Fields of Regret - A Reflection on Genesis 37:12-36

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The idea that a good God can use the evil of trauma as well as the trauma of evil, either one equally well, and make it work into something good is an irreconcilable thought. It is hard to understand why God would even choose to allow evil. If God is good, why doesn’t He intervene before we become victims? We are vulnerable. He is almighty.

Joseph has a cool coat that shouts “boss’s kid.” I worked with a guy who was the boss’s son once. There is no need to bore you with the details of the experience. But if I could have sold him into slavery on the black market I probably would have. Maybe Joseph had it coming. Maybe I have issues. But the typical boss’s kid is na├»ve to the fact that all the other employees loathe his father’s favoritism. The boss’s kid thinks all the other guys love having lunch with him. What he doesn’t understand is that in their minds they are pricing him for the black market as they enjoy a sandwich. The boss’s kid doesn’t work as hard or as long as everyone else, but yet he is promoted. He is promoted because he wears the cool jacket, or maybe just a name tag, that says “boss’s kid.” Even more demeaning is the jacket means one day he will be your boss. And he thinks you are glad for him and that you like his stupid jacket.

The last time Joseph went to check on his brothers he brought a bad report of them to his father. In the next verse in the Bible Joseph gets the jacket. And here he comes again, probably wearing his jacket, on his way to check on his brothers. Even worse, Joseph probably believes his brothers are glad to see him and his stupid jacket.

When Joseph arrived to the place where his brothers were to be, they were not there. This would have been a great time for Joseph to use the company credit card, get a room, have a nice meal and forget about it. But he doesn’t. He begins to search. The Bible says a man found Joseph wondering in the field. He asked Joseph what he was seeking. Joseph told him he was looking for his brothers and he implored the man to tell him where they were feeding the flocks. Ironically, the man in the field is the very man who knows the answer to Joseph’s question. Ironically, the man knows exactly where Joseph does not need to be.

The man in the field pointed Joseph to the place where he would become a victim.

When Joseph found his brothers they would destroy his boss’s son jacket and they would attempt to destroy his dream by destroying him. The brothers hated the jacket. The brothers hated the dream. The brothers hated Joseph. They would think about killing him, but murder is cheap. Judah had a better idea. Why not sell Joseph as a slave and make some money. So they threw Joseph in a pit, stole his jacket, and ate a sandwich – a heartless, calloused sandwich. It wasn’t long until slave traders came by, paid the price of a defective slave, and took Joseph, at age seventeen, away. The brothers took the jacket, dipped it in goat’s blood and deceived their father into thinking that his favored son, the boss’s kid, had been killed by a wild beast.

At seventeen Joseph was abused by his family. Where was God?

If there is a God who is worthy of the theology of Scripture, then nothing happens by chance. So where was God when “by chance” there was a guy in a field who knew exactly where Joseph didn’t need to be?

One night outside Jericho Joseph met a man who told him how to win a war (Joshua 5).

Abraham met three men who told him he would have a baby in his old age (Genesis 18).

Jacob wrestled with a man through the night. In the morning he realized he had not wrestled a man, but that he had met God (Genesis 32).

In each of these stories, Abraham, Jacob, and Joshua met a man at a pivotal moment of their life. These “chance” meetings drastically changed their lives, in a good way. In each case we are led to believe that these men actually met God in the form of a mysterious man. Joseph met a man in a pivotal moment of his life; he was drastically changed, but in a bad way. Who was the man Joseph met in the field? Where was God?

Every single one of us could post a sign at a pivotal moment of our life that says, “This is my field of regret.” Maybe it’s a person we wished we had never met, a place we should not have gone, the wrong place at the wrong time. In that field you were victimized. All of us have moments we would like to change, because those moments drastically changed us. If we knew then what we know now things would be different.

If God is sovereign does this mean that if you could have controlled what happened in the field of regret that you could have done a better job handling the situation than He did? This is the very reason most people choose not to believe in God. At a moment God could have prevented they met a man with the wrong information. At a pivotal moment they were abused, they suffered loss, they were hurt. It seems to them as if a sovereign God failed. Therefore, they can do a better job with life without faith. At a moment they needed God to intervene, there was nothing but evil. And that is an irreconcilable thought.

But the story of Joseph is not over. If you are reading this, neither is yours.

In life there is more than one pivotal moment.

There are other fields.

Fields bloom.

Joseph is now in Egypt. As long as Joseph is not dead the dream is alive. As long as Joseph is alive everything God told him in the dream is still possible. God has a beautiful way of using trauma to take you to a place you otherwise would not go, or maybe could not go. Being sold as a slave by your brothers is not good. Being pawned by slave traders to an Egyptian officer is not good. No one wants to feel cheap much less actually be cheap. But being in Egypt, for Joseph and even for his brothers, will become a very good thing.

You are still alive. With God all things are possible.

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Alex said…
What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.
Brian Branam said…
Alex, honestly Obadiah's interpretation does not represent the Biblical story at all, I would hardly call it literal, but closer to revisionist. From a literary standpoint, the idea of a practical joke does not fit well into the thematic context of Scripture - one man dies (redemptively) so that others may live. The plot of the Joseph story does not actually center around Joseph, but rather on the redemption of the chosen family, namely Judah. This is the story of how God preserved the bloodline of redemption through the apparent death and picturesque rise of Joseph from the pit, just as Jesus died and rose again so that we (and primarily Israel) may be saved.

Thanks for reading Alex, I hope to hear from you again soon.

Gal. 2:20

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