My initial thoughts as I plowed into it were of a young boy abused by his older brothers, blessed by God, and used by God to save the growing nation of Israel (that is, the family of his father Jacob).
As I applied the ten factors appearing in 113 verses, the story took on a rich depth I had never imagined. Every element of the cycle is present and I challenge you to read it with the ten factors in front of you.
One fascinating aspect is the conflicting factors found in some of the characters that exhibit exactly who we are as practitioners of original sin. For example, Joseph’s brothers Reuben and Judah could not agree with the other nine brothers that Joseph should be killed. So even though these two were disobeying in the larger sense of throwing Joseph into a pit to eventually sell him into Egypt (ever heard of peer pressure?), they had a God-given sense of right and wrong and likely saved Joseph’s life. So I categorized them as both disobedient and unified with God in that one sense. Aren’t we all conflicted that way, especially as Christians and as Americans?
But another pattern I have seen emerging from the story of Joseph thrilled me, because it addresses the question I asked when we started this journey: does studying the cycle potentially lead the modern church and modern Americans to repent of our disunity, and if so, does it lead us to what is missing and what we should do about it?
Yes! The cycle has four positive attributes of God – unity, commandments, never-ending love, and restoration. It has five negative attributes of His fallen children – temptation, disobedience, disunity, unheeded warnings, and resulting judgment. And most importantly, it has one positive aspect we need to understand a great deal more about – repentance.
Of the 113 verses in these 14 chapters, a whopping 71 refer to God’s attributes. It takes only 39 verses to tell the very dirty story of Joseph’s brothers. And there are only three moments in the entire saga when the brothers show any remorse – only when they have been caught red-handed.
This uncovers a very important truth.
Despite daily life in the trenches, when God may seem very far away, He reveals his own nature over and over and over again, if only we will lift up our eyes and strive to be like Him, starting with repentance. He speaks to us personally through the Spirit, he speaks to us through dreams, and he speaks to those who we think are bad people because we judge them instead of looking for God in them!
Next time: Summary of the entire Book of Genesis