The Story 2018
This week in our challenge we read chapter 3 in the Story Bible. Chapter 3 is the story of Joseph. The story of Joseph is pretty amazing. In your regular Bibles it runs from chapter 37 all the way through chapter 50. Most of 13 chapters dedicated to one guy. That has to be number 4 in all the Bible... David, Jesus, Abraham and then a close 4th, Joseph. Note this is an unofficial list.
The story of Joseph is one of the best stories in the Bible. Action, intrigue, there is character arch, a surprise finish, and a nation-creating result!
Before I recap the story, let me catch up to where we are. Then, I want to ask a question about God, from the story. (chart)
--Abraham’s first son was named... Ishmael... coolest name; The Hearing God.
--Then Abraham had another son, the one of blessing... Isaac... chuckles.
--Isaac has twins... Jacob and Esau.
--Jacob wrestles with God and gets his name change to Israel; the one who struggles with God.
--Jacob, aka Israel, has 12 sons.
--He also has a daughter named... Dinah, but she is not in this story. She has her own story.
--Joseph is number 11 of 12 of Jacob’s sons.
Jacob loves Joseph more than the other sons...
Genesis 37:3-4 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Good parenting never reveals who is your favorite. As the story continues, Joseph has a dream. This is where this morning’s question begins.
Genesis 37:5-8 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, "Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf." His brothers said to him, "Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
The tension in our story is set. A punk, 17-year-old seems to be a bit spoiled; being the favorite of his father; maybe a bit arrogant; certainly, irritating. The older brothers can’t stand Joseph. Jacob sent his older sons to work, Joseph stayed at the house. After the brothers had been gone too long shepherding, Jacob sends Joseph to find them. To make a long story short – “too late” – the brothers sell Joseph to their cousins, the Ishmaelites, who in turn sell Joseph to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Last week, we saw Hagar, an Egyptian slave, serving Sarah. Now, we have a descendant of Sarah as a slave to an Egyptian.
Joseph, soon rises to the head of Potiphar’s house. But Mrs. Potiphar harasses Joseph and then falsely accuses him of sexual harassment... getting Joseph thrown in jail. In jail Joseph does three amazing things...
Genesis 39:22-23 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.
Then, Joseph interprets two dreams while still in prison.
Genesis 40:1-5 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody. And one night they both dreamed-
The cup bearer, who I might note is one of the most important positions in Egypt... like our Secretary of State, dreamed of three branches budded and put forth grapes and he pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup. In three days you will be lifted up.
The chief baker’s dream... not so good. Three cakes in a basket and the birds were eating them. Three days and you will be lifted up, as well, but into a noose.
Genesis 40:20-23 On the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
But the story is not over... Sure enough, two years later, two years of prison time later, Pharaoh has a dream... about 7 skinny cows eating 7 fat cows and 7 skinny ears of grain eating 7 fat ears of grain. Then the cup bearer remembered Joseph and cleaned him up and brought Joseph to Pharaoh. I like Joseph’s humble answer...
Genesis 41:16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."
Note God is doing the interpretation... this is leading up to our question of the morning.
As you know, Joseph predicts 7 good years and 7 years of famine. Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge.
Genesis 41:44-45 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah... So, Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
Zaphenath-paneah - God speaks and he lives, - Maybe coolest name. Except it is hard to pronounce.
13 years Joseph was a slave in Egypt. But then, Joseph is in charge! He gathers grain for seven years and then saves Egypt. But Joseph also saves his family. His brothers come for help because of the famine. Not knowing they were talking to their younger brother Joseph gives them grain. Joseph makes his brothers jump through some hoops to prove they have changed. Then he invites his family to move to Egypt to live with him.
Here is my favorite line in this week’s chapter. It is also the line that brings up our question.
Genesis 45:2-8 And Joseph wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So, Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Joseph, forgives his brothers. Joseph sees the big picture. Obviously, God put Joseph in Egypt to be there to save his family; the family of Abraham; the family through whom all the other families on earth would be blessed. Joseph understood his role in the blessing of Abraham. God saved Abraham’s family through Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt.
Here is the question...
What does this statement mean? “So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
I want us to think about God. We are studying the Story to learn about God. We have already said... God is love in creation. Last week I said, The God who sees and hears, saw and heard the slave... Hagar. What do we learn about God from this statement?
Does this mean... God caused the brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites? Did God intervene in the hearts of the brothers and make them grab Joseph and throw him into the pit with the intention of murder? Did God then change their minds to make some money off their betrayal? Does God cause people to do wrong?
That does not seem to be the way the Story is written. The Scriptures seem to indicate it was the brothers own hatred that drove them to get rid of Joseph. I certainly don’t think God would cause them to sin.
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
I have a hard time thinking God caused the brothers to sin. Later after Jacob, Joseph’s father died. The brothers are worried about revenge.
Genesis 50:15-20 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him." So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this command before he died, 'Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants." But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
The brothers knew it was on them. They did not say God made me do it. I think Joseph’s answer is something we can learn.
Powerful lesson... God uses bad to accomplish good.
But that still doesn’t fully answer our question. “So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Does it mean... the future is set in stone. Are we to take this to mean God, knowing all that was going to happen, then saw what would happen and just let it play out to save Abraham’s family?
That doesn’t seem to be the way the story is written. As we read the story we see God’s active intervention in the story.
Genesis 39:2-3 The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.
Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
God was actively involved in the life of Joseph. God was not just sitting back letting the future play out, as if he already knew was going to happen.
God is actively involved in making the future.
What about all the dreams? Did the dreams Joseph had of his brothers bowing before him, mean that it was a done deal from the beginning. Did the dreams of the cup-bearer and the baker and Pharaoh mean that the future was locked? It would seem that the famine was going to happen. Did God cause the famine? Could God have stopped the famine? Did the family of Abraham need to end up in Egypt so God could deliver them? That is next week’s story.
Genesis 40:8 "Do not interpretations belong to God?"
It doesn’t appear that God caused the famine, but rather worked with it to further his plan. Plan? God has a plan. The plan God explained to Abraham...
Genesis 12:2-3 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
The plan was to make this great nation who would bless the earth.
God works out his plan with us.
Imagine Joseph sitting in prison for years wondering... why.
Genesis 40:14-15 “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit."
In the pit it is hard to see the hand of God. It wasn’t until later at the end of the story that Joseph saw that God was working in him to save Israel.
In hindsight we see God’s work.
I think we can take these lessons away from the story of Joseph...
God uses bad to accomplish good.
God is actively involved in making the future.
God works out his plan with us.
Only in hindsight do we see the working of God.
have lots of questions about how God interacts with us. I certainly have more questions than I do
answers. But, there is something we can know.
Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
What shall we say about all the “things” that may happen to us, now and in the future... When it comes to wondering about how God works out His plan... Let’s know, for sure...
God is for us.
January 28, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ