Tag Archives: Joseph

Providence: The Examples of Joseph and Esther

 

Scripture makes several promises to God’s faithfulness that, if true, require that God is still at work on behalf of His children today.  Notice the following promises.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: you are of more value than may sparrows”

Remember when we took our time and looked at Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

The lesson today centers around two main characters in our Bibles.  They both lived during a time where the Israelite nation were facing possible extinction, and both times the people were saved. In each of these events God does not use miraculous means to save the people.  What happens can best be described as providential.

Providence and Joseph

As we first look at the life of Joseph we acknowledge that some miracles were involved. Joseph’s prophetic dreams and his ability to interpret the prophetic dreams of others were miraculous.   This event was miraculous because it could not have occurred naturally.  In this case we go beyond “perhaps” to certainty because Scripture tells us God worked behind the scenes to make things happen.

READ Genesis 50:20

Let’s trace the story of Joseph.  As things stand in chapter 50 Joseph was second in command only to Pharaoh in Egypt, and was in charge of distributing the large storehouses of grain that he had been accumulating.  There is a widespread famine just as Joseph had miraculously predicted by interpreting Pharaoh’s dream.

Before Joseph could be the dream interpreter he was to meet a butler and a baker in prison.  Here again he interpreted dreams of these men which soon took place. But Joseph was forgotten and let in prison.

If Joseph had not been in prison, the butler would not have known to recommend him to Pharaoh.  As one consider it, it is quite unusual that the butler was reestablished as Pharaoh’s butler after he was released.  But if he had not been, he would not have had the opportunity to tell Pharaoh of Joseph, who had correctly interpreted his dream. But if he had not been restored, the butler would not have had the opportunity to tell Pharaoh of Joseph, who had corrected interpreted his dream.

Joseph would not have been in prison had it not been for Potiphar’s wife.  She lied about him and accused him of rape when it had been her failed attempts to seduction that made her husband Potiphar put him in jail.  We wonder, why was not Joseph killed for this crime?  Could it be that Potiphar had faith in Joseph to the amount that he doubted his wife’s story, but to save face he had him interned?  The overall effect of Joseph’s character and integrity, which had so impressed Potiphar before likely had an effect on the situation.  (Genesis 39)

Joseph would not have been in Egypt had it not been for his brothers having sold him into the caravan of traders. And had they not arrived at the time when Reuben was away he probably would have been pulled out of the pit and sent home.  (Genesis 37)

And Joseph would not have been in this circumstance had he not shared with his brothers and father his dreams.  And perhaps his dreams would not of had the same effect if he had not received the status of “favorite son” and the multi-colored coat.

A whole set of remarkable events, some would say coincidence-some good, some related to the integrity of Joseph, some related to the evil of others–all worked together to put Joseph in position to save his family from the famine.

But what was Joseph thinking as he lived these events? Was he surprised that no one came and saved him from the Ishmaelite traders? After many months working for Potiphar did he think no one cared.  WE get a glimpse into his mind in Genesis 41:51, 52 when he names his sons.  “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house. The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Only later in chapter 50:20 that we read earlier do we realize that Joseph finally understood what was happening to him.  God had a hand in these “coincidences,” overruling the jealous brothers intent and using even their sinfulness to accomplish His purposes.  The providence of God worked for the good of god’s people in the life of Joseph.

Providence and Esther

The key verse in this set of circumstances is found in (READ) Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a times as this?”

To give a quick overview of the book we first notice that the King, King Ahasuerus was in conflict with his Queen, Queen Vashti. She refused to allow herself to be paraded in front of a lot of drunken men and so she was quickly removed from her position.

King Ahasuerus then is advised to find a new Queen.  And so all of the beautiful young virgins are gather together into a harm in Susa where the king would then “interview” all of these women until he found one suitable to be the Queen. From this process a new Queen was chosen, a Jewish maiden named Esther.

Esther has a cousin named Mordecai.   Mordecai who was also in the Persian empire because his family had been taken away into captivity.  This man Mordecai that a favorite prince of the King (Haman) has made a plot to destroy the Jews who lived in Persia.  So he goes to Esther and encourages her to influence the king and stop the slaughter.

A series of events take place where the man Haman, the prince who has the king’s ear, goes from most favored to the subject of the kings wrath.  While this is happening, the events lead not to a day where the Jews will be destroyed, but to a day when the Jews can defend themselves and destroy their enemies.

Despite the fact that no mention of God or of any explicit act of God is mentioned in the book of Esther, there are inspired indications that God’s providential hand was at work. When Mordecai was sending word to Esther, pleading with her to intervene, he sent this word:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews, For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13, 14

Mordecai was aware of the promises God had made to the Jews since the time of Abraham and of the steadfast love of God that ensured His promised would be kept.  Somehow in God’s providence, the Jews would be spared to fulfill their role and bless all the families of the world through the promised Messiah.

God has at times saved His people in miraculous ways.  We are reminded of the time when in Isaiah 37 the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.  There was nothing left for Sennacherib king of Assyria to do but to depart and go home after such a miraculous defeat.

In the narrative of Esther is was through a string of remarkable “coincidence” that we say were not coincidental but providential, relief came to the Jews.  We see a king who cannot sleep reading how Mordecai saved him from assignation.  There is Haman falling into the lap of Esther pleading for his life at the “right moment” for the king to see.  God was working and as Mordecai said, “relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews” (Esther 4:14).

Summary:

For us today, God is still keeping watch above His own. Any one of us at any time could be in a situation that could call for a faithful, effective action on our part to bring about God’s will for His church.  Who knows whether we may have come to the kingdom for just such a

Joseph, Genesis 42-50, Intended for Good


Intended for Good: Joseph, Genesis 42-50

God can Transform Incredible Wrongs into Rights

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Paul doesn’t say that all things are good, but in all things God is working.  You know, before we can witness God’s restoration, we have to let go of bitterness.

Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Our study of Joseph ends with Joseph making the choice to forgive.

Let’s go back to Genesis and our text for this lesson.  Read 41:38, then 47:20 and finally 42:2.

Intended for Good

Ten of the brothers come to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph recognizes them, “but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them.” (42:7)

They bowed down to Joseph, “And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.” (42:9)

Read Genesis 42:18-24

Joseph keeps Simeon and sends them home…with grain and their money.

In Genesis 43, the brothers tell their father Jacob about their experiences in Egypt.

They return.  Unease turns to terror when they are brought to the ruler’s house for dinner.

Read Genesis 43:33, then 43:24-30.

He sends them home again with money and a cup.

Joseph bursts into tears again.  Read Genesis 45:1-15. The brothers are sure now that this little trip to Egypt will end badly.  But of course it does not.

Why does Joseph seem to torture his brothers?

Is he Punishing them? He does call them spies, and he does keep Simeon, but Joseph breaks down and cries so much it is hard to believe that his heart is in punishing his brothers.

Is he Testing them? This is the usual answer to the question. Read Gen. 42:15, 21

Joseph was distressed when sold, and now his brothers are distressed.

Torn between love and justice, love wins out.  Read 45:5.  Joseph loves his brothers, and he is willing to forgive them their wrongs.

Joseph stresses the same point all over again after the death of Jacob.  The fear is that once their father dies, Joseph will punish them.

Joseph cries again (50:17).  Then he reassures them. Read Gen. 50:19-21.

Looking back Joseph sees the hand of God in everything that happens.

So how was Joseph able to get beyond bitterness, resentment and hostility?  It did not have to do with his brothers somehow passing the test.

It was because Joseph had absolute faith that God was in control.  Joseph wasn’t in the place of God to punish, control and manage.  Joseph was able to forgive, not because he was able to forget, but rather because he was able to remember that God is always in control.

Do you believe that today?  Is God always in control?  Won’t you give your life over to the one who forgives us all our trespasses?

 

Joseph, Genesis 39 and 40. When God Forgets You

When God Forgets You

Joseph, Genesis 39 and 40

Can the God who knows everything really be said to forget anything?  Not really, but He does choose not to hold forgiven actions against us.

When we are really struggling through difficult times in our lives, we can easily feel that God has forgotten all about us.  Those kinds of laments of the forgetfulness of God are made in the Bible. Psalm 13:1-2; 44:23-24; Job 13:24-25

First, Look up to God.  God is always there.

Struggle makes it hard to see anything except our struggle. When we feel isolated and alone and wonder where God is, we need to look up and know He is there.   Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Read Genesis 39:21 So when we are feeling the most isolated and alone, we need to look up and remind ourselves that God is right there with us.  God never forgets; you have His word!

Second, Look out to serve others.  God used Joseph in the lives of two fellow prisoners.  Read Genesis 40:2-4.

When I focus only on my pain, then my pain is all that I see…and it gets worse.  It is very easy to think “Nobody knows the trouble I see,” but that is never true.

The more you open yourself to others, the more you can see God working in their lives, and thus the more you can see Him working in your own. The more we look beyond, the better it is for us.

Third, Look within for faithfulness. We must connect with others, but we can’t put confidence in them alone.  The cup-bearer let’s Joseph down.  Read 40:23

For two long years, Joseph languished in prison alone and forgotten. Faith in the presence of God in hi life had to come from within Joseph.  Our faith can be strengthened by relationships with others, but if our faith fully rests in the faithfulness of others, then we too will be greatly disappointed.

Finally, Look ahead.  We know how the story ends.  But Joseph didn’t know how the story would end while he was living it.

Two long years unjustly imprisoned seemed to Joseph precisely like two long years unjustly imprisoned. And he didn’t know whether it was going to be two years or twenty years.

All Joseph could do was to look ahead as he trusted God to work out the future, and in the process look for God’s daily blessings along the way.

Read Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

This text (Romans 8:18) is about God’s future work, but it is also about our present groaning as we wait.  Keep reading Romans 8:22-26.

Sometimes all we can do is look ahead and wait for God to do something. Again Romans 8: 24-25.  “For in this hope we were saved.  Now hppe that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

And so we wait in hope. We face UP to God’s presence, OUT to ways to serve, IN to faithfulness within and AHEAD in faith to what God is going to do in our future.

Summary

So it is to God that we lift up our soul; none that wait on Him will be ashamed.

Have you given your life over to this Great and Awesome God?

 

Joseph, Genesis 39, Resisting Temptation

Joseph, Genesis 39

Resisting Temptation

How can we get better at resisting temptation?  Well, the word “practice” comes to mind.  But we can also learn some things that can help us, and our unlikely teacher this morning is Joseph.

Joseph was lost, alone, isolated.  And yet we are calling Joseph the “Overcomer” because his faithfulness to God allowed him to overcome circumstances.

When Joseph was Tempted and Tried

Joseph was at this point 17 years old.

Read Genesis 39:5  The more Joseph prospered, the more Potiphar prospered.

Joseph attracts the attention of Potiphar’s wife.  Read Genesis 39:6

Potiphar’s wife was in the position of power and uses power to sexually harass Joseph.

Joseph teaches us how to resist temptation.

First, Joseph points to the relational consequences of sin.  Read verse 9.

Sin always has consequences, and every action has its equal and opposite reaction.  Joseph knows that to give into temptation would be to break faith and be a sin against his master Potiphar.

Read Ephesians 4:17-24 (1244)  Paul says that we did not come to know Christ to continue to live in sin.  Read verse 25.

Sin is both against God’s law, and it is also against other people.

Second, Joseph refused to place himself in a compromising position.  Read Genesis 39:10.

He said “no” to the temptation, and then he removed himself from the temptation.  He simply avoided situations that made it difficult for him to do the right thing.

Joseph refused to put himself in a position that would make it harder to do the right thing.  He made the choice to put himself in a position to succeed in his quest to do the right thing.

Third, when Joseph could not remove the temptation, he removed himself.  Read Genesis 39:12.

The point is that he got away.  There was no further negotiating to be done.  He had already tried to explain to her why he could not have an affair.  Obviously, she wasn’t listening.  When confronted with a compromising situation that he could no longer control, Joseph just ran away.

I Corinthians 6:18 “flee sexual immorality.”

Summary

The lesson we learn from Joseph is not just about HOW to resist temptation; it is about WHY we should resist temptation.  The point in the verse we skipped was Joseph’s words to Potiphar’s wife.

Verse 9 “ “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

Don’t expect the world to applaud!  Joseph did the right thing because it was the right thing…and life got much more complicated.  But it was the right thing.

Have you decided to live like a believer?  Will you turn your back on the deceiver?  Are you resolved to do the right thing just because it is the right thing?  Are you resolved to come to the Savior?

 

When Life Isn’t Fair: Joseph, Genesis 37

When Life Isn’t Fair: Joseph, Genesis 37

 

Read Genesis 37:3-11

Why did the older sons of Jacob come to hate Joseph?

First, Joseph gave a bad report of his brothers job as shepherds (37:2)

Second, Joseph was the favorite child (37:3-4)

Third, Joseph’s dreams that elevated him above his brothers. (37:5-9)

“The Story Unfolds”
Read Genesis 37:19-20

Problem: the younger is favored.

Solution: remove the threat.

When Genesis 37 ends, Joseph has been betrayed by his own brothers who actually threaten to kill him.  He is then sold to  slave-traders and taken in chains to a distant country where he knows neither the language nor a single person there.  He is totally alone and ignored.

“Life can be Unfair”

The child who is physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

The wife who is physically beaten and emotionally beaten down.

The husband who learns that his wedding vows mean to his wife “until I find someone better.”

An employee who gives years to the company only to be laid off near retirement.

“People who are Betrayed are Hurt”

Distress.  Betrayal compromises your way of understanding the world, and the pain that you feel is combined with bewilderment and isolation.

Loss of Trust. It’s not just hard to trust those who hurt you, it’s hard to trust anyone.

Need for Justice. Sometimes those hurt are obsessed with thoughts of revenge.

“Overcoming Betrayal”

We must remember that God is always with you.  Joseph was betrayed and sold as a slave, but the very next sentence is his story is, “The Lord was with Joseph.” Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, but God was still God.  Every day he woke up as a slave was a reminder of how unfair life had become, but God still ruled over his life. Joseph was able to overcome his circumstance because he was able to understand that God still ruled over all circumstances.

Joseph no longer had his father, but God was still working in his life.

Paul assures us that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Not everything that happens to us is good.  But God can work to bless us in anything that does happen to us.

We must give up our fairness fixation and our desire for justice.  God is the God of justice, and eventually He will settle all accounts with an eternal finality.

Paul cautions us in Romans 12:19 “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

“Justice verses Grace”

Does everyone receive the justice they deserve, or do some receive grace.

Psalm 130:3-4 “If you, O Lord, would mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

Aren’t we glad that we can receive grace instead of what we deserve?

God’s work is to move you beyond the betrayal so that you can enjoy His presence and grace in your life today.

Summary

Read Jeremiah 31:12-14

How do we overcome the pain of betrayal? God has turned our mourning into dancing, and he did so through the greatest act of betrayal and injustice the world has ever known.

At the cross, God acted to turn our mourning into dancing.  We point to the cross and proclaim, “This is how we overcome!”