Today’s post is no. 8 in my series on Joseph. We have already considered Joseph’s character and what was different about Joseph from his 11 brothers. Today is considering why Joseph’s brothers behaved as they did. If it is helpful here is the link to my earlier post on those behaviours Joseph Hero of the Faith (3)
Where did these bad character traits come from.
The answer is in the bible. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are all born into sin. That is our human condition. Reading the bible we see that there were these particular sinful characteristics which ran through this family and their influence increased through the generations. We are familiar I am sure with phrases such as “Like Father, Like Son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
The bible doesn’t whitewash sin or sinful behaviour and it presents the people of the bible to us warts and all. We see their good parts but we also see their flaws, weaknesses and sinful nature. We only have to read the account of King David to see this. This is why the bible stories are so relatable and we can still learn from people who lived many generations before us.
The first thread of sinful behaviour which really stands out in the family line is Deception.
Examples: – Abraham pretending Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. (Genesis 12:13 and 20:2). This was not a complete lie so there was some truth mixed in. It was only a half-truth though and Abraham purposely did not tell the whole truth which was then misleading and had consequences for others. He kept back the whole truth because of fear.
Deception with a mix of truth is especially dangerous. It’s one way that we as Christians can be vulnerable to false doctrines and teachings today. You can read more about the dangers of deception here Deception – The Gibeonites Story
This same deceitful behaviour was repeated by Abraham’s son Isaac who also pretended his wife Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26:7) Again the root cause was fear.
Rebekah takes deception further when she persuades her son, Jacob to impersonate his brother Esau and deceives Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing which belonged to Esau. (Genesis 27:6-23). The root cause here being selfish ambition. A blessing stolen.
“ Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing”
There are many more examples of deceitful behaviour spreading its influence through all branches of the family -Uncle Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Jacob’s sons deceive the schecemites and kill them (Genesis 34: 13-31), Jacob’s sons lied to Jacob that Joseph had been eaten by wild animals and was dead (Genesis 37:29-35)
The other sinful trait which influences this family is Envy and Jealousy.
Examples: Sarah became jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael (Genesis 16:5-6), Jacob was jealous of Esau, Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah’s children (Genesis 30:1), Leah was also jealous of Rachel’s relationship with Jacob (Genesis 30:5), Laban’s sons became jealous of Jacob (Genesis 31:1). Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him.
This jealousy led to actions which had consequences for all involved. You can read more about the dangers of jealousy here Beware of Jealousy.
The next bad characteristic is Favouritism
Rebekah favoured Jacob over Esau (Genesis 25:28), Isaac favoured Esau over Jacob (Genesis 25:28), Jacob favoured Rachel (Genesis 29:30) Jacob favoured Joseph (Genesis 37) and Joseph favoured Benjamin (Genesis 43:34).
One of the problems with favouritism is it leads to families becoming fractured and split. People take sides. Factions are developed and there is disunity. Resentment, bitterness and anger start to foster and an often overlooked one – Rivalry develops.
Rachel and Leah become rivals for Jacob’s love and affection. They were rivals in who could give him most children which led to the involvement of their handmaidens to provide more and more children. This rivalry influenced their children and the subsequent relationships between the brothers. This was not a harmonious family and so it did not take much to stir up resentment between Joseph and his brothers.
These sinful traits all feed off and influence each other and they got stronger in each generation. The same traits also came through both lines of the family. They were destructive forces in the lives of these families and we see the effects.
This is the problem with the inherent nature of sin. It’s desire is to have us and master us. Once we open the door to it then it’s influence slowly spreads like poison affecting not just us but those around us.
The Lord warned Cain about sin and how it wanted to work in his life.
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
How then can we rule over sin in our lives.
The good news is that we can and there is a way. Jesus Christ is the answer. Jesus has broken the power of sin over us through His death and resurrection and now through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can rule over sin rather than sin ruling us.
Through Christ Jesus, we as disciples of Jesus do not have to accept the things of the past. We can get off that treadmill of sinful behaviour.
The influence of sin and it’s bad fruit can be broken in our lives. Our old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ Jesus and we take up our cross daily. We confess our sins and He is faithful through His great mercy and love to forgive us our sins.
God is at work in us for His good pleasure and God desires to bring about change in us. We do not have to persuade Him. God wills to do it. Hallelujah. It is God’s desire to help us rule over sin in our lives.
We become new creations in Christ Jesus. The old has gone and the new life in God’s Spirit has come.
We no longer have to accept the influence of bad character or believe the lie that “I have always been this way and always will ” or “I can’t change, I have my father’s issues”. To agree with that thinking is to deny the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Change is possible through Jesus.
If we accept the truth about Jesus. Submit our lives to Jesus and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us there can be change that is not just one off but will transform our thinking and behaviours for a lifetime.
That change may be instant in some areas of our lives but in others it may require time as we work out our salvation and learn to walk in the Spirit. We fall but we get back up again. We help and support each other with our struggles and weaknesses.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.“ Galatians 5:19-26
Thank you Lord that you have redeemed us from the power of sin in our lives and that you help us in our weaknesses. Refine us Lord and teach us your ways that we may walk like you. Amen.