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of Joseph. God promised Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The Lord told Abraham that He would give Abraham the promised land, but that his descendants “would be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years…Afterward they will come out with great possessions.” In the story of Joseph we see God working out his promises to his covenant people, even in the midst of their sin and weakness. We call God’s working out of all of his plans providence. Providence is a pretty strange word today. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines providence as “God’s most holy, wise, and powerful, preserving and governing, all of his creatures, and all of their actions.”1 The reason that we don’t hear the word used much anymore is that people used to believe in God’s activity in the world a lot more than they do today. We think we have the world under our control. That is, until we are faced with our own suffering. Some people ask, “How can there be a good God when there is so much evil in the world?” If God can’t stop the evil, he isn’t really God. If he can stop the evil and doesn’t, he isn’t really good. That is one of the great questions of philosophy. But most of you are not really concerned with philosophy. You simply ask, “Why is there so much evil in my life. How can I trust really trust God?” The story of Joseph answers this question. The Story Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had two sons, one named Jacob, and the other Esau. Esau was a hunter and a man of impulsiveness who sold his birthright for food. Jacob was a dishonest man who used deception to steal Esau’s blessing. God, however, chose Jacob to carry on his promises to Abraham, and Jacob had twelve sons. Two of these sons, Joseph and Benjamin, were sons of his beloved wife Rachael. He loved Joseph more than any of his other sons. Most of you know the story, or at least the outline. When Joseph was seventeen years old his father gave him a beautiful robe which was a visible sign that he was favored and definitely a bad move in promoting harmony 1 Question #11.
Perhaps it is the spouse which you never though would leave you. and cover it in goat’s blood. moon. Some of you have experienced this. Jacob weeps and weeps for Joseph. Now most of us would have served the official. just a young man in his twenties. But he wasn’t willing to sin against God. He was only a slave. and eleven stars bow down to him and even his father gets angry. Joseph is sold to an important Egyptian official. gather round and pretend to console him. his new master’s wife wants to take Joseph to bed. They make about five bucks apiece off of their brother’s life. They plenty of reason to resent him because he’d already had brought a bad report to their father about them. He serves his master so well that his master prospers.among his sons. We wouldn’t be so brave as to risk beatings. he tries to start over. Joseph knew that he had been wrongfully sold into slavery. And so she accuses him of assaulting her and he is sent off to prison. Whoever and whatever it is. “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground in front of you?” Well. half a pound: fifty dollars. Someone did something terrible to you which you would never have suspected. No one could have blamed him. Joseph’s brothers spot a caravan and decide to sell him into slavery for 20 shekels of silver. but he makes a new start. Again having lost everything. Then they take the robe back to their father who assumes that Joseph has been torn apart by wild beasts. From a slave’s point of view it would have been foolish to inspire her anger. Reuben convinces them to throw him in an empty cistern thinking he will rescue Joseph. tear it. one day Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers. In the time it takes for him to get there they decide to kill him. or the friend you never thought would betray you. In the first dream he sees sheaves of grain belonging to his brothers bow down to his sheaf. Joseph has to know his brothers don’t like him. The chains are removed from his legs and neck and he is put in . They take Joseph’s robe. but all of the confusion. And his sons. but it never enters his mind that they would kill him. Since Joseph was young and maybe a bit mysterious (being foreign). Joseph had two dreams which he shared with his brothers. But we would have served grudgingly. That is about eight ounces. you not only have the thing that has been done to you. who could have 'fessed up at their mistake. He tells Joseph. In the second dream he sees the sun. Why has this happened? How could this happen? Joseph is thinking all of these things at the bottom of the cistern while his brothers are eating outside and trying to figure out what to do with him.
Joseph tells the cupbearer that he is going to be restored. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt to prepare for the famine. He tells the baker that he is going to be executed. dried-out ears of grain appeared and swallowed them up. His beard and hair are long and matted. Then seven sickly and skinny cows came out. The cupbearer is the most important servant a king has. You remember when the parent you needed to protect you exploded into violent rage and you thought you were going to die. You remember when the loved one left and you thought the pain was never going to end. there came a day two years later when Pharaoh had two dreams. The prisons of the ancient world (and even of third-world countries) are not the air-conditioned facilities we have in the United States. But Joseph’s friend forgets him and Joseph is left all alone in the prison. Two servants of the king are placed in prison. One of the servants is a cupbearer. They were lingering eating away at his peace. And there is no hope. They bring Joseph out of prison. He probably has lice. You know the rest of the story and I wish you didn’t. First he saw seven fat and healthy cows come out of the Nile. One of his sons he names Manassah. shower him. fleeting types of dreams which fade upon waking. Joseph will never have probation or parole. throw away his smelly rotten clothes. He cannot bathe. He is the one who makes sure the king’s drinks are not poisoned by tasting them himself. Joseph ends up managing the prison so well that the warden doesn’t worry about anything. Some of you have tasted the bread of despair. The other is a baker. and bring him before the king of Egypt. and still looked sick and skinny. I wish that you could hang out with Joseph just a few minutes there in that prison to taste the bread of despair. He marries and has two sons. which means “forget.charge of all the other inmates. Each of the servants has a dream which Joseph interprets. Joseph hopes that this is going to be his ticket out of all of this. It smells of sickness and disease. You remember when someone you trusted abused and betrayed you. They weren’t the strange. the man who interprets dreams. Seven thin. There were seven healthy and full ears of grain. ate the fat cows. bug-filled hair. Joseph tells Pharaoh there are going to be seven years of bumper crops followed by seven years of famine.” because he thinks that God has finally allowed him to forget all of his painful past with his family. For seven years Joseph oversees the storing up of grain. cut off his matted. A chickenhouse smells pleasant next to this. He now has a friend in high places. Falling asleep again he had a second dream. Sound like a familiar desire? But God has something bigger planned. because then the . Then the cupbearer remembered Joseph. and then he woke up again. In the prison eating the bread of despair… Well. Then he woke up.
6 For the famine has been in the land these two years. 2 And he wept aloud. "Make everyone go out from me. He could just be working out some bitterness. do not tarry. 11 There I will provide for you. and your flocks. He cried. takes one of them prisoner. The exchange is very strange. Joseph. Why does he do all this? Maybe he is testing them. Judah steps in and begs (grovels really) to be taken as a slave in his place. Maybe he just wants to see his brother Benjamin and his dad and thinks that if he tells the truth they will leave and not come back in order to hide their sin. and all that you have. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him. When he tells them that he is taking Ben as a slave. And he said.famine comes and Joseph’s brothers come to buy food." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. and the household of Pharaoh heard it. But if you think about it he really shows a lot of restraint. please. 4 So Joseph said to his brothers. but God. He recognizes them but they don’t recognize him. you and your children and your children's children. for they were dismayed at his presence. he sets up Benjamin by planting a silver cup in his bag and threatens to take him as a slave. "Come near to me." And they came near. "I am your brother. your herds. (then) . 'Thus says your son Joseph. Joseph can take it no more. and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. so that the Egyptians heard it. for God sent me before you to preserve life. so that you and your household. and to keep alive for you many survivors. Then. and is not willing to release him unless they bring Benjamin. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen. and you shall be near me. starting at verse 1. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. and all that you have. 8 So it was not you who sent me here. Come down to me. First he accuses them of being spies. God has made me lord of all Egypt. for there are yet five years of famine to come. and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45: Joseph Provides for His Brothers and Family 1 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. whom you sold into Egypt. Follow with me in Chapter 45. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth. on the second visit. "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him. He has made me a father to Pharaoh. do not come to poverty.
“They overcame the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Jacob suffered for telling his father the truth about his dreams. It doesn’t work like that. Sometimes one side gets the upper hand for a little while. God and the devil are equal. God is in charge. Your suffering has a purpose. the good of our . Whatever evil Satan plans is part of God’s secret place. Your suffering could just be the result of Satan getting the upper hand. but God has a purpose.” In Revelation a voice from heaven says. Jesus says.“So then. “All men will hate you because of me. He could never have predicted God’s plan. You Will Suffer Don’t think that you will never suffer. maybe not even on this side of eternity. His brothers committed a terrible sin and had an evil plan. God Had a Secret Plan You notice that Joseph does not say that his brothers have done a great evil and God turned it for good. God is not really in charge. This is all we can know. We do children an injustice when we tell them that things always turn out well when we tell the truth. He made me father to Pharaoh. Don’t ever think that you are suffering randomly. but God. lord of his entire household. Whatever happens. It may be many years or even from heaven that you understand. it was not you who sent me here.” Your Suffering Has a Purpose But there is a purpose in your suffering. When Joseph was in that cistern there was no way he could see his way out. you will suffer.” His Brothers Had a Plan. We have to tell them that things may not turn out well anytime soon. they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. two equal and opposing forces. If you really tell the truth and live according to the truth. Your Suffering is For Good You never know in advance what God has in store. There were a group of people in the 4th and 5th centuries called the Manichees who thought that there was a good God and a bad god who were slugging it out on earth. The whole thing was the plan of God. kind of like Star Wars. and ruler of Egypt. but God had a secret plan. The Bible is full of stories of the saints suffering for righteousness. He suffered for living the truth in staying about of bed with his master’s wife. if we belong to Jesus the secret plan of God is for our good. It was hopeless. You may not understand. It may seem meaningless.
Usually when we are children or when we take a stand for righteousness. We are more often like Joseph’s brothers than Joseph. Christianity is For the Unrighteous Sometimes we think that Christianity is for “good” people. You are still guilty. who can tell of great evil being worked for good in their lives.” How can we know that? We can know that because God promises it to us and we see that God has always kept his promises. there is a big difference between us and Joseph. Many preachers. He is working good. have picked up on this. Your Suffering is Rarely Righteous With all of this. even out of your sins. Who is it who understands pain? The one who has felt great pain. It is for evil. It there anyone who could say that you have hurt them? Has your selfishness or impulsiveness brought misery into someone else’s life? There are some instances where we have little to do with the evil that comes into our lives. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. rotten. A Christian is someone who realizes how foul they are without Christ. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor. But you need to know that your sin doesn’t take God off of his throne.fellows. who have been called according to his purpose. We don’t like to think of ourselves that way. including the great Charles Spurgeon. Transactional Analysis Illustration Joseph and Jesus You may have noticed some parallels between Jesus and Joseph. We like being the innocent victims rather than the evil perpetrators. Jesus said. The Bible says in Romans. but the sick. many times it is our plans that God is working for good out of evil. I’m sure.” If you really think that you are O. who preached to crowds of over 5000 (without a mike!). But pause for a moment and think about it. It is not. What can we do as we look back upon the wreckage of our lives and the pain that we’ve caused others? How can it ever be set right? God has a secret plan.. then you can’t be a Christian. You still need forgiveness.K. There is no damage that you can cause to keep God from working out his purposes. There are people here today. Rarely are we as righteous as he. Their suffering was for their good and for the good of others. It doesn’t take responsibility off of you. But we normally cannot claim to be as righteous as Joseph. . and the glory of God. filthy sinners. Many.
if it were not so. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge. If you have never repented. wonders.” He offered himself up for crucifixion “to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus was persecuted to save our eternal lives. but not everyone is forgiven. and signs. Jesus was entirely different.” Christ is asking you to come close.” Jesus Was Persecuted to Save Lives Joseph was persecuted to save his family’s physical lives. Don’t be analytical and think about his importance in history. “In my father’s house are many rooms. “Come close. Come close. Don’t just talk about him. Christ is calling you to repent today.” Jesus Went Ahead to Prepare a Place for Us Joseph was sent ahead of his family to prepare a place for them in the land of Goshen. Draw near to him. never have forgiveness. I would have told you. I will come back and take you with me that you may also be where I am. “Come close. Joseph called upon his family to live with him in the land of Goshen but Christ is calling upon you to live with him in his . He suffered. “the righteous for the unrighteous. Jesus went ahead to prepare a place for us in God’s kingdom.” Jesus is Offering You Forgiveness Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for sin. He is saying. Jesus is Calling on You to Live With Him And finally my brothers and sisters. which God did among you through him. to bring us to God. Don’t just think about him. as you yourselves know. And if I go and prepare a place for you. You must turn away from your sins and to Jesus Christ to accept his forgiveness. He says. Stephen the deacon said.” Jesus is Asking You to Come Close Notice what Joseph tells his brothers. Don’t look at Jesus from a way off and ponder what a great teacher he is. Those who never repent. with the help of wicked men. While Joseph seeming to enjoy rubbing his privilege in his brothers’ faces and certainly inspired some of the abuse.Jesus Was Persecuted Without Reason In the parallels Jesus is everything perfectly that Joseph’s life is just a shadow of. put him to death by nailing him to the cross. and you. “Jesus Christ was a man accredited by God to you with miracles.
Church.” God has a way to provide for you while you sojourn on this side of the Last Day and it is the Church. You cannot live on your own. Without Christ’s Church you will wither and die in the desert of Canaan without food or drink. because five years of famine are still to come. The only promise you have is spiritual famine.” . He has set a table for you and said. your children and grandchildren. Don’t separate yourself from the Church. “Come stay with me awhile in the land of Goshen. Come to the Lord’s table and eat and drink his spiritual food and drink. Come to Christ. One day I will lead you forth with great celebration and you will take your full inheritance. Take part in his sacraments. Don’t ever test God by asking him to enable your disobedience. your flocks and herds and all you have. I will dry every tear from your eyes and all of your suffering will end. I will provide for you there. never submitting yourself to membership and accountability and expect to thrive. Come to him on his terms. Bow down before the great ruler whom God has set over all things. You will then see the fullness of my great and glorious purpose. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute. skip from congregation to congregation. Join with Christ’s Church. Be baptized in the name of Christ. Look again at verse 10: “You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me-you.