Sunday, August 29, 2010

Joseph Sent To Find His Brothers - Genesis 37:12-17

Then his brothers went to pasture their father's flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, "Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them." And he said to him, "I will go." Then he said to him, "Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me." So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, "What are you looking for?" He said, "I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock." Then the man said, "They have moved from here; for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

Joseph and his father Jacob (also known as Israel) are in Hebron. The older brothers have taken their sheep to Shechem and it is possible that Jacob has not heard from them or about them for some time. So, he decides to send Joseph to find them.

Joseph being both the adventurer and the obedient favored son that he is immediately says he will go. In addition, this was obedience at its best. It was this kind of obedience that served Joseph well later in life in obeying God as we will see soon enough.

The question may well be asked, "was Jacob concerned about his sons or his flocks, or was it both?" Well, I believe the answer is indeed both. We have to remember Jacob’s history as someone who could take a bad business situation and turn it around into a spectacular success. Yet, he also very much loved his family. The text also seems to be pointing towards the ‘both’ option as it clearly states he is concerned almost equally (although the order is important) for the ‘welfare’ of both his sons and his flock. Jacob was indeed a good manager, a person who delegates well, and he wanted word back.

So Joseph leaves Jacob in Hebron and heads to Shechem to find his brothers. Commentators estimate the distance to be about fifty miles. We can assume that this would take even young Joseph several days to accomplish. We do not know where he stayed overnight or how he traveled. Was it by foot or on an animal (horse or camel perhaps)? Jacob I am sure gave him sufficient food and drink for his journey, in the tradition of his father and grandfather. We also do not know if he sent him alone or with servants, although we have no reason to believe anyone else went with him.

When Joseph got to Shechem, instead of finding his brothers, an unnamed man who offered his help found him. Joseph told the man he was looking for his brothers and asked politely for further help in pinpointing their exact location. The man indicated that he had heard them talk about going to Dothan. We read next that Joseph went after his brothers and did indeed find them there.

Now there are a number of things we should note here. First of all, when God sends His people on a mission He does not always tell them exactly where they will end up. He may send you to your “Shechem” but when you get there, you'd better be prepared to go to the “Dothan” He has chosen for you. I started this year by agreeing to go on an educational trip to Israel, but God also had plans for me to go to Africa – all in the same year with just a ten-day break in between. Now that trip has resulted in a whole new ministry that may very well take me to even more places I never planned to go. We must always be ready to respond to God’s true calls. But here’s the important part. I won’t share with you all the details here, but I truly believe I could not have accomplished in Kenya what God wanted me to do without having been to Israel just prior. Kenya without Israel would have been possible but not optimum for the Kingdom. Israel without Kenya would have meant more training and less implementing, also not optimum for the Kingdom.

Secondly, we notice that when we get to a point where we’re supposed to be and the answer we’re looking for isn’t there and we don’t know where to turn, God always sends someone. or something to show us the next move. And often, it is someone that we do not know or ever will get to know. We need to be sensitive to who God is sending our way for guidance and direction on the journey with Him. The man, woman, or child you ‘bump’ into today may have been put there by God just for you.

Thirdly, did you notice how Joseph did not hesitate at all in getting help from others? He sought the man’s assistance with any information he could offer with respect to where his brothers might be. God does not want us to take this journey alone. So many Christians want to walk the long journey of life by themselves, when they can do it so much better and easier with the help and love of other brothers and sisters.

Finally, we have no word that indicates Joseph was discouraged at all at the news that his brothers had moved on to Dothan. He was on a mission for his father and he was determined to accomplish it. How much further from Shechem was Dothan? Some commentators estimate an additional thirteen miles, perhaps another day’s journey. But Joseph goes after them and this portion of scripture ends by telling us he found them there. Joseph accomplished the first part of his task – to find his brothers. What was left was to report back to his father. But God . . . . well, we’ll soon see what His plans for Joseph were.

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