Monday, January 23, 2012
JOSEPH, Following the Footsteps of Faith, 1/23/2012
II. THE MAZE OFJOSEPH’S BOYHOOD, Part 6b, Continued From Yesterday!
The Problem Areas Of His Childhood – Joseph’s upbringing was not an easy one. In fact, his early years were like a minefield. It is amazing that anyone could survive the pain and turmoil of those years with their sanity, their integrity and their emotions intact. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the events that marked young Joseph’s life. We have already talked about the problems in the home. One man with children by four women, living under the same roof, is a recipe for trouble! Add to this the fact that Jacob obviously loved Rachel more than the other women and you have trouble enough to go around, (Gen. 30).
At a young age Joseph and his family make a hasty departure from his grandfather Laban’s house. They flee away under the cover of darkness, (Gen. 31:17-21), because Jacob has cleaned out his father-in-law through deception. Imagine the fear as your grandfather chases the family, overtakes the family and has hard words with your father, (Gen. 31:22-35). Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods. Jacob denies this, but it turns out that Rachel had taken them. She lies to her father to cover up her theft.
Jacob and Laban make a covenant to stay away from one another. Laban departs and Joseph never sees his grandfather again, (Gen. 31:36-55). Gen. 31:49 is not a prayer of blessing; it is a threat of violence! As they travel, word comes that your father’s brother, Esau, is coming out with many men to meet the family. Jacob is afraid of Esau because of the way he treated Esau some twenty years earlier. He divides his flocks into three parts to be used as a bribe to soften the heart of Esau, (Gen. 32:1-23).
Joseph’s older sister Dinah is raped by Shechem. Two of his brothers, Simeon and Levi trick the men of the city and eventually kill them all, (Gen. 34:1-31). Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse dies, (Gen. 35:8). Jacob does nothing to make things right. Rachel, Joseph’s mother dies while giving birth to his little brother Benjamin, (Gen. 35:16-20). Reuben, the oldest brother, commits incest with his father’s concubine Bilhah, (Gen. 35:21-22). Jacob knows about it but does nothing, as usual. Joseph’s other grandfather Isaac dies and is buried, (Gen. 35:27-29). Joseph’s older brothers were all wicked, self-centered men.
Jacob was a passive father who allowed his children to do as they pleased with no correction. Jacob was also guilty of favoritism. He loved Joseph more than the rest of his sons, (Gen. 37:3). Joseph lost his beloved mother at a young age. Joseph was uprooted and moved as a young age. Joseph was surrounded with rape, murder, incest, treachery, intrigue, idolatry, jealousy, death and hatred. This was a very negative and hostile environment in which to raise a child.
Many people today can look back at your own upbringing and see many problems with how you were brought up. Some of you were brought up in violent homes. Others were raised with drinking, drugs and hellish living. Some may have been physically or sexually abused.
Hearing what Joseph faced may have dredged up bad memories of your own past. Let me encourage you to place your past in the hands of a sovereign Lord. Trust Him for the grace to live with the memories and for the strength to avoid making the same mistakes. Where did all this dysfunction come from? It all started when Abraham asked Sarai to lie about their relationship, (Gen. 12:10-20). The foundation for future turmoil was laid when Sarai gave her maid Hagar to Abraham to be his concubine, (Gen. 16:1-16). The problems in that family, and in every other family, are passed down from generation to generation.
Looking at the problems that existed in this home, we should have a desire to avoid some of their mistakes. Just for the record, here is how to build a dysfunctional home:
Be less than truthful with one another.
Be jealous of other family members.
Demonstrate favoritism to your children.
Try not to help God accomplish His will in your home.
Practice deception so you can get your way.
Operate outside of the will of God.
Live a life of anger, manipulation and control.
Sin is always the root cause of dysfunction in the home!
The Positive Areas Of His Childhood – Not everything was negative in Joseph’s background. There were a few positive moments along the way. Let me share a few that may have had a hand in shaping the life of this special young man.
One night Jacob sent his family ahead and he stayed behind to pray about his upcoming meeting with Esau. Jacob had an encounter with God that night that changed his life forever, (Gen. 32:24-32). When he catches back up with his family, he is limping on his leg and he tells them that he has a new name. He will no longer be called “Jacob”, which means “Trickster, Deceiver, Heal-grabber”. His new name will be “Israel”, which means “Prince with God”. Jacob has a new name, a new walk and a new life. He would never live like a trickster again! Surely the change in his father was something young Joseph never forgot.
God calls Jacob to come back to Bethel. Jacob demands that they do away with their false gods. He calls his family together to worship God alone. While they are there, Jacob builds an altar, worships the Lord, and gives the testimony of how he first met the Lord, (Gen. 35:1-4). Surely young Joseph never forgot the lessons he learned and the testimonies he heard at Bethel. Gen. 35:5 tells us that as this family journeyed they enjoyed divine protection. They were surrounded by warlike tribes, but they were not attacked. This must have made an impression on Joseph.
As I said, most of us can find flaws in our upbringing, if we look close enough. Yet, most of us can look back and see times when God revealed His hand in our lives, even at a young age. I can remember prayers, church services, godly people, etc, that left a mark on my life. Thank God for those times when the Lord moved, in spite of the darkness and the sin, and revealed His presence and His providential protection. You can never underestimate the importance of the positive influences on a child’s life. In Joseph’s case, the positive influences seem to have had far more impact that the negative ones. I think the same can be said about your life and mine as well.
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
Jesus Is Coming Soon
( by R.E.Winsett, 1942)
Troublesome times are here, filling men's hearts with fear,
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake;
Humbling your heart to God saves from chast'ning rod,
Seek the way pil-grims trod, Christians, a-wake.
Love of so man-y cold, losing their home of gold,
This in God's Word is told, evils abound;
When these signs come to pass, nearing the end at last,
It will come ver-y fast, trumpets will sound.
Troubles will soon be o'er, happy for e--ver-more,
When we meet on that shore, free from all care;
Rising up in the sky, telling this world good-bye,
Homeward we then will fly, glory to share.
Jesus is com-ing soon, morning or night or noon,
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound;
All of the dead shall rise, Righteous meet in the skies,
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps Of Faith!, 1/22/2012
Gold From An Unlikely Mine, Part 6a
The pages of our Bibles are filled with the stories of hundreds of men and women. Nearly every story contains one common thread. Whether the character is a king or a peasant, a prophet or a general, a fisherman or a preacher; nearly every person mentioned in the Bible has his or her dark side revealed. Noah got drunk. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lied to save their own hides. Moses committed murder. David was guilty of adultery. Solomon was an idolater. Peter cursed and lied. John the Baptist doubted Jesus. The list could go on and on. The pages of the Bible are filled with the sins of the people mentioned on its pages.
The verses we have read today introduce us to a man named Joseph. He was the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob. His name “Joseph” means “Jehovah has added”. He lived 110 years and there is not a single sin attributed to this man. He endured trials and afflictions that most of us cannot even imagine and nowhere does the Bible even hint that his faith in God wavered. He never seemed to get his eyes of the Lord. Whether he was in the place of favor in his father’s house or languishing in a prison, he was the same man. Hardship did not harden his heart. Riches and power did not corrupt him. He was the same man regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself. Joseph was truly a unique man!
Perhaps this is why the Holy Spirit gives Joseph so much space in the book of Genesis. He receives the same number of chapters as Abraham: fourteen. Yet, there are 25 percent more verses dedicated to Joseph’s life. He was a great man of God. While Joseph receives much attention in the Old Testament, he is mentioned only four times in the New Testament, (John 4:5; Acts 7:9-14; Heb. 11:21-22; Rev. 7:8). We are left to learn about Joseph from the record given to us in the book of Genesis. Another characteristic that marks Joseph’s life is the number of areas where he pictures the Lord Jesus Christ. As you study his life you encounter over one hundred particular points where Joseph is a type of Jesus Christ. We will point out some of those along the way.
Besides being a godly man and a type of Jesus, the study of Joseph’s life is valuable because he stands as a model of what every believer should strive to be. He never wavered. He never fell. He never complained. He never compromised. He never lost his power with God. He stood his ground for the glory of God in man’s terrible situations. His life demonstrates the triumph of faith.
Beyond all that, one of the greatest aspects of Joseph’s life is how clearly the hand of God can be seen in it. The providence of God is on display throughout the narrative of Joseph’s life. In every event in the life of Joseph, God was busy fulfilling Rom. 8:28. I would like for us to spend the next three lessons with a man named Joseph. I would like to take Gen. 50:20 as my text for this series. That verse says, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” My title comes from that verse.
I would like to take the life of Joseph and look at the theme “God Meant It For Good”. I hope to show you how God can take every circumstance in life, whether we see it as good or evil, and use it to make us stronger in our walk with Him. I want you to understand that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God working behind the scenes of your life to bring you to the place of Christian maturity. With that in mind, let’s look in on the early years of this man named Joseph and learn the great truth that God Meant It For Good.
GOLD FROM AN UNLIKELY MINE
We hear a lot in our day about dysfunctional homes. I realize that many homes are in turmoil today. Divorces, sins of all kinds, absentee parents, among other evils, have left the home in tatters. In many cases it seems that little children growing up today do not stand a chance.
We are told that we are a product of our environment. We are told that our background shapes our lives to such a degree that how we were raised will determine how we will live. To a certain degree we are all products of our upbringing. We bring with us certain traits, habits and characteristics from the homes in which we were raised. Thankfully, that is not true in every case for God has provided a way that is better!
Joseph blows that theory out of the water! Before Joseph was thrown into a pit; before he served as a slave in Potipher’s house; before he languished in prison; and before he stood before Pharaoh as Prime Minister of Egypt, Joseph spent his formative years in a home marked by sin, sadness, strife and struggles. Yet, Joseph became a great man of God and was used of the Lord in tremendous ways.
Today, I want to examine the early years of Joseph’s life. I want to talk about those formative years that could have formed a boy into an evil man. Instead, I want you to see that God overcame Joseph’s family, his upbringing and all the negative influences he faced.
Looking at Joseph’s family and at his early years, most people would have concluded that Joseph didn’t stand a chance. After all, most of his brothers didn’t turn out too well. God, in His providence and by His power, was able to overcome all the negatives in Joseph’s life.
I want you to see how God dug Gold From An Unlikely Mine. Let me share some simple observations with you today as we now look on the thought “Gold From An Unlikely Mine“.
I. THE MIRACLE OF JOSEPH’S BIRTH
The Testimony Of His Birth – Joseph was born into a family embroiled in the midst of controversy. His father Jacob fell in love with his cousin, a girl named Rachel, and agreed to work for her father Laban, who was also Jacob’s uncle, for seven years, (Gen. 29:18). The deal was struck and after seven years, the wedding day arrived. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Leah was the oldest, but Rachel was, by far, the most attractive. On the evening of the wedding, Uncle Laban tricked Jacob (the trickster) and sent his eldest daughter Leah to Jacob’s tent instead of Rachel, (Gen. 29:23). Jacob spends his wedding night with Leah, and in the morning discovers the trick, (Gen 29:25). Jacob confronts Laban who agrees to let Jacob have Rachel in exchange for seven more years of work, (Gen. 29:27-28). He didn’t have to wait seven years to marry Rachel. He had to wait one week, (Gen. 29:27-30). So, within a week, Jacob has two young wives. These two wives are sisters. Jacob clearly loves Rachel more than he does Leah, (Gen. 29:30). This sets the stage for jealousy, bitterness and anger.
It isn’t long before Leah gets pregnant, not once, but four times. She gives Jacob four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, one after the other, (Gen. 29:32-35). Rachel comes unglued! The worse thing that could happen to a woman in that day was to be childless. She takes matters into her own hands and gives Jacob her handmaid Bilhah to have children in her place (Gen. 30:1-4). Bilhah has two sons, Dan and Naphtali, (Gen. 30:5-8). Leah sees this and knows that she isn’t having children so she gives her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob to have children for her, (Gen. 30:9). Zilpah has two sons, Gad and Asher, (Gen. 30:10-13). After a time, Leah has three more children by Jacob, Issachar, Zebulon and a daughter named Dinah, (Gen. 30:17-21). Are you confused yet?
Now Jacob has ten sons and a daughter, but his beloved wife Rachel is still barren. However, God in His providence hears Rachel’s pleas for a son and Joseph is born, (Gen. 30:22-24). Joseph’s birth is a testimony in itself because God opened a barren womb to bring him into the world. He was born because of divine intervention! By the way, you are here because God, in His sovereignty, decided to send you to this world. Your birth was not an accident; it was the will of God! That is a testimony in itself!
The Triumph Of His Birth – Surely Jacob was proud of all his sons. Surely he was pleased with his little daughter Dinah. But, still something was missing! As he watched the woman he loved suffer because she could not have children, it must have broken his heart. But, God heard their prayers! God opened Rachel’s womb and Joseph was born! The birth of little Joseph brought about a time of rejoicing and great happiness in Jacob’s home. That is how the birth of a baby affects every home. Those cute, wrinkled dictators are born and they dominate the home. But, they bring with them such joy and satisfaction. Thank God for the privilege of seeing children come into the world!
The Timing Of His Birth – Joseph was the eleventh son born to Jacob. Reuben was Jacob’s first born. Form all outward appearances; Joseph entered this life at a disadvantage. It did not appear that there was much hope for his future in the family. He would always be the low man on the totem pole, being bossed around and picked on by the others. The timing of his birth could not have been worse, from a human perspective. But, as we will see, God knew what He was doing, and like cream, Joseph rose to the top of that family. You might look at your own life today and feel like everything is against you. Don’t count the Lord out! He has a plan for you, and He will implement and execute that plan, no matter how things may appear.
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS” By Helen H. Lemmel (1922)
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!
Saturday, January 21, 2012
JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps of Faith, 1/21/2012
Genesis 37:1-11A ROSE AMONG THORNS, Part 5b, Continued From Yesterday!
v. 3-4 THE PROMOTION OFJOSEPH’S LIFE
These verses tell us a little about the atmosphere within the home of Joseph. It seems clear that Jacob was guilty of favoritism in his relationship with his children. We are clearly told that “Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children”.
Jacob should have known better than to do this. After all, he grew up in a home that was rife with favoritism. In his home, his mother Rebekah favored Jacob, while his father Isaac favored Esau. This favoritism brought envy, strife and trouble into that home. Parents in any age should be careful that they do not favor one child above another! Children should be treated as equals, as far as that is possible.
Jacob’s choice of Joseph did not result purely from a desire to elevate him above his brothers. It appears from the text that Jacob has chosen Joseph to be the head of the household on his death. This is indicated by two statements: “because he was the son of his old age” and “he made him a coat of many colors”. Let’s consider those two statements in greater detail.
The phrase “because he was the son of his old age” can refer to the fact that Jacob was 91 years old when Joseph was born. He had waited many years on a child from his beloved wife Rachel and when Joseph was born his heart’s desire was realized. But, there is another possibility.
The phrase can also be translated “because he was a white head on young shoulders”. This might mean that Jacob saw wisdom and strength of character in Joseph that was missing in the rest of his sons. Jacob is 108 when these events take place. He does not know how much longer he will live. He needs one of his sons to take over when he dies. The oldest son, Reuben, disqualified himself when he committed incest with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah, (Gen. 35:22). The oldest sons of Bilhah and Zilpah the handmaids would not have been his choice. The only choice that remained was Joseph, the eldest son of his favorite wife.
· We are also told that Jacob made Joseph “a coat of many colors”. We always seem to picture this as being a little striped jacket that screamed “I’m special! Father loves me more than he loves you!” This garment said far more than that! The phrase translated “coat of many colors” literally refers to “a shirt with long sleeves”. This was a special type of garment what was multi-colored, and heavily ornamented. It would have had sleeves that reached all the way to the hands and the hem of the garment would have reached to the ankles.
It marked its wearer as a chieftain, or as the head of a clan. This type of garment was not worn by a common worker. It was only worn by overseers and royalty; those who were above work! This garment was worn by the heir! When Jacob gave this coat to Joseph, it identified him as his father’s choice to be his replacement as the head of the family. It identified him as the superior son in the family. That coat told the other brothers, “You don’t report to Jacob any longer. You work for Joseph now!”
This was a big deal in families of that era. The head of the household literally held absolute, life and death authority over the members of the family. When the brothers of Joseph saw him wearing that garment, they knew exactly where they stood in the pecking order within the family!
Joseph carried himself well and he earned the respect of his father. As time went on, his father gave him more and more responsibility within the family. He carried himself so well, and proved himself to be so trustworthy, that his father appointed him to be the heir of his place as head of the family. By the way, this position would have also entitled Joseph to a double portion of his father’s inheritance.
All of this attention from Jacob toward Joseph created jealousy among his older brothers. In fact, we are told that they “hated him and could not speak peaceably to him”. The word “hated” is a very strong word. It has the idea of “persons or things that are detested and despised and with which one wishes to have no contact or relationship”. The brothers of Joseph wanted nothing to do with him at all. They could not even say “Shalom” when they met him. They didn’t have a kind word for Joseph. In fact, their hatred grew with each passing day, (v. 4, 5, 8, 11).
That’s a lot of background from the text, now let me make a few points of application before we move on. When we live a life of integrity and holiness, the Father notices. When we are faithful in our service to Him, He will promote us to greater areas of service, (Matt. 25:21). The true character of our heart is revealed in the faithfulness of our service to the Lord, (Luke 16:10).
When we are promoted, we must not boast about our achievements. Any advancement in the spiritual realm is purely the good grace of God working in our lives, (John 1:26-30).
When others prosper and are promoted, we must guard against becoming jealous. Instead of being angry that they are progressing, we should be thankful for what the Lord is doing in their lives. Your true self is revealed in how you respond to the promotions, blessings, achievements and advancements of others!
We just elected three new Elders from a list of six men. Three were chosen and three were not. The three that were not selected demonstrated to me that they had the right kind of character for the job, but were not ready yet. They did not get bitter; they remained faithful to the Lord; and they left the matter in God’s hands and trusted Him to do best.
v. 5-11 THE PROMISE OF JOSEPH’S LIFE
As trouble was brewing in this family, God was working in the life of Joseph. God spoke to Joseph in two dreams. In these dreams, God revealed some of His plans for Joseph’s life. Let’s take a look at the two dreams Joseph dreamed. (v. 5-8) – This first dream was of Joseph and his brothers gathering grain in a field. They were cutting wheat and binding it up in sheaves. In the dream, Joseph’s sheaf stood up and the sheaves belonging to his brothers bowed down before it. His brothers immediately interpreted the dream to mean that Joseph would one day rule over them and they reacted in anger. They defied the dream and hated Joseph even more than they had before.
v. 9-11 – These second dream consisted of the sun, the moon and eleven stars all bowing down to Joseph. This time he not only tells his brothers, he also tells his father. Jacob immediately understands the implications of this dream and issues a mild rebuke. But, we are told that he “observed the saying”. This means “to take heed to”. Jacob is having his choice of Joseph confirmed by a dream from the Lord. Of course, this dream, like the other, caused the rift between Joseph and his brothers to grow even wider. Not only has their father obviously chosen Joseph over them, now God is speaking through Joseph. They see all these things and become increasingly jealous of their brother.
It should be noted here that Joseph does not seem to have told his dreams because he wanted to brag or boast. He told them because they were so strange that he needed to share them with others. I do not detect any impurity in Joseph’s motives here.
These dreams are the first indication that God has big plans for Joseph. Eventually, they will be completely fulfilled. I would imagine that is was these dreams that sustained Joseph through the pain of the pit, Potipher’s house and the prison. It was these dreams that reassured that God had a plan for his life and that, eventually, everything would turn out all right.
Let me share a few points of application from this portion of Scripture. There is a word here about dreams. God does not speak through dreams in our day. In Joseph’s time they did not have the Bible. They did not have a complete revelation of God’s Word. We do! In our day, God speaks through His Word, alone! The Bible is superior to dreams and visions in several ways. First, the Bible speaks to many subjects; dreams are more limited in their focus. Second, the Bible is far more trustworthy. Anyone can read it. A dream is only known to the dreamer. Third, the Bible has absolute authority, dreams mean nothing. Fourth, the Bible is certain and fixed. Dreams fade with time. Put no faith in the dreams and visions of the night. Instead, read, study and build your life upon the word of God.
There is a word here about hope. In his dreams Joseph received the shadow of a promise from the Lord. He held onto those dreams and they sustained him through some trying times. When God births a dream in your heart, let nothing take it away! Rest assured that God will accomplish in your life all those things that please Him in His time!
There is a word here about hatred. When you serve the Lord, live clean and follow the dream God gives you, some people are going to rise up against you. Don’t be surprised when you are hated for following the Lord. They hated Him and they will hate you, (John 15:18-20). Don’t let the haters stop you from achieving your fullest potential in the Lord.
Conc: In the bouquet that formed Jacob’s family, there was really only one flower. Joseph was a rose among thorns. Like cream this young man rose to the top and his life stands as a testimony of what God can do with a life in spite of the difficulties that would seem to hinder His work.
· Maybe God has placed His finger on some area of your life today.
· Maybe there is a problem in the arena of your purity. You need to give that to the Lord and get it straightened out right now.
· Maybe there is jealousy in your heart over the promotions of another. You need to get that straightened out.
· Maybe you are like Joseph’s brothers in other ways, and you need to be saved.
· Maybe life has interfered with the dreams God birthed in your heart and you wonder if they will ever come to pass. You need to talk to Him about that today.
· Maybe you just want to get in a place of submission to the Father’s plan for your life. Maybe you want to surrender to His plan, serve Him more faithfully so that He can take, bless and use your life for His glory.
· If He has spoken to you… obey Him now!
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Jesus, Rose of Sharon, By I. A. Guirey and C. H. Gabriel (1921)
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, bloom within my heart; Beauties of Thy truth and holiness impart, That where’er I go my life may shed abroad
Fragrance of the knowledge of the love of God.
Jesus, Rose of Sharon,
Bloom in radiance and in love within my heart.
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, sweeter far to see Than the fairest flow’rs of earth could ever be, Fill my life completely, adding more each day Of Thy grace divine and purity, I pray.
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, balm for every ill, May Thy tender mercy’s healing pow’r distil For afflicted souls of weary burdened men, Giving needy mortals health and hope again.
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, bloom forevermore; Be Thy glory seen on earth from shore to shore, Till the nations own Thy sov’reignty complete, Lay their honors down and worship at Thy feet.
Friday, January 20, 2012
JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps of Faith, 1/20/2012
Genesis 37:1-11, A ROSE AMONG THORNS, Part 5a
In our first message on Joseph, we took a hard look at his background. We discovered that his family was marked by vice and violence. This godly man grew up in some most ungodly soil. I am still amazed that God could take a young man from such a background and use him like He did.
That gives me hope as a parent, a Christian and as a person today. If God can do that with Joseph, then He can take my children use them for His glory. If He can do that with Joseph, He can take your children and use them. If He can do that with Joseph, He can take you and me and use us for His glory! Of course, if you read the Bible you will soon discover that God specializes in taking what appears to be nothing and making something magnificent out it.
As we begin to consider the verses in the Bible that speak about the life of Joseph, we are going to see just how different he was from the rest of his family. It is astounding that a young man who grew up in the same home, the same condition, the same environment as his brother, could be so different. Of course, if you have more than one child, or if you come from a family of more than one child, you have seen this with your own eyes. No two children are alike. Joseph, however, is so different that he literally stands out like A Rose Among Thorns. Allow me to take the first eleven verses of this chapter and show you the ways Joseph was different from his brothers. I want to show you, “ A Rose Among Thorns“.
v. 2 THE PURITY OF JOSEPH’S LIFE
One of the most striking ways Joseph was different was in the purity of his life. Every time you see Joseph, he is doing the right thing. This made him very different from his brothers. Purity, integrity and a desire to do the right things at all times marked the life of Joseph.
Verse 2 brings us faced to face with the holy heart that beat within the chest of Joseph. We are told that Joseph was tending to his father’s sheep with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. You might remember that Bilhah was Rachel’s handmaid and Zilpah was Leah’s handmaid. These two women had been given to Jacob by his wives and he had fathered two children with each. The sons of Bilhah were Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah were Gad and Asher.
As you read the story, you get the impression that this is the first time that Joseph has been sent out to work with these men. What he saw them doing must have shocked him deeply. This may have been Joseph’s first exposure to the vile nature of his brothers. The brothers of Joseph were an evil bunch. Among other things, they were guilty of murder, (Gen. 34:25); incest, (Gen. 35:33); hatred, (Gen. 37:4); envy, (Gen. 37:11); enslaving their brother, (Gen. 37:38); lying, (Gen. 37:31-33); and immorality, (Gen. 38:12-18).
Whatever it was that these men were doing, it shocked Joseph so much that he came and told Jacob. This event surely caused problems between Joseph and the rest of his brothers. It may have been the seed plot where the root of bitterness in the hearts of his brothers began to grow.
Some authors accuse Joseph of being a talebearer. They believe that Joseph brought about the hatred of his brothers because he acted like a “goody two-shoes”. In reality, Joseph displayed absolute integrity in going to his father with the evil report concerning his brothers. Joseph had a responsibility to his father. Whatever his brothers were doing, it involved the flocks of Jacob. Thus, it involved his good name in the area. He needed to know what was going on with his sons. Joseph did the right thing when he went to Jacob and told him about the evil deeds of his brothers.
There are some lessons in this verse that we need to take to heart today. Every one of our lives should be marked by purity. The God we serve is a holy God and He expects His people to be a holy people, (1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Cor. 6:17). He wants us to stand separate from this world and its evil ways. He wants us to be different. We should be different in the way we act, talk, think, live, etc. Purity should be the hallmark quality of our lives!
It isn’t easy, but we should always strive to do the right thing in every situation. Our lives should be marked by integrity. There are plenty of people who are willing to do the wrong thing, especially if it makes life easier for them, but we should always do right in spite of the personal cost. It would have been easier for Joseph to just cover up what his brothers were doing. It would have been easier still to have joined them in their sin. But, he was determined to do the right thing, even if it cost him everything. It’s easy to tell a “little white lie” to keep the heat off your life. Don’t do it! Tell the truth! It’s easy to cheat a little here and there to make things easier for yourself. Don’t do it! Always be above board in all your dealings. It’s easy to cut corners at school and at work so you will fit in with the crowd. Don’t do it! Do the right thing at all costs (Eph. 6:5-9)!
One other lesson has to do with the proper use of the tongue. We should never be guilty of being a talebearer, (Lev. 19:16; Pro. 26:20-22). If there is something you just must tell, be sure that you tell the right person. Jacob had a right to know what his sons were doing, so Joseph told him and him alone! He told his father in an effort to stop evil. A gossip always tells the wrong person. They are not trying to stop evil, but to spread it! If you must tell something, always tell the truth. That is just what Joseph did. He did not embellish the facts; he simply told things as they were. Gossips love to add or subtract from the details as it suits their agenda.
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
Rise Up, O Men of God
Text: William P. Merrill, 1911
Music: Aaron Williams, 1763
1. Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
to serve the King of kings.
2. Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
and end the night of wrong.
3. Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
her strength unequal to her task;
rise up, and make her great!
4. Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
rise up, O men of God!
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!
Thursday, January 19, 2012
JACOB and JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps of Faith, 1/19/2011
THE HEARTBREAK OF A SHATTERED DREAM, Part 4b, Continued From Yesterday!
v. 18-30 THE BROTHER’S DEPRAVITY
v. 18-20 The Brother’s Plot – When Joseph arrives in Dothan his brothers see him coming. The hatred began in their hearts had found fertile soil and had grown into a desire to murder their own brother. Had these men arrested sin when it first began to grow in their hearts, this whole episode would have been avoided. But they didn’t! They allowed dislike to grow into full blown hatred and a desire for murder.
The true nature of these men is on full display in these verses. First, they have a desire in their hearts to kill Joseph. They hate him so much that they are willing to put him to death to get rid of him! Then they ridicule him because of his words. They call him “this dreamer”. There is not a hint of brotherly love in their voices. They are so calloused that they want to kill him and toss his body into a pit! They even devise a plan to cover up their deed! They believe that they can derail Joseph’s dreams if they can just kill him. These brothers have no concept of the sovereign power of God!
Of course, this is what men planned, and what happen to Jesus when He came. The people He came to save rejected Him, (John 1:11), and hated Him for His words, (Matt. 26:65-66). They rejected His message and they desired to see Him dead. They believed that killing Jesus would put an end to His message. They were dead wrong! Oh, they saw to it that He died, but they couldn’t see that His death would accomplish more than His life. They could not see that He would get up from the dead three days later. We would all do well today to examine our hearts. If there are the seedlings of sin that are beginning to grow in our souls, they need to be removed now. If they are left alone, they will grow into mighty trees with deep roots. Getting them out will be hard work and will leave incredible damage behind. Remember, it’s “the little foxes that spoil the vines”, (Song 2:15).
v. 21-25a Reuben’s Proposal – Reuben displays his nature too. He is weak and vacillates from one position to another, (Gen. 49:4). He is like water, totally unstable. On the one hand he has more reason to hate Joseph than any of the other brothers. He knows that Joseph has been chosen to take his place as the head of the family. On the other hand, Reuben knows that he has a responsibility to protect his little brother, if at all possible. He tells the rest that they should not kill Joseph, but just throw him in a pit in the desert and let him die of starvation and thirst. Of course, Reuben is planning to rescue Joseph when the other brothers are not around. Again, the hatred of the rest of the brothers is evident in the fact that they were willing to go along with this plan. What a wicked bunch of men this was!
v. 25b-28 Judah’s Plan – These men are so calloused that they throw their brother into a pit and then sit down to eat their lunch. There is no record of Joseph’s crying or begging for help in these verses, but Gen. 42:21 makes it clear that Joseph cried out and they turned a deaf ear to his pleas. Apparently, Reuben had to leave and go elsewhere. And while he is gone some Midianite merchants pass by. They are heading toward Egypt to sell their wares. Judah convinces the other brothers that they should at least sell Joseph and not kill him. After all, he is their brother, (v. 27). The rest of the brothers like this idea and that is just what they do. Joseph is sold for “twenty pieces of silver”, (v. 28). That was the price of a crippled slave. His brothers sold him like he was a piece of trash! They sold him for 8 ounces of silver! This comes to $98.24 in today’s money!
The brothers are so unfeeling and so filled with hatred for Joseph that they sell him to the merchants and watch him hauled away as a common slave! Ps. 105:17-18 tell us that Joseph’s experience as a slave was anything but pleasant! Again, Joseph is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was hated by His brethren and He was also betrayed by someone who should have loved Him. He also was betrayed for the price of a slave,( Matt. 26:15-16). Praise the Name of the Lord that He loved us so much that He endured such shame and hatred and still He died to save people like us! (Heb. 13:2-3)!
v. 29-30 Reuben’s Panic – When Reuben returns, he finds that Joseph is gone! He panics because he knows his father will blame him. Reuben has been on the outs with Jacob ever since he committed adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah. These verses give us a little hope that Reuben is maturing into something resembling a leader.
v. 31-35 JACOB’S DESPAIR
v. 31 The Brother’s Scheme – Again, these brother conspire together to cook up a plan. This time, they are out to deceive their father. They take the despised coat and dip it in the blood of a goat and take home to Jacob. One lie always leads to another! When you tell an untruth, it will not be long before you will have to cover the first by telling a second and then a third and then a fourth. The best policy is to always tell the truth, regardless of the personal cost!
v. 32 The Brother’s Severity – There is no compassion for their father in their words. They bring him the bloodstained coat and they ask him to identify it. These men have no heart! They care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement in the family! The world is filled with people just like that. They do not care who they have to step on to achieve their goals. They do not care what they have to do to reach the top of the heap. They care for nothing but getting their own way all the time, and they do not care who they hurt in the process.
Something is desperately wrong with a person like that! Most likely they are not saved. Most definitely they are not displaying Christ-likeness in their life. Our walk with the Lord is to be marked by a desire to place others ahead of self, (Phil. 2:3-4). Our walk is to be marked by a desire to ease the burdens borne by others, (Gal. 6:2). Our walk is to be marked by a Christ-like love for those around us, ( Matt. 22:39; 1 John 3:14; 4:8; 4:20).
v. 33-35 Jacob’s Sorrow – Of course, Jacob recognizes the coat. He knows it belongs to Joseph and he immediately assumes that his beloved son is dead, having been killed by wild animals. Jacob is heartbroken falls into the depths of despair. He refuses to be comforted by his family, vowing to grieve to the day he joins Joseph in death. These cold, calloused men have broken their father’s heart and they do not care!
v. 35 The Brother’s Shame – These hardhearted men reveal their hypocrisy by trying to comfort their father in his grief. Not a single one of these cowards had the courage to stand up and tell Jacob the truth! In the end, however, their father was in better shape than they were. He lived every day with grief; they lived every day with guilt! The knowledge of what they had done ate at them until they faced Joseph with the truth years later.
That is the power of guilt! It will eat at you until the problem is dealt with. The best thing you and I can do with our wrongs is to make them right if we can. We need to apologize to people we have offended. We need to restore what we have taken. We need to get honest about our sins. That is the only way to get rid of guilt, (1 John 1:9; Pro. 28:13).
Conc: This is a sad place to step out of this story. Joseph is gone, sold as a slave, and headed off to Egypt in chains. Jacob is heartbroken and inconsolable. The beloved son of his wife Rachel; his choice to be the head of his family upon his death is gone. The brothers are guilty of a terrible sin against their brother, their father, their family and their God. They are being eaten alive by guilt. A prosperous, promising family has been plunged into the depths of gloom and hopelessness. It would appear that Joseph’s great dreams are at an end. They will never come to pass. At least, that’s what they think!
Behind the scenes of this terrible tragedy moves the unseen hand of God’s sovereignty. What appears to be a hopeless situation is merely setting the stage for hope in the future! There is a word here for us as well! There will be times when things appear hopeless. There will be times when the shattered pieces of our dreams will lie all around us. In times like that we must not despair! Instead, we must cling to the precious promises of our great God, (Rom. 8:28; Ps. 37:23; Job 23:10). We must understand that despite how things appear to our human eyes and reasoning, God has a plan and nothing can derail that plan!
Some of you are looking at what you think are shattered dreams right now. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to weep and mourn like Jacob? Or, are you going to cling to God’s promise and trust that the Judge of all the earth will do right? Bring your shattered dreams to Jesus right now and let Him give you help in dealing with them. Let Him give you hope in hanging on to them. We do not want to miss Jesus in all this! The people He came to, the nation of Israel rejected Him and pushed Him away. They pushed Him and pushed Him until they had pushed Him to an old rugged cross. When they saw Him die, they claimed the victory, while His disciples grieved over a certain defeat. Just like Joseph’s brothers, the very one (Israel) who they desired to kill turned out to be their Savior! They threw the Savior into the pit of death and buried His body. Three days later, He came out of that tomb victorious over all His enemies! He fulfilled the dreams of the Father and of His followers. He fulfilled your dreams and mine too. Do you have any dreams you need help with today? If so, come talk them over with Jesus right now!
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“LIVING BY FAITH” by James Wells and J. L. Heath (1916)
I care not today what the morrow may bring, If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything, And all of my worries are vain.
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.
Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise, Obscuring the brightness of life, I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies— The Master looks on at the strife.
I know that He safely will carry me through, No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow, If Jesus walks close to my side.
Our Lord will return for His loved ones some day, Our troubles will then all be o’er;
The Master so gently will lead us away, Beyond that blest heavenly shore.
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