Reading Genesis 37 today, two things jumped out of the text.
First, the deception of Jacob (Israel) by his sons, using Joseph’s coat and a slaughtered goat, mirrors the way Jacob earlier deceived his own father, using one of Esau’s best garments and the skins of young goats:
Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. (Genesis 27:15-16)
We are prone to repeat the sins of our fathers, aren’t we? There is only one answer. The gospel. Let’s jump ahead to the end of this story and read what Joseph said to his brothers later about this incident:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
In other words, Joseph will one day (many years later) look back on this event, an event he definitely did not understand at the time, and realize that there were two wills involved in him being sold into slavery – the will of his brothers to harm and the will of God to rescue. His brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous and angry. God allowed them to sell Joseph into slavery because He had a greater plan. The same brothers who sold Joseph into slavery in a fit of jealous rage will one day have to bow down to him (just as Joseph’s dream indicated) and ask him to save their family from a devastating famine. Although they thought they were doing harm to Joseph, they were really just instruments in the hands of a sovereign God to put Joseph in a position to save them later on. Likewise, Jesus was nailed to a cross by men who will one day have to bow down to him in judgment. He was dying for the sins of the very men who nailed him to the cross.
We go about our lives believing that we are acting as free agents, but thankfully the will of God in the gospel will ultimately prevail.