Tag Archives: siblings

Distraction from the main thing – Characters: David & Goliath, Part 2

26 Nov
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Have you ever had this happen: you’re in the office drafting an email about an rather tricky interpersonal relationship in your company, and you have a flash of brilliance. You’re about to solve the problem. As you’re typing your thoughts, the phone rings. You answer it, and the call lasts for a few minutes. That’s not very long, but long enough to divert your attention. You hang up the phone, turn your eyes back to the email, remember that you were on to something good, but you have no recollection of that thought. It’s gone. The phone call distracted you.

Distraction is rampant in our world. In our examination of David and Goliath, we’re going to see how distraction rears its ugly head. Watch David, though, and perhaps we might learn a thing or two about how to deal with distraction in the middle of important or tense situations.

In Part 1, we set the stage for our famous story. David vs. Goliath. But so far we’ve only met Goliath, this hulk of a man who struck fear in the hearts and minds of the armies of Israel. Now, as we continue the story as told in 1st Samuel, chapter 17, verse 12-24, the scene shifts from the battlefront back to the town of Bethlehem, which is where David’s family lives.

We learn that David’s father, Jesse, is well-advanced in years, and David’s three oldest brothers were serving in the army. Jesse gives David some food to take to his brothers who were in the army with Saul.  David takes the food from Bethlehem to the battle ground, and he gives the food to the keeper of supplies.

Then David runs to the battle lines and greets his brothers. At the same time, Goliath steps out from the Philistine side and calls for an Israelite to fight him, like Goliath has been doing each day, morning and evening, for 40 days.  As they have done every one of those 40 days, the army of Israel runs from Goliath in great fear. 

There is David watching all this.  We think David is in the vicinity of 16 years old at this time.  I’m guessing he is wide-eyed, as this situation plays out in front of him.  We don’t know if this was all new for David.  Maybe he had observed the army before, but maybe this was his first time with his brothers and the army.

In verses 25-27 it seems that, though Goliath had been defying the army of Israel for 40 days, this was the first that David is learning about it.  Look at what David says in verse 26:

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Hear that?  From David’s mouth, a beacon of trust in God in the middle of what had been nothing but fear for 40 days.  David is incredulous that anyone, even a massive giant like Goliath, has been allowed to defy God.  It is a glimmer of righteous anger, of a new day. 

Before we get too excited about David, though, we need to remember that David’s three oldest brothers are right there too.  Imagine how they felt when their little teenager brother starts in with his righteous anger!  David’s questions, whether he meant it this way or not, are essentially confronting his brothers too for not stepping forward to fight Goliath!  And if you have siblings, you know how that could go over.  You think his oldest brother, Eliab, is going to look at David and say, “Thank you, little brother.  Thank you for asking those hard questions.  Thank you for pointing out our weakness and our failings.  I needed that.  I will go fight Goliath.”  Ha!

Not a chance.  Here’s what Eliab says in verse 28:

“Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

Oh man, Eliab is hot. It is entirely possible that he is not just making stuff up to get at David because he was embarrassed that his little brother called him out.  It could be that Eliab had watched David for years and knew this was a tendency in David.  Maybe David was nosy, maybe he was annoying to his older brothers.  We don’t know.  It could be that Eliab is just angry that David confronted him, and so he is playing it off by accusing David of being irresponsible with the sheep, and just coming to the battle to be entertained.  Eliab has a point. David could have left the food with the keeper of supplies and returned to Bethlehem.  But he didn’t.  He ran to the battle lines.  His brothers know this.  They probably saw David do this kind of thing back in Bethlehem many times.  This is such normal sibling drama. 

How will David respond?  Look at verse 29.  At first he responds exactly like you would expect in a sibling fight: “Now what have I done?”  That line is loaded with history.  You only say that if you’ve been confronted many times before.  So this was clearly a repeat issue between David and his brothers.  Then he says, “Can’t I even speak?”  Also a loaded statement, right?  My guess is that David had opened his mouth in front of his brothers many times, and they didn’t appreciate it.  We are on the brink of a full-blown fight between brothers, which is kinda crazy when you consider that the setting is a battle between two armies, and Goliath is out there in the middle calling for someone to fight him.  But just as quickly as the fight between David and Eliab flares up, it is done, because David makes a very interesting choice at this point. 

Look at verse 30.  David turns away.  It seems he knows nothing productive will happen in a spat with Eliab, so he shuts it down and moves on.  Wise move.  Siblings, are you paying attention to David?  Most sibling fights are totally unproductive and unnecessary. So David chooses to disengage, to turn away. But David is far from done.  He could just take Eliab’s words as a verbal spanking and return to Bethlehem in frustration.  Instead, he moves away from the distraction of his brothers because there is a much more important matter at hand: the defiant enemy giant, Goliath.  And David is incredulous that no one is stepping up.

In the next post, David faces even more distraction!

Do you have family drama? Characters – Joseph, Part 1

28 Oct

Family drama.  None of your families have drama, right?  Yeah, mine neither. 

(I hope you don’t believe that.)

Actually, family drama is the stuff of life. We all have it. 

Think about all the words we use to describe it.  Some of you might remember the classic line from the sitcom Friends, “We were on a break!”  Broken. It is a word that points to relationships that used to be close, but something happened.  It isn’t just boyfriends and girlfriends that break up.  It is sadly, also parents, kids, siblings. 

Another word commonly used to describe family drama is calling a person the black sheep.  Do you have black sheep in your family?  Have you ever been the black sheep?  Today we’re going to meet someone whose brothers treated him like a black sheep.   How did he handle it? 

We’ve started a series called Characters, looking at how God uses flawed people. This week we are looking at a guy named Joseph.

Last week we met Joseph’s father, Jacob.  We skimmed very quickly over the section where Joseph was born. Imagine with me for a minute what it would be like for Joseph to be born into his specific family.   He’s got 10 older brothers.  But they’re not all from the same mom. In fact, there are actually four moms in the family.  And all four moms live together in the same family!   That’s right, his father Jacob had four wives.  That’s called polygamy.  As I mentioned last week, polygamy happens in the Old Testament.  Not that God approves of it.  There it was in Joseph’s family.  What you need to know is that Joseph’s mom was Rachel, and of his father Jacob’s four wives, Rachel was Jacob’s first love and favorite.  Joseph was their first son.  Joseph also has a younger brother, Benjamin, but get this: during Benjamin’s birth, sadly, their mother Rachel dies.  That is family Joseph grows up in.  Imagine Joseph, growing up with no mom, a younger baby brother, three step moms (if you can call them that), 10 older half-brothers, and at least one half-sister in there too. And you think your family has issues!  Believe it or not, the drama is about to get even worse for Joseph.

If you want to follow along in your Bible, open it to Genesis 37.  In the beginning of chapter 37, we learn that Joseph is now 17 years old, and he is his father’s favorite son.  Why?  Well, remember that Jacob loved Joseph’s mom, Rachel, more than any of his other three wives, and Joseph was Rachel’s firstborn.  So even though Joseph has a whole bunch of older brothers, Jacob looks to Joseph as the special one.  He even gives Joseph a special cloak to wear. 

We often refer to this as the coat of many colors.  What kind of coat was this?  Rainbow colored?  Richly ornamented?  Likely, Joseph’s coat was long-sleeved and had skirts, which was not conducive for work, and thus a sign that he might have been exempted from work, or didn’t do much work.  His brothers had coats too, but theirs would have been short-sleeved, with no skirts, thus suitable for work. The special coat would normally have been given to the firstborn as sign of honor.  In this case Jacob gave the coat to his 11th born, and that’s a recipe for family drama.

In Genesis 37:2-11 we see numerous story elements that set up a great divide between Joseph and his brothers.  Read this passage and look for the family drama.

Did you see them?  I see four. 

First in verse 2, Joseph brings to his father a negative report about his brothers. He’s tattling!  And when the one who is younger and isn’t working tells on the older ones who are working, what happens?  Good feelings?

Next in verse 3 we read how their father Jacob (also named Israel) loved Joseph.  The brothers saw it.  I suspect most families have conversations where the children say to the parents, “So and so is your favorite,” and the parents disagree, of course.  In this case, it was obvious.  There was no disagreeing.

Third, in verse 4 we read that the brothers are very angry about Joseph being the favorite, even hating him. They were unable to speak to him on friendly terms. There was a lot of intense emotion.

Finally, and here is the kicker, look at verses 5-11 again.  Joseph has multiple dreams and he tells the dreams to his family explaining that they describe his superiority over his brothers and father.   None of them, including his father, are happy about this.

As I read this, I have to ask, was Joseph arrogant?  You know how a favorite child can own their favoritism and get a big head about it?  Is that happening inside Joseph?  Does the fact that he revealed such a confrontational kind of dream, and not once, but multiple times, show that Joseph is prideful?  Possibly.  We don’t know for sure.  Or was he just angry at his brothers’ meanness to him, trying to be vengeful to them?  We don’t know.  At the very least, I don’t believe he handled this right.  He could have kept the dreams quiet.  Or he could have told them only to his father, asking for advice on how to handle it.  We would counsel people in a similar situation to handle their families differently from how Joseph handled his brothers.  But we have to remember that he was 17, and he probably struggled with their anger toward him.  Younger siblings often look up to their older siblings, and here is Joseph getting nothing but bitter anger from them? That would be hard to take, even for someone much older than a 17 year old.

Clearly, there was family drama, and Joseph doesn’t seem to be helping things. As a result the drama is far from over, and actually only gets worse. How do we decrease the drama? If you want to remove drama from your family’s life, check back in to the next post as we follow what happens in Joseph’s family.

Birthright & Blessing (or ripping off your siblings) – Characters: Jacob, Part 2

22 Oct
Photo by Ting Tian on Unsplash

I have a family member who love to joke about ripping off his siblings by selling them stuff at prices higher than he purchased the items for. He’s actually a loving brother. But sibling rivalry is so common. How have you experienced it in your family?

As we continue reading the story of Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, we’re about to see them involved in some sibling rivalry. If you want, you can follow along by reading Genesis 25:27-34.

The twins grow up: Esau is a hunter who loves adventure, and Jacob is a quiet man who would rather stay home.  In that short description we learn so much about these two.  Esau is the character.  The extrovert.  While Jacob seems to be the introvert.  You probably know people like this.  People from the same family, but so different.  How are your own brothers and sisters like Esau and Jacob?  Or how are your children like that? Do you have some that are more adventurous?  Some that prefer to stay at home?  Some louder?  Some quieter?  Which are you more like?

The text also tells us that their father Isaac loved Esau, while Rebekah loved Jacob.  It seems Esau had interests more in line with his father, and Jacob had interests more in line with his mom.   There’s nothing wrong with kids having different interests that make them more relatable to one parent or the other.  It happens all the time.  But in telling us about the parents’ favorites, we have another foreshadowing, and an omen.  Trouble is coming. 

We don’t have to wait long for the trouble. Verses 29-34 describe a crucial episode when Jacob and Esau are young men.  Esau is hot-blooded, red, and impetuous.  Just coming in from a long jaunt in the countryside, Esau wants some of the stew Jacob had been making at home.  Remember the foreshadowing from Jacob and Esau’s birth?  The younger is about to grab the heel of the older again, but this time they aren’t cute little babies.  They are young men, and young men, especially brothers, tend to be very competitive.  Jacob refuses to give Esau stew unless Esau will swear an oath to Jacob that Esau will give up his birthright.  Essentially Jacob is saying, “Esau sell me your birthright for the stew.” 

What is the birthright they are talking about?  In ancient cultures like this, there was something called the law of primogeniture, meaning that at least a double share of the father’s property would be given to the firstborn son when the father died.  Though Jacob and Esau are twins, because Esau was born maybe only seconds or minutes before Jacob, Esau is due the double share.  The older son would get a lot more wealth when their father died.  But in a moment of foolishness, Esau sells his birthright for a bowl of stew, and Jacob is more than opportunistic to pounce on it. 

Chapter 26 focuses on an episode in Isaac’s life, so let’s move on the chapter 27 to continue the story of Jacob.  Basically what happens is a continuation of what we already heard about Jacob in chapter 25.  In verses 1-4 Isaac tells Esau that he wants to give Esau, as oldest son, his blessing.  But didn’t we just read in chapter 25 that Esau already sold this to Jacob for a bowl of stew? 

To answer that we need to talk further about blessing and birthright in ancient cultures.  Are they different?  It seems one would inevitably lead to the other.  When the father died, he would give his blessing to his firstborn son, and with that would also come the birthright, the double portion of inheritance.  Perhaps Isaac didn’t know about Esau’s foolishness in selling his birthright for Jacob’s bowl of stew, or maybe he didn’t care.  It could be that Isaac knew and just didn’t agree that a bowl of stew would buy an entire birthright.  I don’t know about you, but in my family over the years there have been some ridiculous bets or deals that have been made between children, and we parents had to step in and say, “Sorry crew, that’s not happening.”  Of course the kids feel we are being totally unjust by not allowing the deal to stand. The one getting the bad deal sometimes has no clue, or they will argue, “It’s fine, I don’t care, I really want it.”  But you don’t sell someone a pack of gum for $10.  Just like you don’t sell a birthright for a bowl of soup. Maybe something like that is going on in Isaac’s mind. We don’t know. What we do know is that he wants to give his blessing to Esau, his firstborn, his favorite son.

So Esau goes out to get some wild game to prepare a meal for his father before Isaac confers the blessing.  Isaac’s wife Rebekah overhears this, goes to Jacob, her favorite son, and concocts a plan for Jacob to steal the blessing.  They prepare some food, Jacob puts on Esau’s clothes, they cover Jacob’s smooth arms with goatskins to mimic his brother’s more hairy arms, and then Jacob goes in to his father Isaac’s tent.

Check back in tomorrow to learn what happens next!