The boy Joseph spent much time with his father. Jacob was Joseph’s “living Bible.” Jacob and Joseph, perhaps with little Benjamin in tow, visited Jacob’s still-living father, Isaac, who was nearby in Hebron. Blind Isaac shared with Joseph the gospel of Moriah – how that the Lord had provided a substitute. Joseph listened and believed.
While Joseph’s sister investigated the world (Gen. 34:1) and his brothers pursued passion and violence, Joseph was in his father’s tent. It was hard for Jacob not to play favorites. Who but Joseph among his brothers took God’s covenant to heart and thrilled to the stories of God’s grace to Abraham and Isaac? Jacob set Joseph over his brothers, who hated him for his dreams, his coat, and his reports to his father of their evil deeds. They hated him most for his faith in the God of their fathers.
Love for his father and faith in the God of his father defined Joseph for life. The truths he heard were not ancient history for him but flesh and blood realities. This is the reason Joseph was dominated by the conviction of God’s nearness and faithfulness. His father’s story was his story. His father held him, and he knew this was the Lord holding him. Thus, when the temptress in Egypt came to him, he refused her advances – like our Savior did his tempter. “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Gen. 39:9). How can a virile and strong young man walk away from sexual temptation? The Lord must be more real to you than your lusts. He was more real to Joseph, and Joseph fled.
Later, in those ten years of confinement, Joseph worked hard. Why? He worked for God. The rod and hunger were not Joseph’s motivations – the living God was. He had imbibed the lesson of Moriah – the Lord will provide – and Bethel’s ladder from heaven: “Behold, I am with you.” It makes all the difference in the world that we go about our work as believers in the even-present and faithful Lord.
It was not simply truths and sermons that Jacob gave Joseph. He gave his son covenant love. By “covenant” I mean a sense of participation and ownership in the Lord’s promises and works. Jacob sealed all his lessons with affection. He disclosed his failings to magnify God’s grace. Year later, when they were reunited, father and son fell into each other’s arms. Joseph was the great man, but in the presence of his aged father, he had become a wondering boy again. All the lessons learned and applied, daddy – God is faithful and true. Men may intend evil against us, but God means it for good. He is bound to us, and we are bound to him. He always keeps his promises.
Consider, parents, if in future years, your older children will embrace you as Joseph did Jacob. Will they be thankful that you made Bible history their history, God’s covenant their covenant, God’s love their love. We cannot of course given our children new hearts, but we can make God real to them by the way we live and love them, the way we talk to them about Jesus Christ, and the affection we show to them. I pray we will. The world, Satan, and the flesh are making a constant pitch for your children, whispering: there is no real God, no real covenant, no real future. No one loves you; love yourself. Give yourself to whoever promises to love you.
And to you, young believer, in whose tents do you sit? Are you with Joseph’s sister, Dinah, and his older brother, Judah, in the world’s tents, curious about its sins, and indulging its passions? If so, it is no wonder that you doubt God’s presence, perhaps his very existence. Or, do you sit with your parents in their tent, learning the ways of the Lord? Do you bless your father and mother? Thank them for telling you of your great history? Do you kiss your father and mother for their kindnesses to you? Does it mean anything to you to be a covenant child, to have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for your fathers? Their Savior is Jesus Christ, and he will save you also. Bow your heart to him. Turn from the world’s false loves to his pure love. He will save you from the temptress, from your sinful heart, from the injustices of men, even from the treacheries of those closest to you. Embrace him. Embrace all who lead you to him. Flee from those who offer you a different bosom upon which to recline than Jesus’.