Cover to Cover
Jesus tells the disciples that persecutions would be coming. Would a good God allow Christians to be mistreated, beaten, or even killed? Obviously, God allowed it then, but would He allow that now? Will He allow it in the future?
Let’s remember that the world system has authority on the earth. We are not OF the world, but we are IN the world. As far as persecution in our present day, yes – persecutions happen, especially in certain places. God also gives us prophecy for the future where both Jews and Christians will be hated, hunted, and martyred. Would a good God allow it? Yes, the world has an authority. It’s not that God WANTS Christians to suffer, but under this world’s system, with Satan in control of it, it can happen. God can and has intervened to protect His servants; but for those who have, are, and will be persecuted for Christ’s sake, it is an honor.
Do not fear them. Fear is a control factor. If you fear your enemy, you will give in to your enemy. Instead, we should fear God, with a healthy respect, as a motivation for spreading the Good News of salvation. God is very aware of everything that pertains to us, great or small, and He cares. If a sparrow, which doesn’t have much value, falls to the ground, God pays attention; and He cares. If we are persecuted, God knows, and God cares. He even knows the number of hairs on our head, so don’t fear people. God’s got us!
When our heart is set to honor God, then we will honor ministers who serve us. If we honor those ministers, we will receive from their gifting and anointing. If we dishonor a person with a gift, we won’t receive from their anointing. We should also honor our subordinates, the people who lean on us. If we value a child, serving that child, God sees and God will reward. We should also value and honor our peers. When we honor God, we will honor one another. There’s a peace and harmony that comes with honor. What a good God!
Chapter 36 lists the descendants of Esau. Some of these descendants are the Amalekites, coming from Amalek, who are enemies of Israel.
At the beginning of chapter 37, Joseph is 17 and a favored son of Jacob (Israel). He was a son of Rachel and a son born in Jacob’s latter years. Out of favor, Jacob gave Joseph a special tunic, an outer garment that was expensive, a coat that signified that Joseph was special, a garment that was a reminder to his jealous brothers of how much their father favored their younger brother. The brothers were jealous of his identity, his potential, his authority. They were so jealous that they hated Joseph. Because of their hatred and jealousy, they could not even speak to him peaceably. They formed negative opinions about Joseph, having a group hatred and a group anger, against Joseph.
Joseph received a supernatural dream, a dream that was undoubtedly from God, a dream with substance and value. Joseph not only knew he was hearing from God, but that God was calling him to leadership. Joseph shared the dream with his brothers. He was young, he was hated, but he was honest. He was telling his brothers, “God is speaking to us.” I don’t find that Joseph has done anything wrong. I don’t find that that he was trying rub his brothers noses in it. However, when you know people don’t respect you, then you can usually assume they will not receive what you have to say. When we’re young, we don’t necessarily have the discernment that we’ll be rejected. We’re excited about the things God is doing, perhaps a bit naïve that another believer would feel threatened or insulted by us. God had a plan to use Joseph in a leadership position, which would carry great responsibility and hard work. Not only did God choose Joseph, but God chose Joseph to be a leader that would save his brothers, save his family, and secure the multiplication of the Jewish nation for the next several hundreds of years.
After the first dream, showing Joseph was going to be used to lead his brothers, we see that Joseph’s brothers hated him even more. Their opinion of Joseph was a bad one, and they weren’t even open to listen to the possibility that God was trying to give a message of peace and salvation. Joseph not only had one dream, but he had a second dream- a different picture, but the same message. Joseph knew their rejection after the first dream. Wisdom would have kept the second dream quiet, but perhaps Joseph was trying to persuade or convince his family that God was speaking to them. Jacob (Israel), however, took it to heart. He didn’t disregard the things Joseph said. He pondered on them, watching and waiting to see if they would come to pass.
The brothers were out caring for the flock in Shechem. Jacob (Israel) sent Joseph to check on them. He went to Shechem, and his brothers were not there. This might be why Jacob (Israel) was concerned about his sons, maybe they were late getting back home. A man directed Joseph to Dothan. The brothers saw Joseph coming. In verse 18, the group “conspired” against him. They came together to make plans against Joseph, to kill him. It’s one thing to have one voice coming against you, but it’s another to have a gang of people coming against you. They mocked Joseph, calling him “the dreamer.” Their plan included killing him, casting him into a pit, saying a wild beast has killed him. Reuben, however, stopped them from killing Joseph, suggesting that they only throw him into the pit. Reuben cared about his father, and wanted to return Joseph to him (remember, Reuben had already hurt his father by sleeping with Jacob’s concubine). The brothers put Joseph in the pit and sat down to eat a meal, probably talking about what they’ve done, what they were going to do, and deciding how they would break the news to their father.
GOD USES ISHMAELITE TRADERS
A group of traders heading toward Egypt was passing by where the brothers were sharing a meal, and I don’t believe it was by accident. This was God’s plan to get Joseph to Egypt. If God wants you somewhere to fulfill His plan, He will do it! Even though the brothers intended to do away with Joseph and mocked these God-given dreams, God was still able to use them. These brothers selling their brother actually was part of God’s plan coming to pass – AND it was going to help them and their families in the end. Hallelujah! God is bigger!
The traders were Ishmaelites, descendants of Ishmael. Remember that Hagar and Ishmael were moving toward Egypt. They weren’t Egyptians, but they lived in the area. So God chooses to use descendants of Ishmael to get the descendants of Isaac into Egypt where God would keep them alive during a time of great drought. How ironic!
The brothers were still in discussion about what they would do with Joseph. Judah was the one who said, “Instead of murder, let’s sell him and get some money out of him.” They sell Joseph as a slave for twenty shekels of silver (Leviticus 27:5).
Reuben came back to get Joseph, and found Joseph was gone. Reuben was devastated! The brothers told him what happened, so they made up a lie to tell their father. They killed a young goat, smeared the blood of the animal on Joseph’s coat, a symbol of his identity, and told their father the lie. Jacob (Israel) was heartbroken.
JUDAH AND TAMAR
In chapter 38, we read about Perez, the child of Judah and Tamar, as part of the chosen lineage of Jesus Christ. Perez was both a child of harlotry and incest. If you ever doubt that God can’t use you because of previous sin, read some of these stories in the Old Testament and realize God can do anything with anyone!
Judah’s son, Er, dies, leaving his young wife, Tamar, a widow without any children. Judah wants Tamar to wait until a younger son gets old enough to marry. That son, Shelah, grows up, but the marriage doesn’t take place. Tamar, wanting children and knowing Judah’s wife had recently died, disguises herself as a prostitute in the place where Judah is going. When it turns out that Tamar is pregnant, Judah calls for her to be burned to death – talk about a double standard! These people were far from perfect. She brings out his personal items that he left with her as a pledge for payment, and acknowledges his wrong for not giving Shelah to Tamar.
Perez starting to break through the womb before his twin, so they tied a scarlet thread on his hand. However, Perez slips back into the womb, and his brother was born first, Zerah. It was Perez that was in the lineage of Jesus, indeed, a scarlet thread of redemption!