Genesis 37:1-11 NRSV
Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.
He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Devotion – Merciless vs Merciful
Genesis 37:1-11 is just the beginning of the familiar story of Joseph and his brothers, who were indeed merciless in their treatment of the younger brother – their father’s favorite. Their jealousy, noted in these verses, led them to devise a plan to kill him; one brother, Reuben, persuaded them to show a bit of mercy by selling him instead to a merchant caravan on its way to Egypt. They then dipped his famous coat of many colors in animal’s blood, showed it to their father who, as they expected, assumed Joseph had been torn to pieces by the animal, and was inconsolable. Joseph eventually ended up living well in Egypt among royalty, interpreting dreams, and being put in charge of the whole land. The remaining 13 chapters of Genesis, which are recommended reading during this Lenten season, are full of how God took a bad situation and turned it into a blessing. When famine threatened and Jacob sent his sons to Egypt for grain, they were terrified to recognize Joseph and realize he could retaliate. Always being guided by God, Joseph instead was extremely merciful and forgiving, the family was reunited, and thus began the history of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Our stories are thankfully not so dramatic! But there are everyday opportunities to show mercy, compassion and forgiveness – in traffic, waiting in lines, being willing to listen to the other side of the argument or the political controversy, giving the benefit of the doubt, trying to put yourself in another’s shoes, not harboring old grudges, etc.
Gracious and merciful God, help us to be slow to condemn, quick to forgive, and to remember what the prophet Micah said that you require of us – “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you.” We can only do this with your guidance and the grace of our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.