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Genesis 37:12-35


Intro: Have you ever experienced the heartbreak of a shattered dream? Everything was set! You were sure things were going to turn out a certain way, and then the bottom fell out from under everything.

        Maybe it was a child that did not turn out the way you envisioned. Maybe it was a financial setback that broke your heart. Maybe it was a marriage that did not go as you had dreamed it would. Life, it often seems, is a series of shattered dreams.

        When our dreams are shattered it often leaves us devastated, confused and upset. Sometimes we might be tempted to think that God has forgotten about us and about our dreams. We might even wonder if God has forgotten about the things He promised us in His Word.         

        I wonder how Joseph felt as the events of this passage worked themselves out. I wonder if he questioned the dreams God had already given him, Gen. 37:5-10. Surely, when his brothers ripped off his coat, threw him into a pit, ignored his pleas and sold him into slavery, Joseph must have felt like his dreams had all been shattered to pieces.

        I want to take a look at these verses today. If they teach us anything, they teach us that life can seem incredibly unfair at times. They teach us that our dreams can be put to the test. They teach us that life doesn’t always go like we think it will. These verses have a lot to say to us today.

        Besides speaking to us about our dreams, they also speak to us about the harsh nature of sin, when it is allowed to reign in hearts and lives. But, in the end, these verses also remind us that even when the dreams of our lives lie about us in shattered pieces, God is still in control! If God gave the dream to begin with, He is able to guarantee that it will become a reality.

        So, today, let’s look into these verses and glean the truths that God has placed here. I want to take these verses and preach on The Heartbreak Of A Shattered Dream. Let’s try to get some help from the life of Joseph today.


  I.  v. 12-14   JACOB’S DEMAND

A.  His Command – Jacob want Joseph to go and check on the welfare of his brothers. They are off, away from the family, tending their father’s sheep. There are a couple of reasons why Jacob was concerned about his sons.

1.  They were in Shechem. It was here that Simeon and Levi had murdered an entire village to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah, Gen. 34:1-31. Surely there was anger in that region and Jacob feared for their safety.

2.  His sons had proven that they were not trustworthy. Joseph had already had to bring his father an “evil report” regarding some of his brothers whole they were on shepherd duty. Jacob was probably wondering what evil they were up to now.

Jacob sends Joseph because he can be trusted to do the right thing and to tell his father the truth.

B.  His Confusion – Evidently Jacob was out of touch with all that was happening in his own family. Jacob appears to have been a father who was occupied with things other than the needs of his family. Had he been paying attention, he would have known that Joseph’s older brothers hated him. He would have known that their hatred had been growing and had reached a point that they couldn’t even speak to him in a kind manner, v. 4.

     Either Jacob was out of touch with his family or he underestimated the extent of the problems in his own home. He may have known what was happening but believed that the other boys were not capable of harming Joseph. As we will see, not only were they capable of harming him, they were capable of murder!


(Ill. If there is a lesson for us here it is this: Parents should pay close attention to what is happening in the lives of their children. You need to know who their friends are. The Bible is clear: the wrong kind of friends can ruin a life and destroy a testimony, 1 Cor. 15:33. You need to know how they are spending their time and money. You need to know what is happening in their lives. You need to know what they are looking at on the Internet. You need to know what they are text messaging on their cell phones. You have a right to know!

Children will demand their privacy, but as long as they live in your house, their business is your business. Passive parents will pay a high price for allowing their children do as they please.)



A.  v. 13  It Was Immediate – Without question Joseph accepts his father’s assignment and leaves to go find his brothers. He knows the risks, but obedience to his father’s commands is his first priority.


(Ill. In this regard Joseph is a type of Jesus. When Jesus came into this world, He was sent by His father, but He came willingly. Jesus did not have to be forced to come into this world to die for sinners. He came because it was His Father’s foreordained and determinate will.)


(Ill. Our lives ought to be marked by the same level of obedience. When God speaks, we should respond humbly and immediately to carry out His will. Nothing demonstrates our love for Jesus any more than out willing obedience to His will, John 4:15; 1 John 5:2-3.)


(Ill. By the way, had Jacob and Joseph known that when they said goodbye to one another it would not be for a few days, but for twenty years, would their parting have been different? It is in God’s great mercy that the future was hidden from them and from us! I praise the Lord that I do not know the future!)


B.  v. 15-17  It Was Insistent – When Joseph arrived in Shechem, he did not find his brothers there. A man tells him that they left Shechem and have gone to Dothan. Many people might have concluded that they had fulfilled their obligation when they could not find their brothers in the place their father sent them too. Many would have turned around and gone home. Not Joseph! His father wanted to know the welfare of his sons and he wanted word brought back to him. Joseph wanted to carry out the will of his father, even if it meant going beyond the original command.


(Ill. Again, Joseph is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world to seek the lost sheep of Israel. He pursued them with steadfast love, but they rejected Him out of hand. He continued to pursue them, eventually dying on a cross to open the way of salvation for all who would come to Him by faith. Jesus was not deterred by man’s rejection and hatred. He loved sinners and died to set them free!)


(Ill. We should have that same desire within our own hearts. Nothing should be able to prevent us from accomplishing our Father’s will for our lives. Regardless of the cost, to pain or the opposition, we should seek to serve Him and be everything He saved us to be. I don’t know about you, but I want to reach the end of my journey knowing I did everything He told me to do to the fullest extent possible!)



A.  v. 18-20  The Brother’s Plot – When Joseph arrives in Dothan his brothers see him coming. The hatred began in their hearts had found fertile soil and had grown into a desire to murder their own brother. Had these men arrested sin when it first began to grow in their hearts, this whole episode would have been avoided. They didn’t! They allowed dislike to grow into full blown hatred and a desire for murder.

                The true nature of these men is on full display in these verses.  First, they have a desire in their hearts to kill Joseph. They hate him so much that they are willing to put him to death to get rid of him! Then they ridicule him because of his words. They call him “this dreamer”. There is not a hint of brotherly love in their voices. They are so calloused that they want to kill him and toss his body into a pit! They even devise a plan to cover up their deed! They believe that they can derail Joseph’s dreams if they can just kill him. These men have no concept of the sovereign power of God!


(Ill. Of course, this is what would happen to Jesus when He came. The people He came to save rejected Him, John 1:11, and hated Him for His words, Matt. 26:65-66. They rejected His message and they desired to see Him dead. They believed that killing Jesus would put an end to His message. They were dead wrong! Oh, they saw to it that He died, but they couldn’t see that His death would accomplish more than His life. They could not see that He would get up from the dead three days later.)


(Ill. We would all do well today to examine our hearts. If there are the seedlings of sin that are beginning to grow in our souls, they need to be removed now. If they are left alone, they will grow into mighty tress with deep roots. Getting them out will be hard work and will leave incredible damage behind. Remember, it’s “the little foxes that spoil the vines”, Song 2:15.)


B.  v. 21-25a  Reuben’s Proposal – Reuben displays his nature too. He is weak and vacillates from one position to another, Ill. Gen. 49:4. He is like water, totally unstable.

On the one hand he has more reason to hate Joseph than any of the other brothers. He knows that Joseph has been chosen to take his place as the head of the family. On the other hand, Reuben knows that he has a responsibility to protect his little brother, if at all possible.

He tells the rest that they should not kill Joseph, but just throw him in a pit in the desert and let him die of starvation and thirst. Of course, Reuben is planning to rescue Joseph when the other brothers are not around. Again, the hatred of the rest of the brothers is evident in the fact that they were willing to go along with this plan.  What a wicked bunch of men this was!

C.  v. 25b-28  Judah’s Plan – These men are so calloused that they throw their brother into a pit and then sit down to eat their lunch. There is no record of Joseph’s crying or begging for help in these verses, but Gen. 42:21 makes it clear that Joseph cried out and they turned a deaf ear to his pleas.

Apparently, Reuben had to leave and go elsewhere. And while he is gone some Midianite merchants pass by. They are heading toward Egypt to sell their wares. Judah convinces the other brothers that they should at least sell Joseph and not kill him. After all, he is their brother, v. 27. The rest of the brothers like this idea and that is just what they do.

Joseph is sold for “twenty pieces of silver”, v. 28. That was the price of a crippled slave. His brothers sold him like he was a piece of trash! They sold him for 8 ounces of silver! This comes to $98.24 in today’s money!

The brothers are so unfeeling and so filled with hatred for Joseph that they sell him to the merchants and watch him hauled away as a common slave! Psa. 105:17-18 tell us that Joseph’s experience as a slave was anything but pleasant!


(Ill. Again, Joseph is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was hated by His brethren and He was also betrayed by someone who should have loved Him. He also was betrayed for price of a slave, Matt. 26:15-16. Praise the Name of the Lord that He loved us so much that He endured such shame and hatred and still He died to save people like us! Ill. Heb. 13:2-3!)


D.  v. 29-30  Reuben’s Panic – When Reuben returns, he finds that Joseph is gone! He panics because he knows his father will blame him. Reuben has been on the outs with Jacob ever since he committed adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah. These verses give us a little hope that Reuben is maturing into something resembling a leader.


IV.  v. 31-35  JACOB’S DESPAIR

A.  v. 31  The Brother’s Scheme – Again, these brother conspire together to cook up a plan. This time, they are out to deceive their father. They take the despised coat and dip it in the blood of a goat and take home to Jacob.


(Ill. One lie always leads to another! When you tell on untruth, it will not be long before you will have to cover the first by telling a second and then a third and then a fourth. The best policy is to always tell the truth, regardless of the personal cost!)


B.  v. 32  The Brother’s Severity – There is no compassion for their father in their words. They bring him the bloodstained coat and they ask him to identify it. These men have no heart! They care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement in the family!


(Ill. The world is filled with people just like that. They do not care who they have to step on to achieve their goals. They do not care what they have to do to reach the top of the heap. They care for nothing but getting their own way all the time, and they do not care who they hurt in the process.

Something is desperately wrong with a person like that! Most likely they are not saved. Most definitely they are not displaying Christlikeness in their life. Our walk with the Lord is to be marked by a desire to place others ahead of self, Phil. 2:3-4. Our walk is to be marked by a desire to ease the burdens borne by others, Gal. 6:2. Our walk is to be marked by a Christlike love for those around us, Matt. 22:39; 1 John 3:14; 4:8; 4:20.)


C.  v. 33-35  Jacob’s Sorrow – Of course, Jacob recognizes the court. He knows it belongs to Joseph and he immediately assumes that his beloved son is dead, having been killed by wild animals. Jacob is heartbroken falls into the depths of despair. He refuses to be comforted by his family, vowing to grieve to the day he joins Joseph in death. These cold, calloused men have broken their father’s heart and they do not care!


D.  v. 35  The Brother’s Shame – These hardhearted men reveal their hypocrisy by trying to comfort their father in his grief. Not a single one of these cowards had the courage to stand up and tell Jacob the truth!

In the end, however, their father was in better shape than they were. He lived every day with grief; they lived every day with guilt! The knowledge of what they had done ate at them until they faced Joseph with the truth years later.


(Ill. That is the power of guilt! It will eat at you until the problem is dealt with. The best thing you and I can do with our wrongs is to make them right if we can. We need to apologize to people we have offended. We need to restore what we have taken. We need to get honest about our sins. That is the only way to get rid of guilt, 1 John 1:9; Pro. 28:13.)


Conc: This is a sad place to step out of this story. Joseph is gone, sold as a slave, and headed off to Egypt in chains. Jacob is heartbroken and inconsolable. The beloved son of his wife Rachel; his choice to be the head of his family upon his death is gone. The brothers are guilty of a terrible sin against their brother, their father, their family and their God. They are being eaten alive by guilt. A prosperous, promising family has been plunged into the depths of gloom and hopelessness. It would appear that Joseph’s great dreams are at an end. They will never come to pass. At least, that’s what they think!

        Behind the scenes of this terrible tragedy moves the unseen hand of God’s sovereignty. What appears to be a hopeless situation is merely setting the stage for hope in the future!

        There is a word here for us as well! There will be times when things appear hopeless. There will be times when the shattered pieces of our dreams will lie all around us. In times like that we must not despair! Instead, we must cling to the precious promises of our great God, Rom. 8:28; Psa. 37:23; Job 23:10. We must understand that despite how things appear to our human eyes and reasoning, God has a plan and nothing can derail that plan!

        Some of you are looking at what you think are shattered dreams right now. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to weep and mourn like Jacob? Or, are you going to cling to God’s promise and trust that the Judge of all the earth will do right? Bring your shattered dreams to Jesus right now and let Him give you help in dealing with them. Let Him give you hope in hanging on to them.

        We do not want to miss Jesus in all this! The people He came to, the nation of Israel rejected Him and pushed Him away. They pushed Him and pushed Him until they had pushed Him to an old rugged cross. When they saw Him die, they claimed the victory, while His disciples grieved over a certain defeat. Just like Joseph’s brothers, the very one who they desired to kill turned out to be their Savior!

        They threw the Savior into the pit of death and buried His body. Three days later, He came out of that tomb victorious over all His enemies! He fulfilled the dreams of the Father and of His followers. He fulfilled your dreams and mine too.

        Do you have any dreams you need help with today? If so, come talk them over with Jesus right now!

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