Joseph’s brothers, ten of the other twelve “tribes” of Israel hated him so much that they conspired together to kill him. Not to beat him or to bully their brother, but to commit murder. It was only Judah’s suggestion, self-motivated though it was, to sell him that spared Joseph’s life. After they sold him to the Ismaelites, the brothers decided the best way to handle this was not to tell their father the truth. Better for him to think he is dead than that Joseph was alive but sold into slavery. Let’s tell him that beasts devoured him, they say, and all that was left was this bloody coat. Well, that was a shred of the truth, but the only beasts that devoured Joseph were his brothers. We find another irony in their deception of their father that depended on goats’ blood. Years earlier, Jacob’s deception of his father Isaac depended on his brother’s cloak and two goat skins.
The final callousness of the brothers is breath-taking. When they arrived back in Hebron, they showed the bloody coat Jacob had given to his beloved son and say to him, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” They cannot even conceal their hatred for Joseph in the face of their father’s grief. They don’t call him “our brother,” but “your son.” They don’t console their father for his loss, but simply ask him to identify the evidence of it. Do you, umm, recognize this coat?
Jacob’s grief was profound. He identified the robe and said, “Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” He tore his garments, put on sackcloth, and mourned for many days. The whole family tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, saying, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Translation? Jacob had nothing to live for and indeed did not want to live. But his severe depression was based on a lie told to him by his sons. They lived with him for 20 years and let him continue in that false belief that his son was devoured by wild animals, and that he would never see him again until death. This lie shaped Jacob’s life, as any lie we believe will shape our life as well.
How do we make sure we are not living as a slave to a lie that someone told us, even a parent or a pastor or a teacher or a friend? Hold it up to what the Word says. If you grew up hearing that God only loves you if you dress a certain way or if you work really hard to do everything right and you are always happy and never struggle, that’s a lie that will shape your life, or “mis-shape it.” Hold it up to the truth of what the Bible really says. If on the other hand you grew up hearing the Word from your parents and the church and now you hear from others that it really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are true to yourself and your feelings, that also is a lie that will mis-shape your life. Hold it up to the truth of what the Bible really says. Jesus said it like this: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” You will be “put back into shape.”
The truth would have set Jacob free, but those who knew the truth withheld it from him. We must not do that with our children or our parents or our brothers and sisters in Christ. Or with our friends who are lost.