“And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.” (Genesis 37:18-21 KJV)
Devour… In this context it is to eat, to consume, to feed, or to burn up. I think that they are planning on identifying the wrong evil beast though. It almost looks like they have already been devoured by an evil beast of sheer jealousy. In the attempt to devour they are being eaten up by the worst sort of envy. That type of jealousy covets the closest of neighbors; their own brother, and reveals the emptiness that is within them. A jealousy that is so filled with hatred that their emptiness is revealed when neither Reuben’s nor Judah’s suggestions change their heart. Their suggestions merely content the brother’s rather than show any concern for correcting the action which they have taken against their brother.
Notice the difference in God’s consuming fire or jealousy and the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers. Reviewing Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29 we are reminded that God is a consuming fire. God is interested in raising us up, teaching us, and discipling us so that we can become functioning members within His body. God’s consuming fire longs to devour those things which turn us to one side or the other from following Him. God made us in His image and longs for us to seek that relationship with Him. The jealousy of Joseph’s brothers had no interest in a relationship with anyone that might get in the way of themselves. Their desire was to consume so that no part of the entire person of Joseph might continue to exist; much less were they interested in any type of redemption. God’s desire consumes us so that we might really live. Of course, there is a sobering reminder there to not cling to the chaff when it is burned away. Joseph’s brothers saw what they thought was a problem and managed it. Joseph is taught by God the art of surrendering all to God.
Peter makes it clear to us that the enemy, like a beast, seeks to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Then again is that not what wild beasts do? That also explains why God gave Man dominion over the animals. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26 KJV) I often wonder how many times Peter felt like he had been devoured when he tried to manage his own situation rather than surrender in simple obedience to the work that Jesus had for him. Even so, there is something really ironic about simple obedience. Jesus tells us that if we love Him that we ought to obey Him and consequently He will send us a comforter (see John 14:15, 16). If we are in obedience to Jesus, why would we ever need a comforter? In time we find out. There is something to be said for standing firm in obedience to Jesus even when it feels like all signs of His existence, much His less presence, have disappeared. Hence, Jesus’ words to Thomas. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 KJV) It is in patience and trust that we maintain a mastery over the animalistic mind set that seeks to quickly devour our very existence.
Consider something as you progress through your day. Even with the best of intentions, the most convenient of circumstances, and the finest instruction, what percentage of the things that you are managing are you really being devoured by?
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24 KJV)