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Garment of Favoritism

Genesis 37:31-34 


"So they took Joseph's tunic, and slaughtered a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood; [32] and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, 'We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son's tunic or not.' [33] Then he examined it and said, 'It is my son's tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!' [34] So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days."

At the time, Jacob did not know that his sons were deceiving him with Joseph's coat dipped in the goat's blood. After the initial shock and disbelief gave way to the apparent reality, Jacob wept over the loss of his favorite son. As far as Jacob knew, Joseph was dead.

Jacob knew what it was like to have a favorite son, but he did not know what it was like to be the favorite son. Esau, not Jacob was his father's favorite son. I don't know if Jacob ever felt his father's love or not, but I do know he knew the pain of knowing that Isaac loved Esau more. Jacob's jealousy and longing for approval culminated in a deception of his own. 

Isaac knew that he was about to die, so he told Esau, his favorite son, that he wanted to give him his blessing, but first he asked Esau to kill some wild game and make him a savory stew. Rebekah, the boy's mother overheard the conversation and told Jacob to deceive his father and take the blessing Isaac intended for Esau. Rebekah cooked a stew from some young goats that Jacob slaughtered and told Jacob to put Esau's best clothes on and to put goat's skins on his arms. When Jacob gave his father the stew, Isaac thought something was wrong, but when he felt Jacob's arms, he believed he was Esau and gave Jacob his blessings.

Holding Joseph's bloody garment in his hands, I'm sure the last thing that was running through Jacob's mind was that his sons were deceiving him just as he'd deceived his father. How could he know? But that was exactly what was happening. The player was being played. 

It wasn't the first time the deceiver was deceived. When Esau found out what Jacob had done, he was furious and wanted to kill him. Rebekah advised Jacob to go to his Uncle Laban's and seek refuge there. On the journey, he encountered God in a dream and named the place, Bethel-house of God. He vowed to serve the Lord and to give a tenth of all God blesses him with, back to Him. It was the first of two significant encounters that Jacob would have with God.

When he arrived in Laban's territory, he met Rachel, Laban's daughter, by the well. It was love at first sight. Jacob helped Rachel water her flock, then he kissed her on the spot. The attraction must have been mutual, because Rachel took him home to her father. When Laban heard that Jacob had assisted his daughters at the well by removing a stone from its mouth, and that he was Rebekah's sons, he asked him to stay with him. God's providence was directing Jacob. Jacob and Laban struck a deal, he would work seven years for Laban if he could have Rachel in marriage.

Jacob worked the seven years and took his bride into his tent on their wedding night. When he awoke the next morning, to Jacob's horror, it wasn't Rachel laying beside him in bed it was "weak-eyed Leah," Rachel's older sister. I have a feeling that she didn't get her nickname because she was near-sighted, but because she was hard to look at. Jacob was furious. When he confronted Laban, Laban refused to take Leah back because she was no longer a virgin, but agreed to give Jacob Rachel if he'd agree to work for him another seven years. Older, and a bit wiser now, Jacob got his payment up front and Rachel became his wife.

Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife, but she was barren. In all, Leah and Jacob's concubines gave him ten children, but Rachael gave him none. None, that is, until God blessed her and she gave birth to Joseph.

Laban continued to deal treacherously with Jacob, changing his wages several times, but God continued to prosper him. Finally, God told Jacob to leave, so he gathered up his family and his belongings and left. Laban chased after him. On the journey, God appeared to Laban and told him to back off. Because of God's intervention, Laban & Jacob made a covenant and parted on relatively good terms.

But Jacob's troubles weren't over. It had been twenty years since Jacob stole Esau's birthright, and Jacob had managed to evade him over those years, but now Jacob was traveling through the land where Esau lives. It would be impossible to avoid Esau now. Jacob sent messengers ahead to smooth things over, but they didn't come back with a positive report. They said that Esau was coming with 400 men.

In that moment, Jacob got religion. He began to pray to God for deliverance from Esau's wrath. He also sent his brother presents, hoping to appease his anger. That evening, Jacob wrestles with God-his second major encounter with his creator, and God changes Jacob's name to Israel.

Once again, God rescues him-Esau does not harm Jacob and his family is allowed to pass through. That is the story of Jacob's life, God intervenes and protects him, he lives a blessed life. I'm sure that Jacob didn't feel too blessed as he mourned the loss of his favorite son. The garment he held in his hand was symbolic of his favor toward Joseph, but it also became a lightening rod for his brother's anger. But the coat wasn't the only source of their irritation. Joseph was a dreamer. Genesis 37:3-10 tells about the coat and the dreams. It says, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. [4] And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. [5] Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. [6] And he said to them, 'Please listen to this dream which I have had; [7] for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.' [8] Then his brothers said to him, 'Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?' So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. [9] Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, 'Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.' [10] And he related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?'"

Remember this dream and the fact that Joseph is a dreamer, both will play a big part in our story a few weeks from now, but for now, let it suffice to say that the dream was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for Joseph's brothers. The story continues in Genesis 37:18-24. "When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. [19] And they said to one another, 'Here comes this dreamer! [20] Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!' [21] But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, 'Let us not take his life.' [22] Reuben further said to them, 'Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him'-- that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. [23] So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; [24] and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it."

That's where the story ends today. Back home, Jacob holds his son's garment of favoritism covered with a goat's blood. Joseph's brothers have quenched their thirst for revenge and acted on their jealousy. And down in the bottom of the pit, Joseph sits and waits. In the darkness he sits naked, shivering in the cold. Hungry. Thirsty. Without hope. Would his brothers leave him to die there? Will they kill him? Will a wild animal get him? What will he do?

In this moment, Jacob is tormented by the loss of his favorite son. His favorite son sits and waits, not knowing what the future holds. Both men at a crossroads in their lives. Neither knowing that God would later use this very event to further His plan for their lives. What the brothers meant for evil; God would use for good.

We all have moments like these, where life doesn't seem to make sense. When we wonder where God is and why He doesn't take the uncertainty and the pain away. Perhaps you are there now. If so, remember that God was with Jacob during all his difficult times and that God is with you now too. Not to remove the difficulty, but to walk with you through it. 

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