The notes this week have been supplied by Stuart.
Joseph, the favoured son, had told his family of his dreams (37:1-11) from which it was evident to all that they were to bow down to him, even his parents.
Jacob’s favouritism of Joseph was a running sore with his brothers, but sharing his dreams has really poured salt in to the wound, which led to their actions in today’s passage. Joseph was:
- Hated and rejected by his brothers (v19-20)
- Beaten (v23-4)
- Sold in to slavery (v28)
- And written off (v31-33)
He fell a long way; losing everything and everybody. We can’t imagine his loneliness, fear, anger, or self-pity but this event was the making of his character. Commentators often describe him up to this point as arrogant and insensitive towards his brothers but the next time he sees them (20 years later) we see a loving and forgiving heart (42-50).
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he describes his hardship:
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
If we are honest with ourselves we trust in God to degrees, often only leaning on him when we can’t do any more ourselves. I think that is what Paul is describing here, that only when all self-hope had gone did they truly rely on God.
As we open our hearts in this way to rely on God, then our appreciation of his compassion and care for us deepens. But more than that, as our hearts are open, as if by osmosis, that compassion and comfort permeates in to our character. Paul describes it this way a few verses earlier:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Paul is saying; in despair we opened up our hearts to God and called out for help and as he came and comforted and carried us we had an overwhelming sense of his compassion for us. As a result we have absorbed some of that comfort and compassion in to our own hearts so that we in turn can bring comfort to others.
This is where I think Joseph was in today’s passage. When there was nothing left he truly turned to God and as he realised God’s delivery Joseph’s heart was captivated by the compassion and comfort of God which had a transforming power on his heart going forward.
May the same be true for us.