Robe of Sorrow

Genesis 37:29-36

29When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” 31Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.

32They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” 33He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.

35All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

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

Mini-hydro

Have you ever had or done something that others have coveted or envious of and became regrettable or caused you and others to be sorrowful?

A hydroelectric plant was proposed to be constructed in a remote town, residents had differing opinions. Owners of lands in the right of way of the roads leading to the area favored the proposal because they can sell their properties at fair market price. People who were not directly affected opposed the construction of the hydroelectric plant in their town for fear that it may cause flood.

After the hydroelectric plant was completed, economic growth was visible. Many residents were thankful that they have better access roads eventually but the pristine of the river water became regrettable. Swimming and fishing has become undesirable to many residents. If you love swimming and fishing, clear and pristine water is a very delightful experience to be cherished and reminisced.

Many things we covet may serve some factual desires but not necessarily favorable in the long run. Many tragic accidents caused by daring selfies. Many painful humiliations caused by foolish and senseless challenges. Why? They wanted to be instant celebrity. They coveted the thrill of overnight fame.

Solomon, the wisest king of Israel advised in Ecclesiastes 7:16-18, 16Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise—why destroy yourself? 17Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool—why die before your time? 18It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Fear of God was not exemplified in the life of Jacob’s sons when they sold their brother to merchants. They may not presume that their envy of Joseph will be gone when they casted him away. They were just very furious and mad that Joseph would report to Jacob their escapades and naughtiness.

Reuben the oldest among the siblings suggested that they should not kill Joseph but instead, throw him in one of the cisterns. He planned to rescue Joseph later. His selfish plan of playing hero didn’t materialize though. Joseph was already sold to the Ishmaelite merchants when Reuben returned.

1. Return

29When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?” 31Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.

When Reuben asked, did his brothers tell him what they did? Maybe, they sensed his plan to rescue Joseph so that he would look good in Jacob’s eyes or when they gave him some silver from selling Joseph, Reuben stopped asking.

Anyway, all of them agreed to cover up their crime. The robe that they were envious of, they destroyed it. They killed a goat, dipped the robe in the blood, celebrated and feasted of the goat’s meat.

The robe they coveted at first became a robe of sorrow and nobody among them wanted to use it. They used the robe with blood as evidence to hide their crime. The murderous envy of Joseph’s brothers illustrates the murderous envy of the Jewish leaders who conspired to prosecute the Lord Jesus.

Pilate

Pilate sensed the motive of the Jewish leaders when they brought Jesus to him. He asked in Mark 15:9-15, 9“Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”13And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

When God allows disturbing events to happen, they would serve His purposes. The envious Jewish leaders prosecuted Christ and He was crucified for the salvation of believers. Similarly, when Jacob’s sons were envious of Joseph, they sold him, and Joseph became their savior during the sever famine.

His brothers were so afraid of Joseph when he became the second most powerful official in Egypt next to Pharaoh the king of Egypt. What Joseph told his brothers implies his genuine faith in God. He says in Genesis 50:20-21, 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

So, each time we face difficulties in life, remember that God may have allowed them to serve His purposes. Truly, it’s painful at the time of struggle but keep asking God to increase your faith. When our faith in God increases, our love for the Lord will also increase so that we trust His plans for our good.

It says in Romans 8:28-30, 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

When you hear people say, “That’s very easy for you to say, but it’s not really easy when you are struggling in life,” how do you normally respond?

Listen very carefully: God’s word is not limited to make one feel better. We need increase of faith to believe that God’s word is real and alive. We need stronger faith to believe that God’s word can change our life, lifestyle, and even situation. By logic, reason or eloquent speech, we cannot believe God’s word. It is by God’s grace through faith that we accept His plans and purposes for us.

The life and experiences of Jacob illustrate believer’s lifestyle which we may expect. Jacob had struggles as well as success. He had bad and good days but he continued to trust God. And perhaps, Joseph became his favorite son because he saw in the life of Joseph a lifestyle of believer he exemplified.

When Joseph talked about what he dreamed, Jacob rebuked him but he did not disregard what Joseph said, why? It was recorded in Genesis 37:10-11, 10When 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?” 11His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

The term “kept the matter in mind” is properly interpreted as keep watch or guard. The same word was used when the Lord promised Jacob to ‘keep watch’ over him when he travelled east to find a wife (Gen 28:15). It was also the same word used when the Lord place a cherubim to ‘guard’ the Garden of Eden after He drove away Adam and Eve from the paradise. (Gen 3:24)

Therefore, when Jacob kept in mind what Joseph said, he may have been very observant on how Joseph’s dream may come into reality. He grieved very badly when his sons showed Joseph’s robe. The ornate robe was torn and tainted with blood. Jacob recognized it because he made it especially for Joseph

2. Recognize

32They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” 33He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.

Can you imagine what Jacob may have thought when he recognized the torn robe of Joseph was tainted with blood? Joseph was his favorite son. Jacob had very high hope of what Joseph may become or imagined Joseph would be a powerful king of Canaan one day. Jacob may have heard that the sons and grandsons of his twin brother Esau have become kings of Edomites.

Think about this situation! Your have brothers and sisters. Their children excelled in their studies. They succeed in their chosen career. And, you desire that your children will be more successful than their cousins, the children of your siblings. But, your hope for your children ended when tragic event happened.

It may not happen to you but it’s possible. That was the situation of Jacob. Hopes didn’t end as expected! Would you not grieve and mourn for many days?

Truly, Jacob grieved for his favorite son Joseph. His hope of the future of Joseph could possibly come to an end when he recognized the torn robe of Joseph was tainted with blood. Not only that the beautiful ornate robe became useless, Joseph has also gone, and Jacob did not even see and trace of him.

Many would ask, “If God loved us why does He allow us to grieve?” Does God intentionally allow us to experience tragic situation to test our faith? Anyone may claim or pretend to have faith in God but testing of faith exposes genuine or fake believers. Testing is effective process to make our faith unshakably strong.

Forged in Fire

Some of you may have watched the TV series Forge in fire.’ The process of forging a blade or knife involves a series or process: heating the metal to soften, hammering the heated metal to shape it, cooling, adding a handle, and grinding to sharpen before the blade can be used.

The TV series ‘Forged in Fire’ is a competition of making or forging bladed weapons at a given length of time. A panel of judges who are experts in weapon history and use would decide which bladed weapon or knife may win. The bladed weapon is evaluated based on workmanship, quality, and design. Each blade is tested to gauge sharpness, durability, and usability. If a weapon fails the test, it’s unsafe or ineffective, then, its maker is disqualified. Based on the test results, the judges select one bladesmith to receive the prize.

Forging a metal and make it into a valuable weapon practically illustrates how God may forge and make us valuable for the special purposes God has prepared for us. The Lord says in Isaiah 43:6-7, 6Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

It also says in Romans 11:36, 36For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God called us into His family for His glory. It is by faith not by reasons to believe that the Scripture reveals to us the will of our Creator. Faith comes from God and not something human mind may decide.

Keep asking God to increase your faith. With increased faith, we can agree that the lifestyle of Jacob is a lifestyle of believers in God.

Jacob did not have an ideal life experience we may hope for. His sons were not exemplary except for Joseph. Joseph may have been more obedient and godly than his brothers so that he became his father’s favorite son.

His brothers were envious of Joseph and they sold him to the merchants. Jacob was grieved when his sons reported that Joseph may have been devoured by ferocious animals. They tried to comfort him but he refused to be comforted.

3. Refuse

35All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

Jacob refused to be comforted when all his children tried to comfort him, why? His refusal to be comforted should have made them understand more clearly that Joseph was really Jacob’s favorite. Which means: Jacob’s longing for his child as a father can only be filled by the presence of Joseph not the others.

Jacob had other children. He had four wives but his life became lonely when Joseph disappeared. Jacob found no comfort from anybody. Jacob was grieved sorrowfully that he would rather join Joseph in the grave than to live with his other children, wives, or material abundance.

Did Jacob easily believe when his sons reported that Joseph may have been devoured by ferocious animals? Did he investigate? Did he suspect that his sons made Joseph disappear so that he refused to be comforted when they tried to comfort him? We can only speculate what was in Jacob’s mind.

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

The Ishmaelite merchants bought Joseph from his brothers but the Midianite traders sold Joseph to Potiphar. How did it happen? Was it a mistake?

Probably, the Midianites bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites then sold him at a higher price for profit. It is also possible that the Midianites agreed to sell Joseph in Egypt and shared half of the profit from after selling Joseph.

Or, the Midianites may have been more shrewd businessmen when dealing with the Egyptian traders. The Ishmaelites who bought Joseph may not be good in speaking the language of Egypt but they can deal with the people of Canaan like the sons of Jacob who sold Joseph to them more accurately.

Anyway, the many possible events in the business transaction of the Ishmaelite and Midianite merchants were very valuable exposures of Joseph that the Lord has prepared for him to become effective manager of food supplies.

It says in Genesis 41:55-57, 55When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” 56When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

The series of difficulties that God allowed Joseph to go through were necessary processes for the plan He had for him managing food supplies.

Similarly, has the Lord designed series of events, struggles and or amusements, as necessary processes to prepare us for His special purposes?

Again, it takes faith to believe that every event we encounter, suffer and even enjoy are significant ingredients and crucial pre-requisites for a design God has arranged even before we became Christians, even before we were yet to be born. Can you accept that reality? If still in doubt, ask God to increase your faith.

As believers of God, whatever we do, plan to do or have become as a result of our decision, we should be aware that our lifestyle exhibits faith in God.

Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-18, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

The circumstances surrounding the former lifestyle of Paul were enviable. He was prominent figure as Pharisee. He was righteous according to the law. He had strong political connection with Jewish leaders. Yet, when he put his faith in Christ, Paul was despised by the same people he relied upon. He suffered in the hands of both believers and unbelievers.

Nonetheless, he testified that he found rejoicing to know that believers in Philippi were growing in their faith. Paul was filled with joy of making disciples.

Jacob mourned. When the blooded robe his favorite son Joseph was presented to him, he refused to be comforted. Many years later, Jacob’s sons who sold Joseph reported what Joseph has become. Genesis 45:25-28 says, 25So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26They told him, “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

If we were Jacob who heard that news, we would love to sing the chorus of song, “This is how we overcome.” Shouldn’t we be singing to the Lord, “You have turned my mourning into dancing… You have turned my sorrows into joy?”

May God increase our faith for until we completely trust that He designed a lifestyle for our betterment! May the Lord fill each of us with His grace and love!

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