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September 13, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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“Reuben . . . tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ . . . So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 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. 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.’ His brothers agreed.”—Genesis 37:21–27 (NIV)
I’ve noticed how people love odd documentaries and podcasts about murderers, crimes, etc. It’s not my jam, but as I was reading through Genesis 37–50, I couldn’t help but picture Joseph’s story as an amazing documentary titled, Making a Murderer.
Our passage today would be prime viewing! First, we see Reuben convince his brothers not to spill Joseph’s blood, knowing blood cries out to God against the murderer (Genesis 4:11), and instead throw him into a sinkhole. But Reuben’s real plan was to come back to save Joseph. He was likely seeking to get back into his dad’s good graces after having slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah.
Regardless of why, his plan didn’t involve doing the right thing. The right thing would have been to rebuke his brothers for their sin and ask the Lord for forgiveness on their behalf, as Daniel did (Daniel 9). But he didn’t, so the transgression proceeded.
Judah says, “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.” So basically, get rid of “the dreamer?” Check! No blood on our hands/less guilt? Check. Make a few extra bucks? CHECK! To Judah, and the rest of his bros (minus Reuben), this was a win-win scenario. And so, Joseph was sold by the scheming of Judah for twenty pieces of silver in the same way Jesus was sold for thirty!
Friends, not only is there gross wickedness in this story, but there’s also a clear lack of conviction or guilt, as evidenced by Joseph’s brothers casually enjoying a meal together. So, what can we make of this? Well, as we’ll see over the next few weeks dissecting this story, God works good even when our intentions are exceedingly evil. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, He makes all things, even wicked things work together for “the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20 NIV), the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and even to draw those who do the wicked deed to reconciliation (Genesis 45:1–15).
This story displays a beautiful shadow of the work of Christ, who was innocent and unjustly sentenced to death and endured the cross for our evil to save even the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12–16). And now because of the work of Christ, we can have reconciliation, we can be forgiven of all our sins, we can enter into right standing with God, and we can be given the status of being His children! Praise Jesus!
DIG: What does this story teach us about God’s sovereignty—His knowledge and control over all things—and what we perceive as evil?
DISCOVER: Why was Reuben’s plan wrong? Was is wrong with “the lesser of two evils” approach?
DO: Meditate on this whole story today. Consider the way God allowed these things to come together, reflect on how this story points us to the gospel, and consider where your heart is today.