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Family ties that bind

Friday, February 25, 2005

Genesis 37:3-22
Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. ... Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them." ...

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."

When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

Jacob, with his two wives (and two maidservants), had 12 sons. Reuben, the oldest, is the one who wants to protect Joseph, who is very nearly the youngest of the brothers.

Where do you fall in your family tree? Your birth order helps shape your personality. Ronald Richardson says this about the oldest brother of brothers (Reuben): "...usually the boss, often a leader of men, may be a perfectionist, usually successful at what he does, usually not on intimate terms with anyone, strict conservative parent."

In his book on birth order, Kevin Leman offers tips for the oldest child: "take smaller bites of life, work on saying no (many first-borns are pleasers), do a little less and enjoy life more, try to develop a sense of humor, never apologize for being conscientious and over-organized.

The youngest brother of brothers is completely different. From Richardson, he is "often like the darying young man on the flying trapeze. He can be headstrong, capricious, and often rebellious. He is often unpredictable ... he can be carefree ... he is often a mystic or a romantic.

Leman adds these tips for the baby of the family: stop passing the buck and accept responsibility for yourself, offer to help others and follow through, learn to pick up after yourself, beware of being too independent. Enjoy your gift of being funny, charming and persuasive without using it to manipulate others, and share the limelight with others.

Reuben saved Joseph's life, and later his charismatic younger brother would save his. They needed each other. So do the rest of us.

Lord, thank you for making who I am, and slowly teaching me to accept the amazing differences you've put in others.

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