The last poem that I wrote, Broken Pieces, can be found here. This poem describes the sad turn of events that occurred between Leah, Rachel, Uncle Laban, and Jacob. The conversation that takes place is between Leah and Laban, her dear old daddy. Rachel was noted as being beautiful, and Leah was not. This comparison trap led to Laban tricking Jacob into marrying Leah so that Leah wouldn’t have to be without a husband. It also meant that Laban didn’t keep his end of the deal as far as fair payment for Jacob.
I loved watching the Brady Bunch as a kid. I think every kid in the 70s and 80s watched The Brady Bunch. There was always some drama going on. I also used to watch soap operas starting in my teens. It was one of the many ways my grandmother, Mudear, and I connected. Some of the stories had you so caught up, that you couldn’t wait till the next day to see what happened. Praise God that in my 30s, God delivered me from watching those soap operas. The scenes got to be a little too much at times, and I was totally convicted about needing to give them up. It’s funny because when one of the scenes came on, my grandmother would say, “Oh shoot! I wish they would get to the other scene so that I can find out what happened.” Some of the scenes in the bible play out like a soap opera. The story that we are going to discuss today, should be sang to the tune of “The Brady Bunch” theme song: “Here’s the story of a sin called deception……”Strongholds are hard to break and they run through like cancer in our families. Let’s take a closer look at how the stronghold of deception took place in this particular family.
Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Rebekah decided to pull Jacob into the game of deception so that he could steal Esau’s birthright. Scene 1 plays out with Rebekah helping Jacob setting up the stew and clothing to trick Isaac. Scene 2 shows us a distraught Esau, who has missed his blessing.
Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish.10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”
11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth.12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”
13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”
14 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it.15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob.16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats.17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread. Genesis 27:9-17
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt.31 Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.”
32 But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau.”
33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!”
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged.
35 But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”
36 Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36
Act 2 plays out in that Jacob leaves his homeland, never to see mommie dearest again. Instead, he is heading towards her brother’s home, Good, Old, Uncle Laban. Uncle Laban isn’t as nice as he seems because Jacob makes a deal with him to work seven years for his daughter Rachel. However, like his sister, Laban is filled with deception. At the end of the seven years, Laban gives Jacob Leah instead of Rachel. Leah gets to appear as the passive one, although she fully participated in the scheme, as Jacob did with Rebekah in tricking Isaac. Scene 1 showed the end result of how this played out.
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.”20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast.23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”
26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied.27 “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.)30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. Genesis 29: 18-30
Act 3 plays out in that Jacob’s boys are out and about, and Joseph comes in his coat of colors to tell them about his dream. They decide to do something about daddy’s favorite, but not without deceiving their dad into thinking Joseph is dead.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said.20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.
23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing.24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed.28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty piecesd]”>[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief.30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”
31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood.32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!”34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time.35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep. Genesis 37: 18-35, NLT
Scene 2 plays out in that after Joseph is sold as a slave, he is put into high command in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh’s wife falsely accuses him of assault, and Joseph is placed in prison. Joseph is released from prison after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. He is promoted just in time to save Egypt from a famine, and wouldn’t you know, his brothers have to come to his town to get food. Instead of Joseph deceiving and punishing his brothers, he chooses to forgive, and redeem the stronghold of deception.
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. Genesis 45: 1-8, NLT
What does this crazy soap opera of events teach us?
Strongholds are sin.
Sometimes as Christians we feel that calling something a stronghold makes the sin sound better. Once we are able to handle the truth that our strongholds are indeed sin, then we are able to start doing something about the sin before it gets out out control. I struggle with the sin of perfectionism.
2. Strongholds become coping mechanisms.
I was born with an imprint of trauma on my brain due to slavery from my ancestors, a slavery-style caste system in the South that my family had to endure, and the continuing oppression of slavery “wrapped with a bow” in the city of Chicago. Trauma has by-products of criticism and perfectionism. Perfectionism became my coping mechanism. It has been a part of me since I was a little girl. However, it is still sin.
3. Strongholds are passed down when they are not resolved.
The hardest thing for us to realize is that our sin gets passed down when it isn’t addressed. God has spoken gently to my heart recently to deal with the sin head on so that my kids can see me walk in this freedom.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8: 1, KJV
I love the story of Joseph, and I love how God’s favor was all over his life. When I think about Joseph’s coat, it makes me think about my favorite coat as a kid. It was coral blue with a red heart just below each shoulder. I called it my “Heart to Heart” coat. It is good to know that even when we are in our worst of times, God’s favor can still rise above the situation. God can still put us in situations where people are doing things for us, and they don’t even know why they are doing them. Praise God for his favor!
Coat of Favor
It was Joseph, it was Joseph, he had favor don’t you see,
It was favor from our God from the Lord Almighty.
Coat of favor, coat of favor, filled with stripes, awe, and wonder.
Filled with power from his dreams that the brothers would bow under.
Feeling lost, hurt, rejected from our daddy don’t you know?
He can’t stay here …let’s just kill him, he can’t stay here… he must go!
Sold in slavery, faked his death to our father, and he grieved.
Oh thank goodness… he is gone, and we are granted our reprieve.
God of Joseph, Slave of Pharaoh, gave him elevated power.
Wife of Pharaoh, full of needy, stripped it all within the hour.
Put in prison, with the baker and cupbearer of the king.
Placed in charge by the warden, God’s good favor it would bring.
These two prisoners, had their dreams told, to them then, right by Joseph.
Don’t forget me, with the king, need release from this low self.
They forgot him, yes they did, till the king had his dream.
Couldn’t sleep, someone help, can you tell me what it means?
Oh yes, Joseph, he can help you…he can tell you what it means.
Oh no, God, he’s the Father and interpreter of dreams.
Oh then, Joseph, oh yes Joseph, told the king what would happen
You’re released, you’re promoted, get this plan right and mapping.
And he did, with God’s help, he saved Egypt from the famine
Saved his brothers, Growth in character, and his faith, as you imagine.
2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.