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Lesson 6 July 31-August 6
Read for This Week’s Study: Genesis 34; Heb. 11:17-22; Deut. 4:29; 1 John 3:1, 2; Genesis 39; Eph. 6:1-13.
Memory Text: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:17, 18, NKJV).
The young man carefully scanned the horizon. Then, finally, he saw them. He had been looking for his brothers for days. As he approached, waving and calling to the grim-faced group, he got anything but a warm welcome. His own brothers actually wanted to kill him. If it hadn’t been for Reuben, there may have been no story to tell. Reuben convinced the rest just to rough him up a bit and throw him into a dry well. Later, Judah came up with the grand scheme to get rid of him and make a bit of money, too, by selling him to some passing slave traders.
What an example of family dysfunction!
We get to choose many things in life, but not our family. No one is perfect, and none of us have perfect families and perfect family relationships. Some of us are blessed by parents, siblings, and other family members that reflect God’s love, but many have to settle for less than the ideal. Family relationships are often complicated and painful, leaving us restless, hurt, and carrying loads of emotional baggage that we, in turn, off-load on others.
How can we find God’s rest in this area of our lives? This week we turn to the story of Joseph and his family ties in order to watch God at work bringing healing and emotional rest despite dysfunctional family relationships.
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 7.
Sunday ↥ August 1
Joseph knew about dysfunctional families. It had already started with his great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah. When Sarah realized that she was barren, she had convinced Abraham to go to her servant Hagar. As soon as Hagar was pregnant, the rivalry began. Growing up in this atmosphere, Ishmael and Isaac took the tension into their own families. Isaac made a point of favoring Esau, and Jacob spent his life trying to earn his father’s love and respect. Later on, Jacob was tricked into marrying two sisters who did not get along and competed with each other through a childbearing race, even enlisting their maids to bear Jacob’s children.
Review the incident detailed in Genesis 34. What kind of emotional and relational impact would all this incident have had on the family as a whole and on young Joseph, as well?
The rivalry between the mothers obviously spilled over to the children, who grew up ready to pick a fight. As young adults, Joseph’s older brothers already had massacred all the males in the town of Shechem. The oldest brother Reuben displayed dominance and defiance to his aging father by sleeping with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid and the mother of several of Jacob’s children (Gen. 35:22). Meanwhile, Joseph’s brother Judah mistook his widowed daughter-in-law for a prostitute and ended up having twins with her (Genesis 38).
Jacob added fuel to the fire of all this family tension by his obvious favoritism toward Joseph in giving him an expensive colorful coat (Gen. 37:3). If ever there was a dysfunctional family, the patriarch’s family could have competed with it.
Why do you think that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all listed as faith heroes in Hebrews 11:17-22 when you consider their messy family relationships?
God’s faith champions often fall short of their own and God’s expectations. These men are listed in Hebrews 11 not because of their messy family relationships but in spite of them. They learned — often the hard way — about faith, love, and trust in God as they wrestled with these family issues.
What family dysfunction have you inherited? How can surrendering yourself to the Lord and His ways help break that pattern, at least for the future?
Monday ↥ August 2
Joseph takes pain, complicated relationships, and anxiety with him as he travels to Egypt, where he is to be sold as a slave. This was not a restful trip as he fought back the tears.“Meanwhile, Joseph with his captors was on the way to Egypt. As the caravan journeyed southward toward the borders of Canaan, the boy could discern in the distance the hills among which lay his father’s tents. Bitterly he wept at the thought of that loving father in his loneliness and affliction. Again the scene at Dothan came up before him. He saw his angry brothers and felt their fierce glances bent upon him. The stinging, insulting words that had met his agonized entreaties were ringing in his ears. With a trembling heart he looked forward to the future. What a change in situation — from the tenderly cherished son to the despised and helpless slave! Alone and friendless, what would be his lot in the strange land to which he was going? For a time Joseph gave himself up to uncontrolled grief and terror. …
Then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. In his childhood he had been taught to love and fear Him. Often in his father’s tent he had listened to the story of the vision that Jacob saw as he fled from his home an exile and a fugitive. … Now all these precious lessons came vividly before him. Joseph believed that the God of his fathers would be his God. He then and there gave himself fully to the Lord, and he prayed that the Keeper of Israel would be with him in the land of his exile.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 213, 214 (italics supplied).
Some cultures emphasize the role of the community over the individual, while other cultures are inclined to emphasize the role of the individual over the community. While we find a balance between these two in Scripture, there is clearly a call to personal as well as corporate commitment to God. Joseph begins to find rest in his relationships by making a personal decision to follow God.
What do the following verses teach us about personal commitment? (Deut. 4:29, Josh. 24:15, 1 Chron. 16:11, Ps. 14:2, Prov. 8:10, Isa. 55:6).
To find rest, we each must make a personal decision to follow God. Even if our ancestors were spiritual giants, this faith and spirituality aren’t transmitted genetically. Remember, God has only children, no grandchildren.
Why is it important every day, even every moment of every day, to choose to commit yourself to God? What happens when you don’t?
Tuesday ↥ August 3
If Joseph had entertained any hopes of escaping and finding his way back home, they were dashed on reaching Egypt, where Joseph is resold into a prominent household. Genesis 39:1 tells us that “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites” (NKJV). Suddenly the young man was thrust into a strange new language and culture.
Our families and close relationships are pivotal in the development of our self-esteem. Joseph had grown up believing that he was something special — the oldest son of the most beloved wife (Gen. 29:18). He was definitely his father’s favorite, and the only one with a beautiful coat of many colors (Gen. 37:3, 4).But who was he now? A slave, someone who could be bought or sold at will. Look at how quickly his whole situation changed. Look at how quickly life seemed to have turned on him.
Indeed, Joseph learns the lesson that we all have to learn. If we are dependent on others to tell us what we are worth, then we will be in for a rough ride and be horribly confused, because not everyone is going to appreciate who we are or what we are like. Instead, we need to find our self-worth in what God thinks of us — how God sees us — and not in the roles that we currently have.
How does God see each of us? (Isa. 43:1; Mal. 3:17; John 1:12; John 15:15; Rom. 8:14; 1 John 3:1, 2).
God looks at each of us with glasses tinted with grace. He sees a potential, beauty, and talent that we can’t even imagine. Ultimately, He was prepared to die for us so that we could get the opportunity to become all we were created to be. Though showing us our sinfulness and the great price it cost to redeem us from it, the Cross also shows us our great worth and value to God. Regardless of what others think of us or even what we think about ourselves, God loves us and seeks to redeem us from not only the power of sins now but from the eternal death that they bring.
The key question, then, is always the same: How do we respond to the reality of God’s love, as revealed in Jesus Christ?
There are many groups and individuals telling us to love ourselves as we are and accept ourselves uncritically. Why is this really self-deception? Why is it important that our worth come from outside of ourselves and from the One who made us and knows our true potential?
Wednesday ↥ August 4
Initially Joseph’s story in Egypt takes a positive turn. Joseph has entrusted himself to God, and God blesses Joseph, who rises to heights he would not have imagined in Potiphar’s household.
In what practical ways could God’s blessings be seen in Joseph’s life? What are Joseph’s interpersonal relationships like? Read Genesis 39:1-6.
Although Joseph seems to be getting along very well with Potiphar, and his relationships among the staff in the house and on the field seem to be smooth — trouble is brewing. Someone at home is restless.
What relationship problem is Joseph facing? How does he choose to manage it? Read Genesis 39:7-10.
Joseph has a problem with Potiphar’s wife. Perhaps we should reformulate that: Potiphar’s wife has a problem. She looks at others as “things” that can be manipulated and used. She wants to “use” Joseph. Joseph is described as “handsome in form and appearance” (Gen. 39:6, NKJV). The Bible seldom mentions people’s physical traits, because God “does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NKJV). In this case Joseph’s good looks seem to be more of a hinderance than a help in his pursuit of purity and faithfulness to God’s principles.
Despite this wicked woman’s insistence, Joseph does something seemingly counterproductive. He applies biblical principles to all relationships — in this case Potiphar’s wife. Biblical principles for relationships are not old-fashioned, as anyone (which is everyone) who has suffered the consequences of sin can attest.
The biblical narrative points out that this is not a one-off temptation. Potiphar’s wife pursued him again and again (Gen. 39:10). Joseph tried explaining his motivation for his decision (Gen. 39:8-9) but this did not seem to work.
Joseph realizes that he cannot control the choices of others. He decides, however, to live, love, and treat those around him in a way that will honor God. Joseph has learned to live in God’s presence. This knowledge helped him resist temptation.
Have you tried to apply biblical principles to all your relationships, even those where the other person is not “playing fair”? How did it work out? Read Matthew 5:43-48. Why is it important to live like this?
Thursday ↥ August 5
As we know from reading the story (Gen. 39:11-20), Joseph suffers because of his principled decision. Joseph is thrown in prison. As Potiphar’s property, Joseph could have been killed on the spot, no questions asked. Potiphar obviously didn’t believe his wife but had to guard his reputation by taking action. And yet, despite the horrific circumstances, Scripture says, “the LORD was with Joseph” (Gen. 39:21).
Life on planet earth isn’t fair. Good is not always rewarded, and evil is not always immediately punished. There is some good news though: Joseph can find rest, even in prison, because God is with him. In prison he could have meditated on the unfairness of his situation, withdrawn, and even given up on God.
What does Joseph do while in prison? How does he relate to those around him? Read Genesis 39:21-40:22.
In prison, Joseph works with the real, not the ideal. He networks; he helps others, even though situations in prison were far from the ideal that he must have wished for. And Joseph is not above asking for help and making himself vulnerable. He asks for help from the cupbearer when he interprets his dream.
What is the big picture perspective on relationships that Paul presents in Ephesians 6:1-13?
Our relationships are miniature reflections of the great controversy between God and Satan that is raging through the ages. This means, then, that there are no perfect relationships. Every relationship must have growth dynamics, and Satan has a vested interest in using all our relationships — especially those closest to us — to his advantage in order to hurt and frustrate God’s will for our lives. We can be thankful that we are not left to fight these battles on our own. God’s Word sets out principles for our relationships. His promise to give us wisdom (James 1:5) also extends to our relationships. And as He was with Joseph, He promises to be with us when our relationships prove complex.
Think about God’s promise in James 1:5, and take a moment to pray for wisdom in your relationships. How can you seek to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as you relate to these people?
Friday ↥ August 6
Further Thought: In the context of what happened to Joseph with Potiphar’s wife, Ellen White wrote: “Here is an example to all generations who should live upon the earth. … God will be a present help, and his Spirit a shield. Although surrounded with the severest temptations, there is a source of strength to which they can apply and resist them. How fierce was the assault upon Joseph’s morals. It came from one of influence, the most likely to lead astray. Yet how promptly and firmly was it resisted. … He had placed his reputation and interest in the hands of God. And although he was suffered to be afflicted for a time, to prepare him to fill an important position, yet God safely guarded that reputation that was blackened by a wicked accuser, and afterward, in his own good time, caused it to shine. God made even the prison the way to his elevation. Virtue will in time bring its own reward. The shield which covered Joseph’s heart, was the fear of God, which caused him to be faithful and just to his master, and true to God. He despised that ingratitude which would lead him to abuse his master’s confidence, although his master might never learn the fact.” — Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, p. 132.
Eighteen-year-old college student Roman Cardwell prayed a simple prayer before leaving home in Salem, a city in the U.S. state of Oregon.
“God, if you give me $100, I will buy stuff for the homeless,” he prayed.
As a full-time welding student, Roman didn’t have much money of his own. He didn’t tell anyone about his morning prayer.
Later that day he drove to the supermarket, grabbed an empty shopping cart, and began pushing it down an aisle. Finding a bag of bagels, he placed it in the cart. After that, he picked up a container of cream cheese to go with the bagels.
Then he looked down. His eyes widened in surprise. Lying in the cart was a crisp $100 bill. He blinked and picked up the money. The word “Benny” was written across it.
“Benny” is somewhat of a celebrity in Salem. For years, somebody named “Benny” has been going into local stores and sneaking $100 bills into shopping carts and purses or placing the money behind goods on the shelves. The unknown benefactor always writes the name “Benny” on the money, and it is believed that “Benny” has given away $50,000.
As soon as Roman stepped out of the supermarket, he called his father to tell him about his secret prayer and the unexpected answer.
“What do the homeless need most?” Roman asked. “I want to go shopping for them now.”
His father, Dale Cardwell, couldn’t have been happier. He is the pastor of Inside Out Ministries, a Seventh-day Adventist church in Salem that has more homeless members than members who have homes.
“We see miracles everyday as we minister to the gangs, homeless, and severely broken,” he said in an interview.
He has many questions for God about the remarkable answer to his son’s prayer: Who placed the money in the cart? Why was Roman’s cart chosen? Did God tell “Benny” about the prayer? What if Roman had asked for $1,000? What if we all made selfless requests to God?
James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (NIV).
While Roman and his father assist the marginalized in Salem, part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering with help a marginalized group — refugees — across the North American Division. You can be a “Benny” and plan a generous contribution.
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