, most families would probably alternate between the two! When Jacob furnished Joseph with a coat of many colours, which so obviously gave Joseph honour, favour and status of ‘most-loved’, he displayed poor judgement in terms of promoting family unity. The backlash fell on Joseph and it is unsurprising that this clear partiality incited jealousy and hatred in his brothers. Verse 4b says ‘they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him’. And again, when he revealed his dreams to them, verse 8b says that ‘they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.’ Imperfect families are a consequence of the fall. Disunity often occurs through feelings of rejection, inadequacy or abandonment, all emotions brought into play when we exist outside of a relationship with God. God’s original intention was that we should live together in love and perfect unity and when Christ died for us, he brought us back into a relationship with God so that family harmony could be restored. Whilst it is totally understandable that Joseph’s brothers may have felt inadequate – not being good enough to warrant the same level of affection from their father as Joseph enjoyed – focusing on God’s love rather than comparing themselves to Joseph, would have enabled them to live much happier and secure lives. Even today, it is so important to refrain from comparing ourselves to others. God has a wonderful plan for each of us and to compare our lot to someone else’s is to say that God’s plan is not sufficient and that we know better. As we see in Genesis 37, the tone of the family is set by the father. Let’s be grateful today that Our Father’s love for each of his children is overflowing, unconditional and never-changing and that we are all his favourite!