“Jealousy, Hate, Betrayal, and Faith”
August 13, 2017
By John Partridge*
Genesis 37:1-28 Romans 10:5-15 Matthew 14:22-33
Have you ever been angry?
Of course you have.
But have you ever been so angry that your passions boiled over, smothered your good sense, and caused you to behave in ways that you shouldn’t have behaved and probably later regretted?
Most of us, at one time or another, have done things, or at least said things, in the heat of the moment that we knew we shouldn’t do or say and that we later regretted and for which we probably had to apologize. Some of the things that we have done may well have permanently damaged relationships in such a way that no amount of apologizing will ever make it right or repair what we once had. Our anger, our passions, our emotions, are all God given, but if we allow them to control us they can take us places that we never wanted to go. This contrast between emotion and good sense is a major part of the story of Jacob, his sons, and especially, his son Joseph. (Genesis 37:1-28)
37:1 Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
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 an ornate 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.
12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
“Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
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 wilderness, 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 ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. 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.
Joseph was born to Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachael, who, for most of their marriage had been unable to have children while Jacob’s other wives, and their servants, had many children. Rachael was obviously Jacob’s favorite, and so for this reason, and because she wasn’t having children, the others mocked her and made her life miserable. And so when she finally got pregnant and had a son named Joseph, he became the favorite of Jacob’s eleven sons. And his favoritism caused problems.
Because Jacob favored Joseph so much, and because he was the youngest child, his brothers were jealous of him and grew to hate him. But when Joseph had a dream in which he saw his brothers and his entire family bow down to him, and when he shared that dream with his family, his father was annoyed with him, but his brothers just hated him even more. And when they were far from home, and were given the chance to do away with Joseph forever, Joseph’s brothers allowed their emotions and their passions to overtake their good sense and they betrayed him, and betrayed their father, and they sold him into slavery and told their father that he was dead.
The power of this story is not just in the story of Joseph and how God walks with him; the power of this story also lies in the striking contrast that is drawn between Joseph and his brothers. Although Joseph may well have been spoiled and deliberately rubbed his favored status in the face of his brothers, he is portrayed as the innocent, honest son, who is only being obedient to his father. In this story, there is little that Joseph can do to change the course of events. The emotions and the passions of his brothers overtake him, he is captured, stripped, thrown into an empty cistern and sold into slavery. There is nothing that Joseph could do, his life has spun completely out of his control, and all that he had left… was faith.
This first part of Joseph’s story is remarkable because it sets up this enormous contrast between the powerful and the powerless. Joseph, although the favorite, becomes completely powerless to change his own story and is at the mercy of his brothers, the slave traders, and later his Egyptian slave owners. But what none of them can take away from Joseph… is his faith in God. No matter what happens, Joseph remembers that God loves him, cares for him, and is ultimately in control of his life, as well as the lives of his family, his brothers, his powerful owners, and even in control over the life of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
In Romans 10:5-15, Paul also teaches by using contrasts.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Paul says that living under the law is a life of always trying to do things in order to live by it and therefore, be declared righteous. But being righteous by faith doesn’t require all the doing on our part because Jesus has already done all that needed to be done. There is no need for us to climb up into heaven to find Jesus, or to descend into the depths of the sea, the depths of the earth, or into the depths of hell in order find Jesus because Jesus is always as near as the next spoken word, the next beat of your heart, or the next thought in your mind. All that we need to do, is believe that Jesus is Lord and accept him in your heart, and we are given the righteousness of Jesus, and rescue from our sin, as a gift.
For that reason, one of the biggest contrasts of the ancient world was utterly erased. Jews had always pointed at the Gentiles, the non-Jews, as a contrast to themselves. The Gentiles lived differently, they did not keep the law, they were not circumcised, they did not live under the promise of God, and were not a part of God’s covenant with Israel. For the Jews, there was no one else that they could describe as being more different. But Paul says that there is now no difference between Jew and Gentile because all of us worship the same God and God chooses to bless everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who puts his faith in Jesus Christ and calls on his name in the hope of salvation and rescue.
Where we come from doesn’t matter. What we look like doesn’t matter. How we worship doesn’t matter. What we eat doesn’t matter. Our culture doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters… is our faith in Jesus Christ.
And with that in mind, we come to Matthew 14:22-33, where we remember the story about Jesus walking on the water.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
First, we should remember from last weeks’ message, that Jesus was tired, and grieving the loss of his cousin and friend John the Baptist but because the crowd had followed him, he never had the chance to be alone. This time, Jesus sends the boat ahead so that if the crowds follow, they’ll follow the boat and then he goes off, by himself, to be alone and pray. When he is finished, his friends on the boat were a considerable distance ahead, as you might expect, but had not yet arrived at their destination as they might have, because they were forced to row the boat against the wind rather that sail. For those of you who know sailing, this was long before the invention of the jib sail, which made sailing against the wind possible.
What I want to point out is this: Peter walks on water. That is totally astounding. Peter walks on water. But when all is said and done, Jesus summarizes the story by asking Peter why he had so little faith. The disciples’ obvious conclusion is that Jesus is God, but we are left with a single nagging question: What are we capable of doing, if we only had enough faith?
What are we capable of doing, if we only had enough faith?
The contrasts that we see between Joseph and his brothers are given to us in a deliberate way so that we understand the difference between the brother that has faith, and the ones whose faith is not mentioned. Joseph’s life is totally out of control until all that he has left is faith. But his brothers, whose faith is not considered, are selfish, jealous, angry, hurtful, and hateful.
Joseph’s faith is not just something that makes him stronger; it is the one thing that makes his life different.
Paul’s lesson is that faith is the thing that pushes aside our differences and draws us all closer together.
And Jesus’ message is that, with faith, we are capable as individuals, and as a community, of doing far more, through our faith in Jesus Christ, than we ever imagined was possible. But we are called, not only to have faith, but to share it with others.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.