“O YHWH, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand.”
The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob is a strange story found in the Genesis record, full of mystery and significance. In terms of the Genesis record, the story of Joseph is one that gets a lot of “air time” in the account. It spans over 14 chapters (interspersed with other details of the affairs of Jacob’s family), and therefore makes up 28% of the total Genesis record. There is much for us to learn in these chapters and, as in all other Scriptural passages and details, we must prayerfully be seeking the truth of these things, and what it is that the Creator is truly seeking to show us therein. We can easily look at these details on a surface level and think that we “get the point” of what we’re supposed to be learning. This approach, however, is not the one that yields true wisdom and understanding. For wisdom, knowledge and understanding come from a very deliberate effort to seek understanding through determined effort, a willingness to open ourselves to truth, and by seeking YHWH’s direct help to assist us to see these things through His mind. (See Pro. 2:1-9)
There are many complexities in the story of Joseph, and therefore, its lessons are not necessarily one dimensional. It is not necessarily the topic of this post to discuss Joseph’s life at length, but simply to bring to light one particular point that is relevant to the topic of our discussion – in relation to understanding the answer to what is “the basis of true community.”
In Genesis 37 we find the following:
Since Jacob was very concerned about the behaviour of his other sons, he utilized Joseph to keep an eye on their affairs and to give him a report back on what it is that he discovers by being among them. Joseph was clearly favoured by Jacob over his brothers which created a disastrous situation among Jacob’s family. And, when Jacob’s sons were sent out with their flocks to a place called “Shechem,” Jacob began to wonder how they were doing, so he sent Joseph to find them and bring back his report. However, when Joseph arrived at Shechem, he found that his brothers were nowhere to be found. And the few details we find here in the context of these events are quite interesting and meaningful. It is interesting to note that there is no indication that Joseph prayed about what to do next in the record. He apparently did not seek Yah’s direction about what to do next. He appears to have been wandering aimlessly in a field.
“ Now a certain man found him (Joseph), and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, ‘What are you seeking?'” (v.15)
In fact, the Hebrew word that describes “wandering” is very significant; it is “ta`ah” – תָּעָה – and it carries the meaning of “to go astray, to err, to stagger (like a drunken man).” Clearly Joseph was not in a healthful, centered, Spiritually sound state. He was clearly not walking courageously in faith here. He was lost in this field, not knowing where to turn. And then a certain man found him. Who was this “certain man?” We’re simply not told, and though it is possible that it was an angel, as some have supposed – it is also possible that it would have been the landowner of the field who had been told that there was a man staggering around aimlessly, lost in his field (or possibly one of his servants).
The question and answer that is posed in this verse is very important, and should cause us to take note, and learn the importance of the lesson being taught to us. Joseph is asked “what are you seeking?” And, Joseph’s answer is “I am seeking my brothers, please tell me where they are feeding their flock.” Perhaps we may think that Joseph’s determination to seek his brothers is honorable and just. Yet, if this is the case, why was he “going astray” in the field looking for them? And, what awaited for him upon finding them would severely change the course of Joseph’s life forever. He was about to be seized by His brothers, thrown into a pit – crying out to his brothers who turned their ears away from his tears – and then finally sold into slavery. Yet, ahead of this, he had been so desperate to find them.
What is going on in the record here?
I believe that we need to really consider both the question and the answer that are recorded here for us. Because what we “seek” in life, is most often what we “find” – but it may not be what is best for us. In this case, Joseph’s “finding” what he was looking for – his brothers – brought about a disaster in his life. And, though in the end, by God’s wonderful grace, he was blessed with a prestigious position in Egypt, and with the valuable role of giving provision to the people of Egypt and surrounding countries (to the benefit of Egypt, of course) – it took him many years to become prepared for this leadership role.
“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, YHWH, I will seek.'” These are the words of David from Psalm 27 (v.8).
It would seem based on the narrative in Genesis 37, that Joseph was not exactly seeking the face of His Creator under these circumstances. Instead, he was seeking the face of his brothers – to his great detriment. We need to remember with these events that just because there is good that comes out of these events, we should not necessarily conclude that everything that occurred along the way was “God’s will” and was “good.” The Creator is so amazing, that He makes straight crooked paths, and can accomplish great things even out of our mistakes; yet we should not make the mistake of assuming that He meant for us to make those mistakes in the first place. He is so patient and merciful and loving that He still works with us to help us to grow, even with the mistakes that we make along the way. And, He has also recorded much of the mistakes of others in the Scriptural record, so that we can learn to do things differently – and seek Him first of all.
So, back to the story – we have no indication that Joseph was praying here, but rather that he was staggering around, lost. And his distraction within the context of his human appointed role within the family may very well have become a stumbling block to his faith and development in seeking the Leadership of His God, first and foremost. Perhaps it was the distance from His family that gave Joseph the opportunity to truly learn to put His trust in the Creator.
So, the question for each of us is the same: what do we seek? For thousands of years humans have been seeking the companionship of others, and to be an accepted member of community living. Yet, so many have made this their main priority in terms of their place in life, and this very fact has blocked them from seeking a True and authentic relationship with the Creator.
We all need community. We all need support. Many have studied the effects of having a supportive community verses lack of community – and have clearly found that a strong, supportive community leads to healthfulness, whereas a lack of community can easily get in the way of personal wellness.
This is why we have the declared statement in Genesis 2 that “it is not good for man to be alone.” This is primarily in reference to the provision of the marriage relationship, but it can also have application in a larger context. We were designed to be a part of a larger, harmonious community.
God has designed us to have a strong sense of need to connect with others. Yet, it can also be said that the people that we are surrounded by can easily get in the way of our relationship with the Creator. We are highly influenced by the people that we spend time around (again, as many studies have confirmed), and we tend to think and behave like those that we spend the most time with. There are many reasons for this, but its truth should not be underestimated.
Many of us have had to pull away from various communities because of this very phenomenon – as we have been driven to seek truth beyond that which we grew up with or that which is commonly accepted by those who we were associating with. In many ways, this has been the only way for us to truly be able to open ourselves up to Who the Creator is and who we really are.
Sometimes, as with the example of Elijah the prophet, who went on the long journey to Mt. Sinai to seek to understand His God – the journey of those truly seeking truth and the True God can be a lonely one. At least as far as having many other people alongside of us. Yet, this is the common situation that many of us have found ourselves in, in order to find that quietness we need to truly hear that “still small voice” that we are looking to hear. At the same time, I believe that our life will not always be filled with loneliness. Being alone in pursuit of God is a part of the process, but it is not necessarily a permanent situation; this is because as we get to know God, we also begin to learn what our life purpose is, and we tune into what we are here on the earth to do and to participate in. As we do this, we begin to understand what our role is among humanity, and how we need to be relating to others. We learn how to live outside of the competitive egocentric world we were brought up in – to run “in our own lane” and to bring loving value to others in a way that will truly benefit humanity and the earth. We learn our harmonious place, and we learn how to live in trust, rather than fear. We no longer fear the rejection of others, or not feeling good enough, for we put our faith in the Leadership of our God and in His loving Hand to uphold us, help us and teach us.
Of course, this is a process of development. We don’t want to “lean to our own understanding,” or “think that we stand” or feel that we’ve got it all figured out. We can tune into the fact that we don’t need to have all the answers, or have it all figured out, for that is why we put our trust in the Creator.
Essentially, what I am seeking to communicate here is this: the basis of true community is always the foundation of each person’s connection to the One Who leads us into our harmonious calling. True community always develops as a result of seeking the face of YHWH, and seeking the place that He has specially designed us for. When we do this, competition, ego, resentment, contention and fear disappears. We connect to our God, and by so doing we connect with our true, inward selves. Then as we do this, we can be open to share ourselves, and truly connect with others in an authentic, yet non-compromising way. We no longer feel we need to adhere to social norms and false niceties, but rather can seek to be kind, yet honest and true.
This is the perfect way, and though it is not the way of the present world, it is the world of the future. For, the Creator has promised us that it will be so. He has promised that all who remain will know Him, and that He will be the King over the whole earth. These are wonderful things to look forward to, and yet they are also truths that He is blessing us to begin to step into today, as a part of the process of complete fulfillment.
“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (Eze. 37:27)
“No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says YHWH.” (Jer. 31:34)
“In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom YHWH of hosts shall bless, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.'” (Isa. 19:24-25)
“For the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH As the waters cover the sea.” (From Isa. 11:9)
And so, let all of us say “Amen” who love YHWH, the God of heaven and earth. Praise His name – may He bless us as He truly gathers us – to know how to love, support and encourage one another along the way.
In sincere Shalom,