Joseph favouritism and forgiveness
by Anne Linington
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I wonder how many of us have seen a production of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical “Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat”.
Perhaps in a theatre in London, or Southampton?
Perhaps a School Production?
Maybe you watched the BBC's Saturday Show where Lee Mead rose to fame?
I remember one Christmas at St George's Special Needs School where each class sang a song from a musical, and our sixth form did the song made famous by Neighbours star Jason Donovan: “Any dream will do”
Last year the Choir of St. John's Newport did a concert of Andrew Lloyd-Webber music
with the pupils of Newport Primary School, and one half was the music from Joseph. You find yourself singing it was “red and purple and blue and orange
Who was Joseph?
The Elder Son of Jacob's favourite wife Rachel.
Jacob, who had deceived his father Isaac into giving him his brother's birthright
had himself been deceived by Laban into first marrying the older and less attractive Leah, before being allowed to marry Rachel whom he had fallen in love with.
“What goes around comes around” or “as you sow, so also shall you reap”- the deceiver was deceived.
Leah gave birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun- who would become six of the twelve tribes of Israel- the new name God gave to Jacob.
Rachel had two sons; Joseph and Benjamin- whom she died giving birth to. Jacob would have no more children by Rachel.
Jacob went on to have more sons by Rachel and Leah's maidservants, making up the remaining tribes:Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.
So in this family we have deceit
resentment- Leah knew that Jacob didn't love her like he did Rachel, and each time she bore a son, she hoped that then Jacob would marry her.
Jealousy- Rachel who had been unable to give Jacob children, became jealous of her sister Leah
and perhaps even incest, because Reuben slept with his father's concubine, Rachel's servant Bilhah. Did his mother Leah put him up to it, as Jacob's mother had instigated the deception of Isaac?
What a family mess? And yet this is the family, the descendants of Abraham that God chose and promised to bless, so that they would number the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. God certainly includes failed human beings in his plans, like restoring Peter after denying that he knew Jesus
From this troubled and generational background, Joseph is born- the eldest Son of Jacob's beloved Rachel- Jacob's favourite son, whom he loved more than all his other sons.
So he makes a richly ornamented cloak for Joseph- and the brothers hated him for it; hated him for the fact Jacob loved him more than them, and they couldn't say a kind word about him.
Could this have any parallels today?
Perhaps we grew up in a family, or knew of one where one child was favoured over the others. Perhaps “Daddy's girl”, or “Mummy's boy” were labels used.
Certainly I know of a family where the expectation was that the son would be educated, but the daughter not so; and that has left an abiding resentment, and sense of inferiority that she did not achieve her potential. Thankfully that is less the case today.
Increasingly in our society there are step-families- brothers and sisters who have only one parent in common. It may be for all sorts of reasons- divorce or death and families of all shapes and sizes are created.
Favouritism can be an awful burden, for the one favoured, and the one rejected, and we should do our best to treat each one the same- loving them the same, and not having favourites.
In God's Church, we should seek to avoid having favourites, knowing that God made us all- with our own mix of personality and talents, strengths and weaknesses.
It's a difficult task, because we obviously “click” with some more than others and natural friendships develop and rightly so.
It's a temptation regarding services: I was sitting in my car outside Carisbrooke Priory a few years back, thinking to myself “I wonder who is speaking today?” In my heart I sensed a voice respond “I am” And He did.
Often we bring into our Church relationships, hurts and feelings of rejection from family life and experience; The Church needs to be a healing place where God gradually deals with those deep hurts and makes us more whole. Hopefully the Church won't be a place where more hurt and rejection are sustained.
Thankfully God has no favourites; In His family He loves us all the same. We are all his children- uniquely made and completely loved.
as well as his coat which set him apart- had dreams in which his father and brothers all bowed down to me, and he relayed these dreams to his brothers and Jacob, so the brothers jealousy was aroused and they hated him more and more.
Jacob initially rebukes Joseph, but then keeps the matter at the back of his mind- rather like Mary “treasuring all these things in her heart” that were prophesied about the infant
His brothers are grazing sheep at Shechem, and Jacob sends Joseph to find out if all is well with his brothers and the flocks.
We might ask ourselves, as the brothers probably did, why wasn't Joseph out working with them? Another sign of Jacob's favouritism, and a clue to the father's distress when Joseph is later reported dead.
Joseph gets to Shechem and finds his brothers aren't there, that they have moved on to a place called Dothan.
The place where Abraham had camped and built an altar. It was sufficiently fertile for an oak to be growing there- so perhaps an oasis or source of water.
Jacob too had camped there and built an altar.
It had family and religious significance and that's where Jacob had expected Joseph to find his sons and sheep.
After Jacob and Joseph Shechem was associated with the giving of the Law, and the renewal of the covenant under Joshua.
Ultimately Joseph's remains were brought back from Egypt and buried at Shechem.
Associated with good pasture in a time of drought.
Two large cisterns have been discovered there, into one like this Joseph would have been thrown.
Dothan lay alongside a major trade-route to Egypt, and it was here Joseph's brothers sold him to Ishmaelite traders coming down from Gilead.
We often have choices as to where we are- are we in those places where God our Father expects us to be, or have we moved off to places we think are preferable, but will put us
in close proximity to temptation?
Shechem or Dothan? Where does God our Father expect to find us?
Have we moved away from where our spiritual life- the altar/ the law of God will be nurtured and placed ourselves near the road where temptation will be a real possibility?
Joseph was sold as a slave,
falsely accused by Potiphar's wife
imprisoned unjustly by Pharaoh,
forgotten by those who said they would speak up for him,
until the time came when Pharaoh released him from Prison,
and elevated him to the highest position in the land,
where when his family- God's own people needed help-
he knew that God had sent him ahead of them for that very purpose.
Parallels with the life of Jesus
1)Joseph's robe was taken from him- as was Jesus, when soldiers stripped him and not wishing to tear it, gambled for his seamless tunic.
2)Joseph was sold for twenty shekels of silver; Jesus was betrayed by Judas for 30 silver coins
3)Over and above all the evil that Joseph's brothers did to him, God was in fact in control of Joseph's life, enabling him to eventually be in a position of power in Egypt whereby he could save his family from the famine that would come.
Joseph was the means of the Salvation of the family, and later the nation of Israel
When the brothers finally repented of all they had done to Joseph, Joseph reveals who he is- their long-lost brother.
He says these amazing words “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”.
R T Kendall in his series of sermons and eventually his book, entitled “God meant it for good” shows how clearly God was behind all the events in Joseph's life.
This was true too of Jesus, God's Son.
Evil people- the Jewish religious leaders
jealous of his popularity and feeling their positions under threat..
plus the ruling Romans,
together put Jesus to death on a cross.
BUT.. behind all these human components, God was fulfilling his Master-plan of Salvation through Christ's death on a cross, ensuring that there would be spiritual bread for our spiritual hunger as Rona spoke about last week.
In our lives, others may have done us wrong, they may have betrayed us and hurt us .. and caused untold damage, but God is able to bring about his own purposes over and above all this, to “redeem” them, so that we too can say “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”.
Can we see God at work in our lives, or the lives of others we know?
Can it be that through the suffering and evil that is experienced, God is bringing redemption and salvation?
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