September 2, 2018
Here we are in Genesis. I love this part of the book because we're focusing here on Joseph. He's one of my heroes because he is so absolutely steadfast in his faith though he's going through so much trouble. I mean, years and years and years and yet there is this steadfastness to his faith. He is a hero. When you get to Genesis 42, really, the story turns his focus to Joseph's brothers who had betrayed him. Remember the story Jake had the 12 sons, became the 12 tribes of Israel but Joseph was clearly his favorite. Now, you're not supposed to have favorites but he had no qualms about it. He was his favorite, he loved his mother Rachel and he made him this very colored, multicolored tunic, this coat. Talk about standing out. It's clear he's the favorite and the brothers despise him for it.
Joseph had these two dreams that made it even worse. The dream is this, he said, "We were all out in the field binding sheaves and then my sheaf stood upright and your sheaves all gathered around and bowed down to mine." Isn't that a great dream? They were not so excited about this dream. In fact, they responded, "Really, you are going to have authority over us?" Then he and another dream, like a confirmation dream. He said he dreamed that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowed down to him. Even his father became indignant, "You are going to rule over even me?" They despised him, the brothers despised him.
One day Jacob sent Joseph out to check on the brothers, they were pastoring the flock a great distance away. When the brothers saw Joseph from a distance, they plotted against him, "Here comes that dreamer. Let's seize hold of him and kill him then let's see what becomes of his dreams." They did this, they took hold of him and they cast him into this cistern, this dry well. While they were sitting there having lunch-- obviously, their conscience weren't bothering them too much. They're having lunch and what should they see but a caravan of Ishmaelite, Midianite traders coming from Gilead on their way to Egypt. Judah says, "Hey, what profit is there if we kill the boy? Why don't we sell him? Make him a slave." This is what they did. They sold them for 20 pieces of silver. By the way, Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. The Midianites took him down to Egypt where they sold him to Potiphar who was an officer of Pharaoh, he was the captain of the bodyguard.
Now, here's what's interesting. Betrayed by his brothers, his dreams brought such animosity that now he's finding himself there in Egypt as a slave. What should happen but that the blessing of God be upon him here in Potiphar's house. God poured favor and Potiphar saw this favor and entrusted to him more and more. Even to the point where he managed the entire state. Then tragedy strikes when Potiphar's wife has eyes for him and says very boldly, "Come, lie with me." she said. You got to love Joseph's answer to this. I tell you what, if you could seize hold of his answer, it will be a tremendous blessing to your life. What he said was, "How can I do this thing and sin against my God." That's a great answer right there. "Come, lie with me." "No, how can I do this and sin against my God."
She persisted but he continued to say that. One day he was alone in the house and she literally took hold of him and said, "Come, lie with me." He struggled out of it. She wouldn't let go and he struggled out of his tunic and ran so she held a hold of his tunic. Now, she's going to betray him. When Potiphar comes home she holds this tunic in her hand and says, "See, that Jewish slave of yours tried to make sport with me." Falsely accused him. Potiphar is enraged, throws him into prison. He goes from bad to worse and yet still God's blessings on him. The officer of the prison starts to entrust to him more and more to the point that he is in charge of quite a bit. At one point, two officials of the Pharaoh were cast in prison and he's got charge over them. They have these dreams and they're all downcast because there is no one to interpret the dreams and so Joseph says, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me." They get these dreams and he interprets them. He says to the cupbearer of Pharaoh, "This is the dream, you will be reinstated back to your master in three days and when this happens you remember me." Just exactly as he interpreted it the dream came to fulfillment and he was reinstated but he did not remember Joseph.
Two more years he stayed in this prison going through so much more trouble. Yet, it finally came about that one day Pharaoh himself has a dream and no one can interpret it. It was then that Pharaoh's official remembered Joseph interprets dreams. He made mention of this and Joseph was brought and cleaned up and given new clothes and he stood before the pharaoh and gave the interpretation of the dream such that there would be seven years of prosperity in Egypt. It will be followed, however, by seven years of severe famine so you must prepare. He made a suggestion. Store 20% of all of us produce that's produces in Egypt and put them in storehouses and be ready then for the great famine that surely will come and it will come to pass quickly because God is giving it to you and two dreams. It will surely come to pass and will come to pass quickly. Then Pharaoh said, "Who can we find that's wiser than Joseph? Let him then administrate this plan." He gives him all this authority and position in Egypt. That's where we come into the story of Genesis 42 because now the focus turns to the brothers.
The brothers come into the story because the famine that's raging the land also is raging in Canaan and so they have a desperate situation. Jacob hears that there is grain in Egypt so he sends the 10 brothers there to go purchase grain. Spiritually, there is something very important that's taking place here. The story is now about God working in the lives of these brothers. Clearly, there are issues that need to be worked out, issues of character. Men so filled with anger and jealousy that they sold their own brother into slavery.
Jesus gives us an interesting word in the New Testament. He says that he will be with us even to the end of the age. I suggest to you that while He is with us He is also transforming us. God is not finished. God is in the business of transforming our lives. He will use even storms, even famines, even the difficulties to bring about the transformation that God desires. We call them perfecting storms.
Let's read about it, beginning in Genesis 42:1. Now, Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt and so Jacob said to his sons, "Why are you staring at one another?" He said, "Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us from that place so that we may live and not die." Then, 10 brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt but Jacob did not send Joseph's brother Benjamin. He's the only full brother and he's not going to send him because he said, "I'm afraid that harm may befall to him."
The sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.
Now, Joseph was the ruler over that land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. Joseph's brothers came and they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. Oh, that dream. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. He said to them, "Where have you come from?" They said, "From the land of Canaan to buy food." Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph then remembered those dreams which he had had about them and he said to them, "You are spies. You have come here to look at the undefended parts of our land." They said to him, "No, my Lord. Your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man and we are honest men. Your servants are not spies." Yet, he said to them, "No, you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land." They said, "Your servants are 12 brothers. The sons of one man in the land of Canaan and behold the youngest is with her father and one is no more." Joseph said to them, "It is as I said to you, you are spies and by this, you will be tested. By the life of Pharaoh, you will not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here." He wants to see Benjamin. "Send one of you that he may get your brother while you remain confined. That your words maybe destined, whether there is truth in you. If not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you're spies." They'll be killed in other words. He put them all together in prison for three days, what a turnabout? He cast them all into this prison for three days. Now, Joseph said to them on the third day, "Do this and live for I fear God. If you're honest men, then let one of your brothers--" He changed it a bit here, "then let one of your brothers be confined in your prison but for the rest of you go." He's concerned about what's happening in Canaan, go.
"Carry grain for the famine of your households and bring your youngest brother to me so your words may be verified and that you will not die." They did this. Then they said to one another, "Truly we are guilty concerning our brother because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us yet we would not listen, therefore, this distress has come upon us." In other words, it's coming back to haunt us, we might say today. Reuben, he was the oldest, he had not wanted them to kill the brother. Reuben answered them and said, "Did I not say don't sin against the boy, and yet you would not listen?"
Oh, now comes the reckoning, now comes a reckoning for his blood. They did not know, however, that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them and he turned away from them, and he began to weep. I love this heart of Joseph, he turns away he starts crying. When he returned to them, he spoke to them, and then he took Simeon from them, bound him before their eyes. Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man's money in his sack and to give them provisions for the journey and thus it was done for them.
They loaded their donkeys with their grain and they departed from there. As one of them open his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money, and behold it was in the mouth of the sack. Then he said to his brothers, "My money has been returned and behold, it is even in my sack." Their hearts sank and they turn trembling to one another saying, "What is this? What is this that God has done to us?" They're convinced that God is bringing this trouble to bring retribution. "What is this that God has done?"
When they came to their father Jacob, in the land of Canaan, they told him all that it happened to them. They said, "This man, the Lord of the land, he spoke harshly and he took us for spies but we said to him, we are honest men, we are not spies, we are 12 brothers, sons of our father. One is no more and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan. The man the Lord of the land said to us by this I will know that you are honest men, leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the family of your households and go but bring your youngest brother to me, that I may know that you are not spies but honest men and I will give you a brother to you that you may then trade in the land."
It came about as they were emptying their sacks that hold every man's bundle of money was in his sack. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. Their father, Jacob, said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children. Joseph is no more. Simeon is no more and you would take Benjamin? All of these things are against me." He was convinced everything was against him. Everything that could go wrong, was going wrong. Have you ever had a time in your life where it seems like everything's going wrong? Anything that could go wrong does go wrong.
I. God Transforms Because He Loves
You might call that a perfect storm, everything's wrong, it's the perfect storm. What you must see is that it could well be a perfecting storm. He did not understand that God was actually going to use the things, this famine, this storm, to bring about a transformation. Here's what we have to see out of the story that God transforms because He loves. That's why God is doing what he's doing. God is not through with these brothers. Well, why not? In spite of their sinful immaturity, He loves them. He's not going to quit on them and the same is true for you and me.
God's not finished with us yet, God delights to transform us and He's committed to working out of our lives those things that are immature and selfish and sinful and hurtful to others and working into our lives, those things that are Godly in character.
A. God wants to set you free
Here's the thing that we've got to see out of this story is that God wants to set you free. God wants to set people free. These men have been carrying a burden for 20 years. Imagine all the times that Joseph's name came up in conversation. Every time that Jacob would mention his sorrow for Joseph, can you imagine the brothers looking at each other with that knowing look, sharing the guilt?
In fact, look at verse one, it's interesting, Jacob said to the brothers, "Why are you staring at one another?" It's like they were looking at each other with that knowing look. As soon as he said, there's grain in Egypt. They're like, "What are we going to do? We sent Joseph down there." No one wants to go to Egypt. They looked at each other with this knowing look, the conscience is bothering them. God was not only providing for them and his family God was doing something greater still. He wanted to set them free, God wants to set people free from the burdens they've been carrying and from the things that bind them.
In John 8, Jesus said this, "If you will abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine and you'll know the truth and the truth will make you free." If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. God wants to set people free. There was a famous story in the New Testament of a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery, caught in the very act. The Jewish leaders seized hold of her, took her, dragged her out and put her down at the feet of Jesus. They said, "We have a law and by that law says that a woman such as this should be stoned. What say you?"
Of course, famously Jesus said, "Let him who has no sin cast the first stone." and then he knelt down and began to write into the dirt. Then it says that they began to drop their stones from the oldest to the youngest, which says they had stones in their hands. They dropped their stones and began to leave. Then after they had left, Jesus said to the woman, "Woman, where are your accusers?" She said, "There are none." He then says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." You see what happened? He set her free from the condemnation of the law, He set her free from the condemnation of these Jewish leaders. He set her free from the sin itself. He sets people free.
When King David committed that great sin of taking Bathsheba and then giving order so that her husband would die in battle. He was deeply ashamed and his soul was sick. Have you ever had your soul sick within you? If your soul is sick, everything is affected. It messes up everything in your life when your soul is not right. David was ashamed and been carrying this guilt. Then Psalm 51-- I got to tell you Psalm 51 is a glorious psalm because it gives us that heart. The heart of a soul that sick and needs to call out to the Lord.
I want to just read a summary of Psalm 51 because this is a prayer-- we need to know this prayer. We need to know how to respond, how to call out to God in times like that when your soul is sick. Psalm 51, "Be gracious to me, oh God. According to the greatness of your compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For my sin is ever before me." There's that line. If you've ever been in a circumstance anywhere similar to it, you know that's true. My sin, it's ever before me. "I've sinned", he says, "and I've done what's evil in your sight. Wash me."
B. Things are not always as they appear
He's calling out to God, "Wash me and I'll be whiter than snow." He knows the answer is God. "Create in me a clean heart oh God. Renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation." Oh, you know the joy of God's salvation is glorious. Don't ever lose that joy of your salvation. Restore to me, Lord, restore to me. "Deliver me from my guiltiness. You do not delight in sacrifice otherwise I would give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise." That is a great psalm. That's a great prayer of calling out to God when the soul is sick and this is what was happening. Here's something interesting out of the story, we've got to see this part of the story too, that things are not always as they appear. God brings about what He desires through many different ways and many different means. What you think is against you may, in fact, be something that God is using for you. Things are not always as they appear. He may use a storm. In this case, He's using a famine to set them free from the burden of guilt that they had been carrying and to reconcile the family back together. God is into reconciliation, you know this. He loves to see families reconcile. He loves to see relationships reconciled. The key is to understand that things are not always as they appear. Verse 36, Jacob looked at all these things as the perfect storm. "Everything is against me", he said. He couldn't yet see that all of these things were actually for him. God was using all of these things to bring about something amazing.
We don't see as God sees. 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face, I know now in part. Then I shall know even as I am fully known." We cannot see. God uses storms to bring about a transformation, to bring about his purposes and his will. I remember a number of years ago I experienced what I thought was the perfect storm, everything was against me. I had nothing to do with it like, "I didn't deserve this." What had happened was this, this was many years before we even started the church and I had a longing to go into ministry and I was going at the time, my wife and I were attending Beaverton Foursquare which was-- I love pastor Ron Mehl, he's like a hero of mine. I had these ideas of being with him in ministry and things like that. There was this marriage retreat, marriage conference, and Jordie and I were there and the speaker was Paul Hackett and there's a big crowd there. During a break, one of the pastors came up to me and he said, "The speaker Paul Hackett wants to speak to you." "Me?" I said, "Are you sure?" He said, " Yes he's asking for you."
I go up there and he introduces me and he says, "Are you Rich Jones?" He said that like that's supposed to mean something.
I said, "Yes." He said, "I understand that you play piano. Is that correct?" I said, "Yes." "And you can lead worship?" I said, "Yes." "Great. I wrote a song last night in my hotel room and I want you to teach it."
I said, "Really? How much time do I have?" "Five minutes."
"You kidding." I said "Really?" "Yes. I really want you to do this. Listen this is really compelling, I want you to--" and he put out this piece of paper, it was a yellow pad with scribbles on it. Then I said, "How does a song go?" He said, "I recorded it last night on my recorder." He reaches into his pocket and he's got this little pocket recorder, a high fidelity recorder. He hits the play button and the guy hold a tune in a bucket.
I don't know what this song is. I'm there, there was a piano and I'm plinking a little bit and I say, " Is it kind of go like that's it?" "That's it, you got it. All right, great I'll introduce you."
This can't be real. This is like a nightmare. I must be sleeping. Sure enough, he goes up there and he starts a nice session and he backs his big buildup, "Then I was in my hotel room last night and The Holy Spirit came and He spoke to me and He gave me this song and I've asked Rich Jones--" Like, don't say my name.
"I've asked Rich Jones to come up and teach it to you all." I'm thinking, "Oh Lord have mercy." I sit down at the piano and I'm playing it. I'm doing the work. I'm doing my best and I'm trying to sing this thing but it wasn't so good. I looked over and there was pastor Ron Mehl in the front row and he was looking like this.
I'm sure he was finding his happy place. Deep prayer and at that instant, I looked over at them and I thought, "All my hopes and dreams of ever go into this ministry are gone." God used that because that's not what God wanted at all. What God wanted was this. Later I heard about Calvary Chapel teaching verse by verse chapter by chapter, and I fell in love with that. I want to do that, I want to teach verse by verse, chapter by chapter. It completely turned my life in a completely different direction.
C. You must want to be set free
God used it, God used it. Years later Pastor Ron and I were having breakfast and we laughed, years later. Joseph's brothers had no idea, they had no idea that God was actually arranging things so that they could be set free from their guilt, so that they could be reconciled to God and reconciled to their brother and even reconciled to their father because they've been having a secret away from their father for 20 years. Here's the thing, God wants to set people free but you must want to be free. We go to see this. Verse 21 their guilty consciences are clear but they're not ready to own up everything that they've done it seems that their heart is going to require more before they're really broken. See, it's important to come to a place where you trust God and want to be free that you trust God's hand in whatever He's doing. It's good.
Proverbs Chapter 3, "My son did not reject the discipline of the Lord. Do not loathe His reproof for whom the Lord loves He reproves even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." If the father loves his son he will reprove him, he'll bring about that because it is love. Many people say this they say, "Don't pray for patience. Don't pray for patience because if you pray for patience God is going to do something in which you're going to have to be patient, therefore don't pray for patience." Wait a minute, what if you need patience? What if you really need patience?
Then if God does something by which you then get patience, you have just now got a blessing. You needed that blessing. If that's what you need then trust God to work in your life that which is truly best and do not be afraid of God's hand. This is my point, do not be afraid of God's hand. He loves you and He's for you. Don't be afraid of His hand, whatever He's doing it's for you. 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear involves punishment and the one who fears is not perfected in love." Don't be afraid of God's hand, it's good if God needs to do it then let God do it.
I remember when I was young again I was going to Bible college in those days and I loved to play the piano, I loved to play. I would go wherever I was, I would find a piano that I was allowed to play on. Whatever community was I would find churches that would let me play. The library let me play they had a nice six-foot Yamaha I could play there. Churches would sometimes let me play. When I was going to school, I found they had 10 minutes between classes and if I ran I could run to the piano and play worship for five minutes and then run and still be in time for class. I just loved the worship.
One day I was in this church, they let me play there. I was in the sanctuary by myself and I'm just playing and the pastor comes through and he sits down to listen. I said, "Hey, can I play a song for you that I just love?" He says, "Sure." I started playing and singing this song and he interrupts me. He stops me in the song and he says, " Whoa, you can't sing that song. You shouldn't sing that song." I said, "Why not?" "That song is a prayer and God will do it." To which I said, "If I need it then God should do it."
This was the song, "Lord take your plow to my fallow ground fallow ground." Do you know what fallow ground is? It's a field that's hard dry. "Lord take your plow to my fallow ground, let the blade dig down in the soil of my soul for I've become dry and dusty. Lord I know there must be richer lines below. "For I've been living in Laodicea and the fire that once burns bright I let it grow dim." Hey, if there's fallow ground the Lord needs to plow. If the fire that once burned bright has grown dim then God needs to light a fire. Don't be afraid of God's hand.
You are being perfected in love as a father disciplines his son, God can be trusted to do what's needed. Here's the point trust God in the storm, because you don't know. You don't know what God is doing.
II. Trust God in the Storm
These brothers wondered what God had done to them. Jacob thought everything was against him but if there could be trust if there could be faith God may well be using this storm for some greater purpose in your life.
A. Lack of faith is the issue
Here's my point, lack of faith was the issue. Lack of faith is the issue. See verses 27 and 28 when they stop at this first lodging place one of them opens his sack of grain and they're in the mouth of the sack is this money.
He said, “What is this that God is doing to us?” Must have seemed that God is out to get even with them bringing trouble upon them. Many people think this way. If they go through a difficulty they're going through a trouble then they think God is doing this thing. God is bringing retribution. God is bringing punishment, God is bringing his anger to bear but this is a lack of faith. God’s love for you knows no boundaries. God's grace for you will not end.
He was doing something and He was doing something good. See, this sinful secret they all shared was an obstacle to their faith. It kept them from loving God. Is there an obstacle in your life that's keeping you from loving God fully? Then God needs to deal with that and if He deals with that that's good. That's good for you because then you love can be free. You see this lack of faith, this sinful secret, kept them from trusting God, it kept them from what God desires.
Do you want to talk about a perfecting storm? What about when Jesus sent his disciples into the boat right into the teeth of the storm. They're crossing over they had a full day of ministering to a crowd and so Jesus tells them to get into this boat and to cross to the other side and then Jesus goes to sleep. It says He lays down on a cushion, He goes to sleep. Then the wind starts to batter against the boat and the wave started to Tummel it and even come over the edge threatening to swamp the boat. They even accused Jesus. They even accuse him.
"Do you not care?" they say. They wake Him up, "Do you not care that we are perishing?" You know what, people do that with God. They accuse God when they're going through a trouble or going through a storm they accuse God. "God do you not care that I'm going to this? Why? Why would you allow me to go through this storm?" and they accuse. "Don't you care God? If you cared you wouldn't be doing this. If you cared if you loved me you wouldn't allow me to go through the storm."
Was Jesus surprise by the storm? Was the Angel of storms somehow off duty? Somehow he got his dates wrong. No, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He sent him into that storm. In fact, in Mark c4 after they accused him, "Do you not care?" He arose and rebuked the wind and He said to the sea, "Peace." He ushered a command, "Peace. Be still." and the wind ceased then there was a great calm. I love that scene right there.
Wind howling, waves crashing and beating and then Jesus stands up, "Peace." A little seagull. I just love that scene. Jesus said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” They feared exceedingly and they said to one another what manner of man is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him. See, if Joseph's brother's relationship to God had been right maybe they could have looked to God in faith.
Joseph did, all of these things that were against Joseph, yet he never doubted God. Isaiah 41 is a verse to hold on to verse 10 says, "Do not fear for I am with you. Don't anxiously look about you. I am your God. I'll strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
B. Faith works with love
See, here's the thing, faith works with love. You see in Scripture these together over and over and over. Faith works with love.
It's hard to trust God through a storm when your relationship to him isn’t right. It's hard to trust him when you don't love him. Faith and love work together. There's a Scripture that many loved to quote, I love the quoted it's probably the most quoted verse in the Bible other than John 3:16, which is Matthew 8:28 we know that God causes all things to work together for good but do you notice to those who love God. To those who are called according to his purpose.
C. Have a teachable heart
See this is such a key thing to see faith comes from a relationship to God because of your love. You are convinced that He’s for you. Loving God is essential to seeing that he works all things together for good. See, God seeks to restore those who have fallen away. He desires to bring people to a place of trusting Him. His love knows no bounds. Then lastly have a teachable heart. If God is trying to show you something out of the storm then may our response be, "Then show it to me, God?" If you're doing something in the midst of it then our response should be," Then do it. I trust your hand. I trust you, God, that whatever you're doing is good."
Proverbs 3:5-8, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes but fear the Lord and turn away from evil." It will be healing to your body and it will be refreshment to your bones. God delights to revive his people to bring a relationship of nearness of intimacy and love because that's where faith comes from.