We continue the story of Jacob this week, but our focus turns to his 11 sons. I have entitled this week’s reflection “Faith, hope and fear…..”, because it’s a story of fearful people.
The story of Jacob’s sons is quite well known, thanks for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber who turned it into the musical “Joseph and his amazing technicoloured dream-coat”. It’s a story about jealousy: the 10 brothers of Joseph are jealous of Joseph’s special relationship with their father Jacob. Joseph is his favourite (the bible is full of hints on how not to be a parent, and this is one!) and Jacob makes no secret of his preference! He buys Joseph the “technicoloured dream coat” – or coat of many colours in the bible story.
The story we’re focussing on this week is set when the 10 brothers have all gone out to care the sheep and Jacob sends Joseph to go and see how they are getting on. He sends him, trusting that they will care for their younger brother when he gets there, but instead, when they see him, they plot to kill him.
However, Reuben, the eldest son, says no, and suggests that instead they just put him in a pit – his thinking being that he can then “find” Josph and return him to their father and find favour. So, when Joseph arrives, they capture him and throw him in a pit and then, while Reuben is not about, they sell Joseph as a slave to some passing traders and Joseph is taken to Egypt.
If you want to look it up you will find it in the book of Genesis, chapter 37, verses 12-28.
There is no doubt in the minds of the writers of the story that the brothers’ motivation is jealously. I would add that it is jealously born out of fear: they fear that they are not loved enough by their father Jacob, they fear that that there isn’t enough to go round, and that Joseph will get more than them. This fear turns into something quite terrible, destroying not just Joseph but also their father and ultimately themselves.
For this is what fear can do: make us turn on our kin and can make us see threats where there are no threats. It can lead us to believe that love is a finite thing, and it can make us look for scapegoats to help us feel some power to overcome our fear.
Fear is a strong force in our world, in our country, in our communities. The fear born from the uncertainties that we face. Fear doesn’t simply come from jealousy. We are fearful of change, fearful of difference and new things, fearful of people that are not like us, fearful of people we are told are going to make life difficult for us and take what little we have.
Wherever it comes from we need to be aware its reality and its power, for just like Joseph’s brothers, fear can make us forget what we know to be true: a sibling needs taking care of, not killing! Fear can justify hate and people who come in need, need to be cherished and cared for, not hated and demonised because of fear.
As I reflected on the story, I found myself wondering about Joseph’s fear. In the story we don’t hear much from him – he seems to be a silent victim, but fear is part of his story at this point and going forward. As his story unfolds, he ends up imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, he losses everything. And he responds with faith. A powerful reflection on this is found in the song from the Lloyd-Webber musical “Close every door to me” I which he declares “Children of Israel are near alone”. Joseph responds to fear by holding onto God’s promises. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8reEiq4ui8
How do we respond to the things that we fear? Do we respond with hatred and anger, or do we respond with faith and hope?
Can our faith, hope and fear become faith, hope and love?
Fear does things to us: it fuels hatred, but it can also fuel faith if we dare to turn to God, admit what we are afraid of, and remember God’s constant presence with us and that in God we have all that we need to live and love in the world today.
A prayer for this week:
This day we have heard
of some brothers who turned,
on the one they were called to care for.
For when fear fills our heart,
we can justify hate,
pray the seed of God’s love will save us.
Breathing through us, calling to us,
Faithful God we listen……
May you know the blessing of God’s abundance in your life this week and may you be able to share it with the world.
Rev Anne Sardeson