Devotional & Reflection
Gen 37 :
Gen 37 v2 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. v3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. v4 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. v5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
Do we not respect people who are in high position of authority and wealth and yet display humble cordiality? And are we not totally irked if such people display their brashness and pride? Godly qualities, like humility, attract people whereas ungodly qualities, like pride, at best repel people and at worst create mortal enemies.
Such seems to be the case with Joseph. There were a few reasons why the brothers hated Joseph so much. First, he brought a disparaging report of his brothers to his father (Gen 37:2). We do not know what this bad report was about but it seemed brash and insensitive of Joseph to bad-mouth his brothers without first discussing or clarifying with them. In any case, Joseph was a young lad of 17 and perhaps inexperienced in relational skills at that time (37:2).
Second, Joseph was Jacob's favorite son born in his old age from his favourite wife, Rachel. Whenever there is favoritism, friction and conflict rear its ugly head. Favoritism was the key problem as the narrator mentioned the richly ornamented robe 5 times (Gen 37:3, 23, 31, 32 and 33) and the fact that Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his brothers twice (37:3, 4). This resulted in the brothers hating Joesph (37:4).
Third, Joseph was a dreamer. Not only was he a dreamer, his dreams had political overtones. He would be greater than all his brothers, and even his parents.
Taken in this context of favoritism, it was easy to see how the brothers were so irked by his impertinence and back-stabbing. And Joseph's dreams were the last straw. Count the number of vengeful words used to describe the brothers' reactions. "Hated" (37:4, 5, 8) and "kill" (37:18, 20, 26) were each used three times.
But is dreaming all that bad - especially if the dreams are from God? Obviously not – since they are God’s channel to provide insight, direction and instructions. Jacob (Gen 28:12; 31:10-11), Joseph (Gen 37:5-6), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5) and Daniel (Daniel 7:1-2) all had dreams. Paying attention to God-given dreams can literally save lives – not just provide direction.
The problem with Joseph the dreamer's situation was that the context for sharing his dream and perhaps the way he shared his dream were inappropriate. We need to remind ourselves to be humble in sharing God's message – whether through dreams, visions or prophecies. Pride goes before a fall if we are not sensitive to the needs of others.
Another question we may ask is, "Are dreams still a channel for God to speak to us in the NT times now that His Word is available to us in the Bible?" Certainly, the Bible must remain the primary source of God's word for us upon which all other words need to be weighed against. But God can and still speaks to us in dreams even in NT times. For instance, Peter reminded the people through the words of prophet Joel that "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams" (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28).
Paul, too, had a dream. In Acts 16:6-10, Paul was prevented from preaching in Asia. We may be like Paul and wonder what is preventing us from moving in a certain direction. But God can reveal to us in a dream why this is so – just as Paul had a vision (i.e. dream) one night of a man from Macedonia beckoning him to go over to Macedonia to help them. This dream, Paul concluded, was God calling him to preach in Macedonia / Greece. Hence, the Spirit had directed Paul not to reach out to Asia, but to Europe first. God too may seem to hinder us – but in actuality is re-directing us.
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