Joseph – God mean it for Good
Jacob – Jacob and sons – fine example of the family man
Play video – 2 mins
Sorry, I could not resist. A very good morning to you – I hope that song will get stuck in your head this morning like it’s been stuck in mine all week. Jacob, Jacob and sons, a fine example of a family man – let’s see shall we – happy fathers day to the dads here this morning. Thank you for the opportunity to be up here again to share some thoughts as we close out the morning and send you off to your lavish fathers day lunches. Have you been spoilt? I hope so.
Now if you were with us last week, we started a four week look at the story of Joseph - and we rushed very hurriedly through some of the highlights and lowlights of the story toward the end of the book of Genesis – the ups and downs and twist and turn – if you knew the story well, what I took us through was redundant and unnecessary – on the other hand if you are new to the story, I was probably going way too fast to make any sense, so I hope at least some of you accepted Stuarts challenge to go and page through the story in the past week.
A couple of things came out of this drama as it unfolded – we said – that despite being an entertaining story (by the way did you know the Joseph and the Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat –was Andrew Lloyd Webbers First musical? Launched his career?) We said that despite being good entertainment, the purpose of the story was to teach us about ourselves and to teach us more importantly about God. About how He is with us in our lowest of lows, About how He is in control, how He saves and rescues His people, and ultimately about how even when people try to work things for harm and for evil, God can use those same things for GOOD. Through all the downs and tragic upsets of Josephs life, God is able to use these events to bring about the salvation and rescue of the Jewish nation.
This morning, because it’s fathers day, we are going to come at the story slightly differently, and look at some of the Father - son aspects of Joseph, and his father, and his grandfather, and his great grandfather.
And just like last week, for us to be able to go forward in the story, we need quickly to go backward and place some markers - just some reference points to help understand where Joseph is at with his relationship with Jacob.
The first is Abraham and Isaac
Story time – God put Abraham to the test by demanding he sacrifice his son on the altar – remember that one – And in the nick of time the angel comes down and says stop and says – he passed the test. A father being willing to sacrifice his son – what does that sound like to you. But just stop and imagine for a moment the effects of an event like that on the relationship between father and son – imagine a human son trying to come to terms with the fact that his father was willing to kill him.
Isaac grows up and has two sons of his own – this is now Jacob – yes, that Jacob and his brother Esau. These guys were fighting from before they were born. Jacob is born clutching his brother’s heel – so he is given the name Jacob – which means? Supplanter? Usurper? Wow, what a name – but given for a reason for what Jacob would go on to do. Jacob seemingly does his brother in dirty,– rips him off - gets his birth right for a bowl of stew…
He tricks his elderly father into giving Jacob his BLESSING instead of Esau! And you read that his mother helped him! Yikes.
Needless to say, more added drama in the family Esau hates Jacob – he’s been done in twice! A fine example of a family man?
Jacob is also incidentally the man who wrestled with God - I will not let go until you bless me…. And that’s how got that new name – Israel – no longer the usurper, now the 'God Contended', 'Wrestles with God', 'Triumphant with God'
Now let’s go on to consider Jacob and his wives – seems like there is some Godly justice in the story here – Jacob the deceiver, Jacob the trickster gets tricked himself – and is duped into marrying the wrong sister Leah. Not to worry, seven years and a couple of concubines later he finally gets to marry his favourite Rachel – and has Joseph in his old age.
Incidentally, not sure if I mentioned this last week – Rachel dies during childbirth of Joseph’s biological brother Benjamin. And you might well speculate that that adds even more reason for him to be favoured and specially treated. Favourite son, special robe, closer relationship etc.
So I’ve quickly thrown out a few marker references – what can you see coming down the generational pipeline.
A love and reverence for God – a desire to be blessed and obedient – great stuff – a strong love for your children, yes, cool, these are things you would want to pass down to your children. Of course. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your children? Any advantage in life you wouldn’t try and procure? Oh we say, no we would never spoil our kids and give them too much– what nonsense – we do what we think is reasonable and then MORE to give the best to our kids – don’t we? And do the ungrateful rats even say thank you – NO . But we still do it – because we love our children right?
I remember a few years ago spending a night in a sleeping bag on the side of a road trying to get my son into the local school - (not Kirstenhof) – ridiculous system, which they’ve since changed – that saw parents lining up outside the school on the day applications opened. There we were- mostly Dads – some had been queuing from a full 24hour before – whole day. We all agreed – this is a farce – well agreed, this was freezing cold, we all had work the next day, we should not have to be doing this.
But as we sat there moaning about it – were any of us willing to give up our spots and head home No chance buddy. And after all of that a few years later we would wind up yanking our boy out of that same school! Does that mean we would have done things differently and not wasted our time? Absolutely not – all those parents, just like us were more than willing to make that sacrifice for their kids – that’s what parents do – they would give anything for their kids.
But there are maybe things in our lives, and things this story, that you wouldn’t want to give and pass down - you wouldn’t want to them to inherit – the deceit, the trickery, the multiple spouses, the lies, the favouritism. They are much harder things to wrap our heads around – these are the mighty patriarchs – the founding fathers of the Jewish Faith! Has there ever been in history, such a powerfully used, a specially blessed and favoured family – don’t think so. Were they perfect – no – they were human. But does that stop God from using them in his plan? No, it does not – what did we say last week – God can use anything, and God can use anyone. And maybe you can see where we are going here…that’s the point of recording and noting in scripture, the failures and weaknesses of the Patriarchs – that God does not abandon his plans for the special nation because of these bumps in the road.
And now to center on Joseph, in our ongoing series, and look at his relationship with his father Jacob. – this whole thing about being favoured? Was it good, or right? Was Jacob a bad parent? We just said that the Lord is perfectly capable of using all things for his own Good. And none of us disagree with that…. But are we then saying that the Joseph favouring his son was a good thing? I’m not so sure… we would never consider actively favouring one of our children over the others. We might joke about being mommy’s favourite or whatever, but if we ever saw that behaviour in ourselves or our friends we would call it out as being wrong – because we all – especially within families – deserve equal treatment , right?
Believe me, I am a twin – my childhood life was about being treated equally with my twin sister – used to weigh out the pudding portions – used to demand to know how much our presents cost – spoilt brats hey I know,
Rightly or wrongly, it’s not hard to understand WHY Joseph was favoured –
Son of the favourite Wife – Rachel he Jacob wanted to marry all along, not Leah, certainly not his concubines….
Handsome and strong – easier to favour your good looking successful children I guess
Close relationship with God - believer – similar to his father – desired to do the right thing – OK Jacobs methods were questionable – trickery and deceit – but he was the one who wanted the birth right – who wanted the blessing
Stayed home with Father when brothers went out – as the youngest Joseph would have been more likely to stay home while they the older bad boys went out and got up to mischief.
Would report on misbehaviours on brothers – tattletale or not it does show who he is aligned with. Who he is close to
And we said earlier – he had lost his mother – perhaps deserved special care?–– it would maybe then have been natural for his father to give him special treatment? Make him feel loved and cherished? Who knows.
OK, those of us with more than 1 kid should take stock, and pick a favourite, and start treating unequally. Start making our own beautiful coats signifying favourite child status…. No. As they say - Description is not prescription – just because you read about slavery in the bible doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to go out there and take a few slaves for yourself. We are always tempted aren’t we? to find things in scripture that look good and apply directly to ourselves, regardless of back story, context, narrative – and simply whether they’re included in scripture as a lesson or an example.
So we must then be a bit careful in trying to make a judgement on whether Jacobs special treatment of Joseph was ‘biblical’…
The bible is clear on equal treatment in Christ - there is neither longer jew or Greek, slave or free male, female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.
But what about the parable of the labourers describing the Kingdom of God? Remember the guys who worked different hours but got paid the same wages?
What about the obvious favour that God gives to the children of Israel? Why are the Jewish nation God’s special people in the Old Testament?
Why are some people born in leafy suburbs and some people are born in slums? Where is the fairness there? These are matters up to the will of God, not up to us to complain and whine about fairness.
So we consider Jacob and Joseph then this fathers day morning and say, what kind of a father was Jacob was he? I commented last week that the story of Joseph and obvious villains – Potiphar’s scheming wife) and heroes (our bright shining Joseph), and characters that were in-between. Is Jacob maybe one of these in-betweens? Good parts bad parts, grey areas? Motives that have question marks over them?
Was he an example of a good father? He clearly loved his boys - mourned deeply for them –
He is certainly a relatable guy – does things right, gets a couple of things wrong – but you a can understand the motivation….
Wrestles with God – is ambitious for his father’s blessing.
As for his precious son Joseph, he loves him so much that he would rather die than go on without him.
Consider the story When he thinks Joseph has died.
Genesis 37:34-35: 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
And then contrast the attitude when he realised he is alive.
Genesis 46:29-30 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father[h] and wept for a long time.
30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”
He would do anything - can you hear the love he has for his children – essentially he is saying he values them more than he values his own life…
When I started prepping for this morning I really wanted to go after Jacob – he really messed up by favouring Joseph, and should be condemned. But maybe a more moderate position seems appropriate. So lemme leave Jacob alone for now…. Who then – shows us what a good father is. These are the Patriarchs – the literal founding fathers – yes, the beginning f Gods special covenant and special relationship with his special people – but there is only one who – as we sung earlier is perfect in ALL of his ways…
No surprises here. The best example of a Father throughout this genesis Exodus story, is the Original father – not Jacob, not Isaac, not even FATHER Abraham, but the Father God himself – who does not give up on his beloved children – who is faithful to his promises to them – who does not condemn and reject them despite all the dishonouring stuff they get up to.
He leads his children. He provides for them. He protects them. He forgives the, he doesn’t condemn them. He teaches them , corrects them– he keeps them safe and keeps them close.
And is that not our experience of God the Father too – praise the Heavenly Father who is patient with us, who is kind to us, who loves and blesses us with all things even though we deserve NOTHING.? The Father who sacrifices for us? Protects – Mourns for us and with us?
There’s only one Father really in this book to copy isn’t there. And we are all his Children. We can read through all the stories, all the characters, all the earthly examples of what being a Godly Father might look like, but they are mere reflections of Himself and His heart for HIS children.
I will be a Father to You, and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty – 2 Corinthians 6:18.
There you go guys, you want to be good fathers? Just be like God – easy peasy? You know, the all powerful, all wise, all knowing all present creator of the universe – copy Him.
Bad news Gents, we’ll never be like Him. That’s an impossible standard, isn’t it – why should I bother. We’re being set up to fail here. But’s still the direction we should be facing – still the path we should be trying our best to follow – still the attitude we should be embracing, even in our weakness – even in the knowledge that we’ll mess it up, again and again, and fall short, and have to ask God for forgiveness again – that’s part of the journey. It's about where the journey eventually leads – to him.
We remembered our brother Dave Kikillus in a really lovely service yesterday morning – and Dave, you know Dave he really was a mature wise believer, he really walked the walk and talked the talk. A real proper Christian, a wonderful example of a good earthly Father – there were numerous people (from different background – Afrikaans, Zimbabwean) getting up and sharing how David was their spiritual father. For us all to emulate - but even he – and it came out so strongly yesterday – Dave, just like us was in a race – in a pursuit – moving in a direction towards God – and now his race is done as he sees him faces to face, like we will all one day do.
There’s also a point here to make, that we don’t do this fatherhood things in isolation. The reality is that as fathers we support each other, we step into the gaps - we hold each other accountable – we look out for each other.
I lost my own father younger than I would have liked – but I am fortunate to be surrounded by elderly men who stepped into that role – men who open their homes – there was a period in my teens where my parents saw very little of me on weekends – would start on Friday at Greg’s and Carols eating all their food and by the end of Sunday I’d be at Neville and Liliane’s house…eating all their food. But Fathers and Families that feed me not just physically but spiritually as well.
Men who teach me - you know that after last week’s message my inbox was full on Monday morning – always a sign you stumbled across someone's favourite topic in a message when you start getting emails…….. – men who have built relationships with me over years – you wouldn’t believe who I get the most WhatsApp’s from in a given week. It ain't the youngsters…. I can tell you that.
These are not the only people who step into the gap - I know women in my family, many women in this church too – who have had to step into the gap of a good father. And they are doing amazing jobs. And they should be encouraged and supported and celebrated and given thanks for – instead of being made to feel awkward and less than, and inadequate.
Can God use a broken home (what a horrible term, I’ve known single parent homes to be some of the most loving environments, way better than the alternative of a home full of hatred and unhappiness) can God use this for his Good – Yes – have you even been listening for the last two week – it was supposedly meant for evil, but God means it for Good -
So as you try to be the best Father, the best parent you can be – allow God to work within your weakness – through your imperfections – maybe like Jacob, you are wrestling with God over something, maybe like Jacob you are jealous for your inheritance, Maybe like Jacob you have a complicated family situation with generational abuse, damage coming through, sins of the fathers and all that – resulting in an environment that is hard to manage, hard to lead, hard for your children to be treated like they should be…..
God the Good Good Father – is greater than whatever you are facing. And just like He saw it all to pass with Jacob and Joseph, even in the face of evil, He was faithful to His promise, He was patient with His children, He taught them, He provided, He mourned and Grieved for Them – He shows us in his word what a Good Father looks like – A fine a perfect example of a Family man.
Thanks for listening – I hope you have been stirred and reminded of our father’s heart for us this morning – and pray that the Dad’s present this morning would be encouraged to continue, to not give up, to keep loving, keep sacrificing, keep giving to their children, biological or otherwise.
And please join us again next week – next week is a horizontal look – Joseph and his brothers – Stuart will guide us through a look a look at reconciliation - I mean, if anyone knows about fighting with his brother it’s him – no, just kidding, I’m sure you’ll agree in 2022 is a massive topic in our families and in our nation.