the story of Joseph
Grandpa sat quietly, looking thoughtfully at Micah. After a few seconds, he shifted in his chair and said, “You know, Micah, I’m thinking the best way to explain God’s sovereignty is with the story of Joseph. Do you remember that story in the Bible?”
“Yes, sir,” said Micah happily as he set his glass down on the table, eager to hear another story from grandpa. Excitedly, he repeated the familiar story, “Joseph had the coat of many colors and his brothers hated him but he became the ruler of Egypt when they tried to kill him but sold him as a slave to Poph-iter.”
With a chuckle, Grandpa replied, “I think that’s pronounced ‘Potiphar,’ but yes, that sounds like the gist of his story. Do you remember why his brothers hated him?”
“Because their dad loved him more than the rest of them, and they were jealous.”
“Exactly right. Jacob, the father, loved young Joseph more than his ten older sons; probably because Joseph was the son of his favorite wife. When the older brothers saw how Joseph was the favorite son they begin to hate him, see. The Bible says they hated him so much that they could hardly speak in a nice way to him. Now, Micah, you have to understand that this was a big problem, see.
“Do you remember God’s promise to Abraham, how He would make a great nation of Abraham?” Micah nodded. “Now think with me about this. What would you say was God’s purpose for Abraham’s descendants?” asked Grandpa, looking intently at Micah.
Squirming in his seat in uncertainty, Micah finally hazarded an answer, “Umm, was it to make a nation from Abraham’s descendants?”
Grandpa beamed at Micah, “Exactly so! God’s purpose was to make a great nation from those boys of Jacob. Now, you can probably imagine that it’s very difficult to make a nation out of a group of people who hate each other. So, a big hindrance to God being able to accomplish His purpose was the hatred the older brothers had towards Joseph, see.” Grandpa paused for a moment, then added soberly, “You should realize that this wasn’t little kid hatred – Joseph was 17 years old and he was the youngest, which means his older brothers were adults. It’s very, very difficult to overcome deep, grown-up type hatred. There was pretty much no possible way that the brothers would willingly allow Joseph to remain in their neighborhood. Why, if things remained unchanged, I bet they would have driven him away or maybe even killed him as soon as their father, Jacob, passed away.”
Grandpa rested his elbow on the arm of his chair, and continued, “Anyhow, in order for God to accomplish His purpose, He needed to overcome the opposition to His plan which was the brothers’ hatred. In the story of Joseph, we will see what God did to accomplish His purpose in this family, and how it was a wonderful demonstration of His sovereignty. That, my young grandson, is the purpose of telling you this story that you already know so well.”
Micah nodded contentedly and reached again for his glass of sweet tea. He didn’t mind in the least having his grandpa retell a story. After a moment, Grandpa asked, “Now, how do you suppose God handled the brother’s hatred?” Micah stopped in mid-swallow and tried to accomplish the complicated maneuver of carefully setting his glass down without spilling while shrugging his shoulders and wiping his mouth on his sleeve. But his grandpa didn’t pause for an answer, “I’ll tell you. God didn’t suddenly appear to the brothers and command them to stop hating Joseph or face the consequences, see. Nor did He reach into their hearts and magically remove their hatred towards Joseph. No sir, His method was not to somehow force the brothers to love Joseph. Instead, He worked to get the brothers to see for themselves that they should not hate Joseph and be willing to set aside their animosity. As you might imagine, this was a tricky task, especially since the hatred was so deeply entrenched in their hearts.”
Grandpa John leaned forward a little in his chair, and Micah knew he was getting into the telling of the story. Thinking he might be able to finish his interrupted swallow, he reached for his glass again as Grandpa John continued, “So, the sovereign God’s first step in getting their hearts set right was to give a couple of dreams to Joseph. I suppose you remember those dreams?”
“Yep,” Micah nodded, pausing his glass half-way up to his mouth, “Umm, one dream was about the stacks of grain bowing down to Joseph and the other, ah, was about the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him.”
“Very good! Do you know what the dreams meant?”
“Uh-huh. That one day Joseph’s whole family would bow down to him. And, I guess Joseph’s brothers didn’t like those dreams at all!”
“Right you are! You can see that the meaning of the dreams was crystal clear, and it surely didn’t take a Chaldean to interpret them, did it? Now, the result of those dreams was that Joseph’s brothers hated him even more than they did before.”
“Why did God do that?” Micah interjected, setting his sweet tea down.
“What’s that?” asked his grandpa, thrown off track.
“Didn’t God know they would hate him more? So why did He give the dreams to Joseph? It only made the situation worse!”