Israel was a dysfunctional family just like many of ours. In today’s story, the father, Jacob, has made the classic error of favoring one son over the others as symbolized in the long robe with sleeves he made for him. Apparently sleeves were a big deal back in those days. This would be like my parents buying me a Baracuda after having made my three sisters drive my car when it was available. Wait a minute, that is what happened in my family, only my parents bought my sister, Anne, a car and let me use it when it was available. You get my point. Every family has its problems, and no parent is fair all the time.
Anyway, Jacob’s other sons had taken their family flocks from the Valley of Hebron, where they lived, north to Shechem. This was a distance of 60 miles north and would have taken them through what is today the disputed territory of the West Bank. Why go 60 miles? Was the flock so big it ate that much grass? More likely they went to where the water was. Joseph’s brothers are infuriated when they see the fancy robe that Jacob made for Joseph. They proceed to throw Joseph in an empty well and then sell him into slavery. So much for brotherly love.
With a family like this how could God possibly accomplish anything? Take heart, o fellow member of a family dysfunctional. As we know, God used this episode for great good in the larger story. Joseph will later say to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” The Spirit’s presence and intercession lead to God’s purpose being accomplished through the dysfunctional family which is us.
In the same way, Paul tells us in Romans 8, We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. ALL things work together for good. That’s a pretty encouraging thought. God in his sovereign grace is intent on making things work out, no matter how badly we’ve messed up. Just think about this for a minute.
Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
United Presbyterian Church