Sabbath School Lesson for July 31-August 6, 2021

Teresa’s YouTube channel about the lesson:

Overview for Lesson 6

There is a way to find rest in our family relationships, even those as dysfunctional as Joseph’s. We can do that by looking at…

  • what kind of dysfunctional behavior was in Joseph’s family (Sunday)
  • our choices that really make a difference in how our families bring us rest (Monday)
  • how to find our self-worth (Tuesday)
  • Joseph’s method of overcoming temptation (Wednesday)
  • remembering that God is with us, even through our difficulties and trials (Thursday)

The amount of restlessness, or dysfunction, in Joseph’s family might cause us to wonder how rest could ever be found in such a deplorable family setting. But there is a way to find rest amidst the harshest circumstances of life. Studying the example of Joseph helps us see how rest can be found by choosing God and recognizing His guidance and protection.

Memory Text: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:17, 18 NKJV

Rest is possible, even when family ties are painful and complicated. Whatever restlessness is created by our families can be overcome when our choices and feelings of self-worth include the presence of God. Choosing to surrender and obey His commandments must come from within. Our hearts long for the steady hand of our Creator, as we battle often-dysfunctional family ties.

It’s not enough to rely on the influence of our family, whether good or bad. Everyone is capable of being misled by wicked forces around him. It is possible to grow in grace, however, from whatever level we started with. God must receive all the glory, as He gently shapes our character and arranges the pieces of our shattered lives.

Sunday: Dysfunction at Home

Dysfunctional behavior could be found as far back as Joseph’s great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah. For many years, they had no children, no heirs. Abraham was finally convinced by Sarah that bearing children through her maid Hagar would be a socially-acceptable way out of their dilemma. But, the tension caused by this decision disturbed family relationships, as two sons, Ishmael, Hagar’s son, and Isaac, later born to Sarah, competed for their father’s favor.

Not surprisingly, the twins later born to Isaac and Rebekah would also find it necessary to compete for their father’s affection and the inheritance. Isaac’s preference for Esau, and Rebekah’s for Jacob, was a troubling situation that later split the family entirely and the two brothers separated for many years.

Jacob’s family life was complicated after he was tricked into marrying two sisters. There was such a frenzy in their childbearing competition that Rachel and Leah also convinced Jacob to bear children through their maidservants. Joseph, one of many children born to Jacob, was favored as the first son of Rebekah, the first and most-loved wife of Jacob.

The brothers of Joseph repeatedly caused family disruption by their unwise and ungodly behavior. Simeon and Levi massacred all the men in a town called Shechem, instead of honoring their agreement that one of the town’s men could marry their sister, if all the men there became circumcised (Genesis 34). His brother Reuben defiantly slept with one of his stepmothers (Genesis 35:22). Judah mistook his daughter-in-law for a prostitute, which later led to her being pregnant with twins (Genesis 38). And, of course, there’s the deception all the brothers lived with for so many years, when they angrily decided to sell their brother Joseph to traveling slave traders (Genesis 37).

Despite all the drama and dysfunction we read about in Joseph’s family, several of his ancestors are mentioned along with Joseph in Hebrews 11, known as the “faith chapter”. They are mentioned, not for their dysfunctional family ties, but in spite of them. This tells us a lot about the mercy and grace God has for all of us.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 37:3, 4

  • What caused Joseph’s brothers to be so envious and hateful?

Hebrews 11:17-22

  • Why are so many of Joseph’s family members recognized in this passage?

Monday: Choosing a New Direction

Imagine Joseph’s dispirited emotional and mental state as he traveled with the slave caravan to Egypt. So far, he had been cherished and protected by his father and mother. Sibling rivalry was always on the surface of exploding into family chaos; but the day Joseph was almost murdered and then, instead sold into slavery, must have felt like the lowest point in his young life.

Joseph suddenly had no family to share his burden, no community network to rely on. It seemed he was now utterly abandoned to his own misfortunate, uncertain future. But, Joseph had been taught about the Creator God of the universe. The faith-building stories told and retold by his parents would encourage him. He knew that God was still with him and would not forsake him, despite his difficult circumstances.

Some cultures rely heavily on individual choices, and others depend more on community influence. It’s easy to be swayed too much one way or the other, but a healthy balance is best. Corporate worship is important, but personal worship is also needed for a healthy religious experience that will get us through trials and difficult times. Sometimes, we find ourselves like Joseph. Left all alone. It’s times like those that we must have personal experience with God, our refuge and strength.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Deuteronomy 4:29, Joshua 24:15, and Isaiah 55:6

  • How do each of these verses support the idea and value of personal knowledge of God?
  • What does the expression mean: “God has only children, no grandchildren.”?

Tuesday: Finding True Self-Worth

Joseph must have felt conflicted growing up. His parents loved him openly and unconditionally, making him feel valued and worthy of love. But the rest of the family were quite the opposite. They openly and secretly devalued and looked down on him, especially after Jacob gave Joseph a special coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3).

Without parents or family of any kind on that journey with the slave caravan, Joseph had no where seemingly to look for his feelings of self-worth, except for the miserable role he now occupied as human property.

Our culture today would recommend we get our self-worth from within. We are told that we should love and accept ourselves as we are. As children of God, however, our self-worth comes from what God thinks of us. It’s important for us to see ourselves as God sees us. He sees us in all our sinfulness, but He does it with grace-tinted glasses. We are so valuable to our Father God, He sent His Son to die for us, despite all our shortcomings. Our true self-worth is quite priceless.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 37:3, 4

  • What were some of the emotions in Joseph’s family that led to their dysfunction and to Joseph’s being sold as a slave?

Psalm 69:8, John 1:11, and John 7:5

  • How does Joseph’s story remind us of Jesus’ family life?

Matthew 3:17

  • Where do we receive our true self-worth?

Wednesday: Doing Relationships God’s Way

Joseph’s choice to remain faithful to God was rewarded with a comfortable position of authority in Potiphar’s household. However, Joseph finds himself again in a family with problems. Potiphar’s wife repeatedly made advances on Joseph (Genesis 39:10). His refusals were finally used against him and he ended up in prison (Genesis 39:20).

Joseph’s reason for remaining faithful to God’s commands are indicated in Genesis 39:8, 9. He, like King David, recognized that such a sin would be a great disappointment to the God of his fathers (Psalm 51:4). Knowing that he was constantly living in God’s presence gave him the strength to do the right thing, even though it once again brought him more trial and heartache.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 39:9 and Psalm 51:4

  • How is God affected by our choices in life?

Matthew 5:43, 44

  • What kind of choice does God want us to make when it comes to dealing with our relationships?

Thursday: The Great Controversy, Up Close and Personal

Rest did not come easily for Joseph. First, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers; then Potiphar, with whom a trusting relationship had developed, again stole his freedom by throwing him into prison. It would have been a heavy burden for anyone.

But Joseph recognized the forces at work against him. Satan, who embodies all the evil in this world, was responsible for his trials and misfortune. It was the relationship that he had with God that sustained him and gave him peace and rest.

The promise in James 1:5 that God will give us wisdom was certainly claimed by Joseph during those bleak years following his service in Potiphar’s household. This wisdom enabled him to once again rise to a position of trust in the prison.

The story of how he asked for help from the king’s butler and baker after he interpreted their dreams was an indication that Joseph was humble and not above asking for help. Joseph was given God’s wisdom and he used it in forging relationships with all who were under his influence.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Genesis 39:21 and Ephesians 6:12-18

  • What kind of armor did Joseph use against Satan?
  • Why does Ephesians tell us to put on the WHOLE armor of God?

James 1:5

  • What kind of wisdom does God give us?
  • How are you using God’s wisdom?

Friday: Final Thoughts

A study of Joseph’s life, with all his dysfunctional family ties, demonstrates two essential truths:

  • One is that God does not forsake us, even through our most trying times in life. He was with Joseph through it all, because he chose God as his Friend.
  • And the second one is that sometimes difficulties prepare us for greater things in the future. We saw how that happened repeatedly in Joseph’s life. There were lows, but there were also highs that marked the events of his life journey. With sin in the world at large, this up and down experience must be expected.

Our family may be less than perfect in its bringing us the rest in God that all of us crave. But, there is another family that we hold dear. Ephesians 2:19 reminds us that we are members of the “household of God”. This means that our family also consists of our brothers and sisters in church. Even though our church family will also disappoint us at times (because, after all, they are human too) it widens our chances of finding true rest in Christ.

For this reason, it’s important to worship God corporately when possible, but also worship him during our private devotional time. This pandemic has brought new challenges to our worship practices. But at the same time, it’s reminded us that the church does not consist of a building, but actual human beings who can stay connected in ways unimagined by our ancestors.

As we struggle to find rest in whatever human “family” relationships that are available to us, let’s remember that even when it’s just God and us, we can achieve peace and rest far beyond our dreams. And we learn that from Joseph, the dreamer (Genesis 37:18, 19).

Next Week: Rest, Relationship, and Healing (Joseph, Part 2)

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