Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Coat of Different Colors”
For the week of April 17-23, 2011
In taking a class on interpersonal relationships I was alarmed to discover the web of dysfunction that I had woven with my family while growing up. The assignment that made the issues most obvious was the completion of a family tree. The finished project revealed the patterns of social irrationality that are often apparent to everyone except our family. We have developed mechanisms like denial, or family secrets. These mechanisms gloss over the individual sins in our attempt to make things look all right. We are hopelessly tangled up in meaninglessness until, by God’s grace, we identify the areas of dysfunction and give Him permission to fix them on a personal, family, and church level.
There were no family secrets in Jacob’s life—at least not when it came to the actions of his sons as described in Genesis 49. Jacob’s attitude to Joseph was certainly common knowledge. Our scripture for this week states, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3).
The tragedy is that Israel showed preference for Joseph—not just the old Jacob. This continued after his name was changed; after his conversion. Herein lies his sin. Carlyle B. Haynes, in his book, God Sent a Man, has stated it more clearly than any other author I know of. When referencing Genesis 37:3, and offering parental advice drawn from Israel’s tragedy he states: “There is nothing wrong with having a favorite child, but there is everything wrong in showing which one it is.” Jacob’s partiality was a character trait that started back in Genesis 29:18: “And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.”
If there is a family that I would not like to grow up in, then it would Jacob’s family. I grew up in a blended family, but Jacob’s family is one unblended family that would be a social worker’s nightmare.
As much as I would like to avoid identifying with Jacob’s family, my life includes many of the same foibles and follies of one—if not all—of these sullied characters. We can all sing “Father Israel had many sons, many sons had father Israel. I am one of them and so are you....” The question is “Who can deliver me (us) from the family of discontent and dysfunction?”
The answer lies in a verse that comes hundreds of years after Jacob died. The character traits he passed on to his sons had at least thirteen generations to fester in an oppressive Egyptian feudal system. When this least promising of families is out in the desert under what appears to be the least promising of circumstances, God makes a request:
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). We would simply forget these brothers, but God does not forget. God still wants this troublesome family. He wants us to know that it is Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun whom He wants on the east; Reuben, Gad, and Simeon on the south. On the west He would like Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin. Finally on the north He wants Dan and Asher, and Naphtali. Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.
Wonder of wonders! God will take the most dysfunctional family and live right in the middle. It seems that the Sanctuary exists to reconcile families.
But where is the coat; the one that brought all the division and nearly brought death to Joseph?
In verse seven of Exodus twenty five we find an ephod with a breastplate—a coat of many colors—as it were. It has been stated that Joseph’s coat was predominantly white, with a hem of many colors. I always imagined it, thanks to Uncle Arthur, as many colors obliquely woven together. It matters not. What is certain is that God has a coat for the Sanctuary Priest which has all of the children of Israel, including me, right at the heart.
It matters not if you display the fearful, crimson characteristics of Judah, or the green, adulterous envy of Simeon. You may be afflicted with the laziness of Manasseh, or the delinquent purple purposelessness of Dan. No matter who you are, there is garment woven in the loom of heaven especially for you.
Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us fit to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. “I counsel thee,” He says, “to buy of Me . . . white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Revelation 3:18).
“This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not one thread of human devising. Christ, in His humanity, wrought out a perfect character, and this character He offers to impart to us. ‘All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). Everything that we of ourselves can do is defiled by sin. But the Son of God ‘was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin’” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, page 311).
In the Sanctuary, right now, this coat of pure white is being worn by our High Priest. He wants to do something that has never been done before. He wants to remove all the fear of Judah and his children; all the adultery of Simeon and his children; all the laziness of Manasseh and his children, and all the purposelessness of Dan and his children. What a wonderful invitation he offers to all of us. “Come clean! Accept My coat that has been washed clean!”
“Why did the Saviour come as an infant instead of a man? To die on the cross would have met the penalty. But He lived as a child, and met all the temptations a child meets. Through it all He never sinned. Jesus endured all of this so that any child can stand in His place and resist in His strength; and He lived also as a youth, a man full grown, weaving for us a robe of righteousness to cover us…, [He] takes the filthy garment away and puts His own in its place, so that all may have it if they will” (A. T. Jones, Kansas Camp Meeting Sermons, March 11, 1889).