Key verse: Genesis 37:20
Big idea: In the beginning, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers.
Since yesterday's reading, we have crossed a huge swath of time. Esau, also a changed man, welcomed Jacob with open arms. Rachel died in childbirth*, giving birth to Benjamin, and Rachel's second youngest son, Joseph, became his favorite. Israel had learned many things over his long life, but the one who knew the pain of a father playing favorites made the same mistake. His other sons, not surprisingly, resented it. Joseph, although seventeen and able to work, was treated as the supervisor of his brothers, going back to his father to report on the quality of their work. By all indications, he was a spoiled brat.
But, despite his sinfulness and unworthiness, God had a plan to use him. Joseph had two dreams, both indicating that he would be preeminent over his brothers (the second dream is referenced in Revelation 12:1-6 and is important for understanding that passage). His brothers hatched a plan to kill Joseph, foiled only by Reuben, who tried to rescue him. Instead, he was sold to some Ishmaelite traders (whose very existence was the result of disfunction in God's chosen family) and he was taken to Egpyt, where he would spend the rest of his life. His brothers convinced Jacob that he had been killed by putting a goat's blood on Jacob's expensive, multicolored coat. The same Jacob who had used a goat's meat and skin to fool his own father now experienced the same thing. Still, God's master strategy to redeem the world through Abraham's family was not foiled. God had a plan to use the sinful favoritism of his father, the sinful betrayal of his brothers, and many other things besides.
Their sin was not excused because God used it for His purposes, but it should be encouraging to us that no suffering is wasted. In His wisdom and love, God brought all things together for good. Joseph was not innocent or sinless, but did not deserve the mistreatment he endured. But there was another who suffered unjustly and yet for a purpose. Joseph is what theologians call a "type" of Christ: someone that comes before and points toward the rough details of the One who was coming. Joseph was sold by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver; Jesus was betrayed by the nation he came to rule (John 1:11) and sold for 30 pieces of silver by one of His disciples (Matthew 26:15). Joseph and Jesus were both destined to reign, but hated for it. The sins against Joseph ultimately allowed him to save the lives of his family. Jesus' murder and betrayal made Him the perfect sacrifice to redeem the whole world.
Discussion idea: Has God ever used some way that another person hurt you for your good? What suffering is going on in your life now? How could God use that?
Prayer focus: Ask God for forgiveness for the times you have been like Joseph's brothers: jealous and resentful, resisting God's plan out of pride. Thank God for His faithfulness to advance His Kingdom, even when our own foolishness gets in the way.
* There is a possibility that Rachel died after Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. For a number of reasons, the chronology is difficult to work out. The main elements are the same either way.