Dealing With Bitterness | Genesis 37

September 14, 2021
Series: Joseph
Pastor Shine Thomas at City Harvest Assemblies of God Church bangalore

Speaker: Shine Thomas

Click for the full sermon series on Joseph (Joseph the Dreamer)

Everyone one of us goes through situations where we are affected by other people’s actions. As we pull through life, we get run over by harsh people who don’t care about our feelings. How do you respond when people you love betray and hurt you? What do you do when you are put down by someone? On the other hand, can you be happy with others’ prosperity or does it make you sour?

We must understand that it is very easy for people to hurt us. If we do not deal with it, the hurt will turn into anger, anger will turn to long-term resentment and bitterness.

Open your Bibles to Genesis 37. Here we find Joseph’s life going good and his future looks bright. Joseph was loved especially by his father, Jacob, who made a specially decorated robe for him. Soon he is getting the rough end of the deal with his own family members. Genesis 37:4 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.

In spite of all negativity and bitterness around him, Joseph was a dreamer. He had a dream that the family was binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly Joseph’s sheaf rose and stood upright while his brothers sheaves gathered around and bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. Genesis 37:5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

Soon, Joseph had another dream. This time the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to Joseph. Genesis 37:10-11 10When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

What you see here is all of Joseph’s brothers burning with hatred and bitterness towards him.

Now what is bitterness? It is the feeling of hurt, resentment, anger, and even hate that can build up in our hearts when we have been hurt by another person or by an experience in life. Usually there are three ways we become hurt and bitter: By what is done to us, by what is said about us, and by what is taken from us. People can be bitter with anyone. It can be directed towards other people and even towards God.

Reason for bitterness.

Take a look at the primary reason for the vengeance his brothers had toward Joseph: Jealousy. If you are jealous of someone, you will be bitter with that person. Out of jealousy comes everything.

  1. Jealous of Relationship.

Genesis 37:3-4 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4When 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.

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite. There are several things that contributed to this. Joseph was Rachel’s firstborn, Jacob’s most beloved wife. Rachel had died, so it is natural that Jacob would give his affection to their son. Jacob also loved Joseph, because he was the son of his old age. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Rightly or wrongly Jacob loved Joseph in ways he hadn’t shown to his other sons, and Joseph was hated for it.

We come across situations where we feel that someone is getting importance and love. Maybe someone enjoys love and relationship that you lack and its eating at you. My parents don’t love me. She’s the favorite in the family. He’s the dad’s beloved son. She’s getting married and I am still single. Every time you think about that person, bile rises. Listen, you’re on your way to bitterness.

  1. Jealous of Position.

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.

Anyone who goes to Sunday School hears about “the coat of many colors.” But there’s a back-story to this tunic that you need to know. Back in Genesis 35:22 we read that Reuben, the oldest son lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. Because of Reuben’s gross immorality, it lost him not only his father’s favor but all his birthrights as the firstborn son.

In my understanding, Jacob now exercised his fatherly privilege and chose to appoint his firstborn son by Rachel as his heir. See what John speak about Jesus in Samaria. John 4:5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

He skipped his other nine sons and selected the youngest at that time. The symbol of the birthright was a special tunic. It was richly ornamented, long-sleeved and extended to Joseph’s ankles. The tunics worn by working men in that day were sleeveless and stopped at the knees. A long-sleeved, tailored garment was worn by a manager, someone who had been put in charge, and was therefore exempt from the work himself. So, the coat was a symbol of position. When Joseph’s brothers saw him in that coat, it was a sign of their father’s choice to make Joseph preeminent over them.

Let me ask you, are you hurt of somebody’s position? You were supposed to get that promotion and it went to someone else? You did not get that family property. Beware, bitterness is stalking you.

  1. Jealous of ambition.

Now Joseph had 2 dreams. You don’t have to be brilliant to figure out the meaning of that dream, do you? Both the dreams spoke about Joseph’s prominence over his brothers and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.

Genesis 37:5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

Genesis 37:8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

If you have a dream, if you are ambitious, be sure to expect bitterness from others. Remember ambitious people, people who dream have a lot of opposition.

  1. Jealous of God’s favor.

Now here’s the point. If you’re little brother tells you about a crazy dream he has, you might poke fun at him or you might ignore him. But you don’t get jealous of him unless you really believe God is speaking to him. They really believed that one day Joseph’s dream would come true. They believed God was speaking through their younger brother.

Have you ever feel jealous that someone is blessed by God and you are not blessed the way you want? Are you jealous of people whom God use and there is a quiet desire to see them destroyed? Saul was jealous of David, it eventually destroyed Saul. Bitterness has your number, my friend.

For Joseph’s brothers, jealousy, hatred, and bitterness finally pushed them over a dangerous line. They were waiting for chance to take revenge on Joseph.

Following his father’s instructions, Joseph tracked down his brothers, who were shepherding the flocks. It took five days journey to finally locate them. When they saw him from afar, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that an animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” Reuben, oldest, intervened, convincing his brothers not to murder their brother but to throw him into an abandoned well nearby.

You can see the scene in your mind as Joseph approaches, wear the tunic and calling out greetings to them. All at once, they fell upon him, stripping the coat and throw him into a deep hole. The dark deed was done. Now nature would take its course and they would not be directly guilty.

Nothing is said in Genesis 37 of any complaint by Joseph. But 22 years later, the brothers remembered this moment and confessed: Genesis 42:21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen.”

As Joseph wept aloud and begged to be spared nearby, they ate their meal of malice and drank their drink of deception. To make their revenge even more tasty, it just so happened that a caravan of merchants came by. Not only could they rid themselves of Joseph once and for all, they could make a profit from it. And so they sold him into slavery.

The finishing touches unfolded at home, when they gave their father the torn, bloody coat of many colors, leaving Jacob to conclude his son is dead, and plunging him into inconsolable sorrow.

The Danger of Bitterness.

1. Bitterness is anger at God.

God is ultimately in control of every circumstance, every person that comes into our lives. When we are bitter against someone, we are bitter at God. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Bitterness is a denial of the goodness of God. If you are bitter at someone this morning, you have decided that God didn’t handle it rightly, so you will now take over.

2. Bitterness will affect others.

Illustration: The story is told of a very bitter woman who was bitten by a dog. Test revealed that she has rabies. She then got out a notebook and began to write down names. The doctor asked if she was making a will. She replied, NO! I am making a list of all the people I am going to bite!

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter roots grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Bitter roots cause trouble for and defile others. Bitter people will disrupt and create unnecessarily trouble for others. Bitterness will cause you to gossip about your offender, put in the venom of deceit against them. If you do not deal with bitterness, it will affect others, relationships etc. Sometimes, bitterness will result in outburst all of a sudden, it is like a like the gun going off.

Bitterness is so toxic that it will not only affect the ones who hurt you but everyone around you. Sometimes people’s bitterness on someone or some circumstances is thrown out at everyone that person can take a hold on. Bitterness is non-discriminating with its targets.

Joseph was clearly his father’s favorite son. He walked with the Lord and God communicated something of Joseph’s future. All this drove Joseph’s brothers over the edge. But think about it: Was the favoritism Joseph’s fault? No, it was Jacob’s lack of wisdom! Were the dreams Joseph’s fault? Of course not. So why was Joseph the target of their hatred?

Because Jacob was their father and they needed him. And they knew they couldn’t battle God. So, they picked the next best target as the scapegoat. I learned that sometimes the venom people vent on you is not really about you, you’re just a convenient target. Bitterness affect others.

3. Bitterness damages self.

Bitterness, if not dealt with, will damage your own self. Most people when they are bitter, they find it difficult to accept that they have been hurt. They repress or mute the feelings of being hurt. They deny that they are bitter. They will be bitter inside but outside they put on a mask, they try to hide it. Let me tell you, you really cannot hide it even if you don’t accept it. Bitterness repressed damages your own self.

Illustration: A man was walking with his very best friend. As they walked, they began to argue about some issue. The more they argued, the angrier they became. They got so angry that one man lost his temper and shoved his friend away. His friend stumbled and fell upon a board, which had a loose, rusty nail sticking up from it. The nail pierced the man’s friend in the back. The man, immediately sorry for what he had done, picked his friend up to wash his wound and remove the nail. “I’m so sorry,” he kept saying. “I don’t know what came over me. Please forgive me!”

“That’s your problem,” his friend said. “You’ve always had a bad temper. I’m going to teach you a lesson. I’m going to leave this rusty nail in my back so that every time you see it you will remember what your bad temper did you me.” Even when the nail eventually began to infect the wound in the friend’s back, the friend refused to remove it and continued to remind the man of what he had done and how wrong he was, right up until the day that the infection from the nail finally killed him. Unforgiveness destroys.

It is a big danger to have bitterness in you and even more grievous when repress the feelings of repression. Bitterness causes breathlessness, anxiety, depression, leading to heart problems.

Overcoming Bitterness.

Joseph stands as a great example to let go bitterness. Joseph managed to avoid the very thing that had consumed his brothers—the emotional stronghold of bitterness. As Joseph lay in the bottom of that pit, he had his own invitation to bitterness but he chose another path. The power to do so came from simply trusting that God was greater than his circumstances, and was at work doing more than Joseph could track. I am going to help you deal with anger and bitterness from God’s word. Proverbs 14:10 Each heart knows its own bitterness.

  1. Confess your bitterness to God.

What your offender has done to you is bad, sinful. But when you keep that hatred in you, you sin. Confess your bitterness as a sin to God. 1 John 1:8-9 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Acknowledge it. Don’t deny it. Once you acknowledge it decide to deal with it quickly. Exercise self-control so that you will not give further roots to your bitterness. Do not sin. Do not let bitterness lead to hatred.

  1. Identify and forgive.

Why am I bitter? Where did it start? What circumstances led to it? Who is the person or persons behind it? Now forgive them from your heart. Ephesians 4:31-32 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Illustration: Charles Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.” It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain or else bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

  1. Fight bitterness with the mind of Christ.

What is the mind of Christ? Forgiving others for their wrong. If anyone had to be bitter in this world, it had to be Jesus Christ. The way they crucified him and hurled insults at Jesus, anyone would be angry and bitter but what did Jesus do? He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Jesus gave all his bitterness into God’s hands and forgave them.

Philippians 2:5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:26-27 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.

Romans 12:19-21 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Conclusion: I am going to pray for you now. I pray that God will enable you to go out of this service free of every root of bitterness, fully of joy knowing that our God is in control.