In January I came to those heroes of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph; “men of God in days of old [who] were famous for their faith.” (Heb. 11:2)
But as I read of these heroes I came to their failures.
Abraham had a history of valuing his own life over his wife’s.
Isaac followed his father’s example and tried to pass Rebecca off as his sister for the sake of his own safety.
Jacob in addition to his faith deserves a portrait in the Conmen Hall of Fame. He cheated his brother out of his inheritance and then his father’s blessing. When he fled from Esau he met a trickster almost as accomplished as himself.
Then we come to Joseph. As a teenager it seems that he reveled in his father’s favoritism and wore his brightly colored coat as a badge of honor to the aggravation of his brothers. When he had dreams that seemed to foretell that he would become number one in his family, over his older brothers and even his father and mother. When he shared his dreams with his family his manner seemed boastful and insensitive, as well as irreverent to his father and mother. His father sent him to check on the welfare of his brothers and their herds. He could have worn a somber tan coat from L L Bean, but instead he picked his special coat, a badge of his father’s favor, hardly a choice to promote family unity.
This is a history of failures, a gallery of cowardice, a biography of pride and deceit. But God was at work. Abraham’s faith led him to obey God, leave his home for a strange land, believe God’s promise for a son, and then to offer this promised heir as a sacrifice. Isaac “dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father.” (Gen 26:18) Jacob the trickster was to become Israel, the father of the twelve tribes. Joseph was to move through slavery and prison to become the prime minister of Egypt. He was the salvation of Egypt, and his own family. He was able to put aside betrayal, slavery, false imprisonment. “As for you, [my brothers], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20)
What can I take away from this mixture of faith and failures? God’s purposes and his grace work in the lives of his children. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy. . . . And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:3–6)