By Norman P. Grubb
We’re going to look together into what we can learn about the ways of God and the ways of the Spirit through a human life, and that is the life of Joseph, as it has been recorded for us in considerable detail in Genesis 37-49. Actually, the Spirit of God is in operation in all lives from their birth…as God said to Jeremiah, “Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.” In some instances, maybe including some of ourselves, we are able to trace the operations of the Spirit of God from quite youthful days. Sometimes the real meeting of the Spirit with man doesn’t come until later years in recorded form. Joseph is one of those in whom God had begun to do work as a youth – the same as He had done in his father, Jacob.
From early youth, Jacob had identified with the purposes of God to pour out His Spirit on the whole world through them as they walked faithfully with Him. So, Jacob’s life is identified with God’s purposes. His ambition was to be an anointed agent by whom God would fulfill His will. That’s why he was ready at the pottage incident with Esau. You can’t jump into a thing like that. He had a prepared heart, ready for the moment when he could possess the promises of God and the birthright which he knew, through Rebekah, to be his. So, he moved in.
Joseph was the same. The family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had become established in this area of Canaan, Palestine. It was well known, and their testimony doubtlessly was widely known among all the people around. We know that Pharaoh knew, Abimelech knew and various local heads of tribes knew, and [they knew] what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah…and that their testimony was to the living God. The evidence that Joseph knew God was a disturbance with his brothers. He was the youngest…seventeen. His brothers were going through a period of the flesh. They were believers, but they had to learn the difference between the flesh-governed and the Spirit-governed life. They were the progenitors of the twelve tribes, but they were living, at that time, the life which was no testimony in this area where people are watching to see what God’s people are like. They were out with the sheep, a good way off, where their father and the influence of home couldn’t be felt. Undoubtedly they were plunged into all the activities of the world and the flesh and the devil, and, maybe, the idolatry in those areas around. Joseph was with them, feeding the flock with his brethren (Gen. 37:2). But the further evidence that Joseph was God’s man was the bond of love he had with his father…and as the inheritor of God’s covenant promises. So he couldn’t hide the goings on of his brothers from his father. So it says that he “brought unto his father their evil report.”
Foolish people, who don’t see the depths of the working of God, would point their finger at Joseph and say he was a kind of sneak, a kind of self-righteous person…“I’m not like them, doing things they are doing; I’ll tell my father about them.” A person who is building himself up in his own self-righteousness can’t stand a smash-up for long. Joseph would have cracked up mighty quick if all he was concerned with was his own self-advancement, because he was to go through some mighty big storms. So all the evidence of the life that follows was that this wasn’t a foolish, silly boy wanting to sneak on his brothers and be better than them. He was a young boy with the concern of God on him, which he might be involved in the purpose of God to bring His blessing to the world, as far as he understood what this blessing was to be, as God had promised it. So he brought this concern to his father as a concerned young man.
Jacob had been that way himself. He knew what it was to differentiate between being a man for his own ends, a man of the flesh and a man of the Spirit, because of what he had been through with Esau. So, obviously, Jacob could relate to Joseph. Obviously he saw: “Here’s one I can talk to, who understands who we are…that God’s got some purposes and is preserving us for His world purposes.” So he had the heart affinity with his son Joseph. It is said that he gave him a special coat as a cover, which marked him as apart from his brothers outwardly as a son of his old age. But I have no doubt that this was a special indication, rather like the mess of pottage incident, by which Jacob was beginning to see that Joseph was God’s marked man. That created jealousy, as it would do to the flesh…hatred to the point that his brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to him. They really went for him (Gen. 37: 3-4).
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