Blessing in Disguise

>Genesis 37:19-28

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.” 21When 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.

23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25As 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.

26Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27Come, 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. 28So 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.

Furniture

When my father made furniture, he would require me to polish or make the furniture smooth with sandpaper. Most often I resisted silently because all I wanted was to play with my peers. Before varnish is applied to make the furniture glossy, my father would inspect if the furniture were smoothened thoroughly.

Later, my father told me to make half a dozen chairs for his client, and I did my best systematically and quickly to impress him. My father told me, “It’s good, but, make it even better next time.” I learned that meticulous care and effort yields satisfying distinction in the beauty and price of the furniture.

Each part must be cut precisely. Rough edges must be polished smoothly.  The process of cutting and polishing must be painful to the furniture. Yet, such painful process is necessary when making beautiful and valuable furniture.

It says in Ephesians 2:10, 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God is the Carpenter, and we are His project. Similar to the painful process of making beautiful and valuable furniture, the Lord has expertly arranged series of events, situations or circumstances to polish our rough edges and for us to be more beautiful appropriate to the special or valuable purposes He planned for us.

It says in 2 Timothy 20:20-21, 20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

The Lord has designed each believer very uniquely with special purposes. The term translated ‘special’ can also mean ‘honorable, valuable or precious.’ In contrast, the term translated ‘common’ is properly interpreted as ‘dishonorable, disgraceful, shameful, ordinary or without value.’

On special occasion for dignitaries or world leaders, it is very appropriate to use article made of precious materials and not the ordinary kinds, right?

When we put our faith in Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we actually invited the King of kings and Lord of lords to dwell in our hearts. Isn’t it proper for us to be cleansed first to become worthy temple of the Spirit of Christ? It teaches us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Sin make us dishonorable not worthy for special purposes. We have to repent of our sins. With God’s forgiveness we’re purified and cleansed from sin.

By faith we accept Christ as Savior. What did He do to save us? During Christ’s crucifixion, God took our sins and crucified them with Him. The blood of Christ shed on the cross washed our sins away including worldly lifestyle.

It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

By faith, we accept Christ as Lord. What does accepting Christ as Lord mean? The term ‘lord’ means ‘master, ruler with authority.’ Christ as the Lord of lords is the Master of masters and Ruler of rulers. How should we give honor to the Master of masters and Ruler of rulers? We submit to His will.

Christ the Master of masters would not force us to submit to His will. He patiently waits for us to give our consent. God has designed us to be used for His special and valuable purposes but worldly lifestyle makes us useless to God.

Would you believe that God has designed the best lifestyle we can ever experience? Yet, most often we resist and complain. The process is painful.

By faith we trust that God’s design is prepared for our betterment. By faith, we give our consent to the Lord’s painful but wonderful process for us to become valuable for His special purposes subsequently. God’s spiritual process can be painful but the result is amazing. So, it’s kind like a blessing in disguise.

We find out that Joseph’s painful experiences was ‘blessing in disguise.’

God revealed the future in Joseph’s dream. He excitedly told his brothers and father about it. His brothers were furious and planned to kill him because they cannot give their consent that he will become greater than them.

1. Consent

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.”

From a distance, Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching. They gave their consent to kill him and just tell others that he was killed by ferocious animals.

How far was Joseph when his brothers recognized him approaching? Can you recognize a person within 300 meters? They may not recognize his face but they certainly recognized his ornate robe, and they were right, it was Joseph.

How fast can you reach a point from 300 meters? If Joseph was taking his time sight-seeing before he reached his brothers, are you puzzled how they formed a scheme on how to dispose him without much argument?

Previously, Joseph brought their father bad report about his brothers but no details of the report. How his brothers would execute the attempted murder they schemed premeditatedly gives a glimpse of details about Joseph’s report.

Probably, whenever their father asked why their sheep were not increasing in number, they may have told him that ferocious animal devoured their flocks.

Joseph may have seen their wicked schemes and reported to their father. So, when Jacob scolded his sons, they turned their murderous anger to Joseph.

It says in Ecclesiastes 7:9, 9Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Road Rage

Anger is costly. You can easily search online about ‘Road Rage’ videos. Try it and you will learn more that many drivers have anger problems. When angry drivers retaliate, they destroy their car or hurt themselves and others, too.

Additionally, because of random attacks happening around, people are scared. Others are angry and cannot think of better plans. What will you do when someone randomly attacks or forces his way inside your house? Will you retaliate? Will you give food and clothing? Which is more costly to you?

Anyway, because of envy, Joseph’s brothers became more furious of him when he brought their father bad report about their escapades. Their anger turned deadly that they planned to kill him and throw him in an empty cistern.

2. Cistern

21When 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.

23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

A cistern is a deep hole on the side of a hill for accumulation of rainwater. During summer, cisterns may run out of water and leaves miry or sticky mud. Throw in an empty cistern, Joseph may have struggled not to sink in the mud. It would be hard for him to come out if the cistern was deep with sticky mud.

But why did Reuben plan to rescue and take Joseph back to his father? Did he not give his consent on their scheme to harm him? Reuben disrespected his father and perhaps, he wanted to find favor in the eyes of his father again.

Anyway, when they removed the robe of Joseph, and threw him into the cistern, that may have been a very horrible experience of torture. Wearing robe in the wilderness may suggest that the weather was cold. So, to be thrown into a cistern and dipped into the mud would be much colder, ey?

Ebed-Melek

What they did to Joseph was also survived by Jeremiah when prophesied that Jerusalem will be given into the hands of the army of Babylon.

The officials of Jerusalem cannot believe that Jeremiah seemed like favoring the Babylonians. So, they threw him into a cistern. However, an official in the royal palace, Ebed-Melek reported to the king what they did to Jeremiah.

In Jeremiah 38:9-13, 9“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.” 10Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” 11So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

In the next chapter, the prophecy of Jeremiah happened eventually. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his army conquered Jerusalem.

It narrates in Jeremiah 39:11-18, 11Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: 12“Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” 13So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people.

15While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him: 16“Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city—words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”

Jeremiah did not have great experience in the hands of Jerusalem officials who resisted his prophecy but Ebed-Melek believed his message. As a result, he was treated far better when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.

When Joseph told his brothers about his dream, all they have pictured in their mind was that Joseph will have a better future and they were all the more envious. They were envious of his beautiful robe, and if his dream comes true, they imagined a more envious feeling they may have. Not great for them, right?

Well, did God allow such tough experience to build toughness in Joseph’s heart as preparation process for him to become tough Prime Minister of Egypt?

Why did the Lord allow Joseph’s brothers to implement a murderous plan? Can you identify with the hardship of torture, difficulties of life experiences that Joseph went through? Why would God allow us to have struggles in life?

It says in 1 Peter 1:6-9, 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

God’s process can be painful but necessary. By faith, we should trust that when God allows difficulties in life, He has given us a blessing in disguise. God is shaping us into valuable instrument intended to be used for His special purposes.

Joseph’s tough challenges were necessary testing for him if he continues to trust the Lord. The Lord did not let him die in the cistern. It was just a break for his brother to consider something more profitable for them. So, when they saw a caravan passing by, their greedy wickedness turned active again.

3. Caravan

25As 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.

26Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27Come, 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. 28So 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.

Can you agree that when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelite traders, it exposed their greedy wickedness? Probably, they often sell some of the sheep for personal consumption, and when their father wondered and asked them why their flocks were very slow multiplying, they would unanimously say that ferocious animals devour them. Can you agree with that assumption?

Jacob was an expert shepherd. He may have heard reports from others.

What Joseph’s brothers did to him was not just some kind of overnight or random thought that passed by their mind. They may have mastered acting and lying to their father. Selling their brother and acted like nothing happened, that was not very easy thing to do by neophytes, right? But since they have been deceiving their father for a long time, they’ve got no regret selling Joseph!

Are you puzzled why Joseph was bought by the Ishmaelite merchants?

And then later, the Midianites merchants sold Joseph, as slave, in Egypt.

It says in Genesis 37:36, 36Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

How did it happen? Were the Midianites and Ishmaelites the same group of merchants? Probably, the Midianites bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites even before they arrived in Egypt. But, it was not who bought or who sold Joseph in Egypt that was significant. Trading or business transaction was crucial exposure of Joseph. It prepared him as effective administrator of food supply for Pharaoh.

Joseph did not complain when they sold him. Perhaps, he silently learned shrewdness and style of making profits from the merchants.

Personal experiences or work related hardship have spiritual purposes.

Fishers of men

Did you know that only to the fishermen did Jesus say, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men?” Not much available conversation how Jesus called the other disciples. He told them, “Come follow me!” but there’s no added phrase as, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

It says in Mark 1:16-20 (ESV), 16Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

So why did Jesus tell the fishermen disciples that He would make them become fishers of men while He did not tell such phrase to the other disciples?

It illustrates that when Christ communicates, He uses terms familiar to us that we can personally understand. Fishermen understand fishing. Meaning: The idea of fishing is all they needed but their expertise as fishermen is not required. Christ would make, train, and equip them to become fishers of men.

The Lord has designed that each believer will bring other people into His kingdom or in Christian lingo, “make disciples.” If you wish to realize what the Lord has designed for you, make commitment to follow Him wherever He leads.

Christ is telling us, “Come, follow me!” Will you respond?

The Lord’s process of making us as genuine disciples making disciples is tough and sometime painful but for certain, they blessings in disguise. Amen!

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