DECEPTION

Joseph’s story doesn’t start when we first meet him at age 17. To truly understand Joseph’s story, you must start with his grandfather Isaac. If you have never heard the story of Isaac, here’s a snippet to help you understand Joseph’s life a little more. As Isaac was facing death, he sent for his oldest son Esau to come to him. It was Isaac’s desire to give a blessing to his son Esau and before doing so, it was his wish to have Esau to prepare one last wild game dinner for him.

Isaac’s wife, Rebekkah, had other ideas. Her favorite son was Jacob not Esau, which was Isaac’s favorite. She concocted a plan, Genesis 27:1-8, 11-13,  whereby Jacob would receive the blessing and not Esau.  Jacob did in fact receive Isaac’s blessing but would soon be on the other side of deceit when Rebekkah’s brother Laban, Jacob’s uncle, would deceive Jacob (Genesis 29:16-21, 23 and 25) into thinking that he was receiving one of his daughters in marriage but in fact gave Jacob is other daughter instead. Jacob had worked 7 years for the hand of Rachel, whom he loved but was given Leah instead. Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob on the conditions that he finished his marriage week with Leah and agreed to work an additional 7 years for Laban.

Now I know as husbands, we all love our wives greatly and would have had no problem working 14 years to marry the woman of our dreams. Now pause here a second and look at Jacob’s life up to this point. First, with his mother’s encouragement and help, he essentially steals his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father to think that he was Esau. Then he goes to his Uncle Laban and asks for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laban agrees to do so after Jacob has worked in his service for 7 years. When the day actually comes for Jacob to collect his new bride, Laban pulls a switch on Jacob and gives him his oldest daughter instead of Rachel, forcing Jacob to agree to work another 7 years before giving Rachel to him.

It’s amazing to me to think that even though Jacob knew all the turmoil that comes with deception and favoritism, he himself, followed the same path with his family. And this should be a warning to all of us that sins or a sinful nature can be passed down from generation to generation. So here we have the background for the type of family Joseph was born into. As we will see, Joseph did not allow his family’s history to define who he was or let himself fall into the same traps of dishonesty or deceit.

None of us are given the choice as to which family we will be born into but whether good or bad, it is still up to us to determine the path our lives will take.

HISTORY REPEATED

Joseph becomes the main character of Genesis beginning in Chapter 37:2 – This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. At this point, we know Joseph is 17 and is the 2nd youngest of 12 brothers. And at the end of the verse listed above we see that he has no problem with letting his father, Jacob, know what is going on with his brothers.

In the next verses we see how the history of favoritism is carried on to yet another generation of Abraham’s family. Genesis 37:3-4 – 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to himObviously we now have some serious conflict going on within this family. Imagine hating someone to the point that you couldn’t even talk to them peaceably and then imagine living in the same house with that person, day after day, year after year.

Thinking back on when I was a young parent I don’t remember anybody talking about or warning Lisa and I to be careful about showing favoritism where our children were concerned. It is something that we talked about and were always careful to guard against. I do however, think this is something we need to talk about, especially with young parents. Nothing can disrupt or cause animosity quicker within a family than favoritism.

My simple advise is this, your kids are individuals, each created with unique gifts, skills, quirks and personalities. Learn your kids and celebrate their individuality while working with them to overcome any obstacles they have in their character. Additionally, I would also say that I think some parents do a disservice to their children when they try and treat all of their kids the same way – equally. Instead, I would say you should treat your kids justly according to who they are.

An example of this would be: one of my daughters absolutely hated the idea of getting a spanking, to the point that she would cry a bucket of tears before the actual punishment was ever administered. My other daughter thought, ha, that’s no big deal, lasts for a minute and it’s over. With the one, we would give spankings and with the other, we found that taking things or privileges away from her would make a much stronger point. Was that fair? Would they say they were treated equally?  With both, we tried to be just and as a result, we didn’t have to spank a lot nor did we take away a lot of things.

Next Chapter will look at the dreamer and start looking at some parallels between lives of Joseph and Jesus.

THE DREAMER

When you were a kid, what dreams did you have? For me, I had 3 dreams that I wanted to see come true. One was to be a Navy pilot but due to medical reasons, that was short lived. The second one was to dance on broadway. Yes, I typed Broadway. I always loved watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and the Nicholas brothers do their dance numbers in the various movies that they were in and always thought it would be so cool to perform those types of dances on the Broadway stage.  Lastly, I wanted to be a Wide Receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. But alas, outside of Wes Welker, there is not too much demand for 5’9″ wideouts in the NFL.

Chasing or pursuing dreams can be tough but why is it that some people achieve their dreams while so many others fall short. For me, it was matter of dedication. I simply wasn’t dedicated to do the things necessary to give my dreams the opportunity to be fulfilled. Sure, I wanted these things but I wasn’t willing to do what was needed to achieve them. When faced with obstacles, difficulties and circumstances on my path, I lost my focus and willingness to overcome them. And I have no doubt that I would have needed a couple of breaks along the way as well. Somebody being willing to take a chance on me or maybe, just a matter of being in the right place at the right time type of thing. Regardless, I fell short on those dreams but I am thankful today that I have new dreams to pursue and unlike the ones mentioned above, I am dedicated to do what it takes to achieve them. Now let’s look at a couple of dreams of another kid.

Beginning in Genesis 37:5-11, we are introduced to the dreams of Joseph. My first thought about these dreams is how, for this family, they seemed like such big dreams for this kid to have. To think that this kid would someday be in a position that his father, mother and siblings would one day bow before him was a bit much for everyone to take. And there is no way that they could have had any idea exactly how this would come about …but God did!! Here a young man of 17 has 2 dreams, which are significant in this family but God’s plan was designed for multiple nations of people and countries.

If nothing else comes from this post, keep this in mind, and think of Joseph and his dreams. A young man had a dream of being the greatest among his family. God’s dream for Joseph was so much bigger than any thing Joseph could imagine or “dream” of and God has a dream (plan) for us too. Now that plan may not be for you to become the 2nd most powerful person in a kingdom….but then again….it might!?

Now the dreams of Joseph are obviously from God and may not be what Joseph aspired to accomplish for himself but they were His dreams. Joseph had no idea what events and circumstances would shortly begin to happen in his life that would take him on a remarkable journey, where in the end, not only would his dreams be realized but that the impact of his life would affect millions of people over thousands of years. As we continue this study in the days ahead, remember that no matter the circumstance, or obstacle that was laid before him, Joseph was able to keep his focus and dedication on what was truly important. What circumstances or obstacles seem to be impeding your way today. Are they too much for you to overcome? Are they too much for God to overcome?

Jeremiah 29:11-12 – 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

MEANT FOR EVIL

As we finish up Genesis 37, we get into the events that will set the course for a most remarkable journey for Joseph. And as we do so, I want to draw attention to the fact, that just like today, they also had to deal with evil in Joseph’s day as well.  Looking at this passage we will see different types evil, along with character flaws, shortcomings, and although men conspired to do evil, God used it to fulfill His purpose and protected Joseph.

Genesis 37:12-26. The brothers had taken the flocks to Shechem to graze when Israel (Jacob) decides to send Joseph to find out what’s going on with the brothers. Why he wants to do this, who knows but here we have a reinforcement of favoritism being displayed to the brothers. So, whatever the reason,  he decided to send Joseph to Shechem to find his brothers, And in verse 15 is the following: A man found him there, wandering in the field, and asked him, “What are you looking for?” I make note of this verse because what if the man hadn’t of been there? Joseph possibly would have returned back home not knowing where his brothers were and if so, would have never ended up being sold into slavery.

How often in our lives have we had a “man” or “something show up” out of the blue that we were able to look back on and think wow, how fortunate we were that they were there? So, tragedy was avoided and Joseph was able to continue on with God’s plan and made his way to Dothan after being directed there by the man. Now in verse, 18, evil is in full bloom with the brothers – “They saw him in the distance, and before he had reached them, they plotted to kill him.” They didn’t want to just mess with him a little bit, maybe beat him up to teach him a lesson. They wanted to KILL him!

Luckily for Joseph, his big brother was there to rescue him and keep him safe. His proposal to his brothers was to put Joseph in the pit without doing the whole killing thing! At first glance, it seems that Reuben is a hero by standing up to them but really – no, not even close. He proved to be a weak leader by not standing up fully against his brothers wishes. He was more concerned about keeping peace among his brothers than simply doing the right thing! Joseph was sparred and was put into the pit alive. Pretty sure that at this point, I would probably begin questioning my whole faith thing.

In verse 26, a new leader is established among the brothers as we see Judah step forward – v.26 Then Judah said to his brothers, what do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. A couple of points. Although mentioned by Reuben earlier, the question of whether or not to kill Joseph is not really answered until this passage when Judah makes his plea. I love how Judah justifies that it is ok to sell Joseph into slavery over just killing him. So in addition to jealousy and anger, we now are introduced to the evil of greed.

As we end this post, I want to make special note of the fact that Joseph, at this point, has absolutely no control over his situation. He has fallen victim to the evil plans of others, family who have essentially cut ties with him forever (or so they thought) and I can only imagine how dark this day for Joseph truly was. And for us today, we would do well to remember that no matter our circumstance or overwhelming the plight we find ourselves may seem, God is in control and we should remember Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Joseph/Jesus Parallels

I thought it might be good to look at a couple of parallels between the lives of Jesus and Joseph.  Joseph’s life is a foreshadowing of the one true Messiah that was to come later. Joseph was a servant of God, maybe not by his choice, but a servant none the less.  Jesus was the perfect picture of servant. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Joseph was despised and hated by those you would think would love him most. Jesus, likewise, was despised and hated by those you would think would love him most. For Joseph, it was is brothers that despised and hated him, even to the point that they considered killing him. For Jesus, he was rejected by the nation of people who were chosen by God and knew from the scrolls, that a Saviour was to come. And Jesus was also discarded by those closest to Him, even His own brothers. John 7:5 – For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 

Betrayal for Sale: Judah pitches the idea of selling his brother into slavery which they agree to do and Joseph is sold for 20 pieces of silver. Then in Matthew 26:14-16, we see that Jesus is betrayed for 30 silver pieces by Judas Iscariot. And if you notice the names of the men who led the betrayal’s, we see Judah and Judas. Judah translated from the Hebrew name “Yehuda” can also be translated to Judas. For Joseph, it is through this betrayal that we see God exalt him to a position where he becomes a savior to both Gentiles (Egyptians) and Jews (Joseph’s family) and I wonder how much of this Joseph knew was his ultimate calling ahead of time. For Jesus, the betrayal begins the final chapter of Jesus’ earthly ministry by sacrificing himself to be the Savior of all people – Jews and Gentiles alike.

I will post some other parallels in the lives of Jesus and Joseph a little later on.

STEADFAST AND STRONG

As the scene shifts to Egypt, things look extremely bleak for Joseph. Sold into slavery and now being taken into a foreign land, Joseph’s future isn’t looking to bright. I would encourage you to read Genesis 39 and as you do, notice that in every trial that comes to Joseph, he stays steadfast and strong to the Lord. And more importantly, notice that God IS ALWAYS with Joseph!! This post will focus on Genesis 39:1-6a.

Again I will bring up the fact that all that is unfolding in Joseph’s life is part of God’s master plan. In the beginning of this chapter we see that an Egyptian (and not just any Egyptian) named Potiphar purchases Joseph. Potiphar just happens to be an officer of Pharoah and is his captain of the guard. I dwell on this because I don’t think we truly understand just how much God does for us. Sure we say things like “God is in control” but do we truly believe that or approach life like He is in control. Think about every person you know, all the places you have lived, events that have taken place and experiences, you just can’t explain. Do you think that there are people that you know, places you have lived or events and experience you’ve had that has caught God off guard. NO, He is with us ALWAYS!!

Our lives are a living testimony and how we lead and live our lives is noticed by others and in Joseph’s case, it became apparent to Potiphar that the Lord was with Joseph. The Lord made sure that Joseph was successful in everything he did and this was attractive to Potiphar. So much so, that Potiphar made Joseph his personal attendant and put everything under his household in Joseph’s charge. In doing so, Potiphar’s house and all that he owned was blessed because of Joseph. Potiphar had it so good that the only thing he worried about everyday was the food he would eat.

No doubt Joseph had to grow up in a hurry. Obviously on his own now, he had no one to lean on but God. And obviously he didn’t sulk or just do the minimum that was required of him. The Bible makes a point to say in verse 2 – The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. I don’t know of anyone who was successful that achieved it by being sullen, lazy or apathetic. No, Joseph not only did what was asked of him but did it in such way that Potiphar noticed that the LORD was with him”. When was the last time somebody noticed that the Lord was with you?

Now play along with me here a second….tomorrow, you are going to be taken prisoner, bound in chains, shipped off to another country and be enslaved to whomever is willing to buy you. You have nothing and no one to call your own – save one….God. Would God still be your Lord? I get disgruntled when I don’t get to have coffee in the morning or maybe I have to work late. I would like to think that I could be like Joseph and keep my focus on God and continue to have my life be a living testimony of how great and wonderful God is? Better question maybe? Am I like Joseph now in my current state of life? Is my life a living testimony of how great and wonderful God is and do I reflect the light of Jesus, that others may see Him through me? I will end this post there……I have to go and pray now!

TEMPTATION

It’s been said that you are: about to experience a trial in your life – are in the middle of a trial in your life – or just came out of trial in your life. Take heart and know that you are not alone as we all feel like that at various times in our lives. The true measure of our character is not revealed when things are going well but rather when things are seemingly at their worst. How we respond in these “worst of times” moments is what people seem to remember most in relation to our character. And know this, bad things or circumstances happen to EVERYONE! Even to those who seemingly are doing everything right. Let’s continue with our study of Joseph.

When we ended our last post, everything seemed to be going great for Joseph. God had not only blessed Joseph but also Potiphar and his entire household because of Joseph. Finally, things were going well for Joseph. Although not ideal for sure, he was finding success and was improving his standing in life. Then it happens, life inexplicably throws Joseph’s world into turmoil.  At the end of Genesis 39:6 we read – Now Joseph was well-built and handsome. This fact was not lost on Potiphar’s wife and after some time had passed, she boldly asked Joseph one day to “Sleep with me.

Joseph’s response – Genesis 39:8-10 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. Joseph responded exactly as he should have but to no avail, for day after day, she relentlessly pursued him and Joseph remained steadfast, not giving in to temptation. One day she went as far as making sure the house was completely empty so that when Joseph came to work there would be no interruptions or eyes to see! In verse 12 – She grabbed him by his garment and said “Sleep with Me!” But leaving his garment he escaped and ran outside,.

Take note of how Joseph dealt with this temptation. He did not try to plea with her again or try and ignore it. He got away from her clutch and RAN!! Too many times when we find ourselves in a situation similar to this, we think we are strong enough to stand against temptation…why risk it? RUN and run fast!

It’s cool how God then rewards Joseph’s faithfulness by bringing despair and ruin to Potiphar’s wife…..but…that’s not what happened at all. To me, that seems to be what should have happened but alas, God had a greater plan for Joseph which would require Joseph to be in prison. So as we read the rest of Genesis 39:13-20, we see how Potiphar’s wife claimed that Joseph had tried to sleep with her and after she had screamed for help, Joseph had fled, leaving his garment behind. Naturally, after hearing these things, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. Not just any prison however, Joseph was put in the same prison where the king’s prisoners were kept.

It’s easy to look ahead in Joseph’s story and know that in the end all things work out for Joseph. But at this point in the story, Joseph had to be thinking – really? I can’t catch a break! Do you ever feel that way? But like Joseph, we have a God that cares for us and loves us beyond our comprehension.

To close this post – Temptation will come us at in various ways, through various people and a lot of times, it comes at just that moment when all seems to be going well. It is up to us to guard our hearts and minds so that like Joseph, we can stand strong against temptation and also have courage like Joseph, to know when it is time to simply run or flee from temptation.

Last point. God is continually at work in our lives and has hard as it is sometimes to see that, we must keep faith and remember this!  Our character will be revealed in times of trouble and strife. My prayer is that all of us will be found to have Godly character in the most difficult of circumstances!!

Joseph/Jesus parallels continued

As we look further into the parallels between the lives of Joseph and Jesus, I am continually amazed at how Joseph maintains his faith and trust in God. Unlike Jesus, who knew how the events of His earthly life would unfold, Joseph simply trusted God and faithfully served, no matter his circumstances. How different would our own lives be if we adopted and lived with the same faith and trust that Joseph did?

In Genesis 39:17-20 we read how Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph – 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

Likewise, Jesus was also falsely accused by many people as we read in Mark 14:55-64 – 55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. 57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.   Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”   62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

After being put into prison, Joseph finds himself in the company of two prisoners from the King’s court. The King’s former cupbearer and baker are with him. Both men have dreams in which Joseph interprets for them. For the cupbearer, his dream is a foreshadowing that in 3 days he will be granted new life and restored into the King’s court. The baker did not receive such a positive interpretation of his dream has Joseph revealed to him, that in 3 days he would experience ultimate separation and be killed by having his head removed from the rest of his body.

And obviously, we can now draw a connection between these two men and the two criminals that were also to be put to death by the cross with Jesus. To be honest with you, I had never made the connection until this study. In Luke 23:39-43 were told – 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Here we have such a great picture of a true salvation experience. Two men, both of whom are guilty and facing just consequences, one accepts Jesus for who He is and makes his plea for Jesus to remember him while the other mockingly asks to be saved but with no remorse or real acknowledgement of who Christ is. The one is saved and promised to be in paradise and reunited with Jesus. The other faces ultimate separation from God.

In closing this segment of parallels, I want to remind you that both Joseph and Jesus are being punished although neither were guilty of any wrong doing. They fulfilled their punishment before being exalted…..more on that next time we look at the parallels between Joseph and Jesus.

LIFE REPEATS ITSELF

In the last post I mentioned two gentlemen that would play a significant role in Joseph’s life. Both men served in Pharaoh’s court, as one served as his cupbearer and the other his baker. These two men probably had no idea how they would help impact the world for years and years to come but God used both of them to help shape the events that would lead to Joseph becoming the 2nd most powerful man in ALL of Egypt! But first….

Joseph had been put into the same prison where the King’s prisoners were kept by Potiphar. And once again God let’s Joseph know that He is with him by granting Joseph favor in the eyes of the Prison Warden. So much so, that the warden is compelled to not only put all of the prisoners under Joseph’s direction but for everything that was done there! Obviously, this all sounds familiar as once again Joseph finds success in all that he does, for the Lord is with him.

Sometime after Joseph has built up his reputation with the warden we read that Pharaoh was offended by the cupbearer and baker and puts them into the custody of the warden where Joseph was. And Joseph is assigned to be their personal attendant. We are also told at the end  Genesis 40:4 that they were in custody for some time. And then beginning in Genesis 40:5 we see how dreams, once again, begin to play a significant role in Joseph’s life. I would encourage you at this point to read Genesis 40:5-23

Would it have surprised you if Joseph had told these guys to forget about their dreams, that in his experience, nothing good ever came from dreams. At this point, we can deduct that Joseph is around the age of 28 and has been enslaved for 9 years or so. And since the time of his dreams at age 17, he has had to endure a pretty hard life. Yes, God has been with him the whole time but according to worldly standards, prison is surely not the place you want to be making your way in this world.

Deliverance for Joseph is another 2 years away as we will see later and I would imagine at this point, Joseph is not praying for patience but patience IS what he is learning. Obviously he knows that God has blessed him and continues to do so by granting him favor in men’s eyes and making it possible for him to find continual success in all that he does. Even so, I think it’s incredible we don’t see any evidence that Joseph is bitter or angry with his position in life.

If we are honest with ourselves, we probably feel like we can relate to Joseph, I admit I do. Am I slave to someone or a prisoner…no but at times I do feel enslaved to this life and that sometimes, just as I feel like things are going great and I am feeling really great about life, circumstances change and I find myself asking “why me, Lord”? And like Joseph, when I take time to lose the bitterness or anger and look for the blessings in my life, I am overwhelmed by the Grace, Mercy and Love that God showers me with! And the blessings so greatly outnumber any hardships, trials and tribulations I may have experienced.

In this life, it sometimes seems that life repeats itself time and time again as I experience some of the same ups and downs over and over again. As I look at it now though, I see that in each instance, there were different lessons or experiences that have helped shaped me to who I am today. And maybe not for you, but for me, the toughest lesson for me to learn is patience. To know that in all circumstances of my life, God is with me, and through all things, God is wanting to not only reveal Himself to me, but grow me through it that I will be in a better position to serve Him and His purpose!!

DREAMS, DREAMS EVERYWHERE DREAMS

In Chapter 40 of Genesis from last week we read about the Cupbearer and Baker from the King’s court being thrown into the same jail as Joseph. And while they were there, they both had dreams on the same night which Joseph was able to interpret for them the next day. For the cupbearer, he learned that he would be restored to his position in the King’s court while the Baker learned that his life would soon be ending.

What amazes me about this passage is that after Joseph interpret’s the Cupbearer’s dream, he makes one simple request – Genesis 40:14 – 14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. And yet, somehow, incredibly we read the cupbearer does not remember Joseph’s request, for in verse 23 we read – The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Maybe he didn’t want to say anything to Pharaoh to rock the boat or possibly the right moment never presented itself but regardless the reason, HE FORGOT HIM. The real reason for this is simple – it wasn’t yet Joseph’s time.

For whatever reason and known only to God, Joseph would have to endure two more years of being in prison before being released. But oh what a release it would be as we see Joseph go from being in prison as the day begins to assuming all control of Egypt and everything in it short of Pharaoh and his throne!! Just let that sink in for a minute. From the depths of despair and imprisonment to not only freedom but control of an entire nation! I wonder at what point in the proceedings of the day did Joseph think back to his own dream that he had 13 years earlier!

If you haven’t before I would encourage you to read Genesis 41: 1-40 now and see for yourself how incredible Joseph’s deliverance truly was. The short story is that after 2 years had passed from the time the cup bearer was restored to his position in the King’s court. Pharaoh had a dream that when he woke from it, he was sorely troubled and sent for all the wise men and magicians of Egypt to help him understand what his dreams meant but none of them could do so.

Now it was Joseph’s time to come forward. For some reason, the cup bearer’s memory was suddenly restored and relayed all that had happened to him two years earlier to Pharaoh. Obviously, Pharaoh sent for Joseph right away. Pharaoh told Joseph his 2 dreams, both of which, meant the same thing: Egypt would soon experience 7 years of great abundance for their crops but then, however, 7 years of famine would follow. What I find interesting as the story continues to unfold and take great encouragement from is how God first blesses Joseph with the ability of interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and then follows that by giving Joseph a detailed plan of how the famine can be avoided, which he relays to Pharaoh.

As we read the following passage, notice how Joseph shows humility to Pharaoh as he presents the plan. Genesis 41:33-36 – 33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.” 

Joseph did not say to Pharaoh, “I got this and if you listen to me, I can take care of everything! Joseph understood his position and presented his plan from a servant’s heart. With two simple words – Let Pharaoh, he demonstrated great humility and showed respect for who Pharaoh was, which, was King of Egypt. And to back track a second, Joseph led into this passage by reminding Pharaoh that the dream was given to him by God and the reason he received it in two forms was so that he would understand that “this was going to happen”.

As we end this post, let’s look at verse 38 a little more closely. In verse 37 we read that Pharaoh and all his officials thought the plan Joseph presented was good and in Genesis 41:38  – So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God[a]Notice the qualifier that Pharaoh puts on the end of his question. Pharaoh recognizes that what separates Joseph from everyone else is that the spirit of God is within him! And because of this Pharaoh decides on the spot that Joseph is the man to guide Egypt forward to the days ahead and puts Joseph in charge of ALL EGYPT, short of the throne it’s self.

Joseph’s deliverance was thirteen years in the making and yet, during all that time he remained faithful to God! He served others with diligence no matter his circumstance and God was with him through it all. The one constant we have seen in the life of Joseph through all of this is that all who knew Joseph recognized that God was with him. What about us today? The same God that was with Joseph desires to be with us today! The “spirit” is available to us today through the One, who was the ultimate servant, Jesus, who paid the price for our sins and died on the cross for us!

parallels of Jesus and Joseph

I know the last post was a bit lengthy so I will try and keep this a bit shorter. Here are some more comparisons between Joseph’s and Jesus’ lives.

The first is the exaltation of the two. For Joseph, enslaved, then imprisoned for false charges brought against him had to endure a heavy price by serving in prison for years. Jesus, was also falsely accused and was not only imprisoned but put to death by the cross, paying the ultimate price for the sins of all man kind! Joseph was exalted to be Pharaoh’s right hand man while Jesus was exalted to the right hand of the Father following his resurrection. The Egyptians now bowed at the feet of Joseph and one day, ALL the world will bow down at the feet of the Lord.

Philippians 2:8-11gives us the full picture –  5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The second is the Gentile bride. Joseph was given Asenath to be his bride. Obviously she was Egyptian and therefore, also, Gentile. Jesus, upon His exaltation, took a bride for Himself, which is the church, predominantly from among the gentile nations.

So as we look closer at this we see that by all appearances Joseph has found peace among the gentiles in Egypt. His life is now going good and there is prosperity once again for that which is under Joseph’s control has Egypt enjoys 7 years of an immeasurable bounty of crops. For Joseph, however, he is still separated from his people, his family, and his home! He still has to deal with the fact that he was rejected by his family (brothers), cast aside if you will, for it was easier to get rid of him rather than to be confronted by him day after day.

Jesus, like Joseph, found acceptance among the gentiles (predominantly) after His exaltation as His bride (the church), was established. And like Joseph, Jesus was rejected by His people and His family.  He too was discarded as people found it easier to kill Him, rather than have to confront who He was, day after day.

For Joseph, the seven years of famine forced His brothers to seek help, salvation from death and therefor brought them once again, face to face with their brother. Likewise, we know that a day is coming in which, the nation of Israel, will endure extreme hardships that will force them to seek help, salvation from their plight and once again will come face to face Jesus.

The last parallel between Joseph and Jesus will look at is the reconciliation of Joseph to his family and Jesus’ reunion with those who have believed in Him. But that will be in the days to come.

PRIDE AVOIDED

Finally, after 13 years Joseph is released from prison and not only that, he now finds himself as the 2nd in command of the whole nation of Egypt! As we pick up the story in Genesis 41:41-44, we see that Pharaoh announces Joseph’s rise to power in a big, big, way. After declaring that Joseph will be over all the land of Egypt, Pharaoh removes his signet ring from his own hand and places the ring on Joseph’s hand. And then gives Joseph a brand new wardrobe of fine linen garments to wear and lastly, he then places a gold chain around Joseph’s neck!.

After the makeover his complete, Pharaoh then has Joseph ride in his second chariot and while Joseph is touring the country, servants go before him calling out “Make Way”. Joseph has arrived, he has been delivered from the depths of prison and given a new life to lead. As part of this new beginning, he receives a new name from Pharaoh and also given a new bride, whose name is Asenath. Can you imagine if that happened in our day? The media would just explode with all kinds of coverage about the new kid. Where did he come from? What’s his background? Any skeletons in the closet? and on and on.

I imagine the people of Egypt during this time were also wondering some of the same things. And it had to seem to them, that this had just happened overnight. They had no idea that this new kid had been being groomed for this role over 13 years. They would have no way of knowing what Joseph had to endure during his life to get to this point. Sold into slavery, a servant for years, falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit and then sentenced to serve his life in prison.

NO CHARGE FOR THE FOLLOWING AS IT IS JUST THOUGHTS AS I AM PREPARING THIS:

What about us today? How often do we look at others and before we really know anything about them or the life they have had to live; pass judgement and decide what our response to them will be – sometimes even before we talk to them. Let me say this another way. How many Joseph’s do we know? Those people that we see, that seemingly have it all figured out and/or at least seem to not have the struggles we do. Do we take the time to get to know them, find out their story or do we simply hold to our initial judgement and leave it up to them to change our opinion?

I think the opposite is true as well. I think there are times when we see those people, that by worldly standards appear to be down and out, undesirable, uneducated, unworthy, etc. and we again, make judgments based on preconceived bias’ we have. Do we condemn them to never having the opportunity to gain our friendship simply because of their appearance. If so, shame on us!!

Ok, back to the study. Joseph answered his calling and did exactly what he had proposed to Pharaoh by going throughout the land of Egypt collecting all the excess grain and storing it in the different cities around the country. Genesis 41:47-49. There was so much excess in fact, that Joseph quit measuring the grains that were collected. For Joseph, the land wasn’t the only thing producing in abundance, as we read about he and his wife welcoming two sons into their family in Genesis 41:50.

It strikes me as I read about all of this that Joseph doesn’t become boastful are prideful. I think it would be easy for him to puff up and say “look, I knew I could do this, I just needed the chance. Look at how great I am managing all this”. No, what we see is the opposite as we look at Genesis 41:51-52 – 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[a] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim[b] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Joseph recognized and understood that it was by God’s grace and mercy that he was enjoying the life he was now leading. The trials and tribulations that Joseph had endured for those 13 years helped position him to have a grateful attitude and not one of pride. How are we doing with pride today? Do we recognize and honor God regardless of our circumstances or do we boast about what WE have done or if facing trials of our own, do we hold true and steadfast, giving thanks to God despite our plights?

If you take a moment and finish reading the rest of Genesis 41 , you will see that in fact, famine does come, not only to Egypt but the whole world. And as famine spreads across the country, people from everywhere make their way to see Joseph and buy grains in order to keep their families fed.

Next, we will look at restoration and the word that has to happen before that takes place….forgiveness!

FORGIVENESS BEFORE RESTORATION

God is the ultimate healer as we saw in our last post. After years of trials and tribulations, God delivered Joseph from his afflictions and allowed him to be placed over all of Egypt. Along with that, Joseph was given a new bride and shortly after that, was blessed with two sons. Egypt was soon enjoying 7 years of great prosperity just as Joseph had said they would and Joseph knew that 7 years of famine were to follow. So with preparations made and the storehouses full, Joseph and Egypt were ready for the days that lay ahead.

And just as God had delivered Joseph from his bondage and protected Egypt from the famine, He was about to bring restoration to the house of Jacob (Israel). The onslaught of famine was not immune to Egypt only but was felt around the world, even into the land of Canaan. This week we will look at Genesis 42:1-28 with our focus being on the latter part of the chapter.

In Genesis 42:1-4, we see the plight of famine is reaching across the globe as Jacob instructs the sons to go to Egypt and buy the grain they need to survive. Jacob did not send Benjamin (the youngest) with them. In verse 4 – But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he thought, “Something might happen to him”.  I wonder to what extent Jacob did not trust the 10 brothers? Obviously, he was protecting Benjamin but exactly from what, we are not sure. So the brothers, after 20 plus years come face to face once again with the brother they thought they had gotten rid of years earlier! And we see that a dream long forgotten by most, was soon to be fulfilled….partially anyway.

Genesis 42:6-7 – 6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” They however, did not recognize Joseph so he decided to test them a little. He claimed they were spies to which they obviously denied by telling him their story and that they were the sons of one man and that they were…..wait for it…..honest. Still unknown to them but the sins of their past were about to be unfolded for all to see.

Joseph challenged their response and insisted they were spies to which they confessed even more – in verse  – 13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.” Joseph decided to test the brothers by holding one of them in prison while the others returned to Canaan to deliver the much needed food and then return with the youngest brother to prove that they were not spies. It’s interesting how the brothers respond to this plight. See, they knew exactly what they had done some 20 years earlier was wrong and they now recognized they were being punished for their sins. Genesis 42:21-22.

Important to note here, I think, is that Joseph was not proposing these tests to his brothers seeking revenge or in some way making them suffer to get even. He is simply testing their current attitudes. Is there any remorse? sorrow for what they had done years ago. Joseph had long since forgiven his brothers for what they had done. It didn’t however, change the overwhelming emotions of having his brothers face to face in his presence. Can you imagine all of the emotions that Joseph must have felt the instant he recognized his brothers?

I would encourage you to read Genesis 42:21-28 for yourself and take in what true forgiveness really looks like. You will notice 3 distinct things about this passage.

1. We are to forgive unconditionally. We may never hear an apology or have a person admit being at fault. Doesn’t matter, we are instructed as Christ followers to forgive. Christ himself forgave us long before we ever admitted of being guilty of anything. Luke 23:34 – 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[a] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. and in Matthew 5:44 – 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 

2. Even with true forgiveness, there may still be some painful, possibly negative emotions. My dad always tried to teach me one principle and that is – Do what you know is right! Period. No execuses. The challenge to this for me, has always been in regards to those who have wronged me. There are some people who have done wrong by me yet I have forgiven them and have been able to do right by them, even when it was tough to do. But in all honesty, there are some who I have tried to forgive but in my heart I honestly don’t know if I would be able to do right by them. I would like to think so, but I know in my flesh, there is a good chance I wouldn’t.

3. Giving forgiveness while also praying for justice is acceptable behavior…the key however, is to who’s justice are praying for? Yours or God’s? True justice can only come from God! And as such, that should help to bring us a sense of peace.  Romans 12:17-19 – 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 

4. Last thought. Joseph is also showing great leadership here and in the scriptures to come by helping his brothers restore broken relationships: with him, with each other, their father and ultimately with God himself. So here is a future challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a position of having to forgive someone – ask yourself this  question – how can I use this situation to help bring the offending person to a closer relationship with Jesus.

REBUILDING TRUST

Have you ever been hurt by someone you trusted? That maybe the hardest hurt to overcome for any of us. It was no different for Joseph. Although he had forgiven his brothers, he still needed to know if he could ever, fully trust them again. So he had decided to hold onto Simeon and send the other brothers back to Canaan to face their father once again with one less brother. Oh the irony that they were now faced with! They would be telling Jacob the truth but how in the world could they ever explain what has now happened to Simeon.

And especially, after telling Jacob what had happened, they empty their sacks where it is revealed to all of them that the money they had been given to pay for the grain was still in their possession. So they are now telling Jacob the truth but he will not have any of it. Genesis 42:36 – Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!” Don’t you kind of feel for Jacob here? He has no one to trust and is adamant that Benjamin will not make the trip to Egypt. And this after Reuben offers up his two sons has ransom if he doesn’t return with Benjamin. For now, Jacob is done with all of it.

As time passes though and they use up all of the grain, they are faced once again with the prospect of not having food. This time however, Judah, makes the plea to return to Egypt with Benjamin to get the grain that they will need. Interesting comparison here between Reuben’s initial plea and that made by Judah. Reuben did not put himself on the line with his plea but rather, his two sons. Judah puts himself on the line; Genesis 43:9 – 9 I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. It is now cemented for sure that Judah is the true leader among the brothers.

As they present themselves again to Joseph, we now see that he knows they are at least being honest with him as they have indeed, returned with Benjamin. Notice how he greets them; he first asks about their well being but then gets right to the point and ask them about their father. Is he still alive? Then he turns his attention to Benjamin and blesses him. Joseph then excuses himself and leaves their company to regain his composure. Upon returning they all sit down to take part in a meal that Joseph had prepared for them.

Joseph still had one more test for the brothers. He needed to know if the brothers had truly changed or not by finding out what was truly important to them. At this point, I would challenge you to read the whole chapter of Genesis 44. Joseph had arranged it so that Benjamin would be forced to stay with him while the brothers would have to return back to Jacob, once again, without their brother. And throughout the chapter we see that the heart of these 10 brothers have been truly changed. And especially, where Judah is concerned, as he makes a desperate plea to Joseph to keep him instead and let Benjamin return to his father.

Truly Judah’s main concern is that of protecting both his brother and his father’s well being. Offering up himself in order to save his brother from slavery and therefore avoiding sure heartache for his father. Joseph finally knew that he could trust his brothers!

Trust is something that I think all of us can sometimes take for granted. And we shouldn’t! Our word, integrity is something we should guard and protect at all costs!! If we ever lose it, there is no guarantee that we will ever recover it. Notice, that at no time through all of this, has Joseph pointed out to his brothers their faults, misjudgements, lying and deceitful acts. They realize for themselves all that they have done and our forced to deal with it. The fact that it was Judah who makes the final plea to Joseph is fitting since he was the one who initiated the idea of selling Joseph into slavery some 22 years earlier.

One more segment of our study to go and that is the Reunion between Jacob and Joseph. Additionally, I will have one last look at the parallels between Jesus and Joseph.

Peace and thanks for reading.

It’s All in God’s Timing – 

Today we wrap up my study of Joseph. For the two of you that read my posts, thank you and I hope you have enjoyed the study. As I was rereading the last couple of chapters in Genesis this morning, I was once again reminded how – 1) Everything happens for a reason and 2) everything happens in God’s timing – no sooner and no later! Obviously, there are so many lessons to be gleaned from looking at Joseph’s life but for me, these 2 I have mentioned, stand out to me the most.

I think Joseph not only knew this but understood it as he was able to endure thirteen years of being enslaved or imprisoned. How easy it would have been for Joseph to give into life’s circumstances and just give up! Joseph knew that his God could see him through anything and understood that it was up to himself to remain faithful to that truth. Each of us have had and will continue to have obstacles along our journey and with each, there comes decisions in regards to how we will respond? Will we be self-reliant and think “I got this!”? Or maybe ignore it altogether? shrink in our own self-despair with a woe is me attitude?

My prayer is that we will follow Joseph’s lead and seek to serve and please God no matter our circumstance!! That is, after all, our purpose of being here isn’t it? And yes, I know there is more to it than that but that is a fundamental call that all Christ followers have, is it not? Joseph may not have understood why all these seemingly bad things kept happening to him but he did not let his circumstances DEFINE who he was! No, just the opposite, we see that time and time again he was able to distinguish himself away from the others, as he excelled in everything he did. He was defined by what he demonstrated.

Joseph would later be able to look back on his life and see EXACTLY why the trials, tribulations and triumphs he experienced happened! The other thing Joseph came to understand, at least, in some manner, was the timing of all these different events. In short, Joseph, came to fully understand that God had chosen him to play a certain role, at a certain time, to fulfill God’s purpose!! And that is our challenge today. To first understand that God created and placed us here to play a role – serve a purpose. Second, we need to understand all things happen in God’s “perfect” timing, not ours! And as it goes, God’s purpose and plan will be fulfilled!

We may not get the answer as to why us? or why now? or ever fully understand the purpose for why things happen. Regardless of what happens or where we find ourselves, we, as followers of Christ, are called to LOVE and SERVE others!

Romans 8:28-29 – 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;those he justified, he also glorified.

Peace and thanks for reading!!