When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!” (Genesis 37:18-20)
This is a good time to call to mind several lessons we can learn from Jacob's family and Joseph's adversity.
The first is obvious. No enemy is more subtle than passivity. When parents are passive, they may eventually discipline, but by then the delayed reaction is often carried out in anger. Passivity waits and waits until finally, when it can wait no longer, it comes down with both feet! When that happens, children are not disciplined, they are brutalized. Passivity not only blinds us to the here and now, it makes us inconsistent.
There's a second lesson we learn from Joseph's teenage struggles. No response is more cruel than jealousy. Solomon was right when he said, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave" (Song of Solomon 8:6, RSV). Jealousy, if allowed to grow and fester, leads to devastating consequences. If you allow jealousy to rage within your family or between your children, you are asking for trouble. At some point, it will manifest itself in detrimental ways.
Enough of the negatives. Let's find in all this at least one magnificent lesson of hope: No action is more powerful than prayer. I realize that the biblical story does not state that Jacob turned to God in prayer, but surely he did so! How else could he have gone on with his life? Where else could he have turned for hope?
The same can be said for you and me. Prayer brings power to endure. Those who are older are a source of wisdom for young parents and for children and grandchildren. Single men and women also have much to offer, whether within their own extended families or within the family of the church. Broken, hollow lives can find new strength to recover. It's at this point I would say that Joseph, without question, turned his situation over to God, even as the caravan made its way toward Egypt. Surely he knew, even at seventeen, that his only hope would come through God's faithful intervention! Surely he cried out to the One who, alone, was in sovereign control of his future! And so must we!
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