And where did the birthright end up? Well when Jacob ( and Reuben, because nobody ever told him that Joseph had been sold) thought Joseph had been killed/been murdered, at that point it would go back to the house of Leah- but the problem there was that Simeon and Levi had also disqualified themselves, because of their sister. Dinah had been "defiled" by a certain uncircumcised neighbor, who wanted to marry her. The brothers (Jacob strangely absent from yet another family decision) told the guy and his father that they could not allow the marriage unless they and their whole people were circumcised. And while they recovered from the mass operation, Simeon and Levi killed them all. And thus the birthright bounced to Leah's 4th son, Judah. Judah, like Reuben, had been of a mind to keep Joseph from being killed by the others, suggesting instead, "Why not get something out of him?" and selling him to the slave traders. Somehow or another, selling his brother and lying about it wasn't overt enough to get him DQed as well, and the birthright ended up right where God intended it to be.
Wait a minute, Chris. Are you saying that God allowed all those bad things to happen in order to position Judah for the birthright- to become the tribe through which the Messiah would come?
Well, we are talking about the God who allowed Abraham to have a son by a slave and then kick him out to get to Isaac. And He did allow Jacob to cheat both Esau and Isaac to get HIS birthright. And He did allow Laban to cheat Jacob, so that Jacob's eventual heir would be his 11th son. But there's another step in this point- which is, God WILL allow bad things into your life to get you into position for His blessings. Let's backtrack along the day that Joseph got sold, in Genesis 37.
Gen 37:12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem.
Gen 37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
Gen 37:14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
Now at this point, Jacob already knew the animosity growing amongst his sons about Joseph. But he still sent Joseph to go check on them that day. But when Joseph got to where they were...
Gen 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
Gen 37:16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
Gen 37:17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Here Joseph went to where he expected to find them, and they were gone. So he "wandered in the field", confused. He had no idea where the brothers had gone. At this point, he might have turned around and went home, and told dear ol' Dad, "I couldn't find them." But "A CERTAIN MAN" found him.
Now here's where I'll go out on a limb. In Jacob's past, he had one night wrestled with "a man." This man is certainly recognized by many as the pre-incarnate Jesus. And his "What seekest thou?" certainly reminds one of John 1:38, when John and James began to follow Jesus and He turned and asked them, "What do ye seek?" Circumstantial, I know, and none of the commentators seem to agree with me. But the proof is in the pudding: this "certain man"- a man with no other reason given for being there and no further mention after- tells Joseph exactly where to go to find his destiny. A short term destiny of being assaulted by his brothers, left to starve while they ate dinner, sold into slavery, and reported to be dead. A short term destiny that led through even more trials to him not only becoming rich and powerful, BUT also the savior of his family.
Was the "certain man" another pre-incarnate Jesus sighting? Doesn't matter; he was used one way or another to put Joseph into the position that God wanted him. And therein lies the point of this message. God often uses catastrophes to put us in a position of greater grace and faithfulness. And just as He had with Joseph through his dreams, God often gives us the barest glimpse of what lies on the other side of the trial- just enough to get us to keep moving towards the light at the end of the tunnel. And, like with Joseph, sometimes that light is a series of ever-increasing "oncoming trains". But they all end up taking us where He wants us to be- and preparing us for what we are to do on the other side.
The other day when we discussed what the Pope said about evolution, he mentioned that God "didn't wave a magic wand." Even though He could, God prefers to be a craftsman, carving and whittling until we rise from the cuts and the chips to be something really special. When Jesus cried out, "My God, why have You abandoned Me?", He did it because God had indeed withdrawn from Him so He could become "sin in the sinner's stead." When we say it, most times we just haven't looked ahead or behind to see how close He really is.