The Case of the Bloody Coat:
Second in the Not-So-Cozy Series
I like cozies. A cozy is a type of mystery – think Agatha Christie, clues found by garden clubs, death by poisoned chocolate, clean, safe, without gratuitous violence. That doesn’t really do the genre full justice but you get the idea.
The Bible doesn’t offer a lot in the cozy department.
The Bible is gritty, often with plenty of blood spatter for evidence. Whodunit isn’t the question but the why is almost always worth examining. And the epilogue is often incredible and far-reaching. (I think you’ll particularly like this one.)
With plots of stolen inheritances, split kingdoms, evil queens and haunted kings – the Bible was Shakespeare before Shakespeare was cool.
In the first of our Not-so-Cozy series, Why Cain Killed Abel, it was brother against brother. Blood stained the ground from hatred and jealousy for the first time. And the world’s first prophet was martyred.
And so, more than 2000 years later, we come to Joseph. (You can read his story in Genesis 37-50.) Joseph was a man, gifted with the rare prophetic ability of dreaming and interpreting dreams. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
But here’s the thing with God’s prophetic word. Many times it is not very popular.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
We quote this verse, often forgetting that sharp is painful and that having the way that we really think revealed just might not be so pleasant.
That’s the prophetic word.
We love Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
But what if you knew what He was going to work out for His purpose years in advance without knowing how He was going to do it?
That is what Joseph’s dreams were like. Joseph told his dreams to his brothers and all they heard was a 17-year-old kid telling them that one day they were going to bow down before him.
Age was very important in that time period and Joseph was 11th in line. Already his father’s favorite, this whole dream thing didn’t exactly endear him to their hearts.
And they caustically dubbed him “The Dreamer.”
Because they were not seeking a deeper meaning, they did not know that one day the only thing that would keep them alive would be having Joseph to bow down to.
Retrospection puts a very different light on the prophetic word. When we feel that sharp piercing of the Word of God, causing us to surrender something that seems it should be ours to keep, it is necessary to remember that God has a bigger plan. There is a time when the picture will become clear.
The big picture wasn’t yet clear to Joseph’s older brothers. He was their father’s favorite. They didn’t like him and they certainly didn’t like the message of his dreams.
It was during this time that the Bible tells us that his father sent him out to check on them. (It was a long trip, made longer by Joseph’s diligent search, which I thinks says a good deal about his character.)
“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!’” (Genesis 37:19-20 NLT)
I want you to see the importance of this wording. In the past, I’ve always read of his plotted murder in the light of his brothers’ jealousy fueled by resentment of a coat that represented favoritism.
Just as we saw with Cain and Abel, there was something much deeper than jealousy at work.
They were out to kill the dreamer.
Joseph was a man with a far-reaching vision. A man with a message. His dreams representing his brothers bowing at his feet were not the conceited dreams of a over-indulged child.
The visions given to Joseph were prophetic of the way God was going to save the lives of his near-sighted brothers.
However, even bigger, the visions given to Joseph were also a part of the long-term prophecy of the way God was going to offer salvation to the world.
Here’s the deal:
Years before, God made a covenant with Joseph’s great-grandfather Abraham: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
We know, of course, that Abraham obeyed. Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
(I really like that part, “not knowing where he was going.” He didn’t even ask. He just believed and followed God.)
Joseph and his brothers were living proof that God kept his promise. Their grandfather was born when Abraham was 99 years old. That place of inheritance was the very land where they lived and worked. Abraham and Sarah were buried there.
About 2000 years later, Paul explained the importance of this to the primarily Gentile churches of Galatia.“Then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed through you.’ So you who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.” (Gal. 3:7-9)
Read the “begats” of Matthew 1.
Joseph’s brother Judah…
….JESUS who is called Christ
What if Judah had starved to death?
Later Joseph would give people very specific interpretations of their dreams. Pharaoh would rely on the dreams God gave him to store food during seven years of plenty to pull the land through seven years of famine.
Joseph the dreamer would save the lives of his brothers and his father.
As a teenager, all he knew was that the shocks of grain and the sun, moon and stars were representative of his parents and brothers and that one day they would bow before him.
He dreamed prophetic dreams and like many prophets who would follow, his message was not a popular one.
Stop the message. Kill the messenger.
But they didn’t have the big picture. While they knew that Abraham was to be the father of many nations, they did not understand that God was going to use their little brother to save them.
God’s big picture encompassed the next 2000 years and beyond. These ten petty men were part of the beautiful picture of redemption.
After they plotted to kill him, after they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery, Joseph knew that God worked it all into His good plan. But he paid a price. He spent years in servitude, even in prison and gave up years of his life that his brothers’ lives might be saved.
Years later, when they bowed at his feet, asking for forgiveness, Joseph told them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. ” (Genesis 50:20, NLT)
The great-grandsons of Abraham didn’t like the dreams their brother dreamed. They were too short-sighted to see that there was a prophetic word behind them. Their anger and jealousy blocked them from sensing the spirit of God behind the message.
This time, the attempt to kill the dreamer was unsuccessful. Many, many times in Scripture and throughout history, we see prophets killed in an attempt to stop the message.
In the days of the early Church, Steven preached a powerful message before the council.
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.” (Acts 7:51)
Verse 57 says “they stopped their ears, and ran at him.” Stephen became the first martyr of the Church that day, stoned for his message.
It didn’t work then.
It won’t work now.
People die for the Message.
The Message doesn’t die.
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented –
– of whom the world was not worthy…” (Hebrews 11:37-38)
Because it is all about an attempt to stop the message. And in the case of Joseph, it was about killing the dreamer – the dreamer who played a very important role in the preservation of the line of Christ.
And oh, the coat? Well, you know the story. After selling young Joseph into slavery, his brothers killed a goat, dipped the beautiful coat in blood, leading Jacob to believe his son was dead.
That coat that Jacob made, also called a tunic, was destroyed. But many years later, another tunic showed up – part of the message that the enemy had tried to kill that day.
This one also caused dissension and belonged to a misunderstood, maligned, beloved Son.
Those involved did not get the big picture.
This one also was undoubtedly stained with blood.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided His clothes among the four of them. They also took His robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. So they said, ‘Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.’ This fulfilled the Scripture that says, ‘They divided My garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.’ So that is what they did.” (John 19:23-24, NLT)
But one day…(and here’s that epilogue I promised back at the beginning.)
One day, there’s going to be another garment dipped in blood and even now the enemy is still trying to prevent it.
When we see that robe, Satan will be defeated for the final time. Prophecies and dreams of millennia will have come to pass and the big picture will finally be shown:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.“