Introduction: One of the great incentives which enables us to persevere in prayer for the conversion of others is that God never forgets anything. He is able to catalogue every action and word of every sinner’s life – often bringing back to remembrance past sins at just the right time in order to use the ‘saving grace’ of repentance to its greatest effect. How did the woman at the well testify to Jesus’ convincing her of her sin? She says in John 4:29 and again in John 4:39 that Jesus “told me everything I ever did.” May we be struck anew with wonder at the comprehensive knowledge which God has of each of us – and may we find great comfort in knowing that we can never get away with anything under the burning, all-seeing eyes of His Son.
Monday: read Genesis 37:19-24. The contempt of Joseph’s dreams lies at the heart of his brothers’ sin against him. These dreams were from the Lord, because that was the way in which God revealed Himself to the prophets of old. Joseph’s brothers give unintended respect to his ability from God to discern dreams, saying literally in Gen. 37:19, “Here comes that Master of dreams.” Little did they know how true their words were, attesting to Joseph’s skill in understanding communication from God.
Meditate and Pray: We become skillful at what consumes us. Joseph was consumed by the dreams which the Lord gave him – even though his brothers hated him for it. Joseph’s brothers were consumed with hatred of their younger brother. They became archers seeking to shoot painful arrows of ambush against their brother. This is literally the way Jacob describes them in Gen. 49:23, saying of their persecuting ways against Joseph: “With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility,” – the very same word used of Joseph as a ‘master’ of dreams. His dreams gave him skill to see the future good and blessing which God would bring. Their hatred made them ‘lord it over’ Joseph, becoming ‘masters’ at hating him.
“Lord, deliver us from the anger and hatred of others which can become such a root of bitterness for years to come in our lives. Give us grace to love our enemies and pray for those who do us wrong.” Amen.
Tuesday: read Genesis 37:23-27. It takes a great deal of hardness of heart to sit down and eat your lunch while your brother Joseph screams for mercy from a hot desert hole in the ground. Amazingly, this is what the sons of Israel did in Gen. 37:24-25. Not even Judah, the royal tribe, from whom would come “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” can find the compassion to defend his brother, proposing instead in Gen. 37:26-27 to sell him as a slave. How can Judah think that cold cash in exchange for his brother’s freedom would somehow excuse him from having his brother’s blood on his hands? Such is the way in which the human heart rationalizes violations of the sixth commandment: “We didn’t actually kill him, God, but only left him in the hands of others to do the dirty work.” Such an argument won’t wash with God, who sees even the most hidden murderous motives of those who seek to “wash their hands” of innocent blood.
Meditate and Pray: How we should thank God that Joseph’s screams, though ignored by his brothers, were heard by His God. We too, even when pierced with pain by a world that doesn’t care can remember the words of Psalm 34:17-18 which promise that “the Lord hears the righteous and delivers them out of their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 37:25-28. As Pastor Bill Harrell points out, the profit which the brothers received for their brother was very low: around two shekels each. Though the average price of a slave was about 30 shekels, the Ishmaelites drove a hard bargain, driving the price down to 20. These traders must have recognized the desperate desire of Jacob’s sons to be rid of the guilty burden of their imprisoned brother. Sin never pays, and the life of sin is hard. As Proverbs 13:15 puts it: “Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”
Meditate and Pray: Try as they might, Jacob’s sons would never be able to shift the burden of their sinful cruelty towards Joseph off of their shoulders or out of their minds. This is because God’s Holy Spirit is a persistent Prosecutor of sin who pursued these brothers down through the years. No one can suppress their guilt before God forever. At the most telling of times, the truth will out. This is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into the world after His victorious Resurrection and Ascension: “to convict the world of guilt, righteousness and judgment,” (John 16:8-11): guilt in regard to the sin of unbelief; righteousness as the world beholds Jesus Christ Risen from the dead, and judgment, because Satan and this guilty world now stands condemned!
“Dear Holy Spirit: we often overlook your effective, hidden work in the hearts and consciences of men. Thank you that you are the Spirit of Truth, and all men, even the most vile, will one day acknowledge that you have the authority to uncover all their sin and hidden guilt. Help us, even from the earliest of our days of being your disciples, to keep true accounts with you. Do not let us succeed in hiding sin from you.” Amen.
Thursday: read Genesis 37:29-36 and Proverbs 13:15. We noted yesterday that Proverbs 13:15 declares that the “unfaithful” will find the road of life to be hard. That word “unfaithful” comes literally from the noun which means “a covering, cloth or garment.” How appropriate in describing Jacob’s brothers, who seek to “cover up” their crime by taking the blood-stained coat of Joseph’s to their father, pretending that the doctored coat is proof that Joseph had been slain by a wild animal! Such treachery and deceit robs all our words of persuasive power or truthfulness. No wonder Jacob’s sons, after presenting evidence for Joseph’s death are unable to find words of comfort that ring true and bring real peace of mind to their father (Gen. 37:35)! None of their words would bring light and hope until years later when they would all confess that, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us” (Gen. 42:21).
Meditate and Pray: Make the words of hymn #335 verse 2 in our Trinity Hymnal your prayer today: “Truthful Spirit, dwell with me; I myself would truthful be; and with wisdom kind and clear let thy life in mine appear; and with actions brotherly speak my Lord’s sincerity.”
Friday: read Genesis 37:35-36; 46:1-4 and Ephesians 3:20-21. We cannot excuse Jacob’s uncontrolled grief over Joseph’s apparent death in Gen. 37:35 as he declares that he has no hope except to meet Joseph again in the grave. These are dark days for Jacob in which his faith seems buried along with his son Joseph. Moses, the writer of Genesis, bears witness to the darkness which has descended on this chosen family by recording no further direct dreams or visions from God in either Jacob’s or Joseph’s lives during this whole time of separation in Egypt. Not until Jacob prepares in Gen. 46, hope against hope, to go down to Egypt to see his long-lost son does God appear again to reassure him that the way of salvation does indeed lead down to Egypt: “I am God, the God of your father,” He said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.”
Meditate and Pray: Do you feel that your life is punctuated by long periods when God appears to be silent and distant? Do the heavens seem closed in terms of conveying comfort and hope to you in your struggles? Are there griefs which threaten to overwhelm you? Ah, well, don’t evaluate God’s care for you by how many visions or dreams; emotional experiences and joys you lack.
For God is with us even when Heaven is silent. It is Moses who writes under the authority of inspiration, that even when Joseph and his father had no heavenly communications themselves, “The Lord” was nevertheless with Joseph and showed him mercy – even in prison – see Gen. 39:21! Ask God to give you faith to trust that He is there even when all evidence is to the contrary. As hymn # 338 verses 2 & 4 put it:
“I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no op’ning skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away.”
“Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.”
(George Croly 1854)