Last week we were introduced to a teenager who made three mistakes: he was a tattletale, he flaunted the gift his father gave him (the many colored coat) and he abused the gift God had given him (dreams concerning his destiny). And we learned that while his gifts were real, he was not ready to handle them properly. At seventeen, he had neither the wisdom nor the common sense. God knew that even if Joseph didn’t.
God had a plan, not just for Joseph, but for His people as well. For Joseph to fulfill his destiny, a path of preparation unfolded with all of its hardship, pain and disappointment. We read in Psalm 138:8 The LORD will accomplish what concerns me, and that is exactly what we will see happen in Joseph’s life.
You may ask, ‘Why did God give him these dreams before he was ready?’ The answer is that the promise of God is what sustained him during his years of suffering. In his heart, he knew there was a brighter future ahead; he knew the Lord had a purpose for his life though he had no idea how it would evolve. But the promise was such that it gave Joseph an anchor in the storm, a hope in the whirlwind and a rock on which to stand.
A saint of God is remembered for saying that if he knew he had twenty-five years left to live, he would spend twenty in preparation and the last five fulfilling God’s call on his life. This was a man who understood what Joseph needed to learn. As a teenager he was a diamond in the rough in need of a great deal of cutting and polishing. The Master Sculptor began a process in which everything about Joseph that would interfere with his destiny would be chipped away so that a man of God would emerge to demonstrate godly character and integrity, as we shall see in the course of our study.
Joseph dreamed that his eleven brothers and his parents would one day bow down to him. He may well have expected the dream would come to pass quickly. Aren’t we all like that? Yet by studying the heroes of Scripture we learn something different. Most often, a long time passes before the ‘dream’ or the ‘calling’ comes into play. Think about Moses. As an adult, he chose to leave the palace of Pharaoh behind and all the prestige he enjoyed there to identify with his people, expecting they would receive him with joy. Instead Moses was ushered into a forty year period of preparation! At the age of 80, he entered the most important part of his life. In our last study on the life of David we saw that after being anointed king by Samuel, many years of trials and hardships were David’s lot before he finally ascended to the throne of Israel.
Joseph was pretty enamored of his dreams and I strongly doubt he had any idea that his dreams were about something much bigger than himself: the preservation of Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel.
So we read in Genesis 37: 12 -17 that one morning, Jacob sent Joseph off to check on his brothers’ welfare. The eleven were pasturing their father’s flocks of sheep at some distance from the homestead, a common practice in those days. Joseph willingly accepted the assignment and I wonder if he was thinking, Perhaps this will be the moment that my brothers bow down before me. Little did Jacob realize as he watched his son depart that morning that it was the last time they would see each other for a very long and painful season. Daddy’s boy was about to lose his privileges, his comforts and his security.
The brothers saw him coming from afar. How could they not? His brightly colored tunic stirred their wounded feelings and simmering bitterness. But they also were deeply aware of the principles and values of their great-grandfather, Abraham, their grandfather, Isaac and their father, Jacob. It was not a simple thing for them to get rid of this annoying younger brother. They would need a foolproof plan if they were to get away with it.
One said, ‘…let us kill him and cast him into some pit and we will say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what will become of his dreams.’ Gen. 37:19 Look at those words carefully. Did you catch it? It was his dreams that they feared. They had seen that though their father rebuked Joseph when he spoke about his dreams, nevertheless, Jacob ‘kept the saying in mind.’ (vs. 11) When their father gave the impression that perhaps the dreams were real it gave them pause. They were afraid that just maybe there was something to those dreams and they wanted no part of it. If they could just get rid of Joseph, their struggle with his dreams would be over.
There will always be some who militate against God’s purpose for your life. Yes, Joseph was insensitive and self-centered, but that was no excuse for the wicked reaction of his brothers. One of them, Reuben, intervened. Not wanting to be party to the murder of a brother, Reuben said, ‘Let’s not kill him…but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness and lay no hand on him.’ (vs. 21-22) What he didn’t tell the others was that he planned to go back and rescue Joseph, probably give him a stern warning and send him back to their father. However, Joseph didn’t know that.
All Joseph knew at the time was that on his arrival, he was roughly stripped of his beautiful coat, dragged over to the pit and thrown down into it with no food, no water and no hope. There can be no doubt that he called out to them, pleaded with them. But ‘then they sat down to eat a meal.’ (vs. 25) One can almost feel the callousness, the coldness, the bitterness of the brothers against Joseph.
At the bottom of that pit, Joseph’s dreams were as shattered as he was. We can only imagine the anguish, the thoughts of despair, the doubts about his dreams that assailed him in that dark and desperate situation. As far as he could see, he had no future.
Have you ever felt like that? Here is God’s answer: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for good and not for harm to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
In the depths of that pit, Joseph had a choice: to despair that his life was over and nothing would come of his God given dreams – or – to hold on in faith and hope that the God who sees down to the darkest and deepest pit had not abandoned him nor forgotten him. Many years would pass before he would accurately recognize what that day would mean in his life. Hindsight would teach him later but for the present, trusting God was all that Joseph had left.
It’s all we have as well in good times and in difficult times.
Remember this: God has a plan for your life; and God never forgets His plan. He will accomplish what concerns you. On your darkest day, God is as faithful as on your brightest morning.