Are You Relentless
Genesis 37:1-11 (NIV)
This is a story of jealousy and hate; of new shoes and new coats; of evil doings and the cover-up. And they say the Bible is boring—not. The story of Joseph’s family reads just like one of those HBO drama series. But unlike those drama series the story of Joseph’s family speaks to the shaping of one’s character. It teaches the meaning of being relentless.
When I think of being relentless, I remember a guy who spoke at a retreat I attended as a teenager. He spoke about the relentlessness of his mother. How she was forever leaving Bible verses around the house and especially in his room. She worried about him and his future. He’d made some really bad choices and found himself at the brink of destruction. He hated God. He hated his parents. All this hatred caused him to act out. Drugs, alcohol, bad acquaintances. But she was relentless. He talked about how she made him get up every Sunday and go to church. Nevermind that he cursed her the entire time. She never gave up. She was relentless in her love for her son. Thank God for that relentlessness because he turned out to be an exceptionally gifted young adult minister. Where do you measure yourself in being relentless?
So Joseph receives this new coat from his father, Jacob, also known as Israel. The gift doesn’t set well with Joseph’s brothers. They hate him for it, and this hatred fuels their jealousy. You see, Jacob favored Joseph because Joseph was born to Jacob when Jacob was very old. Not good parenting to favor one kid over the other. The giving of the coat proved to the brothers that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them. It really didn’t help that Joseph was a bit of a tattletale. In fact the brothers couldn’t even speak kindly to Joseph. They wanted to kill him.
To make matters worse, Joseph, in his immaturity and naiveté, tells his father and his brothers about his dream whereby they were all in the fields tying off sheaves when suddenly his sheaf rises and stands straight up. Then, his brother’s sheaves gather around him and bow down to his sheaf. On top of that it repeats itself. You’d think Joseph would have just shut up at this point, but nope, he continues. He tells them about another dream whereby the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bow down to him. Well, all this just makes his brothers hate him even more if that’s at all possible.
Sadly, tragedy finds its way to Jacob’s household. He sends Joseph out to check on the brothers who were tending the flocks. The brothers spot Joseph walking toward them. Keep in mind that these guys have reached their peak of anger and hatred. They begin discussing how they might kill him. But, they don’t kill him. They decide to sell him into slavery. So when Joseph reaches them, they strip off his clothes, seize him, and throw him into a hole. Joseph is then sold off to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders passing by and is taken to Egypt.
The brothers know they must conceal their evil deed from their father. They dip Joseph’s garment into the blood of a goat and send it to their father who believes his son has been eaten by a wild beast. Jacob is devastated and mourns the loss of his son.
Meanwhile, all the problems Joseph encounters are relentless. The first house he serves, the master puts him in charge. The master’s misses takes a shine to Joseph but he rebukes her. She turns on him and the master throws Joseph in jail. The couple is Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar. Mr. Potiphar is the Pharaoh’s officer and captain of the bodyguards. It doesn’t work out well for Joseph.
However, Joseph never plays the victim. He rises up as trustee in the jail and then starts to interpret dreams. Joseph interprets a man’s dream that the man will return as a cup bearer for Pharaoh. When he does, Joseph asks the man to put in a good word for him. But, alas, the guy doesn’t and two years pass.
Then Pharaoh has a dream that can’t be interpreted. The guy remembers Joseph and mentions him to Pharaoh. Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream of seven years of plenty then seven years of famine. So Pharaoh appoints Joseph as the second in command to get them through the seven years of famine. Joseph’s plan is to have them put aside a portion from the seven years of prosperity so that during the seven years of famine Egypt is the only place that doesn’t suffer.
At the end of the story, Joseph’s brothers and family are starving. They are forced to go to Egypt. They see Joseph and bow down to him asking for food. Joseph doesn’t relish in the moment. Rather than revenge, he chooses reconciliation. Due to all his trials, his character is built.
So at seventeen, Joseph thought it would be cool to have people bowing down to him. He was foolish. As he became older he saw redemption better than the power to destroy. He became relentless in his quest to better himself. The wisdom of age is always a good thing. God, too, is relentless. His love for us is relentless. He will never let go of us. He will continue to love us through our best and our worst. And, if along the way, a little character building transpires—well—that’s what I call gravy.
Don’t you just love happy endings? I know Haylie does!
And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!