2 This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." 8 His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
God has plans for every one of His children. There are places He wants us to be. There are things He wants us to do. There are people He wants us to influence. There are dreams He wants us to live out. We never really know for sure what God is doing. But if we are His children, we can be sure that He is up to something. He is working out His purposes in us.
Joseph had a couple of dreams. He wondered what they meant. He had no clue that God was going to send his life into a downward spiral, only to raise him up at just the right time. Joseph's dreams were about to become a nightmare.
19 "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. 20 "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams." 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. 22 "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe-- the richly ornamented robe he was wearing-24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed. 28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?" 31 Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe." 33 He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces." 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, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.
In order to work out His plans for us, God often has to make drastic changes in our lives.
Sometimes He has to change our location. (Joseph had to be sent to Egypt).
Sometimes He has to change our situation. (He made Joseph a slave).
Often He has to enrich our experiences, to give us wisdom and perspective.
Almost always, God has to change our attitude.
He needs to humble us and break us and make us totally dependent on Him.
This process is essential, but it is often very painful. (Can you imagine what Joseph's emotions are like at this point - anger, despair, anguish, hopelessness.
But God knows what He is doing.
When God wants a man
When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man...
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man that all the world shall praise...
Watch His methods;
Watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects...
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into frail shapes of clay that only God understands. How his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands...
How he bends but never breaks when His good he undertakes.
How He uses whom He chooses...with every purpose fuses him;
By every art induces him to try His splendor out...
God knows what He's about!
When God wants to take a man and shake a man and wake a man...
When God wants to make a man to do the future's will;
He tries with all His skill...
When He yearns with all His soul to create him large and whole...
With what cunning He prepares him...
How He goads and never spares him! How He whets him and He frets him and in poverty begets him...
How often He disappoints whom He sacredly anoints!
With what wisdom He will hide him;
Never minding what betide him...
Though his genius sob with slighting and his pride may not forget;
Bids him struggle harder yet!
Makes him lonely so that only God's high messages shall reach him...
So that He may surely teach him what the hierarchy planned;
And though he may not understand...
Gives him passions to command.
How remorselessly He spurs him...
With terrific ardor stirs him
When He poignantly prefers him.
When God wants to name a man and fame a man and tame a man...
When God wants to shame a man to do His Heavenly best;
When He tries the highest test that His reckoning may bring...
When He wants a [god] or king;
How He reins him and restrains him so his body scarce contains him...
While He fires him and inspires himů
Keeps him yearning, ever burning for that tantalizing goal.
Lures and lacerates his soul...
Sets a challenge for his spirit;
Draws it highest then he's near it!
Makes a jungle that he clear it;
Makes a desert that he fear it...and subdue it, if he can -
So doth God make a man!
To test his spirit's wrath
Throw a mountain in his path;
Puts a bitter choice before him and relentlessly stands o'er him...
Climb or perish, so He says...
But, watch His purpose, watch His ways.
God's plan is wondrous kind - could we understand His mind?
Fools are they who call His blind!
When his feet are torn and bleeding;
Yet his spirit mounts unheeding...
Blazing newer paths and finds;
When the Force that is Divine leaps to challenge every failure,
And His ardour still is sweet -
And love and hope are burning in the presence of defeat!
Lo the crisis, Lo the shouts that would call the leader out...
When the people need salvation doth he rise to lead the nation;
Then doth God show His plan...
And the world has found a man!
God is ruthlessly perfecting Joseph. We will pick up the story next time.
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