The Life of Joseph - Part 1
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Genesis 37:1–11, Isaiah 46:10, Genesis 15:13–14, Acts 4:27–28
Today we’re continuing our Origins series in Genesis Series by looking at the life of Joseph part 1.
1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.
2 These are the generations of Jacob.Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now 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. 4 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.
5Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 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.” 8 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.
9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
Summary of Narrative: Well, I read today’s passage, which is 11 verses of Genesis 37 but the life and story of Joseph is much bigger than that. In fact, it takes up nearly the last THIRD of the book of Genesis, from where we read today in Genesis 37; all the way to the very end of Genesis in chapter 50.
For those who maybe aren’t familiar with the story, or for those of us that just need a refresh, let me take a few minutes here to give a summary of part of the narrative of Joseph’s incredible life.
- 17 Year Old - Joseph His brothers HATED him, and actually planned to Kill him. Reuben, the oldest, intervened and convinced the brothers to put Joseph in an empty pit, and Reuben had plans to come back later and rescue him.
But Judah got a bright idea; why kill him when we can sell him? That way we aren’t killing him b/c he’s our own flesh. So, they sold him for 20 pieces of silver (a slaves price).
- Joseph ends up being sold to Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard (an officer) of Pharaoh, in Egypt. And Joseph served faithfully and the blessing of the Lord was on Joseph and all that he did so he found favor with Potiphar and he was made overseer of Potiphar’s house
- Joseph was a good looking young man and Potiphar’s wife noticed this and wanted to sleep with Joseph. And day after day she asked him to lie with her and Joseph refused b/c he didn’t want to sin against Potiphar and against God.
Infact, it got so bad that he literally had to flee the house and left his garment behind. An in doing, Potiphar’s wife was scorned and so she lied and accused Joseph of trying to rape her.
- So, Potiphar, being the Captain of the Guard, had Joseph thrown in prison.
But once again, the Lord gave Joseph favor to where the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners, and the Lord made Joseph succeed in whatever he did.
- Now the King’s cupbearer and his baker end up in prison with Joseph and they have dreams. Joseph (attributing interpretations to God) Interprets the dreams for both of them; the CupBearer to serve Pharoah in his old position again in 3 days, and the Baker to be executed in 3 days.
- And Joseph requests only that the Cup Bearer remember him, and do him kindness to get him out of prison too!
But the Cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
- 2 More years pass by with Joseph in Prison and this time Pharoah is the one having troubling dreams. The cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and Joseph is called before Pharaoh.
- The 2 Dreams are…. 7 Healthy Cows followed by 7 Sick Cows eating them, and 7 Good ears of corn, followed by 7 blighted Ears of corn that swallow up the good. And then Joseph, giving all credit to God for an interpretation, reveals to Pharaoh that his two dreams are one in meaning. 7 Years of good / plenty followed by 7 years of famine.
- And then Joseph does something more...he doesn’t just give the interpretation of the dreams, but also tells Pharaoh exactly how to use the 7 good years to prepare for the 7 years of famine so that the land may not perish.
So Pharaoh, seeing the wisdom, discernment and Spirit of God in Joseph, put him in charge and makes Joseph his #2 ruler in all of Egypt. (He’s 30 years old now) Joseph is given an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife; and he sets about preparing during the 7 plentiful years.
- Sometime during those 7 years before the famine, Joseph has two sons, and he gives them Hebrew names, Manasseh and Ephraim.
- Then the Famine comes and Egypt is prepared and able to sell grain. (37 Y/O)
Sometime in the first couple of years of the famine, Jacob learns there’s grain for sale in Egypt and sends 10 of his sons to go buy grain (but didn’t send Benjamin)
And here we see the first fulfillment of those original dreams that Joseph had; you see, Joseph is in control of selling the grain, and his brothers don’t recognize him, so they come before Joseph and they bow down before him to ask about buying grain.
- Joseph “sells” them the grain and after a year or two of literal back and forth between Canaan and Egypt the events come to a head.
- After hearing one of his brother’s willingness to give himself up in exchange for the life of Benjamin (their youngest brother) Joseph is overwhelmed with emotion and here at 39 years old, 22 years after he is first sold into Slavery by his Brothers, he reveals himself to his brothers. Now one of the first things out of his mouth is this…” And he said, 45:4-8 “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, 17for God sent me before you to preserve life…..And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
- And so, Joseph sends them back to their Father Jacob with the news that Joseph is alive. And they take everything and everyone they have from Canaan, and move to Egypt where they are reunited with Joseph, provided for for 5 more years of Famine, and settle in the Land of Egypt.
- Jacob goes on to pronounce some blessings and pass away in Egypt, and Joseph too eventually passes away in Egypt and we come to the end of Genesis.
How does the story of Joseph Fit into the Broader Narrative of Genesis?
We want to fit this into our Origins series.
Remember: Moses is the Author of Genesis and all of the Pentateuch (1st 5 books). And so, Moses is writing to the People of Israel to lay the foundations of what God is doing in History.
How/Why Israel was chosen as the People of God.
How/Why they came to Possess the Land.
The Giving of God’s Law to the people so they can understand God’s intention for how people are supposed to interact with God (vertical), and how people are supposed to interact with each other. (horizontal).
Understanding God’s purposes in History; how he is using his people to accomplish those purposes.
What do I mean when I say God’s Purposes? It’s the end or aim that God sets forth and decrees. His objective or goal, his intention or design. His sovereignty and providence.
How Does Joseph Fit into these purposes?
Whether you know it or not, we’ve been seeing God establish his purposes, laying the foundations bit by bit throughout Genesis. And we’ll dig more into the specifics later, but in General we see God’s purposes through the covenants. Whether with Adam, Noah, Abraham and so on...
At its heart, the story of Joseph is about how God accomplishes his purposes through Joseph’s life, where an atrocious sin sets this man on a 22 year journey to ultimately preserve life and rescue God’s people.
Sin cannot defeat God’s purposes. So, what’s true specifically for Joseph and his Brothers, I think we’ll find is also more broadly true for us today.
Organizational Sentence: We’re going to look at how God’s purposes are triumphant over Sin and circumstances or again how sin cannot defeat God’s purposes. (Other’s sin against you;).
Proposition: Be Encouraged today! As we study Genesis I hope you see that sin cannot defeat God’s Purposes in the life of Joseph and his brothers. And that sin cannot defeat God’s Purposes in your own life.
Is. 46:10 “My Counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”
Sin and Circumstances against you can’t defeat God’s Purposes
The Sin against Joseph.
On our pass through the life of Joseph this week I want look at the Story of Joseph through the most traditional Lens. (From the perspective of Joseph) - Next week we’ll take a more non-traditional look at the life of Joseph.
Here we see a GRAVE sin committed against Joseph by his very brothers.
They hated him so deeply that they wanted to MURDER him. 37:18-20 “ They conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.”
Slightly cooler heads prevail and instead of killing him, they sell him into slavery. It should be noted that according to God’s law that will come in Exodus, that just like murder, the seriousness of selling into slavery is punishable by death, “Exodus 21:16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”
So Joseph here experiences one of the gravest sins that can be committed against another person, punishable by death. A sin borne out of envy, arrogance, and hatred.
If that weren’t enough Joseph then encounters a 2nd major sin against him by Potiphar’s wife who bears false witness against him and has him sent to jail. A sin that according to God’s law revealed later in the pentateuch is punishable by the false accuser receiving whatever punishment would have been given to the one committing the crime.
Deut 19:18-19 “The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.”
What’s Joseph being accused of here? Attempted Rape.
According to God’s law, again revealed later the pentateuch, rape is punishable by death. Dt. 22:25 which speaks to the seriousness of the accusation of attempted rape.
So, this sin against Joseph, a sin of a deadly serious false accusation, is a sin borne out of spite. “You refuse to give me what I want, so I’m going to hurt you.”
Yet Joseph FLEES temptation and fornication. He does EXACTLY what Paul in the NT, and the Law in the OT calls him to do. And yet...he’s punished for doing the right thing.
Have you ever been punished for doing the right thing? Welcome to the Biblical club!
So, Joseph experiences two of the most heinous sins against him a person can experience, 1. Being sold into Slavery; 2. Falsely accuesd of attempted rape.
Resulting Circumstances: And these sins sets him on a course of slavery, servitude, and inprisonment lasting 13 years. He is a man whose circumstances are completely beyond his control.
Joseph’s Thoughts: What on earth must have been going through Joseph’s mind during those 13 years?
Can you imagine the questioning? Maybe he asked…
“Why, God? Why?” “Why have you allowed me to be sold into a foriegn land?” Or maybe…
“Why am I here, God? Why am I in the place? This foreign land. Am I not one of your people?”
“Why have you allowed me to be imprisoned falsely?” or maybe even….
“And yet, why is my work blessed in this the land of my affliction?”
I have to imagine these thoughts crossed Joseph’s mind.
And yet, this narrative doesn’t mention those kinds of thoughts once. Instead, we see that Joseph works faithfully regardless of his circumstance and gives credit to God whenever given the chance.
You see, these sins against Joseph are the very actions that put Joseph in the Center of God’s purposes. He is there for such a time as this, to be God’s vessel to accomplish His purpose of saving Joseph’s family, so that God’s chosen people will not die out.
What purpose is fulfilled here?
It is God who gives and fulfills the dreams in this story. God orchestrates all of it, so that even the terrible sins against Joseph, and the suffering and famine brought upon the land are purposed by God to bring about his greater plan.
What Plans are those?
Remember God’s Covenant with Abraham?
God’s promise in Chapter 12: 2-3 “2 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. 3 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.”
And God’s promise in Chapter 15:5 “And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.””
How will the great promise to Abraham come to fruition when his descendants are in danger of starving to death from a famine? Joseph and the sins against him are central to the continuation of that plan.
It is those very sins and circumstances, 1. The selling into slavery, which leads to living in Egypt; the false accusation, which leads to Pharoah’s prison.
It is those very sins and circumstances, which leads Joseph to the very position God INTENDS for him.
The position where through Joseph God brings it about that many people are kept Alive, indeed Egypt, and Canaan and throughout the known world, people are preserved by the foresight, wisdom, and preparation given through this man who was once a slave and prisoner.
But more than that generally preserving life, Specifically, Joseph is placed in the VERY position God intends, so that he might save his own family. The Family whose 12 Brothers become the 12 tribes of Israel.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Mannaseh, Ephraim), Benjamin.
So that the promises of God given to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15, might be fulfilled and the descendants of Abraham might be as numerous as the stars.
God will accomplish his Purposes.
But there’s something even more specific here.
You see part of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 is a very specific promise of hardship in a foreign land. Let’s read -
13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.
God promises Abraham that his offspring will be servants and afflicted in a foreign land for 400 years! How in the world is he going to bring that about when they’re nicely settled in Canaan?
The answer again is through Joseph. And the sins of others and circumstances arising from those sins against him could not defeat God’s purposes; in fact, they were the very means God used to bring about his purposes of bringing his people to a foreign land for 400 years; and preserving a people for himself so that they might become a great nation that will be a blessing.
(Other’s Sin and Circumstances against you can’t defeat God’s Purposes) Your circumstances cannot defeat the Purposes of God.
Maybe you’re like Joseph, who, is utterly confused as John Piper puts it ““being hated by family, being thrown in a pit, being sold into slavery, being accused of what you did not do, being thrown in prison, and being forgotten by those you blessed — all the while keeping your integrity and trying to serve God.” And you’re wondering…”what is God’s purpose here?”
Or maybe your circumstances have you asking that same question; “What is God’s purpose here?”
Maybe you’re like Joseph, at the end of a 22 year journey and you’re about to discover what it’s all about;
Maybe you’re in the middle of it, You’re in year nine, unjustly sitting in prison, and you’ve got 13 more years to go before God shows you his purposes for this... won’t be revealed for years
...or maybe, for some of us, maybe the purpose of God for the sin against us, or the circumstance we’re in will only become clear in heaven.
But remember, “It is God who gives and fulfills the dreams in this story. God is orchestrating the entire story.”
Thinking about how to apply these truths I would like to speak to two specific segments of people here today. (and if you don’t immediately identify with one of these camps, that’s ok, I’d encourage you to listen intently anyway, because I believe the applications here can apply to us all.)
Now you may hear that word and have no idea what I mean, so let’s give it some definition. The first segment of people I want to address today are those who, when something goes wrong in life, you think something is wrong with you spiritually speaking. You think thoughts like...
“If only I had enough faith, then God would heal me, help me, save them etc…”
This struggle/suffering in my life is evidence of sin which is hindering my prayers.
Or even if those thoughts aren’t conscious, maybe you’re subconsciously living like those things are true, like you’re the reason you’re experiencing difficult circumstances or suffering…
Or maybe you’re projecting those thoughts on to others who are suffering and struggling...believing that they are the cause of their own hard circumstances.
Now, let me be clear, our own sin can lead to our own suffering; our sins can also hinder our prayers but what I’m addressing here with Triumphalism is the idea that our interactions with God in life should function like a vending machine.
I.e. As long is I feed the machine the right inputs of faith, and hit the right buttons by not sinning by living “rightly”, then it’s going to give me blessings, health, triumph over sin, right relationship with others etc….
Triumphalism focuses on the self; it’s an inward focus, for the health, life, prosperity of ourselves and those we love. It’s a subtle twisting of God’s good promises that ties how good or bad our circumstances are directly to the lack of faith, or sins of the believer.
And Yet, scripture is clear that that’s not true.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount states in Matt 5:45 “... For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Or in Pslam 73 we see the Psalmist say.
PS 73: 2-5
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Christian, if consciously or are subconsciously living out this Triumphalistic lie, let today’s passage disabuse you of that notion.Your suffering, your trials, your circumstances do not mean that you are outside of God’s will and purposes for you. We have a man here in Joseph, who lives a life of outstanding moral character, and yet the tragic sins of others send him to a land of affliction and suffering that lasts for YEARS. And it is all for accomplishing purposes of God.
Our passage speaks to the expectation we should have of difficulty and suffering in this life; but it also gives MEANING to that difficulty and suffering. Because we can have confidence that our God is in TOTAL control, and it is in and through that very suffering... that we may not understand today, that we may not understand tomorrow...or even until we are in heaven….but it is in and through that very suffering that we see God is accomplishing his purposes.
Victimhood Culture / Unforgiveness
The 2nd segment I want to address today is victimhood culture. Now, I think this is a largely secular movement that is seeping into the church and it’s connected to a particular philosophy or worldview that has become quite popular in today.
And that worldview sees the world as oppressors and the oppressed. And sees systems of oppression. And it categorizes people by their identity (or multiple of various identities such as race, gender, class, and even religion).
And the overlap of these various identities equals someones level of privilege or marginalization in society. And what we’re seeing in this worldview is that the most marginalized or the biggest victims are the ones that can claim moral superiority by virtue of their victim status. In this worldview thiers are the voices that we’re supposed to listen to or heed because their voices carry more weight and authority due to their identity equaling the level of marginalization they’ve experienced; regardless of the actual experience of that individual.
One way in which this becomes problematic is that it incentivizes people to claim the most marginalized status. Because in claiming a more marginalized status, their voices are given greater weight and moral superiority. I.e. more power. And because there is social advantage and gain there...and people want that...so that’s what people think about. People’s thoughts dwell on what they desire. (Proverbs 23:7) “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
And so victimhood culture is born, where people seek out and search to identify where and how others have wronged them. They dwell there, in self-pity and self-righteousness feeling “good” about themselves because they “know” that they have been wronged, or are continuing to be wronged and can smugly sit in judgment over those who have given even the slightest perceived offense whether intended or not.
Victimhood culture does not know forgiveness. It refuses to turn the other cheek. Instead of pointing to Christ...it points to self. It is the opposite of humble; but rather proud; there is a high sensitivity to any slight, even unintentional and perceived slights.
And Believer, see in our passage here today that God has a bigger picture, that Joseph did not see himself as a victim. But rather proclaimed to his brothers who were terrified that Joseph was going to exact revenge on them 45:5;”... do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.””
But there’s even more evidence, Remember what Joseph named his Children? He gave them Hebrew names, “Manasseh” and “Ephraim”.
Do you know what Manasseh means? It means literally “God has made me forget all my hardship in my father’s house.”
His hardship was being betrayed by family.
His hardship was being sold into slavery.
Being cut off from family, enslaved, falsely accused and imprisoned in a foreign land.
If anyone had a right to be a victim, it was Joseph.
And yet, the very name he gives his son is a name that declares FORGIVENESS!
It says I choose not to define myself by the difficulties I’ve faced and the sins against me.
Or as Voddie Baucham so eloquently puts it, a modern translation of Manasseh means “I’ve let that stuff go.”
Now I want to take care here, because I recognize that there are real people here today, who have suffered real hurt at the hands of others. And a fully orbed view of scripture calls for justice, and for reconciliation. But brothers and sisters, we are not the arbiters of the Justice. True justice and reconciliation can only be found in Christ and in resting in His work on the Cross.
You may have been victimized, but you are not a victim, because a victim is one whose identity is based on being oppressed and mistreated!
And as Christians, we have been given a new identity. Christian, You are NOT a victim, because there is one who is THE VICTOR, HE has overcome sin, satan, and death, and HE has purchased you at a price. Ransoming you out of the very pit of Hell. Jesus Christ died on a Cross and rose Victorious on the Third Day so that his beloved and chosen people might feast with him, and worship him as he reigns victorious over the new heavens and new earth for all eternity.
DO NOT BUY into Triumphalism where your identity and circumstances rest in your performance.
DO NOT BUY into Victimhood Culture where others must be sacrificed on the altar of unforgiveness in order to give yourself “credit” and glory;
but rather live your life as a Living Sacrifice so that your life might give glory to the one who was unjustly sacrificed for your sins.
As a believer in Christ, Your identity is not found in the circumstances surrounding you...or how marginalized you are but rather it is found in Christ alone for you are a NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus. Our calling as believers is not that of unforgiveness but is to be ministers of reconciliation.
Other’s sins against you don’t define you, because Other’s sins against you can’t defeat God’s Purposes.
Take heart believer.
God’s purposes triumph over other’s sins against you,
God’s purposes triumph over your circumstances.
When you’re in the middle of the fray, and it’s so hard to see what God is doing; cling to his promises; plant the deep in your heart, and fight to rest in knowing that no matter the outcome, God WILL accomplish all of his good purposes.