GEN. 37:12-36.OCT. 6.
Golden Text: "The patriarchs, moved with envy, sold
Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him."Acts 7:9 .
RACHEL, the dearly beloved wife of Jacob, was dead, but her first-born son, Joseph, was beloved by his father above his ten older half-brothers. And from the narrative it is not unreasonable to assume that this love was not merely on his mother's account, but that Joseph himself had a kindness and nobility of character which specially commended him to his father, and drew forth his affection. As a son of his old age, Jacob was inclined to favor Joseph in various ways, and amongst others procured for him an expensive robe, of a kind peculiar to that time, samples of which have recently been found in Egypt, in the tomb of Beni-Hassan,"long, richly embroidered robes in various patterns and colors, which seem to have been produced by [R2880 : page 299] sewing together small pieces of different colors. Herodotus describes one sent as a present by the king of Egypt, which 'had a vast number of figures of animals interwoven into its fabric, and was embroidered with gold.'"
Jacob probably did not realize to what extent his partiality was cultivating in his other sons a feeling of enmity and envy against Joseph; and, indeed, we may question if it would have been to Joseph's advantage, as respects development of character, to have remained at home under such conditions; he would probably have been a spoiled young man, just as grandparents are very apt to spoil grandchildren by too much petting and partiality, developing in the favored child a spirit of pride, to plague and injure it for the remainder of life.
The envy of his brothers over his father's partiality was intensified by two dreams which Joseph had, and which he told them of, apparently with all simplicity and innocency. In the one dream he saw twelve sheaves in the field, one for each of the sons of Jacob, and the other eleven sheaves bowed down to his sheaf. In the other dream he saw the sun, moon, and eleven stars bow down to him. His brothers were incensed at any thought of his ultimate superiority to them, who were his elders; and even his father repudiated the thought that the dream could have any meaning, since it would imply that Joseph would be greater than his parents, as well as greater than his brethren. We are not to account for these dreams as the work of the boy's imagination and ambition, altho such may be the case in respect to many dreams; rather we are to understand that those dreams were prophetic: that God was foretelling, foreshadowing the futureto the intent that Jacob and Joseph and his brethren might all eventually discern that the Lord's hand was connected with all the peculiar circumstances of his life;that God foreknew and overruled them in the manner in which they ultimately resulted. This forestatement would make the lessons many times more weighty, when they would be understood, just as prophetic declarations respecting our Lord and his experience, are the more convincing on this account. The dreams were fulfilled later on, when Jacob and his family presented themselves before Joseph, a prince in Egypt, and made obeisance to him as to a king.
Well does the Apostle class envy as one of the works of the flesh and the devil. (Gal. 5:19-21.) It is a seed which thrives rapidly in any heart where it takes root, and who can tell what bitter fruitage it will produce? So rank had been its growth in the hearts of Joseph's brethren that when he came to them in the field at Dothan with a message from his father, their envy overflowed all bounds, and they premeditated murder. Subsequently, at the instance of Reuben, one of their number, his life was spared, and he was merely put into a pit, a dry cistern, to die of starvation; Reuben, however, premeditating his deliverance. Subsequently, at the instance of his brother Judah, his life was spared from the pit, and he was sold to some traveling merchants as a slave for the Egyptian market, where shortly afterward he was installed as a servant in the house of Potiphar. How hard must have been the hearts of these brethren, and how sore and affrighted the heart of Joseph, the favored child of his father! The narrative tells us nothing respecting his tears, his entreaties, and the refusal of his brethren, but an account of this is given us elsewhere (Gen. 42:21), for the guilty brethren, when in trouble themselves, exclaimed, "We saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us."
Whoever finds envy, hatred or malice in his heart in any degree should know that he is harboring an enemy; a spirit which, under certain circumstances, might quickly develop into a spirit of murder. The Apostle, therefore, urges all who have become new creatures in Christ Jesus to mortify, to kill, to bury, to put away, the spirit of evil, of hatred, of strife, of envy, and through the transforming influence of the Lord's spirit to put on more and more, day by day, the spirit of love, the spirit of Christ. We can see a lesson in the experience of Joseph's brethren; and even tho envy never led us thus far, it should be an illustration to us of its tendency, and we should hate it and proportionately eradicate it from our hearts.
The chief point of this lesson is its illustration of divine providence. It reminds the children of God of this Gospel dispensation of the promise of the Lord's word, that "all things shall work together for good to those who love God." It teaches us how implicitly we may rely upon divine power and wisdom and love, even when all things seem to be against us; and also how futile are all the powers of our enemies to do us real injury if God be for us. (Rom. 8:31.) Apparently the spirit of murder was in the nine brethren, and apparently had the Lord not so led the matter about, some of them would have killed Joseph quickly. But we are not to suppose that it was the only way God could have adopted for bringing Joseph into Egypt, and ultimately (Gen. 41:40) to its throne, to be the life-giver (bread-provider) for the Egyptians in their famine, and also for the Israelites, and thus to lead on to the captivity of the whole nation of Israel in Egypt, and to their discipline and education in the arts known to the Egyptians, and ultimately to cause their deliverance, as he did. We are to remember that the All-mighty is All-wise as well as All-powerful, and that he could have selected any of many ways to accomplish his purpose. The lesson illustrates, however, God's wisdom, by which he is able, not only to circumvent the machinations of evil men, but also to use their evil deeds to serve his purposes, to carry out his designs, and to bless those whom he is leading. Would that all of God's consecrated people, spiritual Israelites indeed, might obtain a great impetus to faith from this lesson, and henceforth rely more strongly and fully than ever upon the Lord and the power of his might. What a peace, what a joy, what a comfort it brings, to be able by faith to realize that the Lord is at the helm in respect to all of our interests and affairs, temporal and spiritual!
Those who can plan murder, and who are full of envy, malice and hatred, will not hesitate to support their evil way by fraud, deception, lying. And [R2880 : page 300] so it was with the ten brethren. They took the coat of many colors, they draggled it in blood, and sent it to their father Jacob, probably at the hands of a messenger. Never doubting them, Jacob assented at once to the proposition that his beloved son had been cruelly devoured by a wild beast, and he mourned his loss, apparently for years;his other sons vainly endeavoring to comfort him, and, no doubt, suffering to some extent anguish on account of their deeds. Perhaps this experience with evil was beneficial ultimately both to Jacob and his sons. Indeed, the subsequent narrative seems to imply this. And there is a lesson here for us, to the effect that those who yield to evil influences may subsequently learn valuable lessons therefrom, and that we may entertain hope for their recovery to righteousness. This is a part of our hope respecting the world in the coming Millennial agethat present experiences with sin, envy, hatred and strife will prove valuable to them by and by, when they shall have experienced some of the retributions and have learned a more excellent way, under the judgments of that time.
As Joseph was hated by his brethren, and that without a cause, and figuratively killed, when sent to them by his father, so Jesus came to his own brethren, the Jews, came in their interest, as the representative of the Father, was hated without a cause, and was actually put to death, murdered. Nevertheless, in the Lord's providence this very hatred will ultimately bring him to the throne of earth, and to [R2881 : page 300] the place of power, and give him control over all the food, the "bread of life," and thus indirectly make him the life-giver, not only to the world of mankind, represented by the Egyptians, but also to his brethren, the Jewsto as many as will receive the bread of life upon the generous terms and conditions then laid down.
And "as he was, so are we in this world"as members of his bodyas his fleshly representatives now, and, if faithful, to be his joint-heirs in the throne by and by, and with him to dispense life to the dying world.
We are not to be surprised, therefore, if we find ourselves hated of the world; for, as the Master said, they shall say all manner of evil against us falsely for his sake. Let us remember his words, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."John 15:18,19.
As our Master was hated without a cause, so let it be with us, so far as possible, that the hatred, malice, envy and murder which may be poured out against us may be wholly unmerited by usthat our lives shall be as nearly pure as possible; that so far as possible our thoughts and words and deeds may show forth the praises of our Lord, and speak of our love for all men, especially for the household of faith. By and by, when the Church shall have been glorified, and a new dispensation inaugurated, those who hate us now, largely because they are blinded by the Adversary and misled, will bow before us, as the Lord's anointed, and we shall have the great pleasure of lifting them up, blessing them, encouraging them and forgiving them; and assisting them back to the full image and likeness of God.
In our Golden Text let us note the significant statement,"But God was with him." Success in life may be viewed from different standpoints. To some the successful lives are those represented by Alexander the Great, and Caesar, and notable kings, emperors and generals; or by its money accumulatorsCroesus, Carnegie, et al. But we write for such as have different conceptions of greatness from these;to those who, without disdaining the merits and charities of any, have accepted the divine standard of greatness as delineated in the Bible;Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, David, the holy prophets and apostles, and above all our Lord Jesus. And the secret of the success of each of these was,"God was with him."
The same principle holds true to-day, in all matters connected with the divine service,"Without me ye can do nothing." God's favor during the Jewish age was manifested in earthly prosperities; but not so in this age, when spiritual prosperity alone indicates God's favor, and when not many rich or great are called, but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom. And, if God be with us and for us, who can be against us? What will their opposition amount to? They may indeed cause us pain or inconvenience, but they cannot harm us or injure our highest interests; because the Almighty has given assurance that "All things shall work for good to those who love him, to the called ones in his purpose."
Ah! they are a peculiar peoplezealous of good workszealous for righteousnesszealous for God and his favorzealous for his service and the smile of his facefaithful, trustful, meek. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God"; now we have these assurances of God's favors which will surely continue with us if we seek earnestly to follow the footsteps of our dear Redeemerwalking not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Let us, therefore, remember to purge ourselves of envy, malice, selfishness, including self-conceit; that we may be vessels unto honor and meet for our Master's service.
You said to your heart on life's golden morning:
"How bright is the sky and how happy the hours!"
The rich blood of youth through your pulses was throbbing,
The path at your feet was all radiant with flowers;
And life's golden chalice that brimmed with joy's wine,
Sparkled bright in the sunshine most temptingly sweet;
You raised it to quaff with delight from its depths,
But it fell! and its fragments lay strewn at your feet.
Its red wine was spilled and it stained all the flowers,
Like blood drops that ooze from a bosom of snow;
And the sun that so brightly had shone o'er thy pathway
Seemed suddenly robbed of its brightness and glow.
And night's gloomy shades seemed to gather about thee,
And through the deep shadows, the dark form of Pain
Loomed up, and his gaunt fingers clutched at thy heart-strings
And laid their cold grasp on thy shivering brain.
Ah, then did despair like the billows of ocean
Sweep over thy soul, oh, poor heart, sore distressed?
Did you cry out in anguish with tears and with sobbing,
With quivering hands o'er thy bleeding heart pressed?
Ah, yes, and the days dragged so weary along
Till they grew into months and at last into years,
Till you learned to look up to the Father above,
And at last see the rainbow of hope through your tears.
And you learned that the truest and best of life's lessons
Are gained through the travail and pain of the soul;
That the rarest of graces bestowed on God's children
Oft grow where life's billows tumultuously roll.
And you saw that the stars in the blue vault of Heaven
Shine only when night's sable curtains enfold;
You learned that the fierce furnace heat of affliction
Is needful to sever from dross the heart's gold.
'Twas a wonderful lesson borne into thy spirit,
This grand truth to know, though a fruit of thy pain;
It taught thee to soar where before thou hadst grovelled,
And the heart that had broken learned a heavenly strain.
O, thrice blessed sorrow that drives us to Jesus,
To find in His love a continuous peace
A joy, that abides though all earthly hopes wither,
And brings from the nights of despair full release.
O, Heavenly Shepherd, how wise are Thy dealings
Thy thoughtsfar beyond human wisdom to know;
Thy rod and thy staff sure will guide and sustain us,
Held close in Thy love while we tarry below.
So we patiently wait while we bide in the shadows,
Our eyes looking up through the gloom of the night,
'Till the shadows shall lift, and the dawn of the morning
Of Heaven's full glory shall burst on our sight.
A. G. James.