Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Genesis Chapter 40 ~ Two Dreams, Two Correct Interpretations Given

Genesis Chapter 40 

Some time after Joseph was thrown in jail by Potiphar for his wife's claims about him, and after being elevated by the prison-guard to a higher position over the other inmates, Pharaoh's chief cupbearer and chief baker committed an offense against Pharaoh. He put them in the custody of the captain of the guard over the prison where Joseph was being held (40:3). The prison guard put Joseph over them, and he attended them.

The baker and the cupbearer both dreamed separate dreams that troubled each of them. When Joseph saw that they were troubled he asked them why they were downcast, and they said they were downcast because they had dreams and no one could interpret them. Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." (40:8)

Dream #1 - The Cupbearer's Dream of Grape Juice for Pharaoh 
The cupbearer told Joseph his dream. There was a vine before him with three branches, and as soon as it budded, it's blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in his hand, and he took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in Pharaoh's hand (40:12).

Interpretation #1 - The Cupbearer's Restoration 
Joseph told him that the three branches equate to three days, and that in three days Pharaoh would lift up the cupbearer's head and restore him to his office, and he will resume his cupbearing responsibilities before the king (40:12-13). Joseph then made a request, "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit." (40:14-15) Seeing that Joseph garnered more favor than other slaves under Potiphar, and that now he was being shown more favor by the prison guard can cloud our vision of Joseph's real condition. He was a suffering man. This was not some journey of comfort. He was a slave, and now he was a prisoner. This has been a terrible trial for him.

Dream #2 - The Baker's Dream, Birds Eating Out of the Top of 3 Baskets on His Head
The baker saw that the cupbearer's interpretation was favorable, so he asked Joseph to interpret his dream too. He described his dream; there were three cake baskets on his head, and in the top basket there were a variety of baked foods for Pharaoh, but birds were eating it out of the basket (40:16-17) 

Interpretation #2 - The Baker's Demise 
Joseph told him that the three baskets are three days, and in three days Pharaoh would lift up his head from him, and he would hang on a tree, and birds would eat his flesh off (40:18-19).

The third day came around, and it happened to be Pharaoh's birthday. He made a feast for the servants and did exactly as Joseph interpreted the cupbearer and the baker's dreams. Then Moses notes that despite Joseph's right interpretation, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Reflections on Genesis 40
Joseph himself was a dreamer, and now here we see that he can interpret others' dreams as well. In helping these two men by interpreting their dreams it is most important to see where his ability comes from. Consider verse 8, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me." He's not claiming to a powerful man, but a humble man, through whom God is working. Ultimately, no one can produce prophetic revelation about the future, but God can reveal it to and through a man, and that appears to be what is happening here. Joseph knows that God is with him, even as the text has told the reader that this is the case (39:2, 21, 23; cf. Acts. 7:9). Joseph is not only able to interpret dreams, but also God's providence (45:5-8; 50:20). (Waltke, 528) All of this points to God's authority over all things, and His knowledge of all things: past, present, and future. Joseph is prefiguring what God's prophets are like. Men who are close to the Lord, and who are a mouthpiece for God in specific circumstances. Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of God's prophets. The second person of the Trinity is no mere prophet though, He is the very Son of God (John 3:16-18; 6:35-40; 10:34-39). And He didn't merely come to reveal dreams, but God' good news of how we can be saved through Jesus' substitutionary death for His people. He came to reveal God's plan, and beyond that to give God's message of salvation through God's judgment that ultimately crushed Jesus. Joseph's trial here is only a foreshadow of how God's prophets would suffer in the future. But all of their suffering points to Jesus Christ's suffering to satisfy the wrath of God for hopeless sinners who repent and believe in Jesus.

Another thing to notice, is that in the midst of Joseph's trial God is orchestrating his deliverance. Just because his present circumstances are dire that doesn't mean that God is not orchestrating events for Joseph's good, the good of all of Egypt and even Joseph's family, and for the glory of God. God is using Joseph's faithfulness to Him in this time to bring about his deliverance. What is immediately forgettable by the cupbearer will not always be the case, because God is bringing His perfect plan to come to pass. We too often think that in the midst of a trial we should give up all together, not realizing that it is through the trial that our true allegiance to God is tested and proven. Only, why is God continuing to preserve Joseph here? Well, we'll see more clearly in the next chapter.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Genesis Chapter 39 ~ The LORD Was With Joseph When In Potiphar's House And In Prison

Genesis Chapter 39 

This chapter focuses back in on the life of Joseph.

Joseph was brought to Egypt, and an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, Potiphar who was the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites (39:1). The LORD was with Joseph, and he became successful in Potiphar's house (39:2). Potiphar saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused everything he did to succeed (39:3). Because of this Joseph found favor in Potiphar's sight and he put him in charge of everything he had, making him an overseer in his house (39:5). The LORD blessed Potiphar's house and fields for Joseph's sake, so he left all he had in Joseph's charge, and he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Joseph was a good looking guy, and Potiphar's wife liked his looks and asked him to be intimate with her (39:7). Joseph refused recognizing it'd be a sin against Potiphar, and primarily God (39:9). So day after day when she would speak Joseph wouldn't listen to her and be intimate with her.

One day, he went into the house to work and no one was around, and she caught Joseph by his garment and said, "Lie with me." But he fled the house, leaving his garment in her hand (39:14). She called to the men of the house and told them the "Hebrew" has been brought in order for them to be laughed at and that he was trying to be intimate with her, but that she cried out and he fled the house leaving his garment beside her. She held the garment by her until Potiphar came home, and she told him the same story. Only this time she said the Hebrew servant came in to laugh at her.

As soon as Potiphar heard this his anger kindled, that his trusted servant would do this to him. So Potiphar, Joseph's master, put him in the prison where the king's prisoners were confined. Then the text says, "But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison." (Gen. 39:21)

The keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners, and he paid no attention to anything under Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. Everything Joseph did the LORD made to succeed (39:23).

Reflections on Genesis 39
God is sovereign over all things! This passage outlines the deepening of Joseph's trial. Notice that Joseph didn't choose his circumstances: He was "brought" to Egypt by the Ishmaelites; Potiphar "bought" him as a slave; the Lord was "with" him and "caused" him to succeed; Potiphar "favored" Joseph; Potiphar "put" Joseph in charge of everything; Joseph didn't choose to be good looking he just wasPotiphar's wife "asked" him to lay with her; she "caught" Joseph; Potiphar's anger "kindled" toward Joseph; Potiphar "put" Joseph in prison; the Lord was "with" Joseph and "gave" him favor in the prison-guard's eyes; the prison-guard "put" Joseph in charge of all the prisoners; the Lord "made" everything that Joseph did succeed. God's sovereignty didn't stop here in Joseph's life, His character hasn't changed even up to today. Have you had success in life? Do you think that's because you did something special? Do you deserve the praise for your successes?

It's important to notice, also, that Joseph was also responsible for his actions in the midst of the circumstances he found himself in by the providence of God: He worked for Potiphar (but he succeeded because the Lord made his work succeed); Joseph took charge of Potiphar's household (though the charge was bestowed upon him); Joseph refused the to sin against Potiphar (and primarily he refused to sin against God) by sleeping with Potiphar's wife; Joseph chose not to listen to her day after day; Joseph fled from her when she caught hold of him by his garment; he chose to leave his garment behind and escaped with his integrity for the sake of God's glory; lastly, the text implies that Joseph worked well for the prison-guard in the prison (and again he succeeded because the Lord made his work succeed).

What is the underlying "force" or "power" that is enabling Joseph to behave righteously in these circumstances? The LORD, Yahweh! The quality of Joseph's work, the choosing of righteous behavior, all of this is the fruit borne by the fact that the Lord was with Joseph (see 39:2, 3, 5, 21, and 23). Reading this passage one gets the sense that God is ruling over all, and sovereignly working in the circumstances. God is preserving Joseph in the midst of it all. Notice that even the good favor, which Potiphar and the prison-guard bestow upon Joseph, is not primarily because something Joseph did, but because the Lord inclined their hearts and minds to look well upon the good work that the Lord was enabling Joseph to do. The sexual chastity of Joseph draws a stark contrast to that of his brother Judah in Genesis 38. A heart that is focused on God and seeking to please the Lord is enabled by His power to withstand temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." God's people fight hard to live righteous and holy lives, knowing that it is God who works in them, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). Believers fall, but they keep getting up and fighting with gospel infused effort. Further, Joseph's life and choosing of holiness over adultery is a living parable of Jesus' parable of the talents in Matthew 25 (especially verses 21, 23, and 45). By Joseph's faithfulness in little in the midst of his trial, God is preparing him to be responsible for much (as we'll see later on).

We can't pursue holiness from our own power. You can't "man up" or "cowboy up" and exert enough tenacity and moral willpower to be a truly holy person, no one can. We're all sinners to the point that even the good we pursue is as filthy rags in God's sight (Isa. 64:6). This is why anything not done in faith is sin; even the fleeing and pursuing of justice and righteousness is sin if it's done without faith (Rom. 14:23). That's a sobering thought. We deserve to be abandoned by God and to suffer His endless wrath for our sin. And we can't pursue holiness by our own effort. This is bad news for us. That's one of the main points of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees we will not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20), and we must be perfect/holy as our heavenly Father is perfect/holy (Matt. 5:48). This is the standard, and the tragedy is that we can't do it, even Joseph couldn't do it perfectly. This is why we need Jesus Christ. He was able to perfectly obey God, and by faith in His life, death, and resurrection we can be clothed with an alien righteousness that does not come from within us, namely Jesus Christ's. The gospel doesn't excuse or justify sin though, we should still be fighting for holiness and righteousness in lives.

The main thing one must draw his or her attention to in Genesis 39 is not primarily that this is a morality tale of how to be righteous. Is there a lesson in this for us to seek a righteous life? Well, yeah, but that's not the main point. The main point is that the Lord is sovereign in Joseph's life, and He is sovereign even now. He is working out His good and perfect purposes on the stage of the world. One can see that theme resound again and again in this chapter. The Lord is working here in the Ishmaelites, Potiphar, Potiphar's wife, the prison-guard, all the folks working in and around these people, and most clearly, God is working in Joseph's life. Joseph's conditions are terrible, he's a slave. Yes, his circumstances are better than those of his fellow slaves, but he is still a slave. He has been betrayed by his own family. This is not mere conjecture, Joseph was carrying certain amount of depression and despair as he looked at his life (cf. the implication of 40:14-15). And yet, Yahweh, the triune all powerful God of the universe was with him. The Lord had not abandoned Him, He was upholding him by His power, He was sustaining him by His revelation of Himself through the covenantal promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph had nothing, but by faith he could find joy, and cling to his hope in Yahweh by faith alone. Praise God that in trials we can know that through Jesus Christ, this same faithful God who shows His loving-kindness to Joseph will be with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). When we have no hope, and we fall in sin, even falling in sin that by God's grace Joseph was able to flee from, when we have no hope in and of ourselves we can put our entire hope in the finished work of Jesus Christ, all the while knowing that He will give grace to those who seek Him to turn from their sin. Praise Yahweh for this truth!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Genesis Chapter 38 ~ Judah's Intimacy with His Daughter-in-Law

Genesis Chapter 38 

After the genesis of Joseph's trials in chapter 37, and the mourning of Reuben and Jacob, this chapter turns and focuses in on Judah.

Judah went down from his brothers and turned to Hirah, an Adullamite (38:1). He saw the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite, there (38:2). He was intimate with her (this assumes a marriage took place) and she had a son named Er, then she had Onan, then she had Shelah (all sons). Judah went to Chezib sometime when she was bearing them. 

Judah took a wife for Er named Tamar. Er was wicked in the sight of the LORD and the LORD put him to death, so Judah told Onan to do the duty of a brother-in-law and raise up children for Er. Onan clearly refused, each time they were intimate he would waste his seed on the ground, so she would not conceive, thereby giving offspring to his brother (38:9). This was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and Yahweh put him to death too. Judah then told her to remain a widow in her father's house until Shelah would grow up. He feared that his third son would die like Er and Onan, and Tamar complied (38:11).

Eventually Judah's wife died. After he was comforted, he went up to Timnah with his friend Hirah, the Adullamite. Shelah had grown and Judah had not given him to her in marriage, so when Tamar heard he was going to Timnah she changed out of her widows clothes, covered herself with a veil, and sat at the entrance to Enaim (on the road to Timnah).

Judah saw her and thought she was a prostitute (she had covered her face). He asked for her to be intimate with him, not knowing she was his daughter-in-law. She asked him what he would give her for her company, and he said he'd give her a goat. She asked for a pledge as a guarantee, asking for his signet, his cord, and his staff. He complied and gave them to her, and they were intimate. She conceived twins, and after all this she put her mourning garments back on and went back to her Father's house.

Later, Judah sent the goat to her with his friend Hirah, the Adullamite, so he could have his signet, cord, and staff back, but Hirah couldn't find her. He asked the men of Enaim where the cult prostitute at the entrance was, and they said there hadn't been one there. Hirah returned and told Judah about all of this, and in response Judah said, "Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at." (38:23) If they pursued it, his intimacy a prostitute would become public knowledge.

Three months later Judah was told that Tamar was pregnant from immorality. Judah commented, "Bring her out, and let her be burned." (38:24) She gave Judah's signet, cord, and staff to her father saying it was by the owner of these that she was impregnated. Judah then said, "She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her my son Shelah." And he was not intimate with her again (38:26).

She gave birth to twins. One put it's hand out and the midwife tied a scarlet thread around the hand saying, "This one came out first." (38:28) The baby pulled his hand back and his brother came out first, and they named him Perez. Then his brother with the scarlet thread came out and he was named Zerah.

Reflections on Genesis 38 
This chapter seems to interrupt the flow of the events in the life of Joseph. The last thing we hear before Genesis 38 is that Joseph is a slave to Potiphar...that's it. The focus totally shifts to Judah. This creates suspense as we wait to see what happens to Joseph, but it serves another more important purpose too.

As Moses is being carried along by the Holy Spirit to write this, why would he focus in on Judah's intimacy with his daughter-in-law Tamar? How does this push forward God's salvation-historical purposes?

First, Judah is one of God's chosen people of the covenant. Along with his brothers, his name is written on the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12). Even though Judah is a sinner and fails again and again to exemplify holiness, by God's grace alone he is chosen by God. Just to be plainly clear, what Judah did here was wrong. Here's how Bruce Waltke put it, "Even the worst sort of sinners can enter heaven by God's redemptive grace." (Waltke, 515) Praise the Lord for this truth!

Second, have you ever read the genealogies for Jesus Christ? Look at Matthew 1:3, "and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron," and look at Luke 3:33, "the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah[.]" So, what's going on here? Jesus Christ, God's only Son became a man, through even this messed up encounter between Judah and Tamar. God is sovereignly orchestrating a lineage through which he would bring the one true Messiah. One of the reasons God focuses on Judah as opposed to Joseph's 10 other brothers here is because Judah's lineage ultimately points to and is used by God to bring the promised Messiah. Judah is God's chosen one out of Jacob's 12 sons to carry on the seed of His Messiah that would, "save His people from their sins," (Matt. 1:21) by dying on the cross as a substitute.

This chapter outlines Judah's depravity, as if selling his younger brother into slavery from chapter 37 weren't enough! Notice a few things. First, he pursues and marries a Canaanite woman, something strictly forbidden to God's chosen line at this time. Second, his sons, Er and Onan, were wicked. Third, he refuses to give his youngest son, Shelah, to Tamar as a husband to raise up a family in Er's stead. Fourth, Judah is acquiescing to the foreign god's of the Canaanites. He not only lay with who he thought was a prostitute, he lay with what he thought was a cult prostitute. Further, it would have been known that the cult prostitute with a veil was married to another man (Kidner, 200).

This chapter also outlines the beginning of a change in the heart and character of Judah, and even what appears to be his taking humble responsibility for his sin. He confessed how he had sinned in regard to being with Tamar (38:26). He appears to be repentant.

Notice the irony of the third point above, namely that he refuses to give his youngest son for fear of his death of the likes of Er and Onan. Through these circumstances God is humbling Judah from his heartless condition of selling his brother, and even more his father's favored son, Joseph, into slavery. Judah does not want to lose his youngest son like he lost Er and Onan, so he holds off giving him to Tamar. Judah is learning what it would be like to lose a son. Judah is learning what it must have felt like for his father, Jacob, when he betrayed Joseph by selling him to the Ishmaelites. Judah is learning humility. Later on in Genesis we'll see God soften Judah's heart to the point that he offers himself as a slave rather than betray his other youngest brother, Benjamin, to be a slave (Gen. 44:18-33). He grows in empathy for his father, Jacob, in what it would be like to lose his youngest son, Benjamin. Regarding this, Bruce Waltke wrote, "The partisan father is not transformed; his wicked son becomes a saint." (Waltke, 515) In the end Judah is able empathize with his father and his youngest brother to the point that he is willing to be a substitute. This character of becoming a substitute is a mere foreshadow of Jesus Christ's substitution, but we'll consider that more later.

Chapter 38 is putting the spotlight on Judah, because in the history of redemption it's Judah through whom the Messiah will come in Jesus Christ. Judah is the promised seed of the Savior who would come, so it's important to witness God's work in his life even here, in the midst of his sin.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Genesis Chapter 37 ~ Favoritism, Tattling, Dreams, & a Plot of Murder

Genesis Chapter 37 

Jacob lived where his dad sojourned, Canaan, and we see that beginning here Moses is going to narrate what happens in the lives of Jacob's descendants.

Joseph was 17 and was with his brothers pasturing their sheep. Joseph brought a bad report of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah to Jacob (37:2). Jacob/Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons and he made him a robe of many colors (and probably long sleeves) (37:3), and his brothers hated him for this. 

Joseph's 1st Dream ~ King of the Sheafs 
Joseph then had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. He told them he dreamed he and his brothers were binding sheaves (bundling the harvest, like wheat, barley, etc.) in the field and Joseph's sheaf rose and stood upright. Then all his brothers sheaves gathered around Joseph's and bowed down to it (37:6-8).

Joseph's 2nd Dream ~ King of the Luminaries 
Joseph then had a second dream that his brothers would hate him for even more. He told them he dreamed that the sun, moon and 11 stars were bowing down to him (37:9). But when he told it to Jacob and his brothers, Jacob rebuked him saying, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?" (37:10) His brothers were jealous, but it says, "but his father kept the saying in mind." (37:11)

Joseph's brothers were pasturing the flock near Shechem and Jacob sent Joseph to join them from the Valley of Hebron and see if they were doing well in order to bring back word to Jacob. After all, the rape of Dinah had happened only in Shechem a couple years before. A man (probably a Shechemite) found Joseph wandering in the fields and helped guide him to his brothers who had since moved to Dothan.

2 Plots - Murder & Rescue 
As Joseph approached, his brothers saw him coming from a distance and the plotted to kill him partly because of his dreams. They planned to throw him in one of the pits/cisterns and then say that a fierce animal ate him. Reuben rescued Joseph from this fate saying they shouldn't take his life saying, "Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him." He said this with the intention to rescue him and restore him back to his dad, Jacob (37:22).

Both Plots Foiled for Judah's "Humaneness" 
So when Joseph came to them they stripped him of his robe and threw him into an empty pit. They sat down to eat, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead headed to Egypt. Judah suggested that they should sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, and he saw this as the more humane way to treat their, "own flesh" completely missing the irony that they should treat their own flesh as they themselves would want to be treated (37:27). They all listened to him. So when the Ismaelite/Midianite traders passed by they lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to them for 20 shekels of silver, and they took Joseph to Egypt.

Familial Reactions 
Reuben must not have been in on the decision to sell Joseph into slavery, so when he returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was gone he tore his clothes (37:29). He went to his brothers and said, "The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?" (37:30) The reader gets the indication that Reuben, the firstborn, is responsible for his younger brothers, and how is he going to give an account to their father for Joseph. Further intensifying the situation is the fact that Joseph is Jacob's favorite son. They then took Joseph's robe, dipped it in blood and brought it to Jacob asking him to identify it and saying they "found it". Jacob identified it as Joseph's and they let him assume that a fierce animal devoured him. Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and he mourned for Joseph many days (37:34). The whole family tried to comfort him, but he refused saying, "No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning." (37:35) While all of this was going on the Ishmaelite/Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of the guard and officer of Pharaoh.

Thoughts on Genesis 37 
As one reads this account it is difficult to see how the Lord is going to fully give His covenant blessings to this dysfunctional family. You would think Jacob would have learned not to incite brotherly strife by favoritism, especially after the history of his relationship with Esau. You'd think he would remember the stories that were being passed down about Cain and Abel as well. This family is far from what one might expect from the chosen line of the Yahweh. But in the providence of God this is how He is working out His plan to save a people. This chapter begins to paint the canvass upon which the Lord is going to paint a picture of Himself showing how He is a deliverer, a Savior, will full sovereign power over the evil intentions of Joseph's brothers. I like how Derek Kidner described this chapter: "The account of the dreams, coming at the outset, makes God, not Joseph, the 'hero' of the story: it is not a tale of human success but of divine sovereignty." (Kidner, 192)

It all begins with Joseph's dreams. First, we see that Joseph is probably a tattle-tale. He's sharing a bad report of His brothers (his brothers of Rachel and Leah's servants). We don't know what they were doing, and Joseph may be correct that what they were doing was wrong, but it doesn't bode well for him in the context of what happens next. Joseph dreams that all his brothers and even his parents will bow to him, he will rule his family. The combination of his father's favoritism, these dreams, and his tattling is a concoction that his brothers' sinful hearts consume and then fabricate into a plot to kill him. Joseph is either really arrogant or ignorantly naïve. Joseph's being chosen by his father as a favorite, combined with his seeming desire for what is right (in the face of the wrong his brothers were likely indulging in), mixed with his dreams of grandeur are exploding in his face, and he doesn't even know it.

Between two of Joseph's brothers God providentially saves Him to fulfill what He showed Joseph in the dreams. Note that neither Reuben nor Judah really "save" Joseph. Reuben tries to, but in God's providence his saving plan is thwarted. Neither one can make the claim of having saved Joseph here; however, God uses each of them to save Joseph from impending murder. First, Reuben, Jacob's firstborn son (by Leah), recommends they throw Joseph into a pit intending to later take him out and give him back to Jacob. Second, the brothers take Reuben's advice, but while Reuben is away, Judah, in a flare of self-deceived "altruism" offered up the idea that it would be better to sell Joseph into slavery. Jacob's sons seem to be easily influenced, especially when they can get rid of a brother tattle-telling, thereby ruining their sinful escapades; especially when they can get rid of a brother who claims to have dreamed he would rule them two times; especially when they can get rid of a brother, and in the process make some money. Besides, Joseph is Jacob's favorite, and I'm sure they thought if he's out of the picture all of their lots would be better off. Maybe they thought the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob would primarily benefit them personally...especially if their clearly favored little brother is out of the way.

Think of the horror of Joseph. They're in the pasture land, a remote place where no one could hear his cries for help. He's stripped and naked, exposed to the elements. Has no food or water. Yet, his brothers are able to sit and enjoy a meal. They are heartless monsters. This family is beyond dysfunctional. They could have killed him aggressively, or they could have just left him naked in the pit, but Judah's plan sounds more appealing to the brothers. Slavery. Finally, if slavery to the Ishmaelites weren't enough, he was sold into slavery by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar in Egypt, the captain of the royal guard of Pharaoh. The scene is beginning to be set for how the power of God would be shown through fulfilling Joseph's prophetic dreams.

How This Points to Jesus Christ 
Joseph's story begins to blow open the biblical category for an innocent sufferer. Yes, Joseph was a sinner, and yes, there was probably pride and ego wrapped up in proclaiming his dreams to his family; however, he is clearly undeserving of the kind of brutality his brothers inflicted upon him. Jacob's favorite and treasured son, one who would rule over all, is rejected by his brothers.

Why on earth, does the Bible create a category for an innocent sufferer like this? God's promise of a Messiah through the covenantal line has decisively come to Jacob. The only question remains, "How will God work to bring a Messiah to defeat the world, the flesh, and the Devil?" from this family. When Jacob had 12 boys it was pretty clear that the Lord was going to work something through this family, but this? Deception, murder, slavery, making money off of their brother's pain...surely this isn't the way God intends to bring a Messiah into the world, right? Wrong, God elevates a king, even here, through suffering, through trial, through depression, through all of these means.

Consider Jesus Christ. He was rejected by sinful men, sold out for not 20 shekels of silver but 30 pieces of silver by Judas. Jesus didn't bear the whips of Ismaelite/Midianite slave owners, but the cruel whipping/flogging inflicted by the institutionally trained murderers on behalf of the Roman state. Jesus was handed over to the Roman authorities to be crucified by His Jewish brotherhood who originally plotted to murder Him themselves. There was not a Reuben and Judah to be used in God's sovereignty to save Jesus. Satan tried in the temptation to redirect Jesus from the cross, Peter tried to lead Jesus away from the cross, after the feeding of the 5,000 they tried to make Jesus king. No, God's King of kings and Lord of lords is not exalted by earthly means, but through suffering. Jesus is the only Savior, but He's not the kind of Savior that avoids bearing the trial of hell His people deserve. He's the kind of savior king who faces hell square on and He triumphs for His glory and for the saving of His people. Jesus wasn't in this to save Himself, but to save people who were deserving only of God's wrath. 

Friends, who do you identify with in Genesis 37? Joseph or the brothers? Friends, we are Joseph's brothers. We are rebels against God's chosen one. The irony of Jesus' death is that He was never the one who deserved it, we deserve it...God's wrath forever. Jesus had no Savior in His trial, He was doing the saving. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

So, as the story of Joseph progresses we will see that God has plans to exalt him even after the coming 13 years of misery. In the end Jesus was exalted by being lifted up on a cross, dying as a substitute for His people, being buried and then raised from the dead three days later. In the end Jesus was exalted by ascending to the right hand of God the Father almighty. Jesus' exaltation was through suffering. While Joseph's circumstances are clearly not saving in the same way Jesus' were, biblically the beginning of his trials here in Genesis 37 are creating a biblical category for us to understand the way that God brings salvation through suffering, even in the face of what appears to be utter hopelessness.