I love the pottery on the screen… it is a wonderful image of how God can restore the broken, creating something even more beautiful. This pottery is an example of a Japanese art form. I heard about this probably 15 years ago but had to look up a description (website: www.mymodernmet.com):
A golden repair… that’s what I want for a 1000 people I know…the fractures and breaks are there, but the repaired person is even more beautiful, revitalized with new life! Joseph is a person that overcomes. Join us on this study this Summer of a man that God repairs and uses for his glory, his purposes, a wonderfully flawed man.
Today is an introduction to Joseph. A glaring truth in today’s scripture: Joseph is from a dysfunctional family! Anyone have a crazy person in their family???? Any of you the crazy one? On any given week I spend more time listening to crazy stories…. That’s why I love what I do and am deeply honored to serve as a pastor. I love people. I love stories. Stories of Personal tragedies. Stories of people beating each other up in every way imaginable. Broken relationships. Difficult personalities. Stuck in a mess. Past scars. Betrayals. Emotional messes. More than one of you have told me of an alcoholic/drug addicted parent growing up that is haunting you.
Dysfunction in the family is common. The first family in the Bible was dysfunctional: One brother killed another brother. That’s dysfunction. Joseph is from a dysfunctional family. He is 11th of 12 brothers. His father is Jacob; his mother is Rachel. As the story of Joseph opens, his mother has died. One guess is that Joseph was about 7. Rachel was his father’s favorite wife but he also was married to Rachel’s older sister Leah; both wives gave one of their servants to Jacob to be the mother for more children. Our scripture today refers to these two servants as wives of Jacob as well. Rachel had wanted children for many years, but she was barren. She stood by and watches as the other wives kept getting pregnant. Yet she is Jacob’s favorite. Lot’s of jealousy in the family!
Jacob’s home is a crazy dysfunctional drama filled family. Jacob didn’t need TV, he lived his own soap opera. I’ve seen in today’s world situations just as crazy. In one of my early funerals I was contacted to help a family. I had to balance input from his wife, whom he did not live with, his girlfriend, whom he lived with, and his ex-wife, who was still in his life. None of them got along. It wasn’t hard for me, but I felt more for the funeral director because the three women were fighting over what to say on his headstone. The person who got the final say was the one that paid for it! I laugh when I think about the song they all agreed should be played to end the funeral: Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.”
Is there a family alive not dysfunctional in some way? Many keep the craziness secret; for others the dirty laundry is on full display! There is always hope for those in crazy families, because God is the God who overcomes. He is the golden repairer!
Joseph is raised in a dysfunctional home: a mother and three step mothers. His mother dies when he is young. His father Jacob is at times a liar and cheat. The truth is we are all a mixed bag. Jacob had a devious streak, but he was also an amazing man of faith who was an heir to the promise of God that a nation would be established through his descendants that would follow and worship the one true God.
Joseph’s father Jacob a few years earlier wrestled with an angel of the Lord; the angel strikes him on the hip causing him to walk with a limp. As Jacob wrestles with the angel Jacob refused to let him go. I think he was wrestling his own demons as he’s wrestling the man/angel…. Jacob releases the man when the man agrees to bless Jacob. Jacob is given a new name ~ that’s the blessing ~ a new name is a new beginning. The name: ISRAEL. READ Gen. 32:28. Underline the word OVERCOME? It’s one of the major themes of the Bible. I’ve always liked the definition one of my professors gave to Jacob and Israel: Jacob means “What God has made crooked” i.e., a sinner, a self centered greedy conniving person, and Israel means, “What God has made straight.” The greatest blessing is for God to set you on a new course, for God to help you overcome… God is the Golden Repairer!
God says to Jacob: “You’ve struggled with God.” Don’t think of faith as a passive set of beliefs; think of faith as a wrestling match. I got a call from a good friend who has lost her son to drugs, she is struggling with God; who can blame her! Right now she is struggling and says she just doesn’t get God and doesn’t understand what’s going on… Our great need is to overcome a crazy frustrating painful world… The need to overcome does not stop with Jacob but is passed on to Joseph. The story of Joseph is the story of overcoming.
Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, but he is not fully redeemed. As long as we are on this side of eternity, we will always be in process of struggling to understand God, struggling with doubts, / dysfunctional ways… after Jacob’s wrestling match, he is still a man in process of become more godly. The man loved all his children, but as our scripture in Gen. 37 shows us, Jacob could not let go of all the drama in the family.
Gen. 37:1 READ. It’s interesting to me Jacob is used, not Israel…. For me, it’s a reminder that Jacob never does get rid of all his old ways.
READ Gen. 37:2. As we dive into the story of Joseph, the first thing we learn about his character is that he is a snitch…. In Gen. 37:3 we learn Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son… READ. choosing favorites helps nobody ever.
When parents or grandparents pick out a favorite child or grandchild, does anything good ever come of it? Tell me what favortism potentially does to the children/the other siblings, the community… how do those kids grow up? [responses?] Ironic that if you really had a favorite the best thing you could do for them is for them to not be their favorite. The blessings of having a favorite is actually a curse…
Joseph is NOT a perfect man. Just because he is a loved Bible hero does not make him perfect. He is commonly seen as a foreshadowing of Christ. You can use google to find lots of lists of parallels between Joseph and Jesus Christ, but I personally think the comparisons can be taken way too far. Joseph is also a sinner with flawed character. One of the lists I found actually claimed that no sin of Joseph is ever recorded in the Bible. Really? The first statement about him is that he’s a tattle tale. The second story next week shows his arrogance. He is a spoiled brat! The List:
If you think Joseph is primarily a foreshadowing of Christ, you’ll see the brothers as nothing but evil picking on their little brother. You’ll justify Joseph giving a bad report to their father about the brothers. You might even understand Jacob loving Joseph more than his other children because he is like Christ and we’re supposed to love God above all. You might see the special coat given to Joseph as a foreshadowing of the glory of Christ. That is not how I see it. I see a dysfunctional family. I see a father who sets the stage for a dysfunctional family by having a favorite child. I see a pampered favorite child that can do no wrong in his father’s eyes that tattle tales on his brothers. I see brothers that responded in hate towards the younger brother. They are all at fault.
The miracle of the Joseph story is that God blesses the family anyway. God is the golden repairer. The flaws are still there, but he makes them beautiful, part of the whole.
I want to end today with a list of principles from these introductory verses to Joseph and his story of overcoming. How to overcome a dysfunctional family. Some of these principles look to the good that is coming. I’ve read the story. I know how it ends.
1. We are all undeserving of God’s love. We are all sinners. We all have stuff. Jacob, Joseph and his brothers are all flawed. And God loves all of them.
2. God is the hero of this story, not Joseph. Admire Joseph, be amazed by the things he overcomes, but it is God who orchestrates the events and brings life to his purposes. God will be the hero overcoming the dysfunction in your family too ~~ for His Glory!
3. Good is always God’s end. It may take years/decades/a lifetime to see it, but God will always bring good. The book of Genesis has a caption towards the end that seems to be meant for the whole story of Joseph (or Genesis): READ Gen. 50:20.
4. God uses people with character flaws. we all are all broken. I know many people whose attitude is, “good things don’t happen to people like me.” Sweetheart, let me tell you… that’s not the God I know!
5. Our crazy ways may harm others. Be careful! Jacob did no favors by elevating Joseph as his favorite. Be careful. Repent. Think. Don’t make excuses. The alcoholic parent shapes the children. Lying/cheating is destructive. Be careful. Be honest about your own character. Your decisions impact others. You can choose to bless or curse members of your family, friends. Choose to bless. Choose to lift up. Ask for forgiveness when you mess up.
6. The crazy ways of others may explain why we are the way we are, but it doesn’t excuse our behavior. Joseph’s father did him no favors by elevating him as the favorite, but Joseph is responsible for his own actions. I.e. quit playing the victim. Even if you are a victim don’t make that your sole identity. The only people who overcome their past are those who take responsibility for their actions. Some people are handed very difficult circumstances, that may well explain why you are the way you are, but you are still responsible….
7. Finally, be patient. Be in it for the long run. When you are in the middle of a messed up family, it’s hard, seems like no way out. Be patient. Never give up. The story of Joseph takes years to unfold. There are times Joseph seems so far from wholeness. He is alone in a foreign land. In prison. Yet in time God unfolds his plan. Be patient.
My prayers are for you and your families….Joseph’s family was dysfunctional. So was Joseph. Yet God overcame the craziness and used Joseph and his family for his Glory. God is the Golden Repairer. The flaws are still there, but often the repaired person is even more beautiful than the original, revitalized with new life. Amen.