I’ve been thinking about Joseph and his story. If you think you know the story think again. If you think you know what it’s about, think again. If you think you don’t need to re-tell a story like Joseph’s think again. If you think Joseph’s story is irrelevant, out of date and far away….yes, think again.
One of the great mistakes made about Joseph’s story is to call it that. To forget that it’s an ensemble piece is to ignore the core of the story – and the real “star of the show” is not Joseph but God – albeit a background, unseen and unsung star. It would be better to know it as the story of the children of Jacob (for let us not forget the only Daughter Dinah – for a great take on this read “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant, the whole story told from the perspective of the women of the tale.) The children of Jacob, who are bequeathed their mother’s rivalry – as if they needed it; children are contentious enough especially when there are twelve of you. The Children of Jacob who unite and yet are so divided. The children of Jacob who are hot-headed, vengeful and short-sighted. The Children of Jacob who are creative, beautiful, honourable and ultimately self-sacrificial.
As for Joseph – a prophet and visionary even from childhood who didn’t have quite enough wisdom to deal with the message of his dreams – even Jacob became angry when Joseph implied that the father would bow to the son. Even as a “youngest child” myself I can understand the frustration and annoyance that elder siblings feel towards a precocious and spoiled younger sibling – and perhaps their hatred of Joseph is relatable. His journey from slavery to honoured employee to object of lust to prisoner, where again by his character he rises to a position of honour and responsibility is all so relatable and relevant – and that’s why the story is still important. We too can behave honourably in difficult circumstances just like Joseph. We too can hold on to our identity lost in a foreign land. We too can forgive. And through it all, even in the darkest moments, that actually lasted for years Joseph held on to hope – because once when he was a child he’d had a dream. And it wasn’t just any old dream. It was one of power. But more than that – he had trust in a creator that went beyond power. Because the power was not for its own sake or for Joseph’s glory – but it was power to save. Power to save not one but two nations.
So, no, any old dream won’t do. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lloyd-Webber & Time Rice’s wonderful interpretation of the Genesis narrative, the songs capture the spirit – especially in regards to the brothers – and it’s certainly entertainment. But the minute you stray to accepting any old dream, the minute you “settle” for anything less than your own destiny, the minute you doubt the power of God to fulfill Hope – that’s when you lose yourself. Joseph’s ultimate dream was one of Restoration. And accepting those who hurt you and meant you harm back into your life – that’s something powerful that can be used to create amazing stories for the future; to create what is truly powerful – a community of Restoration and Redemption, of Acceptance and Welcome. Forgiveness is the foundation of reconciliation and reconciliation is the fulfillment of a dream, my dream and your dream, the foundation of taking God’s Kingdom and rescue plan for you and me and this crazy world to the next level.
(It’s worthwhile heading back to the original story – it’s a long section, like 20 Chapters of Genesis – 30 to 50 if you were wondering – try here)