Dr. Gary Baker is a freelance columnist for The and Paso Robles Press; you can e-mail him at [email protected]

I would like to begin a series of messages to explore the character of the life of Patriarch Joseph. I currently preach on this topic in my Sunday morning sermons, which have had a positive resonance with my congregation. I believe this is because the Bible records real and historical events in people’s lives that have very real practical lessons for our lives today.

The nature and behavior of man have changed little over the centuries. The Bible contains the truth about many of life’s problems and their solutions. It is very helpful in overcoming some of life’s dilemmas. The Life of Joseph is an excellent commentary on the causes of a dysfunctional family and how Joseph overcame this serious problem by showing forgiveness, kindness, mercy and grace.

Joseph was one of the twelve sons of the famous patriarch Jacob, whose father was Isaac and grandfather was Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation (Genesis 12-30). Joseph was part of a large family that included Jacob’s four wives, twelve sons and one daughter. One of the main problems that caused the dysfunction of Jacob’s family was jealousy and envy caused by an attitude of rivalry.

Jacob’s wives compete for his love and favors. His sons compete with each other because of Jacob’s preference for his son Joseph. Much of the responsibility for the creation of Jacob’s dysfunctional family lies in Jacob’s extraordinary love and favoritism toward Joseph. Jacob’s favorite wife was Rachel, and their oldest son was Joseph.

Jacob’s favoritism caused a serious problem of rivalry between the hated siblings. Jacob is remembered for making a colorful tunic for Joseph, exclusively for his beloved son. It is amazing how Jacob’s favoritism caused such serious emotional problems among his other sons. They could not tolerate Joseph, and their jealousy turned into hatred. This long-standing hatred made Joseph’s brothers want to kill their brother. God did not allow this to happen, but He allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery and taken to Egypt.

One of the great lessons of Joseph’s life is how God blessed him and provided for his needs. God had a wonderful plan to fulfill by sending Joseph to Egypt. God had a wonderful way of changing the results of evil by treating people who do hateful things. A study of Joseph’s life will show how God acted during the tragedies Joseph experienced and made him a kind and forgiving man. God can overcome problems of dysfunction in any circumstance. In the following letters we learn how this happened in the life of Joseph. God allowed Joseph to overcome the problems of jealousy, anger and hatred. Today God can also enable us to overcome abuse by teaching us to be forgiving.

Here’s how:

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