Divine Patience with Our Spiritual Growth.

This passage shows the spiritual change of three individuals – Jacob, Judah, and Joseph. Two of them had made significant mistakes in their younger years, yet God showed patience with them. By His grace, they progressed in their maturity and now show virtues of obedience. This can encourage us not to measure spiritual growth by hours, a day, or even a month of a person’s life. Instead, look at big-picture growth. Do you know God more than you did a year ago? Are you more Christ-like?

Jacob – Trusting without Manipulating

Former schemer Jacob now found himself “cornered” by divinely orchestrated circumstances. He had no other choice but to trust. This is a difficult lesson for results-oriented people who are used to getting things done. Jacob’s family was the third generation hit with a famine, but he responded more appropriately than Abraham and Isaac had. He depends on God instead of taking things into his own hands.

Through his example of growth, Jacob’s children have been equipped to handle troubling circumstances. He isn’t enthusiastic about Judah’s idea, but he allows him to lead and adds some wisdom to the plan. We see four principles of spiritual growth in Jacob:

  1. Spiritual growth happens over time.
  2. Our greatest weakness can turn into a strength.
  3. It is valuable to seek the protection of the young and vulnerable. Jacob’s hesitation to let Benjamin go is more than playing favorites.
  4. Older saints must be ready to relinquish authority and opportunity to respectable replacements.
Judah – Obeying and not Compromising

“As a young man, Judah had certainly shown he had his father’s conniving DNA, but now we see him confronting matters of life and death with integrity.” Judah has had 2 years to grow and obey. This time, he does what is right without compromising. He respects his father and listens to his advice. He takes the lead ahead of his less-proactive brothers, for the good of their whole community. In doing so, he is guarding the purposes of God and protecting his family. And he steps up in a way that doesn’t offend the older generation of leaders.

Joseph – Adapting without Controlling

Joseph was catapulted “from prison to prince,” the lowest place to #2 ruler in the known world. As we saw last week, he adapted well and was always conscious of the spiritual needs of those around him. In Genesis 43:23, the words of Joseph’s steward show that he has learned about the God of Israel from Joseph’s witness. He could honor the culture without dishonoring God, and honor God without being an unnecessary offense to the culture.

Finally, the dream given Joseph in chapter 37 is fulfilled when his brothers bow down to him twice. Seeing God’s will come to pass is what most thrilled Joseph, because pleasing God was most important to him.

Here are several ways we can follow Joseph’s example:

  • Serve where you are. Use your spiritual giftedness and talents for God’s people and God’s purposes in the local church.
  • Be a giver, not a taker.
  • Always seek the good of others, not your own (Philippians 2).
  • Creatively design our lives to support these virtues above.

“Change” is not a word to fear for the Christian. It should mean growing more like Christ and knowing God more, not pragmatic change to please people. As our maturity grows deeper, the light of our witness to the world will grow brighter.

Tools for Further Study

A Hymn to Encourage: “Come, All Christians, Be Committed”

Come, all Christians, be committed
To the service of the lord;
Make your lives for him more fitted,
Tune your hearts with one accord.
Come into His courts with gladness,
Each his sacred vows renew,
Turn away from sin and sadness,
Be transformed with life anew.

Of your time and talents give ye,
They are gifts from God above;
To be used by Christians freely
To proclaim His wondrous love.
Come again to serve the Savior,
Tithes and off'rings with you bring.
In your work, with Him find favor,
And with joy His praises sing.

God's command to love each other
Is required of every one;
Showing mercy to one another
Mirrors His redemptive plan.
In compassion He has given
Of His love that is divine;
On the cross sins were forgiven;
Joy and peace are fully thine.

Come in praise and adoration,
All who in Christ's name believe;
Worship Him with consecration,
Grace and love you will receive.
For His grace give Him the glory,
For the Spirit and the Word,
And repeat the gospel story
Till mankind His name has heard.