Flawed Families, Flawless Purposes

Photo by  Scott Webb

Photo by Scott Webb

The comedian George Burns once quipped, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family…in another city.” He was poking fun at the sometimes painful reality that the ideal of family may not be so ideal up close. For some of us, as the holiday season approaches there may be a twinge of pain or perhaps a throbbing panic, because family gatherings are not ideal.

The story of Joseph in Gen 37-50 demonstrates that God has a pattern of using flawed human beings and flawed human families to accomplish his good purposes.

Joseph’s family is mired in a dysfunctional favoritism that can be traced back for generations: Grandfather Isaac loved his son Esau more than Jacob, whereas his wife favored Jacob. Jacob loved his wife Rachel over Leah, and now he favors Rachel’s son Joseph over his brothers. The famous robe that Jacob gives to Joseph is a sign of royalty, marking him as heir, rather than any of his ten older brothers. This exacerbates the sibling rivalry; Joseph’s brothers come to hate him so much that they ponder killing him and settle on selling him into slavery.

Yet, behind the human drama of Joseph’s family is the divine drama of God’s sovereign plan of salvation in which He subverts the world’s way of doing things. He can even use circumstantial heartache and human evil to accomplish salvation. What Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God used for good, to accomplish the saving of many lives (cf. Gen 50:20).

Here is the great mystery of salvation for all of us who need salvation. Jacob wanted to put the royal robe onto Joseph before he was truly ready, when he was just an untested lad. God puts the royal robe on Joseph only after the crucible of violent betrayal, enslavement, false imprisonment, and finally vindication when “Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen” (Gen 41:42).

This is the mysterious pattern of salvation. God delivers us through a savior who has been in the fiery crucible of neglect, betrayal, false imprisonment; who lived in obscurity as a carpenter, who was publicly repudiated by the crowds, who died in shame as a criminal…but was raised victorious over sin and death. In the midst of the human drama of your particular crucible, may you know that God is actively working in and through you for his good purposes.

To hear the full sermon on Gen 37, click here.

Walter Kim