The words we speak reveal what’s inside of our hearts. We would do well to pay attention to what we say (and even what we don't say).
The account of Joseph is found in the book of Genesis. It actually begins in the 37th chapter of Genesis. Genesis, as some of you know, has only 50 chapters. Think about this, the story of Joseph pretty much goes from chapter 37 all the way to chapter 50. That’s an incredible amount of scripture that is devoted to the life of Joseph. Joseph is a phenomenal figure, a significant person of scripture, a key conduit between God’s promise and fulfillment of the descendants of Abraham becoming a nation. So much of that is connected to the story of Joseph. We’re going to talk about that certainly more in-depth. Genesis 37 will become our starting point in this message. Also, in this movement that we make into the life of Joseph, using him, as I’ve already mentioned earlier as a bit of a template for how to think about prevailing in these unique times that we find ourselves facing right now.
Before we go to our main passage in Genesis 37, I want to look at a couple of other verses. In one case, it’s a passage of scripture that refers to Joseph. In fact, one of the things you’ll note when you start to study the life of Joseph is that he’s actually referred to in a lot of other places in the scripture beyond Genesis. Genesis is the primary place where we learn about the details of his life, but he’s referred to quite frequently. When you start to look for it, you’ll see it. I want to look at a verse in the New Testament and then a small piece of scripture in another portion of the Old Testament, as a way of setting a foundation for where we’re going to go, as we jump into the 37th chapter of Genesis. The first one I want to refer to is found in Acts 7. It’s verse 9 of Acts 7.
It’s actually part of a larger speech or message or declaration that is given by a man named Stephen, who is destined to become the first martyr of the early church. The first person to ever die for his faith in Jesus is Stephen. Stephen shares this message, which is a comprehensive declaration of the movement of God that begins with the forming of a people through the promises made to Abraham, and then ultimately ends in Jesus, but along the way, he actually refers to Joseph. It says, “And the patriarchs,” that would be Joseph’s brothers, 10 of them, they’re the patriarchs or the fathers of the nation of Israel. They become the majority of them, the namesakes for the tribes of Israel.
“The brothers of Joseph, the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph we’re told, Stephen says, sold him into Egypt. They sell him as a slave,” but we’re also told something else, “But God was with him.” That phrase, “But God was with him.” That is such a powerful statement. It is a reminder that we can walk through anything. If we understand, or we have God with us. Maybe that’s even more important at a time like this. When we face so much uncertainty, and so many things are challenging us to keep the right perspective. To keep a positive outlook, and to trust that the idea of God being with us. God was with him. So I just love that phrase, “But God was with him.” His brothers sold him into slavery, into Egypt. They sold him, but God was with him. But God. But God makes all the difference.
Another passage is in Psalms 105. Psalm 105, verse 16, this is wonderful, says, “When he, God, summoned a famine on the land and broke the supply of bread when there was no longer food available. Grain was no longer able to grow because of the famine. God sent a man ahead of them.” The Psalmist says, “Joseph, who was sold as a slave,” and then we’re given something of the description of what he had to endure. “His feet were hurt with fetters,” look at this, “And his neck was put in a collar of iron until what he had said, God said, came to pass.” That is until God’s promise over his life was fulfilled. We’re told, look at the end of that 19th verse, look at the remarkable phrase, “The Word of the Lord tested him.”
I remember reading this as a young believer, just beginning to learn the scriptures and that phrase, “The word of the Lord tested him.” What did it do? It tested Joseph’s character in this place of difficulty and pain and question. The word of the Lord tested him. Tested his character, revealed it, forged it. There are going to be times if I can say it this way loved ones, there are going to be times in our lives when the word of the Lord will test us. Yes. It will test us. When we are being formed and developed when it’s not easy at all. When we have to wrestle with promise, pain, and trust, and we’re experiencing disappointment, and delay, all of these things, Joseph had to face. When we’re forced into a process that requires overwhelming patience on our part.
When we are being, if God had has his way and we choose to allow Him, essentially made into something of a deeper person. We’re being developed into something, a deliverer possibly, an overcomer certainly. The word of the Lord tested him. Let’s go to Genesis 37 and start this trek together. Out of the Genesis account, we read this in verse number 1. It says, “Jacob, that is Joseph’s father, lived in the land of his father’s sojournings in the land of Canaan.” Jacob’s father was Isaac, Isaac was the son of Abraham. So you have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Jacob we’re told had a number of sons. We’re told the generations of Jacob. Next, it jumps to Joseph. “Joseph being 17 years old was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah his father’s wives. Joseph brought a bad report to them, of his brothers, to the father.”
Now I need to start by saying this, it needs to be admitted and this is probably putting it mildly that even by Old Testament standards, this was a highly dysfunctional family unit. Let’s just start with that. First, Jacob, the father, the grandson of Abraham, is a man of the ancient East. He has two wives and two concubines, and it’s a long story. If you read Genesis, you’ll see it’s convoluted, it’s fascinating. It’s just got all kinds of turns in the road. It’s just something else. By the time we come to Genesis 37, Jacob has 12 sons.
He has 12 sons, six of whom are from the wife that he was tricked into marrying by his crafty and shrewd uncle. His uncle was a man named Laban, and her name, the wife that he was tricked into marrying was named Leah. Six of the sons, six of Joseph’s brothers are from a different mother than his. They are from Leah. Two of Jacob’s sons, that would be Joseph and Benjamin are from the woman that he had fallen in love with and wanted to marry originally. Her name was Rachel.
Rachel, the one whom Jacob truly loved has the two youngest sons, Joseph and another one named Benjamin. Two more of the sons are from Leah’s maidservant, who was almost like an extension of her, a woman named Zilpah. Two of the other sons are from Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah. You put them all together, you tally it up and there are, in this case, 12 sons. Let us just say that it created an exceptional amount of strife, manipulation, and intrigue. That’s not even counting the daughter and things like that. On top of all of that, Jacob, like his father and mother before him also played favorites.
Jacob, in addition to all this other family dysfunction, has a favorite son, a golden boy. He’s the jewel of his affection, a special son whom he clearly loves above the rest, that’s Joseph. The first son of his beloved and beautiful wife, Rachel. Let’s go back to verse 2 though, real quick because we’re told that Joseph was 17 years old and he was out working with his brothers and he gave a bad report to his father. This is not saying that the report was inaccurate, false, or poor, that’s not what it means. It was not like he had a failing grade, but rather that it was actually an unflattering report, unflattering to his brothers.
Basically, Joseph let his father know that at least some of his sons were improperly taking care of their responsibilities, either fooling around, doing poor work, or being careless. We don’t really know specifically what it was, but young Joseph from the outset appears to be someone who took his charge very seriously. One gets the impression that he was asked by his father to let him know how things were going, basically to keep his brothers accountable.
Even at 17 years of age, Joseph’s opinions and assessments are more trusted. Clearly, they’re trusted more than his brothers who are much older than him. He is considered at 17, exceptionally trustworthy. There seems to have been, if I can put it this way, an essential purity to his character, an abiding honesty, a substantive lack of guile that almost bordered in his case on naivete. Because it also came along with an underdeveloped social IQ.
The picture we’re given of Joseph is that he’s very bright. He’s very committed. He’s trustworthy. He’s just a faithful son in so many ways, but also not always getting necessarily how he’s coming across. I don’t think he was discerning as well about how he is being perceived. It’s possible to be very intelligent and very smart and yet not really have an emotional sense of a room. I think you understand what I’m saying. Just sometimes not seeing things, not perceiving how maybe we’re coming across, that was Joseph. He didn’t seem to really get the feeling that he was evoking from his brothers who were clearly unhappy with him and that’s putting it mildly.
I think he had a hard time reading the room, but he was exceptionally gifted, wise, intelligent, diligent, detailed, and forthright. It’s an interesting combination. His brothers were all older than him. They were his half brothers with the exception of the youngest Benjamin, who was his full brother. All of the older ones, the other 10, deeply resented him, of that there is no question. Their resentment, it ran deep, oh, it ran deep. Joseph’s lack of awareness only compounded that resentment. It wasn’t just because of the emerging quasi overseer role that they resented him, that would be enough. It was also because he was clearly Jacob’s pride and joy. The father made it clear who was most special to him.
Look what it says in verse 3, it says, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons,” look at this, “Because he was the son of his old age. He made him a robe of many colors.” Joseph was given at no request of his own, an extraordinary extravagant, beautiful coat of many colors. It was a breathtaking garment no doubt, handwoven in the middle Eastern tradition, blazing with color and ornamentation with a regal quality, something fit for an Arabian Prince. Think of that. In it, in this coat, Joseph was young, he was handsome, he was dashing, and he was despised.
Every time he put on that coat it just made his brothers sick. It filled them with envy and resentment. Joseph probably felt proud. He felt humbled by the gift to be honored by the father whom he loved, ah, to be favored. Though the 11th of 12 sons to be favored with such an extravagant, beautiful gift is a mark of distinction. This must have filled him with pride but look what it says in verse 4, “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers they,” look at the way the Bible describes it, “They hated him and they could not speak peacefully to him.”
Wow. They hated him. That is such an incredibly strong word. They could not speak peaceably to him. Their word’s laced with contempt and sarcasm revealed not only their anger but their damaged hearts, didn’t it? What’s more, Joseph with his robe of many colors was a walking reminder of the reality that they were. I just need to put it this way. It wasn’t just a reality that Joseph was loved more, it was a reminder that they were loved less. There are so many directions that we can go right here.
We could just talk about this and relationships and such, but I want to zero in a little bit more on the idea of our words. Because if you recall, it says that the brothers could not even speak peacefully to him. That they just had such a deep, deep-seated root of bitterness inside of them towards Joseph. Joseph may have contributed to it in different ways but that was such a real, and certainly, Jacob was partly responsible for creating that environment. It was just a very complicated thing, but they couldn’t even talk to him well. Their words were combative, mean-spirited, and demeaning.
Again, I’m going to make this point here, I’d like us to consider that our words do reveal us and we should pay attention to them. We really should. We should listen to what is coming out of our mouths, the words we speak. The Bible tells us consistently that the words we speak matter, a great deal to God. Words form and shape us. In their case, their words were very revealing. That’s why I think we need to pay attention to them because our words reveal us and we need to pay attention to them because oftentimes what we see coming out of us is revealing something that’s going on inside of us. I’ll say that one more time. Frequently, what we see coming out of us is revealing what is going on inside of us.
That’s why Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” It’s a window into our heart and into our soul, our words. Especially our unguarded words, those things speak a lot about what’s actually going on inside of us. I think this is a time when we need to really be aware of that, many of us do. How we speak to people we love. How we speak to people in general. How we speak about people. The Lord wants us to own our words. That leads me to another thing that I would like us to be at least aware of and consider here. It is what, and here’s the reason why that what we speak or I’ll add this other phrase, we can’t speak grows things within us like a garden. We grow what we sow and water, and we will reap a harvest.
This is what I’m trying to get at, that sometimes when we speak out poor words, we speak out words that are demeaning or negative. Sometimes it’s because of our envy, like in the case of Joseph’s brothers or our wounds, but in their case, it was twofold. I’m getting at this and I hope you can hear me when I say it. It’s not just about the words we speak, poor words that we speak, but it can also be about the good words that we don’t speak. Hear me out there. This is for every follower of Jesus. Anyone who truly wants to be a growing follower of the Lord, every man, and every woman who desires, it’s all of you. It’s not just about the poor words that we speak, it’s also about the good words that we should be speaking, that we don’t speak. Both are something that we need to be aware of.
When we speak for things, it is a creative force. In Proverbs 18:21 it says, “The tongue has power of life and of death. Those who love it will eat its fruit.” In other words, the older version says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” That actually the words that we speak are a creative force and for good or bad. That’s true of what we write as well. This is why I think we need to at least be aware of those things. I want to sit with this for a moment. The Lord has good words for us to speak, but certainly, we need to acknowledge that the Lord doesn’t want us to speak poor words. I really believe that as a follower of Jesus, we need to own our words.
It says, “They couldn’t speak peaceably to him.” We need to own the words of our lips and allow ourselves not to be filled with negativity certainly not cursing. We as followers of the Lord should not be people who swear, swear and demean. If we can avoid that, we should. I think that the Lord would have us to speak good words yes. It’s not just not speaking poor words, his brothers couldn’t speak peaceably, but it’s also about speaking good words. Sometimes our tendency not to do that, well, there are things we should be saying. There’s an affirmation we should be giving, there are blessings that we should be bestowing on others. We can sometimes fail the Lord, not just in the negative things that we say in our anger, but we can fail Lord by the good words that we should be saying that we are withholding for whatever the reason.
Sometimes it could be out of envy or sometimes it could be just, “Well, that’s not who I am.” I can tell you it’s important for us to say, I love you to the people we have been given to love. It’s important for us to focus on things that we can bless. I just think that’s the way of the Lord. Here’s another thought for us. May we, with the Lord’s help, be blesser’s. People who bless even in our wounds, even as Jesus blessed us in his wounds to choose the way of the Lord, to choose the way with the Lord’s help of a big heart. It’s the big heart, I guess that’s the phrase that comes out to me. The Lord wants us to follow in his way. He was wounded, but he blessed because his heart was so big for you and me, God’s heart blesses us.
If we love him, we are to be a people who bless. During this season of the pandemic, during the season of so much unrest, during the season of intense polarization and anger, we are to be a people who bless. That is to be what we do. We are to speak blessing, life, and the goodness of God. We are to have a big heart. We are to have a desire to really want to be like him. In one aspect, that is just not to envy the blessing of somebody else. It’s very easy to envy what someone else has or their blessing, especially if it’s a blessing. We feel like we are not being given blessings and that can be so hard.
I look at the brothers and they had a very difficult time with Joseph’s blessing. Part of me understands that, I do. Part of my heart goes out to them because they had to look at that coat all the time and it really hurt them. There might be things that you and I see that someone else may be blessed with and it hurts us. It’s a challenge to bless in a situation when we ourselves feel like we are not receiving that blessing. I want to say that, that is the way of the Lord. I want to say that, that’s part of what God does. He showed us how to be in Jesus. The way of Jesus is the way of a big heart. We are invited into a life of fellowship with him, where we share his heart.
So many are wounded and wounding because of that wound, like the brothers. This is what’s going to happen. Their wound, instead of going up and over that wound, they are going to act out of that wound and they are going to wound. If we’re not careful, we can, in our woundedness, wound others. That’s how family dysfunction is passed down the line. Hurt people, as we’ve said many times, hurt people. Hurt people, hurt people. It’s true. It explains so much. It explains so much, when someone’s hurt, they hurt. That’s not the best way of the Lord. He wants us to not live as one hurt. He wants us to live as one healed. Honestly, human beings, in the end, can’t heal us the way God can heal us.
How about this? Hurt people, hurt people, healed people, heal people. Hurt people, hurt people, but healed people, heal people. Blessed people, bless people. Come on. Blessed people, bless people. Has not the Lord blessed us? Do we not know him? Is His not love ours? Is His love not ours? If it is, if I am accepted in the beloved, then I can bless and I can choose to live that way. That’s not being naive, it’s not being dominated by just an escapist mentality. That’s not dealing with real things. I am going to say that the dominant way of Jesus is the way of the big heart and the way of blessing. That’s what he wants us to be. I really want us to keep that in mind as we move ourselves along here.
I’m going to come back around. I’m going to pray the blessing over you and over me too, and over us. We’re just going to let this word settle into our hearts. I know this is just my time to remind everyone, this is our time of giving, some of you’ve already done that. You can give via the app, online, or you can send it in the traditional way to our offices. Whatever the Lord puts into your heart. I want to bless you and thank you for all being so faithful in your tithes and your offerings for this work as we make this journey together. Let’s keep in mind what I just shared about the blessing and about the heart of God.
Lord, give us your heart. Even now, Father, I just ask that as we close our time together, that you would really deeply impress upon us that if we really want to be a people who are capable of going up and over if we want to live the overcoming life, that it will always be connected to our willingness to bless. We want to be blessers in your name. We want to be people of good words and of good deeds. We want to be conduits of your kindness. That is a prayer of ours, Lord. Maybe there are even now people who you’re bringing to our mind or someone that you’re wanting us to bless, speak a word of encouragement to, send them a note, send them a text, letting them know we love them, we’re praying for them. Affirm them.
Remember what we talked about. We need to do a better job at affirming the people we love. Let’s do that better. May the Lord help us to do that. This week, maybe even today, maybe even within this hour, speak that word of life. Between now and when I see you again, my prayer is the Lord would keep you and bless you, He would keep you in your spirit and your body, in your soul, and in your mind. In every way, you will be blessed, just safe in him. That’s my prayer. So good, so God. So good. so God. You are greatly loved.