Jacob, Joseph and Emotionalism

By Brent Hunter

The brothers of Joseph were in a dilemma. They had sold their innocent brother into slavery, and now that the cruel deed was done, they had in some way cleverly to disguise their evil deed. Fearing their father’s wrath should he discover what they had done to his beloved son, they felt it necessary to distort the truth. They would feign concern over their brother’s welfare, and deceive their father into believing a lie. The inspired details of their plan can be found in the book of Genesis (chapter thirty seven).

In short, Joseph’s coat was taken and dipped in the blood of a he-goat so it would appear that he had been killed. The brothers then proceeded to ask Jacob (supposedly in all innocence), “This we have found; know not whether it is thy son’s coat or not (Gen. 37:32).” Jacob fell for their deception and concluded that “an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt (emphasis mine bh) torn in pieces.” How unfortunate, Jacob made the sometimes fatal mistake of making a decision before all the evidence was in. He accepted the story as a definite truth on the basis of flimsy evidence. Perhaps the reason why he accepted it so readily was because he was blinded by the love he had for his sons and did not want to question their sincerity. Whatever the reason, he accepted it as truth and emotionally reacted. Notice Gen. 37:34. “And Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” So great was his grief that all his sons and daughters could not comfort him for “he refused to be comforted and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning, and his father wept for him” (Gen. 37:35).

For years and years Jacob held remorse in his heart over his son and was apparently emotionally upset, not because Joseph was really dead, but because he thought he was dead. .Jacob had been deceived! He believed a lie and therefore reacted emotionally as if he had actually seen Joseph torn asunder with his own eyes. So established was this belief that when years later his sons tried to tell him that he was in fact alive and well in Egypt, “His heart fainted for he believed them not” (Gen. 45:26). How interesting – he heard a lie, believed it, and reacted emotionally and dramatically to it. Now Jacob hears the truth, but he refuses to believe it, and consequently, there is no emotional reaction! It was not until “he saw the wagons that Jos;;ph had brought to carry him” that “the spirit of Jacob their Father revived” (Gen. 45:27). Finally, Joseph gave up his previous false belief, accepted the truth, and reacted appropriately.

Paul said that “these things were written for our admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11) and “for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). What is the lesson? Our emotional reaction to a message has nothing to do with whether that message was true or false! How many people in the religious world when error is pointed out to them reason, “But it can’t be wrong (or false) because I felt so good when I asked the Lord into my heart, or when I began to speak in tongues, or when I sang in the choir, or played the piano,” or whatever. In doing personal work over the years I have heard them all. This example from the Old Testament demonstrates that emotions, no matter how sincere or pronounced, are not the standard by which one can determine the truth. Just as Jacob was sincere but deceived because he did not fully investigate before he came to a decision, such is the case with many people today. And, like the brothers of Joseph, denominational teachers appear to innocent listeners to be sincere bearers of truth, but in reality cleverly distort truth and sell their followers into the “slavery of sin.” False teachers today often feign concern for their listeners welfare, convincing them that they will please their Heavenly Father by following the doctrines of men. Sadly, they will displease God by following error and therefore suffer their Father’s wrath as a result. For, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth no: in the teaching of Christ hath not God” (2 Jn. 9) nor His beloved Son.

Satan is “the Deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:7) and “a liar from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). And small wonder, what a better way to keep people from the Word than to isolate certain passages, twist them, (as Satan did in the second temptation of Jesus in Matt. 4:6), and in so doing convince the deceived that because they felt so good when they believed, or began to practice error, they must have been right to begin with! I believe that if one obeys, or is obeying the truth, he ought to feel good about it, but only after he is assured that he truly has obeyed God by fervently and objectively studying the scriptures remembering that “the sum of Thy word is truth” (Psa. 119:160).

Every child of God would do well to realize that where feelings are exalted ignorance will prevail! Jesus said, “What is truth?” (Mt. 18:38). The answer is given in the gospel of John, `Sanctify thyself in truth thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). The Bible teaches that the word is the standard by which we will be judged (Jn. 12:48). To claim our feelings or anything else as the standard is heresy.

The story of Jacob and Joseph demonstrates well the folly of emotionalism. Beware. He that standeth on his emotions – take heed lest he fall!

Truth Magazine XXIV: 29, p. 475
July 24, 1980