Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent

Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

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We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.

The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.

Jacob family moves to Egypt
Jacob family moves to Egypt
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However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

Joseph’s Diligence on the Errand

Route for father's errand
Route for father’s errand
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Joseph was 17 years old and lived with his family in the Valley of Hebron. On one occasion, his father sent him to check on his senior brothers that were tending the flock in Schechem: “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me” [Genesis 37:14]. The objective of the errand was specific and clear: to go and check on the condition of his brothers and the flock and bring report to his father. He understood what he needed to do to perform the errand satisfactorily. Therefore, when he did not find his brothers in Schechem, he wandered around looking for them until he met someone that informed him they had moved to Dothan: “And the man said, ‘They have departed from here, for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan’” [Genesis 37:17]. He went to and found them in Dothan.

Wondering in wilderness for brothers
Wandering in wilderness for brothers
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His diligence on the task placed him in position to transition from performing his father’s errand to starting his mission to Egypt. If he had turned around at Schechem to return home and report to his father that his brothers and the flock were not there, he would have failed in his father’s errand and would not have started on his mission to Egypt. He looked around for them because he wanted to complete the errand by bringing a report of their conditions to his father. Therefore, the clarity of his father’s instruction kept him on task until he met his brothers in Dothan, thus starting his mission to Egypt. He knew nothing about the Egypt mission then. All he knew was his father’s errand that he desired to complete as instructed.

 

Start of Egypt Mission

Joseph’s transition from performing his father’s errand to starting his mission to Egypt occurred through four events. First, his senior brothers conspired to kill him as he approached them in Dothan [Genesis 37:19–20]: “‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. ‘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.’”

Joseph in dry well
Joseph in dry well
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Second, their most senior brother Reuben convinced them to not kill him but throw him into a well alive: “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him” [Genesis 37:22]. Thus, Reuben saved his life and bought him some time. He intended to retrieve him later and return him alive to their father. Although Reuben saved Joseph’s life, his intention to take him home later would have truncated his real mission, which none of them knew at the time. We can surmise that God took Reuben out of the interaction as subsequent events occurred during his absence.

Trip to Egypt as slave
Trip to Egypt as slave
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Third, Judah convinced his brothers (with Reuben absent) to sell Joseph into slavery [Genesis 37:26–27]: “Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 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.’” This brother’s keeper role of Judah would surface again much later when he offered himself to be enslaved in Egypt in place of their little brother Benjamin.

Fourth, Joseph’s brothers pulled him from the well and sold him to Ishmaelite merchants traveling to Egypt.

Positive Change through Adversity

Joseph’s journey to Egypt and through different phases of his mission provides us opportunity to understand that God could use adversity to bring about a positive change for a person. It is almost like burning part of a rocket to launch it into higher orbit. To send Joseph to Egypt, his brothers first threw him into a dry well, where he languished until they changed their mind about killing him and instead sold him as slave to merchants travelling to Egypt. That is, God used the adversity brought to Joseph by his brothers to “launch” him into his Egypt mission.

Successful Charge d'Affaires
Successful Charge d’Affaires
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He encountered short-lived relief from adversity on arriving in Egypt, where he fared well as a slave in the house of Potiphar. His master was happy with his performance, appointed him to position of Household Charge d’Affaires, and experienced remarkable prosperity with Joseph in charge of his household affairs [Genesis 39:4–5]. However, Joseph’s relief in Potiphar’s house was temporary. Potiphar’s wife developed illicit interest in him but was unable to lure him into an affair. She then framed him to her husband, who threw Joseph in jail without trial to resume his life of adversity. But this was no ordinary jail. We now understand through the benefit of hindsight that God used the adversity of being in jail to launch Joseph to the next phase of his Egypt mission.

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Joseph Interprets Dreams, it was in this jail that Joseph had compassion on two prisoners from Pharaoh’s staff and through his act of compassion introduced himself as a reliable dream interpreter.

I know a Hebrew dream interpreter
I know a Hebrew dream interpreter
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The staff that was later restored to his position in Pharaoh’s service remembered Joseph two years later when Pharaoh needed a reliable interpreter for a troubling dream [Genesis 41:9–13]: “Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘… Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.’” Joseph was pulled from jail where he had languished for more than two years, interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, and used the opportunity of interpreting the dreams to propose to Pharaoh a plan to fortify Egypt against an impending severe famine predicted through Pharaoh’s dreams. Pharaoh did not only accept the plan but at that instant appointed Joseph to the highest administrative position in Egypt to oversee and run the program he proposed.

Appointed prime minister of Egypt
Appointed prime minister of Egypt
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So Joseph arrived at the point of his mission and was given the power to implement the mission, after going through a series of severe adversity. We now understand through the benefit of hindsight that God used each adversity to accomplish a positive purpose of advancing Joseph to the next phase of his mission. Each episode of adversity that he suffered appeared intended (we might even say, designed) for the positive outcome accomplished through the adversity.

 

 

Living through Adversity

Joseph’s behavior remained positive while living through the adversities and placed him in position to receive God’s intervention to advance him through his mission. He was attentive to the needs of others and did what he could to address the needs, despite hurting from the adversities he faced.

And he did hurt. For example, in a later encounter with his brothers, they recounted his distress and plea for his life as they contemplated killing him in Dothan [Genesis 42:21]: “They said to one another, ‘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 on us.’” As his brothers admitted, he was in anguish and begged for his life during the episode in Dothan.

Joseph appeals for help from dungeon
Joseph appeals for help from dungeon
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Also, his life in Potiphar’s jail was not any easier. For example, he appealed to Pharaoh’s cupbearer to mention his injustice to Pharaoh [Genesis 40:14–15]: “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” And he was indeed in a dungeon. When he was pulled out to interpret dreams for Pharaoh, the first thing he did was shave, clean up, and change clothing [Genesis 41:14]: “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.”

However, his hurting did not make him bitter toward any person. In fact, his interactions with people remained remarkably positive and he made positive impact on people everywhere. People associated him with Godliness [Genesis 39:3-4]: “When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” We can surmise based on this short passage that Joseph was attentive to the needs around him, did what he could to address the needs, and persevered until he succeeded. That was his personality in Potiphar’s house despite hurting from being tortured and sold to slavery by his senior brothers. The same personality was evident in Potiphar’s jail as we see through his encounter with Pharaoh’s staff [Genesis 40:6-7]: “When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected…” So he asked them, “Why do you look so sad today?” He had compassion and offered to do what he could to alleviate their sadness, despite his hurting from being jailed without justification.

Joseph remained steadfast in Consistent Godliness despite suffering through adversities that he could not understand. His Godliness placed him in position to receive God’s intervention to launch him into the next phase of his mission.

Joseph Explains Egypt Mission

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Jacob’s Family Moves to Egypt, Joseph subsequently reunited and reconciled with his brothers. He announced he had forgiven them for threatening his life and selling him to slavery.

Jacob reunites with son Joseph
Jacob reunites with son Joseph
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He explained to them that it was God, not them, that sent him to Egypt for a special mission [Genesis 45:4–7]: “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.’”

That was Joseph’s testimony to his brothers. When his father sent him on an errand to check on them, it was indeed God calling him to a special mission to prepare a sanctuary for them to survive severe famine that would occur in the region. He relocated the entire Jacob’s family to Egypt where they prospered and multiplied into a great nation, thus taking a major step toward fulfillment of God’s promise to their ancestral father Abraham.

Summary of What We Learned

Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

More Information

Please watch this bible study on video at VIDEO_LINK , listen to or download the audio at AUDIO_LINK . You can also download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation from PDF_LINK.

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