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Garment of Favoritism
"So they took Joseph's tunic, and slaughtered a male goat, and dipped
the tunic in the blood;  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.'  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!'  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.  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.  Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it
to his brothers, they hated him even more.  And he said to them, 'Please
listen to this dream which I have had;  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.'  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.  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.'
 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.  And they said to one another, 'Here
comes this dreamer!  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!'  But Reuben heard this
and rescued him out of their hands and said, 'Let us not take his life.'
 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.  So it
came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph
of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;  and they took
him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water
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.