Rejection of the Promised Messiah

Genesis 37:1-11

Campbell Morgan was one of 150 young men who sought entrance to the Wesleyan ministry in 1888. He passed the doctrinal examinations, but then faced the trial sermon. In a cavernous auditorium that could seat more than 1,000 sat three ministers and 75 others who came to listen. When Morgan stepped into the pulpit, the vast room and the searching, critical eyes caught him up short. Two weeks later Morgan’s name appeared among the l05 REJECTED for the ministry that year. Jill Morgan, his daughter-in-law, wrote in her book, A Man of the Word, “He wired to his father the one word, ‘Rejected,’ and sat down to write in his diary: ‘Very dark everything seems. Still, He knoweth best.’ Quickly came the reply: ‘Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven. Dad.'” In later years, Morgan said: “God said to me, in the weeks of loneliness and darkness that followed, ‘I want you to cease making plans for yourself, and let Me plan your life.'” Rejection is rarely permanent, as Morgan went on to prove. Even in this life, circumstances change, and ultimately, there is no rejection of those accepted by Christ, though there may be a partial rejection here on earth. But there is always rejection (by unbelievers) of the Messiah, the One who was sent to earth.

We come to the final section of Genesis. Lord-willing, we will finish the book of Genesis by the end of the year. Let us review the structure of Genesis, so that we can have an outline in our minds. Chapters 1-11 tell us how God created a world for Himself. Genesis 12-50 tell us how God created a people for Himself. Within chapters 12-50, we can distinguish various sections dealing with the patriarchs. The story of Abraham takes us from 12-25:18. From 25:19-27, we have Isaac’s story. From 28-35, we have Jacob’s story. 36 is Esau’s story. And now, from 37-50 is the story of Joseph.

Joseph’s story is a story of great power and wonder. It describes how God works in His providence to bring about His plan for His people. God’s plan was to save Jacob’s family from the great drought that was coming. The way that God chose to do that was to have Joseph sent down to Egypt and become ruler of Egypt, and save up enough grain so that Jacob’s family would live. In the process of sending Joseph down to Egypt, however, God made Joseph’s story look precisely like another deliverance story, that of Jesus Christ.

In fact, there are so many parallels between Joseph’s story and the story of Jesus Christ, that we can call this last section of Genesis a description of Christ’s person and work. All the early church fathers noticed these parallels. Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, in his defense in Acts 7, spends quite a lot of time explaining the Joseph story in order to tell the Israelites who were listening that they are doing the same thing to Jesus Christ. Stephen shows us that there is in fact a close parallel between Joseph and Christ. Both are rejected by their brothers for telling the truth. Both are “killed” by their countrymen. Both experience a death and resurrection. And both are exalted to a high place after they are taken out of the pit of death. Furthermore, their people are saved because of their actions, even those who rejected them. Joseph’s brothers are saved, and many Jews were saved after Jesus’ resurrection. As we go through this magnificent portrait of one of the giants of the faith, we will see even more parallels between Joseph and Jesus.

We start out with Joseph being a young lad who is somewhat naïve. That is, he does not recognize danger when it is staring him in the face. And in the early verses here, he is something of a tattle-tale.

We learn that Joseph is 17 years old at this time. He was a shepherd, though probably Jacob had made him something of an over-shepherd, when he gave him the coat of many colors. At any rate, Joseph saw that things were not going well with the brothers, and so he brought a bad report of them to Jacob. It is possible that this report contained some exaggerations of the brothers’ faults. We do not know for sure. It could be full of nothing but the truth. But at any rate, the brothers did not like the fact that he was this tattle-tale.

But that is not all. There was favoritism on Jacob’s part. He loved Joseph more than all the other brothers. There is no more sure thing to make a brother resentful than if the parents play favorites against them. The text helps us understand why Jacob loved Joseph more: Joseph was the son of Jacob’s old age, after he thought that a son from Rachel was impossible. However, the text does not excuse Jacob’s behavior. After all, Jacob should have known better: his parents played favorites, and look what happened because of that! But Jacob was almost worse about it. He made Jacob a richly ornamented robe! We are perhaps more familiar with the translation “coat of many colors.” The translation “coat of many colors” has quite an ancient pedigree, going back to the old Greek and Latin translations. Luther translated it in that way as well, as does the KJV. The truth is that we do not know quite what this robe looked like. However, it was a beautiful robe. And it was very visible, since Joseph is very visible to the brothers while he is a long way off (vs 18).

The brothers are, of course, very human. The natural thing, to our minds, would have been that the brothers would have gotten upset with Jacob. But, as is too often the case, when favoritism rears its ugly head, the ones not favored get angry at the favorite, and not at the one showing favoritism. Literally, they hated Joseph, and could not even speak a civil word to him.

This problem is only increased when Joseph has these dreams. It takes no rocket scientist to figure out what these dreams meant. Joseph must have known this. At the very least, he wold have known how the brothers would have intereted the dreams. Some scholars say, therefore, that Joseph was not very wise in relating these dreams to his brothers and his family. However, there is another possibility, which I actually consider more likely. The fact is that these dreams come true. We know they come true. I believe, therefore, that these dreams were revelations from God. If that is so, then Joseph would have been compelled to speak of them to his brothers. God wanted Joseph to tell the brothers so that the brothers would become angry enough to sell him into slavery in Egypt, and thus God’s purposes would be fulfilled.

Well, Joseph certainly got the brothers all riled up. The text says that the brothers hated him even more, and then even more (vv 5, 8)! With his second dream, which involves the entire family, even Jacob is upset. He rebukes Joseph, in effect saying, “Remember your place, young man!” However, Jacob does allow for the possibility that the dream might come true. The text says that Jacob kept the saying in mind. He did not forget it.

Jesus Christ had visions similar to Joseph’s. And they made the Jews very angry. When Jesus was before the high-priest, Jesus said, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest reacts by tearing his clothes and uttering the judgment that this was blasphemy. They all say that Jesus deserves death. The brothers of Joseph did exactly the same thing, as well find out next week. They deny that God revealed Himself to Joseph, just as the crowds denied that God ha revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

The point is, what is yor reaction to Jesus? Will you be like one of the brothers of Joseph, incensed that Joseph could have a higher place in the kingdom of God than you? Or will you be like one of the Jews, who crucified the Messiah because they rejected His words? Or will you be convinced that God did in fact reveal Himself through Joseph, and through Jesus, and through the Bible? It is far safer to believe in Jesus Christ than otherwise. The penalty for rejecting Joseph was merely that Joseph would make their lives rather difficult later on. However, the penalty for rejecting Jesus is far more severe: hell itself. Do not wait to believe what Jesus has said. Do not wait to have Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Above all, do not reject Him. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.

For those here who do know Jesus, then know that you will be rejected just as Joseph was, and just as Jesus was. James Montgomery Boice tells this story of rejection: “During WWI one of my predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Donald Grey Barnhouse, led the son of a prominent American family to the Lord. He was in the service, but he showed the reality of his conversion by immediately professing Christ before the soldiers of his military company. The war ended. The day came when he was to return to his pre-war life in the wealthy suburb of a large American city. He talked to Barnhouse about life with his family and expressed fear that he might soon slip back into his old habits. He was afraid that love for parents, brothers, sisters, and friends might turn him from following after Jesus Christ. Barnhouse told him that if he was careful to make public confession of his faith in Christ, he would not have to worry. He would not have to give improper friends up. They would give him up. As a result of this conversation the young man agreed to tell the first ten people of his old set whom he encountered that he had become a Christian. The soldier went home. Almost immediately–in fact, while he was still on the platform of the suburban station at the end of his return trip–he met a girl whom he had known socially. She was delighted to see him and asked how he was doing. He told her, “The greatest thing that could possibly happen to me has happened.” “You’re engaged to be married,” she exclaimed. “No,” he told her. “It’s even better than that. I’ve taken the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” The girls’ expression froze. She mumbled a few polite words and went on her way. A short time later the new Christian met a young man whom he had known before going into the service. “It’s good to see you back,” he declared. “We’ll have some great parties now that you’ve returned.” “I’ve just become a Christian,” the soldier said. He was thinking, That’s two! Again it was a case of a frozen smile and a quick change of conversation. After this the same circumstances were repeated with a young couple and with two more old friends. By this time word had got around, and soon some of his friends stopped seeing him. He had become peculiar, religious, and — who knows! — they may even have called him crazy! What had he done? Nothing but confess Christ. The same confession that had aligned him with Christ had separated him from those who did not want Jesus Christ as Savior and who, in fact, did not even want to hear about Him.”

The fact is that you must reject either the world or Christ. You cannot reject both, and you cannot accept both. This is a zero-sum game. As Jesus says, “He who is not for Me is against Me.” But Jesus also said “He who is not against us is for us.” Will you be one who is rejected by the world, but not by God?

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