Joseph: God Meant It for Good
Parents are not perfect. Children are not perfect. Families are far from perfect. Many sad things and bad things can happen in families. Yet God’s grace can shine so brightly through families as well. That is what we see in Joseph’s early years.
Joseph was born as the eleventh son of Jacob and the first son of Rachel. When he was still young, he moved with his family away from his Uncle Laban’s farm where he always lived. They moved to the strange land of Canaan. This was a big change for the young Joseph. He moved because God had told his father, “return unto the land of thy fathers ... and I will be with thee” (Genesis 31:3). Sometimes God calls parents to move somewhere else and we have to go with them. But when God calls parents to move, He also knows what is best for the children.
After being in Canaan some years, Joseph’s mother, Rachel, died while giving birth to Benjamin. It must have been hard for young Joseph to see them carry the body of his dead mother to the grave. She was gone. If you still have a mother, do you thank God for her? Do you pray for those who do not?
Rachel appears to have been a selfish person who was never content. She also took idols along with her from her father Laban. She was not a good example for Joseph in those ways. Sometimes we see wrong things in our parents. We need to be patient with their weaknesses, but we should never go along with their sins.
We should also not go along with the sins of brothers and sisters. Imagine having ten older brothers, like Joseph did! Often younger ones look up to their older brothers and sisters. But sadly, these brothers did a lot of sinful things. They were also not good examples. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he was with his brothers caring for his father’s flocks. But he came home to tell his father about the bad things they did (Genesis 37:2).
We need to be careful not to be tattletales. Sometimes we tell about when others do wrong because we want to see them get in trouble or want people to think bad of them and good about us. But Joseph was troubled about the sins of his brothers. He also felt he could share his trouble with his father, Jacob, because he knew his father also did not like sin.
Joseph had a special bond with his father. We read that “Israel” (the name God gave to Jacob when He gave him grace) loved Joseph more than his other children. Parents must be careful about showing favoritism. His father giving him a special coat of many colors led to trouble. But the bond of love was special because it was a spiritual bond. God had shown saving mercy both to Jacob and to Joseph. We know that because God showed Joseph things through dreams. Later, in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, Joseph was very afraid to sin against God. Later still, he trusted the Lord in prison. Jacob must have felt a special bond with his son Joseph, unlike some of his other sons who went in sinful ways. The best bond is when you are not only part of the same earthly family but also the same spiritual family of God.
Loving God can also lead other people to hate you. When you don’t go along with them in their sin but tell them not to do what is wrong, they can become upset. Joseph’s brothers also “hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him” (Genesis 37:4). Later they even threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave. This hatred was partly Jacob and Joseph’s fault, but also because these brothers did not want to listen to rebukes or to what God revealed to Joseph. When you want to follow the Lord, you can expect some people to be mean to you. But it is better to have God with you and people against you than people with you and God against you.
Young Joseph was a sinner as we all are. He went through many difficulties: moving to strange places, losing his mother, being hated by his brothers, and seeing the poor example of a mother and brothers. Yet, God was merciful to Joseph and kept him from going along with sin. Instead, He made him want to fear Him and serve him. God blessed Joseph and later Joseph would see God had led all these things for good. Whatever difficulties you go through, pray to God for His grace. He is a help and refuge.