Sunday Sermon: ‘Joseph -The Power of a Parent’s Encouragement’

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(audio version)

We’ve had a great time in VBS this past week. I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this event such a great success. At Twin Oaks, we invest a lot of resources and energy into the lives of our children. We know that there is a lot of negative influences in the world today. That’s why we seek to provide many positive ministries for both our children and teens. Our goal is to help you as parents raise children who know Christ as their Savior and who will learn to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

There are a lot of influences in the world that can affect our children, yet the number one influence upon the life of a child continues to be their parents. Even parents who aren’t involved in the lives of their children, still make some kind of an impact upon them.

We’re currently in a study of the life of Joseph. Joseph lived about 2,000 years before Christ and he is a favorite Bible character of many. What makes Joseph so popular? Here was a young man, who even though he face a lot of difficulty and opposition in his life, walked with God and to was used by Him in a very powerful way.

Yet at the same time, Joseph had ten older brothers who were the exact opposites. Just as many positive things can be said about Joseph, many negative things can be said about his brothers. What made the difference between Joseph and his brothers? One of the leading factors was their father, Jacob.

Last week I presented to you a simple formula that helps to explain the relationship between Joseph and his father Jacob, as well as the relationship between Jacob and his ten older sons.

Jacob’s Example + Jacob’s Love = Son’s Character

Though it might be a bit of an overstatement to say that sons’ characters were completely fashion by their relationship with their father, there is little doubt that Jacob made a huge impact upon their lives.

The beginning of Genesis 37 pretty much sums it up –

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. 4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.     

I.     The Childhood of Joseph

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children…

A.  Jacob Loved Joseph Supremely

1.  Cherishing of Joseph

Scripture says that Jacob loved Joseph than all his other children. Of the ten sons and one daughter Jacob fathered up to this point, Joseph was his favorite. Why was that? There are at least a couple of reasons:

a)  Son of His Old Age

Time has a way of mellowing us out, especially us men. Men often start out very strong and aggressive in life; yet as they get older, many times they become more and more mellow. Maybe that’s because they look back on their lives and see all the mistakes they made. Maybe it’s because they realize that their opportunity to enjoy life is quickly slipping away.

b)  Son of Rachel

Most Bible scholars agree that there was another reason why Jacob favored Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob’s one true love – Rachel.

Genesis 30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.

Many years had passed since Jacob had first fallen in love with Rachel. Ten sons and one daughter had been born into his family. Yet Jacob continued to long for the day when Rachel would bear him a child. When Joseph was finally born, he became the center of Jacob’s world.

2. Coldness Towards the Others

Yet just as Jacob’s love for Joseph had a positive effect, his lack of love for his other children had a negative effect. Jacob neglected the rest of his family and treated them with coldness.

a) Coldness Towards the Other Children

Genesis 37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. 

(1) Coldness Toward Ten Older Sons

There is no indication found in scripture that Jacob ever had any type of meaningful relationship with his other sons. As a matter of fact, he had his fair share of trouble with them. Their lack of moral character can be seen not only in their treatment of Joseph, but in many of their other actions as well. Two of sons committed terrible sexual sins. On another occasion, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, plotted a scheme whereby they slaughtered an entire village of men.

(2)  Coldness Toward Daughter, Dinah 

What Simeon and Levi did to the village of men was wrong, yet perhaps they were more righteous than their father. Dinah, who was their sister and Jacob’s daughter, had been molested by a man from that city. After it was discovered what had happened to Dinah, Jacob’s only concern seemed to be that if he did something to retaliate, he might lose favor with the men of that region. Jacob’s lack of concern for the honor of his daughter angered Simeon and Levi and they said to their father – “Should I sister be treated as a harlot?”

b)  Coldness Towards the Children’s Mothers

Jacob fathered thirteen children by four different women. Though having more than one wife is very offensive to us today, it appears to have happened frequently in the Old Testament. The reason Jacob was cold towards his other sons and daughter was because he was cold towards their mothers.

Jacob worked seven long years for the right to marry Rachel. But on his wedding night, his father in law deceived him into marrying his oldest daughter, Leah, instead of his younger daughter, Rachel. Jacob then had to agree to work another seven years in order to marry Rachel.

Genesis 29:30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. 31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

The King James Version says that Leah was ‘hated.’ The thought is not so much that she was despised, but that she was unloved. She was neglected. The Bible tells us that God will resist the proud while giving grace to the humble. Exactly what the relationship was between Jacob and Leah, as well as between Rachel and Leah, we’re not told. No doubt there was a lot of strife and jealousy. It seems that Rachel must have had a part in the neglect of Leah for she is the one whose womb became barren.

B. Jacob Loved Joseph Significantly

Finally when Rachel bore a son, that son became the center of Jacob’s world. Jacob loved Joseph more than all of his children.

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

1.  Explanation of the Coat

Many Bible stories have been told about the coat of Joseph. Normally we think of a garment made from varied colored strips of cloth sewn together. Note that the word ‘many’ is italicized in the King James Translation. Being italicized indicates that it was not in the original text, but added by the translators for clarification. The passage simply says that it was a coat of colors.

The word ‘colors’ used here is an interesting word. It refers to a tunic-like garment with full length sleeves and that hung down to the ankles. It was a garment that marked distinction. The only other biblical use of this particular word is in reference to a special garment worn by the King David’s daughter. It seems to refer to a garment that adorns someone with honor.

The NIV calls it a ‘richly ornamented robe.’ No doubt it was beautiful to look at, but even more importantly, it made a major statement to the family.

Warren Wiersbe writes –

“Jacob had something more important than fashion in mind when he gave Joseph this special coat. It was probably his way of letting the family know that Joseph had been chosen to be his heir.”

What a contrast this elaborate robe must have been to the crudely made garments worn by Joseph’s brothers as they worked in the fields. By the way, Joseph was wearing this garment on the day his brothers turned against him and sold him into slavery.

2. Effect of the Coat

This elaborate robe worn by Joseph had both a positive and negative effect upon Jacob’s family.

a) Positively speaking –

It was a statement concerning Joseph’s significance in his father’s eyes. It said to Joseph that he was important and could succeed in life. I believe that it laid the foundation for Joseph to succeed in Potiphar’s house, in the prison, and eventually as second in command over all of Egypt.

b)  Negatively speaking –

The robe also a statement to Joseph’s brothers concerning their insignificance in their father’s eyes. It’s not so much that Joseph got the robe as it is – they didn’t.

My goal is not so much to critique or criticize Jacob concerning who he was or wasn’t as a father, but to help us recognize the influence we have as parents in the development of our children. Every child has a free will, however, the relationship between the parent and child is crucial for the proper development of a child. Again to look at our simple equation –

Jacob’s Example + Jacob’s Love = Son’s Character

II. The Character of Joseph

Next week we will look more closely at Joseph’s brothers and how all of this affected them. For the rest of today’s message, I want to concentrate primarily on Joseph.

One of the leading qualities of Joseph was his ability to step up and perform when needed.

A. A Prosperous Man

Genesis 39:2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

 B. A Prepared Man

Joseph was a prosperous man because he was a prepared man. God had been working in his life in order to develop his character and to prepare him for a very special task.

1. Men Marveled at His Character

Potiphar, who purchased Joseph as a slave, quickly recognized that Joseph had great talent and ability. The same was true with the keeper of the prison and eventually Pharaoh. The Bible says –

Genesis 39:5 And it came to pass from the time that he (Potiphar) had made him (Joseph) overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he (Potiphar) had in the house, and in the field.

Scripture says that these men saw that there was something different about Joseph. Even at the young age of 17, Joseph stood out above the crowd. There was something extra-ordinary about him. He had abilities that were beyond the average man.

These Egyptians did not know God as we know God. They believed in hundreds of gods. They probably did not say – ‘Wow! The one true God Jehovah is with this young man.’ What they saw and recognized was that this young man had poise and quality about his character that was remarkable; perhaps something bestowed upon him by the gods.

2. The Lord Magnified His Character  

What was it that made Joseph so different? At least four times it says in scripture – ‘the LORD was with Joseph.’ One of my favorite portions of scripture is found in Psalm 37 –

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Sometimes we express it as – ‘God’s hand is upon them.’ God’s hand was upon Joseph. He was like the man David spoke of in Psalm 1 –

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

‘Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.’ Why? Because the LORD is with him.

3. Jacob Mentored His Character 

Again I call attention to our simple formula –

Jacob’s Example + Jacob’s Love = Son’s Character

Parents, we can’t imagine the power of positively encouraging and being involved in the lives of our children. Several years ago the Lord placed in my hands a book by John Trent called ‘The Blessing.’ What is The Blessing? The Blessing is the parent’s (most often the dad’s) affirmation of their child’s worth. John Trent describes 5 elements to the blessing:

1. Meaningful Touch
2. Spoken Words
3. Expressing High Value
4. Picturing a Special Future
5. An Active Commitment

That book made a huge impact upon me as a parent. As we were raising our two daughters, I tried to practice as much as I could. I still do today and I look forward to a second go-around with grandchildren.

Is bestowing the blessing upon your children important? May I read to you some of what my two adult daughters expressed to me this Father’s Day?

One daughter picked out a card that said –

“You said I could do anything I set my mind to. I don’t know if you realize how much those words influenced me as a child and continue to inspire me as an adult. To this day, whenever I try something new or dream of doing something different, I hear your encouraging voice cheering me on. It’s true – I can do anything I set my mind to, because I have a dad who believes in me and taught me to believe in myself.”

My other daughter wrote –

“So many things that Dad has done and said and not done and not said has impacted my life forever. His behavior in the past and present literally affects how I live today. He was the parent in my childhood and now a best friend.”

I don’t share those things with you to say that I have been the world’s greatest dad. Believe me, I haven’t! I share them with you, hoping that I can encourage you to encourage your children.

How did Jacob mentor Joseph’s character? I believe that there were at least four important things that Jacob did concerning his relationship with Joseph –

a. Love

Scripture says that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children. This is not to encourage favoritism. As we will see next week: love given can be very positive; love withheld can be very damaging.  Yet Joseph knew that his father loved him and therefore that gave Joseph a great sense of security.

b. Time

It appears from scripture that Jacob spent a lot of time with Joseph. The two had a lot of positive interaction. Much of the bizarre behavior seen in children is the result of an absence of quality time with their parents.

c. Personal Example

Last week we looked at the major change that occurred in the life of Jacob on the night he wrestled with God.  Bible teacher and pastor, F.B. Meyer wrote —

“It (Joseph’s witness of the change in his father – comments mine) may have been the turning point of his life. Such events make deep impressions on young hearts.  …there was a deep response in the … heart of the lad, who may have felt, ’This God shall be my God forever and ever; He shall be my Guide, even unto death.”

d. Opportunities

We have already gone into great detail discussing the coat of many colors and what it symbolized. It said that Jacob believed in his son and that he saw a bright future for him. That mindset helped to enable Joseph to endure the hardships of Egypt and to equip him for the day when he would be second in command over all of Egypt.

Conclusion:

Once again I refer to our simple little formula to emphasize the impact Jacob made upon his children –

Jacob’s Example + Jacob’s Love = Son’s Character

That formula relates to us as parents and grandparents as well –

My Example + My Love = My Child’s Character

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