“These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren….” Genesis 37 vs. 2a.
There are always two sides to any life: what earth sees and what heaven sees. It is not always easy to see one’s life from the viewpoint of heaven, neither is it easy to see others from that same viewpoint also. However, the Bible always provides us with the privilege of seeing things from both viewpoints. That is why the stories of the Bible are in their own special class.
In order not to elongate any write-ups I am involved in, I always try to focus on the very life I am studying and try not to spend much time on other lives. However, the story of Jacob cannot be complete if I neglect to give attention to his son Joseph.
Foremostly, he was introduced to the story in a very interesting way. In Genesis 36, the genealogy of Esau was discussed beginning from Esau himself. Now, when it was time to discuss Jacob’s genealogy, an interesting phenomenon emerges- Joseph is introduced first into the scene. “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph…” Since the Bible gave him such attention in trying to discuss him, I will also give him attention (though not in great details since it is not his life we are studying).
I will start with the story as earth saw it, especially Papa Jacob.
He loved this son of his because he loved his mother too. He was the first son of his mother, and what joy must have come to Jacob’s heart when he was born.
Now, as we meet him here, he was seventeen (17) years of age; a young man, and full of integrity.
Joseph was a dreamer, as in he dreamt dreams. No, don’t try to spiritualize that. Don’t make it look like he had great visions and plans for his life. Nothing of such. He was simply a young man who dreamt dreams. Even he didn’t understand his dreams, for if he did, he would not have shared it with his brothers.
He was specially hated by his brothers, foremostly because of Jacob’s ‘partial’ love towards him, and then because he reported their evil deeds to his father, and ultimately because of how they understood his dreams.
On that fateful day, Jacob called his son Joseph and told him to go and check on his brothers and see how they are doing. That evening, he bid his beloved son farewell in hope that he will see him again in a few hours time…. Little did he know that the boy was NEVER to return from that journey for the rest of his life.
You see, it is easier to lose a beloved one from sickness than from sudden accident. There is a way prolonged sickness prepares the hearts of men for the departure of their beloved ones.
I remember the fateful afternoon as I was conveying my late father’s corpse to the mortuary, I chanced upon an accident that had caused the lives of many that same day. As I thought upon it, I had cause to thank God that he prepared our hearts for my Dad’s departure, as I wondered what it would have looked like to anticipate that a beloved one is on the way back home, only to be told a few hours later that he/she is dead! If you have ever had this incidence happen to you, then you will understand what happened to Jacob that night.
If he had known that his son was going to a journey of no return, he would have prepared well for his departure. He would have packed his suitcase, given him all the necessary victuals for his journey.
Jacob continued to look out that night for the coming back of his son, Joseph. “Well, it seems he decided to wait for his brothers,” he thought in his heart, “surely, he will come back with them.”
As it went into the depths of the evening, his sons returned, and there was no Joseph with them!
“Did you not see Joseph? I sent him to you people!” he enquired from his sons.
They had already prepared what to say him.
“Well, we saw a cloth that looked like his own in the woods. We said we would bring it back to you,” they said, “is this your son’s cloth?”
Of course, Jacob could identify Joseph’s cloth from a distance. This was definitely his cloth. Why is it dipped in blood?
The brothers did not have to say anything more. They have passed their message.
“It is my son’s coat,” Jacob said, “an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.”
That day, Jacob died. The Bible said he mourned for his son for many days. But indeed, something in Jacob died that day.
Many questions rose in his heart. Where was the God of Bethel? Where was the God who had promised to be with him till the end? He had lost his beloved wife, had his daughter raped, lost his father, and now his beloved son. Was this really the portrait of a life God was with?
For Joseph, all hopes was lost. You see we have become a generation given to over-spiritualization of scriptural accounts. Many times I have been told that Joseph’s dreams kept him going. I do not believe that one bit. He was a slave, sold forever. That road leads no one to anything great. Rather, it could even land you in prison (as it later did for Joseph).
So, as for the earth, there was no hope. Men could not see any pattern in what God was doing. All they saw was chaos and confusion, and a life that was too unpredictable – here today and gone tomorrow.
So, this is the Crux of the whole matter? What was it that kept them going despite the difficulties. What kept them moving on? It was not the dreams they had or the visions in their hearts. It was that they were a ‘surrendered’ people. They had turned over their lives to the Lord, and no matter what happened, they cannot retreat.
That’s the difference between we and them. It is not their special encounters with God (per se). It is not their great dreams and visions. It was simply this, that they could serve no other nor obey any other but the God of Heaven. So, even when they did not understand, they kept following him.
That is what it means to have faith in God. Trusting God is different from trusting His promises or His assurances to you. Trusting God is following Him, walking with Him and obeying Him even when you do not understand. This was what the patriarchs lived by, that helped them survive the times of distress that must come upon all the sons of men.