June 28, 2020
Joseph: Ongoing Opposition, Unwavering Integrity – Gen 47-50
We have nearly come to the end of our series on Joseph. Next week is going to be our last week examining his story. But if you would have told me in January-at the start of 2020-that we wouldn’t be finishing this series until 4th of July weekend I never would have believed it! I actually would have wondered why I spent so long talking about him if it took until 4th of July! But there have been lots of interruptions in this series that would have normally ended by Easter-and yet I think we can all agree that 2020 has not been a normal year. This new decade hasn’t gotten off to a good start-in fact it’s probably the worst start to any decade I’ve lived through so far! Let’s just hope the rest of the roaring 20’s are far better!
But if we’re talking about Joseph, his roaring 20’s weren’t so good either-and not just at the start but throughout the whole decade of his 20’s. Now his story in Genesis begins at age 17 and seemingly all is well-at least from his perspective. His family are farmers taking care of the flocks, business is good, they’re quite successful, his dad loves him. And to show that his dad buys him the coat of many colors. So as a teenager, Joseph is dressed to the hilt in the most stylish coat around. And that’s important when you’re 17! I can still remember the coat my parents bought me as a teenager from Abercrombie & Fitch (now Fitch is gone-not sure what happened to him?) But it wasn’t many colors-just two colors-blue and yellow-but I thought it was the greatest coat around and wore it proudly.-wish I still had it! Maybe you had a favorite coat in high school too that you wore proudly too. But that’s Joseph-he’s wearing his coat of many colors proudly-and I don’t think he’s bragging or being stuck up about it-that’s never been in his character. He’s just wearing this awesome coat from his dad-the problem is that he’s got 10 older brothers-and stop there. Anybody have 10 older brothers? That just sounds like a recipe for disaster! Can you imagine the wresting matches and fights! But Joseph’s 10 older brothers also happened to be really bad guys! Not a one of them were nice-at least at this juncture of the story-and so we know what happened. Take a look at it-Gen 37:23-28. So that happens when he’s 17. Lost his family, lost his home, lost his freedom, lost his coat. And now for the rest of his teenage years-and the rest of his 20’s Joseph is a hired servant in Egypt, he’s faced with the unrelenting temptation of his employer’s wife, he’s unjustly accused, unfairly thrown into prison and unfortunately forgotten there. And that was his 20’s-all summed up in one short, sad sentence. A decade of difficulties, darkness and despair. Anybody have a bad decade? We’ve all had a bad week, a bad month, maybe even a bad year-but a bad decade? That’s tough to handle, tough to go through, a decade isn’t quick-because when do things change for Joseph? Not in his 20’s-look at Gen 41:46a. This is finally when things start to look up for him, when his situation and circumstances change. And thank goodness! It was a long time coming. And if you’ve had a bad decade-I’m sure you would agree when things start to turn the corner and look better. But here’s want we want to establish this morning-Pt 1:A bad beginning doesn’t dictate a bad ending.
Joseph’s beginning in life-the rest of his teenage years-and what should have been his college years and roaring 20’s-the best time of your life-were anything but that for him. They were hard, miserable, lonely and unfair. If anyone had any right to enter their 30’s with a chip on their shoulder, with a grim outlook on life and and a mission of vengeance and getting even it would have been Joseph. But as we’ve seen week after week in this series, that’s not how he operates. That wasn’t his mission or outlook on life. Joseph’s bad beginning didn’t dictate a bad ending for him-and it doesn’t have to for you either. You may have had a bad beginning, a rough start in life, lots of unfair, unjust, undeserved things have come your way-things that have discouraged you or derailed you-but that doesn’t have to dictate where you go from here and how your life ends. In fact, a bad beginning doesn’t justify a bad ending-even though that’s what we often try to do. Well, you’ve seen the hand I was dealt, you’ve seen what I’ve been through, nobody’s had it worse than me so it’s only natural that I respond this way, only normal that I’m now bitter and upset, trying to make others pay for how I’ve been treated all these years. But that doesn’t have to be our response. That doesn’t have to be our attitude or outlook. Back to Pt1-and that’s not because of us-but because of God. We have a God in heaven who loves us, we have a God in heaven who’s completely in control of all things, we have a God in heaven who specializes in endings-a God who takes all things-even the bad things in our life-and uses them for good.
And that’s what Joseph so vividly reveals at the end of his life. If you remember from last week, we saw the greatest Father’s Day scene in Scripture as Joseph is finally reunited with his father Jacob. After more than 20 years they finally get to see each other and have this incredible, heartfelt moment of reunion-Gen 46:29-30. And yet by God’s grace that didn’t happen right away-even though-get ready for this-Jacob was 130 years old! He must have heeded the doctor’s advice-eat your Wheaties and your vegetables. But at 130 God wasn’t done with Jacob-his life didn’t end badly even though he had plenty of trouble too. Instead Jacob and Joseph, father and son, had lots of time together and God gave him a blessed ending-Gen 47:27-28. Anybody aspiring to that? Go for it! As Jacob would say-life begins at 130! But as his life is coming to a close at 147 there’s a great section in Genesis-chapters 48-49 where he blesses each of his 12 sons-it’s very moving and full of prophecy-so I encourage you to read it-but after he does that it says in Gen 49:33. And all 12 sons are gathered around him-Jacob breathes his last on his bed with his family-it’s a beautiful scene-and what unfolds afterwards is a grand funeral procession. Gen 50:2-3; 6-11. Try to picture this giant parade of Jacob’s family, all 12 sons, along with the great entourage of Egypt from Pharaoh’s household and all the chariots and horsemen from their army. This was a great coming together of both nations, a solemn moment. Pharaoh doesn’t just give Joseph time off from work to bury his father-he joins in the grieving-the nation of Egypt joins in. So it was the grandest procession that had traveled across the desert in some time-imagine being an ordinary farmer or shepherd and watch it come by-all to honor God’s man Jacob. And now Jacob’s legacy is lived on through Joseph and his brothers-Gen 50:14.
And what do you think happens after that when everyone returns home? This is the important part of where the narrative is going. Did Joseph and all his brothers get along, have a great time together with family reunions, campouts and softball games? Maybe, hopefully, but there was one more hurdle to still overcome-and that was the hurdle of second-guessing. Anybody ever found themselves second-guessing something? No-of course not! Hardly-I think it’s safe to say we’ve all caught ourselves second-guessing something. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that? Maybe I shouldn’t have bought that? Buyer’s remorse. Or if you’re a student, who hasn’t second-guessed their answers on an exam (should have circled C instead of B!) Or as an investor maybe you’ve second-guessed the stocks you’ve bought or the properties you’ve purchased. And of course we second-guess the things we’ve said or the ways we’ve responded to people. I read an article from a British newspaper that did the research saying people who second guess tend to make worse decisions than those who trust their gut. So if you’re someone who tends to second guess things-and I’m one of them-be reminded to stick with your original decision. But second guessing is so easy to do-especially when it’s a decision someone else has made. And this is where the phrase Monday morning quarterback comes from-it’s easy to second guess the quarterback’s decisions on Monday once the game is over and your team lost-why didn’t he pass the ball instead of trying to run for the TD. We’re all good Monday morning quarterbacks-although Monday morning quarterbacks may be in jeopardy this year just like actual Sunday quarterbacks if the NFL doesn’t return. But the official definition of second guess is to question a decision or action that has already been completed. And who hasn’t done that? We all have.
And yet that’s what Joseph’s brothers shouldn’t have done either. They second-guessed Joseph’s decision to forgive them. Check it out-Gen 50:15. What are they doing? They’re second-guessing Joseph and his forgiveness for them. But when has Joseph ever shown the slightest tendency to act that way? When has Joseph ever hinted at getting even with his brothers? Never! Their second-guessing of Joseph’s forgiveness has nothing to do with Joseph-but comes from their own guilty conscience. Joseph’s grace in their lives seemed too good to be true. How could someone forgive just like that? They had hated Joseph when he was a young teenager, so now they couldn’t believe why Joseph wouldn’t hate them back. He must have only forgiven us because of our father-in order to look good in front of our father and keep being the favorite son. That’s what they’re thinking. So listen to the plan they create-Gen 50:16-17. There was no such instruction from their father-this wasn’t his dying wish. Jacob had already witnessed Joseph’s forgiveness and the beautiful restoration that followed as they lived together as a family in Egypt those final 17 years of his life. Joseph wasn’t waiting and plotting all that time-Okay, when Dad dies my bros have it coming to them! Watch out fellas-the clock is ticking! None of that-Joseph’s forgiveness was already communicated to them long ago. What they did to him was done and over with-in the past-forgiven and forgotten-as a family they had healed and moved on. So Joseph is heartbroken they’re still second-guessing it, still questioning his forgiveness. But don’t we do that too? Not only question the forgiveness of others, but even more importantly question the forgiveness of God? I know you say you’ve forgiven me, Lord, but I struggle to accept it, I struggle to believe it, I just don’t feel very forgiven. And like these brothers we wrongly carry guilt with us for a long time. Pt2:God’s forgiveness is always final-don’t second-guess it! There’s no need to. His forgiveness is never in question-just like Joseph’s was never in question. His response to his brothers wasn’t-Oh yeah, thanks for the reminder to forgive you guys-I was starting to get all worked up and angry again thinking about what you did to me. No-his response was to weep because it saddened him to think his brothers would even question his forgiveness. But again, how often do we do that? How often do you question or doubt God’s forgiveness in your life? Maybe you think your past is too bad, your mistakes are too many, or the things you’ve done are too awful. Or maybe you think you have to stay on God’s good side, or you’ve got to talk Him back into forgiving you just like Joseph’s brothers tried talking him into it. But when you turn to the Lord in faith to save you-His forgiveness is final and complete. When you turn to the Lord in faith you’re accepting the work that Jesus already did on your behalf to pay for your sins on the cross when He died in your place-and what did Jesus say in His final breath-It is finished! He didn’t say-we’ve got the ball rolling, things are kicked into motion, we’ll work through the process of your forgiveness and see what happens. No-It is finished-done and over with. Look at Ps 103:12; Heb 8:12. Back to Pt2. Instead savor it and experience the joy and peace of a relationship with Him. Have you done that? Have you experienced the Lord’s final and complete forgiveness in your life? Be reassured of it again this morning!
And let me just say if you’re someone who needs to forgive others-and we all do-is your forgiveness final and complete? That once you forgive someone you move on in restoration and healing, not holding it over their head? Or is your forgiveness surface-level and conditional, just for show-as Joseph’s brothers were suggesting? Do you forgive someone begrudgingly because you have to, because it looks good and makes people think you’re godly, but deep down you’re still carrying it with you and the moment they’re not looking you’re coming back with vengeance? That’s what the brothers were suggesting-the moment Dad’s out of the picture I bet Joseph’s forgiveness won’t last-it wasn’t genuine or real, he’ll get even with us. But they were wrong because Joseph’s forgiveness was genuine and real. What about yours?
And listen to how Joseph articulates it-Gen 50:18-20. And this is the famous verse, the culmination of the Joseph story, in many ways the culmination of the book of Genesis. Joseph certainly wasn’t in the position to play God as he said-but Joseph knew God-and he knew two things about God. He knew that God is sovereign and in control of all things. There are no accidents with God-nothing takes Him by surprise or catches Him off-guard. All things happen according to His will-and that’s the other thing Joseph knew-in all things God works for good. Yes, his brothers meant to harm him, hurt him and cause evil. Joseph says it-and God would say it. Evil is always evil, sin is always sin. God doesn’t dismiss it or excuse it or call it something else-but He will use it according to His perfect purposes which are always good. That’s the mystery of God’s will, the incredible reality that He can take all things-even the awful and sinful things-and still use them for good in the lives of His people. That even though we can’t always see it-and we often don’t in the moment-God is holding the strings, and He’s pulling them, He’s weaving them together towards His good purposes. That’s what Joseph is telling his brothers-What you guys did to me back then wasn’t good-of course it wasn’t-but your evil behavior didn’t win in the end, God’s goodness did. He took what you guys tried to do to me-and somehow, in some way, He miraculously used it to accomplish this great good-just like He always does. And this isn’t unique for Joseph and his story but it’s true for us and our story, it’s true for our world.
Follow this thread-because it’s amazing! What happened at Creation-Gen 1:3-4-and that’s said over and over-until Gen 1:31. This world started off as good-it was part of God’s good plan-and even though right away in chapter 3 sin enters the picture and our world is cursed and broken and all seems lost and doomed for failure-sin doesn’t win, evil doesn’t win-it never does. Joseph is declaring that at the end of Genesis-what you guys meant for evil God used for good. And that truth is ultimately spelled out in Rom 8:28. That’s said by Paul-but we can hear the echo of Joseph in his words. God works all things for good. Joseph is holding onto that truth and seeing it unfold-what about you? Can you say that? Are you seeing that truth unfold in your life? Pt3:God’s plans are always good-don’t forget it! If you’re trusting in God and leaning on Him there’s absolutely nothing that can happen to you or will happen to you that won’t ultimately be used for good. Boice, 1254. And I don’t know about you-but I need to hear that truth-especially in a time like this, especially in a world like this. Because right now it does seem like things are spiraling out of control, frustration and fighting are everywhere, chaos is erupting, Coronavirus is still spreading and it seems like evil is winning. But we know it won’t. It can’t. It never does. That’s because God takes what mankind intended for evil and uses it for good. Joseph says it-but Jesus reveals it at the cross. All of the evil and wickedness, all the suffering and anguish people could throw at Him, all the insults they could hurl and the pain they could inflict on Him as He hung there and died led to the greatest goodness, the greatest salvation the world has ever known. Boice, 1255. What about you? Would you say that some things are used by God, or even most things are used by Him just barring a few anomalies? Or would you say all things are used by God to bring about good-even the things you’re going through right now? Pt3.