God, The Sovereign: Genesis 37:12-38:30

God, The Sovereign: Genesis 37:12-38:30
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday October 29, 20

Notes, not at Transcript:

Today, we’ll get a picture of Sovereignty that is like concrete. It should set and settle who God is in our minds and hearts and give us a set mind knowing that God is both sovereign and good, sustaining our faith and walk. Genesis, by God’s grace, establishes that, and this massive portion of scripture about the story of Joseph, seemingly interrupted by Judah’s quick lineage, builds that faith.

Genesis 37:12–38:30 (ESV)
Joseph Sold by His Brothers
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem.

Think back to Simeon and Levi’s acts in chapter 34 and remember they’d killed the men while sore from circumcision. Things have calmed down and are peaceful; they’re having to go a good journey out, maybe early signs of a coming famine in the land.

13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.”
14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?”
16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.”
17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

We see in verse 14, that Israel sent Joseph FROM the valley of Hebron to look for his brothers, and he ends up in Shechem. Some commentators have this a 50 or so mile track away from his starting point, this boy in a multicolored coat wandering alone looking for his brothers who, Genesis 37:4

Genesis 37:4 (ESV)
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

The brothers who orchestrated and executed the murder of the Schemites. Joseph encounters a stranger who overheard them V17 going to Dothan, further out still. Now, a many-day journey out from his father, looking to bring him back word. Side note: for fun personal study, you’ll find other events of Dothan forward in Genesis 42:21 but also 2 Kings 6:17.

Genesis 42:21 (ESV)
21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.”

2 Kings 6:17 (ESV)
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.
19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.
20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.”
22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore.
24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Now we mentioned Genesis 24 and the murder of the Schemites. Even if there was peace now in the land, Ruben remembered his affair with Bilhah and hatched a plan to try to win back his father’s favor (if you look forward to Genesis 49:1-4 you’ll see that he never shakes that memory). Now, remember, we have the hand of a sovereign God playing through men. The spoiler alert is the truth of what will come to some 13 chapters later:

Genesis 49:1-4 (ESV)
Jacob Blesses His Sons
1 Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father.
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!

Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

We become distracted by the details of life, forgetting God’s purpose, plan, and involvement. Our time here is finite but we’re built for an infinite purpose in God’s plan. Moses records so much of this story in Genesis, the authoritative book of beginnings, so that we’d solidify our knowledge of God as the sovereign.

When we read that they conspired to kill him, the evil, anger, and violence these brothers are capable of make this a terrifying prospect for Joseph. Many days away now from the protection of his father, brothers who seethe with hatred for him v21 but Ruben says “shed no blood,” we know he has a motive, but again see the Sovereign God’s hands at play, staying the anger short of murder.

So what do they do? They strip him of his robe. The sense of this “stripping” is the exact word phrase used in “made raids.”

1 Samuel 27:8 (ESV)
8 Now David and his men went up and made raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for these were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt.

Or even flay in Leviticus

Or Rush in Judges:

Judges 9:33 (ESV)
33 Then in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, rise early and rush upon the city. And when he and the people who are with him come out against you, you may do to them as your hand finds to do.”

Leviticus 1:6 (ESV)
6 Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces,

So they’ve not murdered him, but beat him and ripped that coat that enraged them as a sign of their father’s particular love/favor for him. They’ve tossed him into a dry well and taken a break to carb load.

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?
27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

So, as they’re resting from beating their brother and he’s in the bottom of a pit, slave traders heading to Egypt happen by.

I want to again point your mind to Genesis 50:20 so that we keep in our mind’s frame Genesis’ the authoritative book of beginnings, demonstrating and making concrete our knowledge of God as the sovereign. The brothers conspire at Judah’s suggestion: let’s at least make some money on this thing. They have some strange moral dilemma with killing him, but selling him into slavery, they’re OK with it.

That feels odd, but when was the last time your eyes wide opened did something that you KNEW was sinful but justified away? Maybe not that long ago. Let me issue a cautionary here – there is a verse of scripture that is about the last days, but I think it introduces a scary reminder, that is 1 Timothy 4:2.

1 Timothy 4:1–2 (ESV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times, some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,

That warning is this: our consciences can be seared church, be careful with that. Stay supple.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes
30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?”
31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood.
32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.”
33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.”
34 Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.
35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

Ruben, still scheming, creeps back in and realizes that his brother has been sold, and he laments, why, really for himself, because this was his plan to restore his standing from sleeping with his stepmom. Church, these brothers, the killing, the infidelity, the seething rage, the selling people, these are the tribes of Israel whom God will through his son, who’ll be.

Hebrews 4:14–16 (ESV)

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus is so differentiated he MUST be the God-man, and he is, and God’s word demonstrates the sovereign hand of God in bringing Him to be through impossible circumstances so that we’ll KNOW God as Sovereign.

Now in Genesis chapter 38, we take a break in the direct story of Joseph and his brothers, and we get this picture of Judah’s family that he’ll establish. Still, to the point of God bringing about Christ, we’ll come to find that Tamar and Judah are part of Christ’s lineage.

Matthew 1:1–3 (ESV)
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,

38:1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua. He took her and went in to her, 3 and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er.
4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan.
5 Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah was in Chezib when she bore him.
6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar.
7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”
9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.
10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.
11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up”—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.

The patriarchs knew they weren’t to marry a Canaanite – Abraham instructed his servant to chat a wife for his son NOT from the Canaanites. Isaac sent Jacob off and told him NOT to take a wife from the Canaanites. So Judah, then, does just that and marries a Cannaite. V2, she has children Er, Onan and Shelah. Er was given Tamar a Canaanite, Er being half Canaanite and Tamar Canaanite would take on Judah’s name/inheritance.

Judah’s sons are wicked God put him to death. Onan’s duties then were to take on the widowed woman and produce an heir. However, he practiced birth control purposefully to not have a half son and God put him to death as well. Why are we seeing all this? So that we’ll KNOW God is sovereign. Judah then, without his adult sons, instructed Tamar to stay a childless widow (Judah is seeing a pattern with Tamar and doesn’t want Shelah to die also.

12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,”
14 she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.
16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”
17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—”
18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him.
19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

More deception in this story of wicked, sinful people doing wicked, sinful things, not unlike Rebekah and Jacob in Genesis 27. He purchases her like a prostitute, giving over personally identifying things, maybe his Pennsylvania real ID, and wakes up thinking, I need to get that stuff back.

20 When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite to take back the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her.
21 And he asked the men of the place, “Where is the cult prostitute who was at Enaim at the roadside?” And they said, “No cult prostitute has been here.”
22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her. Also, the men of the place said, ‘No cult prostitute has been here.’ ”
23 And Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.”
25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.”
26 Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.

And with that, Tamar is a Matriarch in Israel bearing the son of Judah, and God is sovereign over it all. Sinful, wicked acts of people, pointed and used for God in God’s sovereign plan.

Understand that God MUST re-orient our sinful acts for good. Otherwise nothing we do can be good. None is good, no not one, says:

Romans 3:10–12 (ESV)
10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

Or Isaiah 64,

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)
6  We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

27 When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb.
28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.”
29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez.
30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.

Look at all that God works through. We had a 1 chapter break to see a juxtaposition between Judah, seeing his own good and finding his own path, taking whatever wife he wants, spinning up a world of chaos.

In Genesis 49:8-10,

Genesis 49:8–12
8  “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
9  Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10  The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

IS this about Judah and his merit, or about the Kingly line that the scepter shall not depart from that we traced to Matthew 1 Judah and Tamor’s lineage, which is the lineage is Christ himself – God is good in spite of man’s best efforts.

Maybe you’ve done that, maybe you’ve spun up a world of chaos in the past, maybe you’re in it now.

God can work despite you, but for the believer – the one that KNOWS God is sovereign over all, who keeps a memory that our consciences can be seared and desires to stay supple, we know that by humbling ourselves, we can bow out of situations we’ve caused. Admitting wrong, setting aside pride, and letting the chips fall because we have a healthy, enduring picture of sovereignty.

Knowing God, really knowing God, is understanding He is sovereign and good. Placing these deep in the core of who you are is living, giving, and life-sustaining.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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