Peace in All Circumstances

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.

[. . .]

Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “I will go.” Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, “What are you looking for?” He said, “I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.” Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!” But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. (Genesis 37: 3–4; 12–28 NASB)

I am an only child, so it is hard for me to imagine ten guys being so jealous of just one of their brothers that they are considering murdering him. Then again, by Genesis 37 fratricide is not new in the Bible. Recognizing paternal preference – “Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age” – the jealousy can ramp up fast.

I am thankful for Reuben’s voice, as the eldest brother speaks wisdom to his little brothers and tells them that no blood will be shed that day.

We sometimes brush off envy, jealousy, and even factions and dissensions as part of being human, but God doesn’t brush them off. The deeds of the flesh listed in Galatians 5 include these, setting them alongside sexual immorality and drunkenness in a series of transgressions that violate God’s will for us.

The Joseph story reveals that despite experiencing mistreatment at the hands of people, God’s purposes for Joseph are greater than the abuses that happened to him. In fact, God uses Joseph’s trials to train him for the greater purposes Joseph will serve. His story gives us comfort that God is with his people, even when it doesn’t look or feel like it. We receive comfort not only that God can bring us through our challenges and trials but that God can utilize those very challenges and trials to mold our character into that of Christ’s.

Let us meditate on this truth. Regardless of our current season, whether prosperous or problematic, as we take in the power of God to form us through trials as well as triumphs, we can experience his peace.
Wayne Stapleton is the NAB VP of Cross-Cultural Engagement & Emerging Leader Engagement.