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Joseph and the unfolding of God's promises Genesis 37
Joseph and the unfolding of God's promises
Genesis 37

Over the last several weeks we have considered the persons and calls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

-To Abraham, God gave an incredible promise--- found in Genesis 12:1-3: God was going to bless him. He will be made into a great nation. His name would become great. All peoples on earth would be blessed through him.
-God repeated the promise he had made to Isaac and then to Jacob who has a number of sons whose descendants came to make up the 12 tribes of Israel.
-The next key person in the unfolding of God's promise to Abraham is Joseph
-The account of Joseph stretches from Genesis 37-50

While Joseph is famous for his faith, his godliness, the wisdom that God gave him, the preservation of his family, and his ascension to being number 2 in all the land of Egypt, the account of Joseph is most important because it explains to us how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.

Israel ending up in foreign land (Egypt) and coming out 400 years as a great nation is a big part of the plot of the book of Genesis and Exodus.

To prove this I refer you to Genesis 15:13 wherein God says to Abram; "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years."


While Genesis 37 begins in earnest to trace for us the fulfillment of God's word to Abram as it regarded his descendants being in a country not their own and enslaved for 400 years, there are some great principles and lessons for us in Genesis 37 that warrant our attention


1. Favoritism in your family or anywhere is a recipe for disaster. See v.3-4

Aspects of favortism:

a. A richly ornamented robe (the very sight of which angered his brothers and stirred their feelings of hostility)
b. A measure of authority over his brothers (sent to check on brothers and report back)
c. His being put in the back (away from potential danger) when Jacob met Esau

The favoritism of Jacob plus the bad report Joseph brought, plus Joseph's dreams, led to Joseph's being sold into slavery.

Application: If you have more than 1 child try to treat them equally.

Further: favoritism in any context is a recipe for disaster (in the church, amongst your friends/co-workers, etc)

2. God can and does speak to certain people through dreams

The Bible is full of examples of God speaking to people through dreams. In Genesis, God speaks to Jacob through a dream (the staircase from Heaven- Genesis 28). When Abraham went down into Egypt and then Sarah was taken by the Pharaoh as his wife, God spoke to Pharaoh by means of a dream-- telling him that if he touched Sarah, he was dead. In Genesis 31, Laban, the night before confronting Jacob about running away was told by God in a dream to not say anything to Jacob, good or bad.

A big feature of Genesis 37 is two dreams that Joseph has. Both of Joseph's dreams are related are related and concern Jacob being bowed down to by his brothers and family. While Jacob's dreams-- which he told to his family-- ticked off his brothers and fueled their hatred of him, the text tells us that his father "kept the matter in mind" v.11

The dramatic tension of the account of Joseph in the early going is this: How in the world would Joseph's dream be able to come to pass (given all the obstacles and opposition)

While God can and does speak through dreams today, discernment is needed (test them against the Scriptures)-- for in the Bible we are warned that not every dream is of God. For instance Jeremiah 23:31-32 warns of false dreams and we are told that in Isaiah 24:8 and Ecclesiastes 5:3 that sometimes life's anxieties result in dreams (this we all know).

3. Sin is compounding in nature

In James 4:1-3 it says; "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

In considering Joseph's brothers and the compounding nature of sin-- first they were angry over a bad but accurate report that Joseph brought to their father. Instead of repenting of their wrong, they held a grudge against their brother. Their anger was then compounded by the favoritism of their father to Joseph (particularly the robe). Such was accompanied by jealousy. This anger and jealousy was further accentuated by the dreams that God gave Joseph. Then we read of his brothers plotting to kill him. After the intercession of Reuben (who appears to be trying to atone for his sin of sleeping with his father's concubine), Joseph is cast into a pit and then unceremoniously sold into the hands of some Ishmaelites (the descendants of Abraham's dalliance with Sarah's handmaid). To top everything off, Joseph's brothers then callously deceive their father into thinking that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

The point: It's hard to stop at one sin.

-When a person lies, it's usually followed by a multitude of lies
-When a person is angry and lashes out, it multiplies
-When a person sits down at their computer and says "I'll just look at one pornographic image" such is usually followed by dozens of images of increasing degradation.

Our only solution: When we sin, we need to repent. 1 John 1:9 says; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness"

Our only hope: Christ, his sacrifice, his intercession. The Word. The indwelling Holy Spirit

Our responsibility: Pursue holiness.

4. We need to mind our example- for- The sins of the "father" are often visited upon the children. see v.31-35

I know how true this is.

Jacob- the father of Joseph and his brothers, was often guilty of deceiving people. While his conversion led to a radical change in his heart, person, and behavior, he struggled with deceiving people for pretty much his whole life.

If you've heard of the saying "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" then you know where Jacob's brothers picked up the art of deception (and what they did to their father was horrible! v.31-35)

Application: We need to mind the example that we set and when we do wrong, we must be quick to confess our sins and weaknesses to our family

5. The evil actions of others cannot and will not foil the plans of God. v.36

God is sovereign.

Consider also these verses from Proverbs 16---

"The Lord works out everything for his own ends" Proverbs 16:4.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps" Proverbs 16:9

In verse 36 it says; "Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard."

Despite the evil intent of Joseph's brothers, God was at work- and while it looked that Joseph's dreams that God had given him would come to nothing, God's plan was actually moving forward.

Years later, Joseph himself spoke of this (22 years later)-- when he says to his brothers "What you did to me, you intended it for evil, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" Genesis 50:20

Ponder this: The empty cistern part of God's protection of Joseph. The profiteering motive of Judah forwarded God's plan. The sudden appear of Ishmaelite traders bound for Egypt-- all these things, happened not by accident.

6. If God could take 10 of Jacob's sons and incorporate them as the foundations of the Israelite nation-- then there is hope for all as it regards the offer of salvation and peace with God

Ponder the character of Joseph's brothers: callous (they sat down to eat bread while their brother cried out for help), heartless, murderers, dishonest, deceivers, immoral, violent men, cruel.

God took 10 of these men (plus eventually the two sons of Joseph) and its there names that are inscribed on the gates of the heavenly city of Jerusalem (Revelation 21)

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which is a very important passage about the amazing grace of Christ and his transforming work in the lives of those who repent and put their faith in him, it says; "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Thank God for his grace and mercy in Christ and how he came for us sinners- to save us.


At its core, the account of Joseph explains for us how the Israelites came to be in Egypt and how the prophecy of Genesis 15:13 came to pass

Genesis 37 does the aforementioned plus it also offers up to us a number of very practical lessons for our lives

-Teaching us of the folly of favoritism
-Introducing us to another way God sometimes speaks to people (through dreams) - but take care to be discerning
-Reminding us that sin is compounding in nature
-Encouraging us to mind our examples -- that others not incorporate our sins into their lives
-Cheering us with the knowledge that nothing that can hinder the decreed plans of God
-Pointing us to the incredible grace of God-- who takes sinners and by the grace and work of Christ, transforms those he calls into saints

Closing song: How Great is our God.