Intro… Years ago, I watched two partners have a business meeting. One partner had invited the other into the business and now the partner who had been invited into the business was in essence trying to squeeze the other out. The partner who had been squeezed out had invited me to come along to the meeting as a witness because he had intentions of retaking his business and kicking the other partner out. But somewhere in the midst of the negotiations, the original partner paused and stepped out of the meeting. Later he came back into the meeting and gave up the business. He had put Isaac on the altar. Taking back the business was not worth losing his relationship with his brother and business partner. You heard me right – his partner was his younger brother, so he gave it up. The older brother turned the other cheek and let his dream go.
Time passed, the older brother struggled with his decision of letting the business go almost every day, but he trudged on running another business he operated across the alley from his brother and former partner. Finally, through a series of events, the younger brother had to file bankruptcy and in the process lost the business. The owner of the building where the business was located and who had originally asked the older brother to operate the business to begin with came back to the older brother once again offered him the location back. He took it.
End of story, right? Redemption? Yes, but much more than that. In the process of giving up his coveted partnership, my friend, rededicated himself to God and his family. From seldom attending church, he began attending every Sunday and helps out in our worship. Then God gave him his business back. So who got the better end of the deal? I would say God got his servant back – and a family, its Spiritual leader. Are things perfect? I doubt it. But it has been one heck of a story…a story of letting go and getting back…a story of suffering and redemption…a story of God’s amazing grace.
Ever had something like this happen to you? You gave up something you really wanted, and in time, God gave it back to you? How is this? Why is this? Why do you think God has built a time lag in between planting and harvesting? Between the cause and the effect? Is there anything like this going on in your life right now? A cause with seemingly no affect? Pain and no reward? Joseph’s story has a lot to say about this…
Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua…) Gen. 26ff.
And Now Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brother seize an opportunity to sell or traffic their younger brother into slavery, then lead their grieving father to believe that Joseph was killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
• God’s grace still accompanies and blesses Joseph as he is first wrongly trafficked as a slave and then later wrongly thrown into prison. Gen. 39:1ff.
• Joseph is not rewarded for correctly interpreting the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Gen. 40:1ff.
• Joseph is finally and providentially delivered from his false imprisonment by first being remembered as a credible interpreter of dreams by Pharaoh’s cupbearer and then giving to Pharaoh what Pharaoh believes to be credible interpretations to his dreams. Gen. 41:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?”
Apparently, Pharaoh believes there is something special about Joseph?
39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.
40 You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne, I will be greater than you.”
Joseph has now gone from Potiphar’s lucky rabbit’s foot to Pharaoh’s. Not a bad upgrade, albeit after having played much the same role in prison for an extended period of time as well.
41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
42 Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck.
43 He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt.
At last, redemption for the righteous, after having been so cruelly treated by those jealous of both Joseph’s talents and integrity. Is this what this story, much like Job’s, is all about? Be patient. Have the longer view? “Justice Delayed is not Justice Denied”?
44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.
46 Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven years of plenty the land brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered all the food of these seven years which occurred in the land of Egypt and placed the food in the cities; he placed in every city the food from its own surrounding fields. 49 Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.
Joseph planned ahead. He had seen the future in Pharaoh’s dreams.
50 Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Here is the message in the names of Joseph’s two sons…blessing that overcomes past sorrows. Is this heaven’s message for God’s children? Heavenly blessing trumps earthly sorrow?
53 When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.”
So despite the famine, even in Egypt, via Joseph, Egypt has bread. It’s just under lock and key, I suppose.
56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.
All the earth sounds greater than just Egypt?
• Recognizing Joseph’s talent and the divine Spirit within him, Pharaoh elevates Joseph to the number two position in Egypt in order to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years.
• Pharaoh also gives Joseph a wife with whom Joseph has two sons with. He names his sons Ephraim and Manasseh because God has caused Joseph to forget his sorrow.
• During the years of plenty, Joseph gives instructions to store up all the grain; then the years of famine come and the world comes to Egypt because Egypt has bread.
Summary: Pharaoh, recognizing the presence of a divine power within the life of Joseph, empowers Joseph to successfully manage Egypt through the next seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• It was God that made the difference in Joseph’s life, and Pharaoh was wise enough to recognize it and go with it, instead of discounting or dismissing it. And it is God that makes a difference in our lives. We may be able to fool people for a time, but in the end, life or God has a way of exposing everyone. Joseph was always what he was. He was a gift blessed by God for a purpose, even though as a younger person he probably didn’t fully get the suffering and unjust mistreatment he was receiving because of his gift and his righteousness. When we suffer for doing the right thing, our natural tendency is to doubt or blame God. This is not fair. Why would a good God allow evil to happen to the good? For a million, billion reasons, of which, Joseph is an illustration of just a few of those. What a stupid, foolish question…as if God is obligated in a sinful, fallen, self-centered and corrupt world to balance the scales of justice every five seconds! Are you kidding me? This ain’t heaven. This is a hybrid of good and evil…of heaven and hell. This is earth. And for now, earth is NOT perfect. No where close, but with God, anything is possible, including surviving this paradoxical planet. Thus, this is why it is so important to come to grips with Christ’s offer to clean us up Spiritually, morally and righteously, beginning with initial faith or trust in Him and then continuing on in the presence of his guiding, empowering Holy Spirit. This is our divine Spirit…our God…our difference maker…
• Justice delayed is not justice denied. Suffering now is not suffering forever. Injustice now is not injustice forever. There is a thing with God called redemption, reward, blessing, and Joseph is experiencing it to the fullest. Joseph endured, and now God entrusts. God always had a plan. Thus could God have a plan for my life even as I write or my readers read this? Of course. And further more, Scripture says he does (Eph. 1; Rom. 8). There was always a plan. As there was a plan for Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and tons more, there is a plan for God’s elect…God’s chosen. Life counts. Our choices count. Our suffering counts. Our faithfulness counts. Everything has a purpose. We have a purpose, and that is why we must never give up or throw in the towel, even when things look bleak. Thank God, there is redemption for the righteous…if not now, then someday with our Lord forever. This is our faith. This is our sacred trust.
• With authority comes responsibility, obedience and execution. Joseph is doing exactly what he was given authority to do. He is not frittering away his blessing. He is not saying, God owes me this and now I am just going to set back and soak up the good life as payment for all my past suffering. No, he races ahead in the task set before him. Joseph was always Joseph. He never really changed. His character remained true. And in fact, his character turns out to be greater than his talent or gift. Talent without character is incredibly short-lived and wasted.
• Joseph had his past hurts and pains, as illustrated in the naming of his sons, but it was also a pain that soothed by all that God was doing including the blessing of Joseph with a family.
• God was gracious in allowing the seven years of plenty to precede the seven years of famine. Also, how often do we see this same cycle played out in history, good followed by bad, followed by good, followed by bad etc. Life certainly does turn out to be cyclical. Now the question remains, during the good, can we prepare for the bad or down, or do we wrongfully assume things will always be the way they are? If so, how foolish of us. Things never stay the same. Life is always changing, moving up and down, as we have been experiencing these past 6-13 years. These have been difficult times for many. The boom came and went. What now? When will the good times economically ever return, if ever? Historians suggest that it took a world war to bring the country out of the Great Depression. What does our future hold? Bottom line: nothing has changed. Life was cyclical in Joseph’s day and God was still involved and life is still cyclical and God is still involved. We are riding out the seven years of famine with the presence of God.
Praise… I am alive. I am breathing. Made it out to DC and SC and back safe and sound, though sick, and in the process got to see, check on, love on, be loved by and our kids and some of our dearest friends. Old Man Winter, which seemed more like Young Man Tiger Winter or Wicked Witch of the West Winter, seems to be reluctantly relaxing its grip. I finally finished my blog post on Jewish Eschatology…what the Jews believed and were being taught when Yah-Saves (Jesus) showed up on the scene and why there became such a acrimonious divide between himself and the religious teachers of his day…i.e. two different messages concerning God’s deliverance of man from sin and evil. Yah-Saves’ message, and ultimately his life, advanced the universal truth that salvation from sin must begin within each human being’s heart and mind first, and then an outward deliverance from evil, as opposed to the rabbis which totally skipped over the first deliverance, focusing only on the later…save me or us from the bad guys…in this case, Rome, because of course, WE ARE NOT THE BAD GUYS! Jesus knew all men are evil and needed saving from themselves before they can be truly saved from others. It is divide that will only end in death, but paradoxically, this death is no real defeat because it begins the inward saving process for every man…it atones for Man’s sin and sinful nature, thus beginning a process of Spiritual and moral transformation that changes man from the inside out. Only God…And for that I am thankful…incredibly thankful.
Struggle… My thoughts turned to young people tonight. Why, I am not fully sure. But who truly seeks God and how? So many seem to try to anesthetize their emptiness via so many momentary and wasted distractions, a if life, TV or Cable or the Internet or Facebook or Pinterest or music or kid’s activities or a home or an academic degree or a drink or drug or friendship or sex or a book or hobby or a career or mate or a thousand other choices will truly give them the lasting meaning or fulfillment that they are hungry for…a joy, peace, meaning and contentment that is always there and comes from God and the inside out. But they sure try. And they run through a lot of them, as if they have decided that God, or the church, or the Scriptures, or service to others will NOT give it to them. I guess we will just have to wait as they run through all their toys. Still, I worry…and wait. But for how long?
Truth… Time, time, time and time…Did I see time? Joseph endured 13 years of waiting for justice or mercy or grace, with really no hope in sight, when God in his infinite wisdom, wonder and plan caused Pharaoh to have a dream, and the rest they say is history. One never never never knows. Thus, that is why one has to remain faithful and not lose one’s Spiritual integrity…because just as Jesus describes the servant up for his master’s return (Matt. 25), no one really knows the WHEN of God’s plan. What God seeks is faithfulness…the truth. Constancy. Consistency. Real love. Devotion. Checed…loyal love…loyal mercy or kindness…because via God’s Spirit that eternal, divine, perennial seed has been planted in our hearts, and no matter what happens, every Spring it reblooms. It gives forth its beauty…its fruit. The seed never dies. Thus. it was with Joseph through all those years of injustice, and when Pharaoh plucked him out of prison, the same seed that had always bloomed through those years of hardship and misery continued to bloom, only this time its fruit saved a nation…and eventually Joseph’s own family for a much greater plan.
Application… So I will let go of my discouragement with youthful distraction. Be like my name sake…be faithful…endure…do what is right…forget the immediate results. Be faithful, be faithful, be faithful. Serve, love, endure, see, observe, pray, listen, lead, inspire, teach, encourage, reach out, think, ask questions, wait, wait, wait and wait. Did I say wait? And suffer. Yes, I said suffer. Don’t get lost or discouraged by the lack of a youthful crop. That is God’s business. Seek his will. Do my best and let it rest.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).