MOMENTS OF TRUTH
Courageous Faith Series
When Dreams & Heroes Die:
“Starting Over When It All Falls Apart” – Jospeh
26 January 2020
Let’s remember that we seek to follow the Divine Promiser and His promise which transforms ordinary people into “children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). It is God’s promise which encourages our hearts and lifts our souls. His promise keeps us going when the going gets tough.
So far in our series on Courageous faith we have discussed Abraham and Jacob. Now we come to the Story of Joseph. His story is unique.
He was the son of Jacob and Rachel – her firstborn and his favorite. You would think that after all Jacob went through, he would have been more careful, but he wasn’t. Leah’s sons were such a disappointment to him that he always favored Joseph over the others.
Joseph had the advantage of growing up after his father’s spiritual turning point at Bethel. Unlike his half-brothers who had witnessed Jacob’s conniving and manipulative lifestyle, Joseph knew a dad whose life had been dramatically transformed by God. So, Joseph grew up respecting his father and likewise Jacob’s godly example.
Joseph’s brothers were another story altogether. They were liars, deceivers, manipulators; those were some of their better qualities! They had even committed murder. By contrast, Joseph was a “goody-goody” and a “Daddy’s boy.” So, it was inevitable that there would be problems.
The family eventually left Bethel and migrated south towed Bethlehem (Gen. 35:16-20). En route, Rachel, who was pregnant, delivered her second son, Benjamin. But in the process of the delivery, she died. Jacob was heartbroken over the loss of his favorite wife. And Joseph experienced the first pains of feeling abandoned.
To make up for his mother’s loss, Jacob showered Joseph with presents such as his multicolored coat. This favoritism only caused his half-brothers to resent him even more. And then he experienced constant dreams about all of them bowing down to him, which only made matters worse.
The Dream Becomes A Nightmare
When Joseph was seventeen years old, a crisis occurred that changed his life forever. His ten brothers took the family flocks north to graze them near Shechem. After a while, Jacob asked Joseph to go and check on them and the sheep.
When Joseph arrived in the region, he was told his brothers had moved on to Dothan. So, he went looking for them, But when they saw him coming, they resented his intrusion so much they plotted to kill him.
In Genesis 37:19-20 we read, “Then they said to one another, "Look, this dreamer is coming! 20 "Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, 'Some wild beast has devoured him.' We shall see what will become of his dreams!"
Reuben, the eldest, tried to rescue him, but to no avail. Then Judah suggested they sell him to a passing caravan of Arab traders. They all agreed. And Joseph was sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.
To cover their ill-gotten gain, the brothers tore up Joseph’s colorful robe and soaked it in goat’s blood. When Jacob saw the bloody robe, he assumed a wild animal had eaten Joseph. Again, the deceiver was deceived, this time by his own sons.
Jacob’s grief was so great that he refused to be comforted. He sobbed uncontrollably. Listen to Genesis 37:35, "For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning."
Jacob remained in agony over this deception for twenty years. This was the same amount of time he was separated from his own parents when he fled from Esau. In the meantime, his son Joseph had plenty of problems of his own.
From the Pit To The Prison
The Arabs eventually sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. In the providence of God, joseph was told to Potiphar – an Egyptian official who was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. And he was taken to Potiphar’s house, where he quickly rose to the position of chief steward and his master’s personal attendant.
It wasn’t long until new problems arose. Potiphar’s wife took an interest in Joseph. Perhaps she was bored and felt neglected by her busy husband, or perhaps she was attracted to Joseph’s handsome physique. Whatever the reason, she risked telling him how she felt.
“Come to bed with me” she suggested.
But Joseph refused. He had already witnessed enough heartaches in his own family from illicit affairs, involving Dinah and Judah (Gen. 34 and 38).
Joseph said in Genesis 39:9, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
The biblical account indicates that she kept at him day after day. Most men would have given in to the temptation: He’s gone. There’s no one home. We’re both adults. Besides, she need it. Why not? What harm could it do?
Not Joseph. He stood his ground and refused her advances day after day. That’s when we see what this young man is made of. The depth of his character was impeccable and his confidence in God incredible. Most other men would have been bitter. They would have blamed God, and they would have given in to temptation.
The real test of human character comes when the bottom falls out of our lives. That’s when our faith in God is challenged: Can I still trust after everything that has happened? If He really loves me, how can He let this happen? Living for Him just isn’t paying off!
When Joseph continued to refuse Potiphar’s wife, she turned on him with a vengeance. She threw herself at him. But he ran off, leaving his cloak in her hands. He got into more trouble over his clothes! Angered by his rejection, she then went to her husband and falsely accused Joseph of attempting to seduce her.
Being a slave meant being very susceptible to an accusation. Joseph had no legal recourse. He was condemned and thrown into the royal dungeon. But even there, Joseph refused to turn against God. He became a model prisoner. In time, he was made the warden’s assistant.
From Prison to the Palace
We don’t know the exact time line of all the details in Joseph’s life. We do know that he was sold by his brothers when he was seventeen (Gen. 37:2). And he languished in prison until he was thirty (Gen. 41:46). Thirteen years passed until his big break came.
Just Think of all that Joseph had been through:
1. Painful death of his mother
2. Jealous resentment of his brothers
3. Betrayal and abandonment by his family
4. Humiliation of human slavery
5. False accusation and imprisonment
Despite all of this, he never gave up on God. There was no hint of bitterness or hostility. In every situation, Joseph rose above his circumstances by the power of God.
Genesis 40 records the story of Pharaoh’s butler and baker being thrown into the royal dungeon and their personal encounter with Joseph. He interpreted their dreams and begged them to plead his innocence to Pharaoh. Even though the interpretations came true, the butler (cupbearer) forgot about Joseph for two more years. Finally, a change occurred when Pharaoh had a troubling dream of his own (Gen. 41:1).
The butler told Pharaoh about Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh issued a royal decree to release Joseph from prison. He quickly shaved and changed into white linen – proper Egyptian attire – in order to stand before the king.
In Genesis 41:15-16 we read, “I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it,” Pharaoh said inquisitively. “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Pharaoh had dreamed about seven fat cows and seven lean cows. Joseph interpreted that to mean seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of famine. Not only did Joseph give the monarch a glimpse into the future, but he proceeded to give him some administrative advice as well.
“Joseph told Pharaoh in Genesis 41:33, “And now, let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.” Joseph further advised that they store a fifth (twenty percent) of the annual harvest during the years of plenty. This would provide ample reserves for the years of famine in the future.
Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph’s advice that he appointed him grand vizier of Egypt. Joseph would personally oversee the great task of collecting, storing, and distributing the grain.
“Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Pharaoh asked. “There is no one so discerning and wise as you,” he added. In one of history’s dramatic reversals, Joseph went from the prison to the palace instantly. One cannot help but wonder what Potiphar and his wife must have thought!
If only They Could See Me Now
Everything changed overnight for Joseph. No more restless nights in the dungeon – he was sleeping in the palace. No more ragged clothes – was dressed in royal robes and riding in the royal chariot. They even gave him an Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife (Gen. 41:45). He was a big deal. If only his brothers could see him now.
Just as he had predicted, the seven years of plenty came. And Joseph stored up so much grain he couldn’t keep up with it all. Then the famine came, and Joseph sold the grain to the Egyptians, which greatly increased Pharaoh’s wealth. Eventually people began coming from other countries to but grain.
Joseph was now thirty-seven years old. It had been twenty years since he had seen his family. But in all those tough times God had not forgotten him. Neither had He forgotten the promise. In fact, if Joseph hadn’t been in Egypt, all might have been lost. God was going to preserve the entire family through Joseph’s provision.
The famine was so severe it reached Canaan as well (Gen. 42:1, 2). Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, but he kept Benjamin at home. When his brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph immediately recognized them, but they did not recognize him. He looked like an Egyptian, walked like an Egyptian, and talked like an Egyptian. Notice the discourse in Genesis 42:13, “Where do you come from?” he asked them harshly through an interpreter. “From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.” “You are spies!” Joseph insisted. “No!” they replied. “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man…The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more,” they added.”
Joseph proceeded to tell them that one of them would have to remain behind as a hostage while the others returned to Canaan to get their younger brother.
“You must bring your youngest brother to me,” Joseph insisted.
The brothers turned to each other and said, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.” And they proceeded to discuss what they had done many years before and how guilty they felt.
All the time, Joseph was listening to every word. He never let on that he understood them. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and he began to weep. In order to protect his secret he walked away.
Bad News and More Bad News
Joseph kept Simeon as the hostage. I’ve often wondered if he was the one who had treated Joseph the harshest in the past. In the meantime, the other brothers set off for home. Their bags were loaded with grain, and their money had been returned as well. But when they got back home without Simeon, Jacob threw a fit!
Notice his words in Genesis 42:36, “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!”
On the surface of things, it may have appeared that everything really was going against Jacob. But in reality, God was moving FOR Jacob. He was at work in every circumstance to accomplish His will and purpose in Jacob’s life and in his entire family. It was all coming together like some grand masterpiece.
Reluctantly, Jacob finally agreed to let Benjamin return to Egypt with his other sons. It was a risky choice. Benjamin was Joseph’s full brother – Rachel’s other son, Jacob couldn’t bear the thought of losing him too. But Judah spoke up and promised to personally guarantee his safety.
IN Genesis 43:14 we read, “God Almighty grant you mercy,” Jacob said. “As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” He had experienced so much pain that he finally abandoned himself and his family to God.
When they arrived in Egypt, Joseph was anxious to see them. But the sight of Benjamin was more than he could bear. Again, he ran out of the room and sobbed. When he returned, he tried to act tough with them again. But Judah begged him for mercy, even offering to be his personal slave if he would not harm Benjamin.
Judah begged Joseph, telling him their father had said: “If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery” (Gen. 44:29). “He is so close to the boy, he’ll die if we go back without him,” Judah explained.
The Truth Comes Out
The grief they were all expressing was more than Joseph could bear. Finally, he burst into tears in front of them and told them who he was.
In Genesis 45:4-7 we read, “I am Joseph! IS my father still living?” he asked. They were absolutely terrified! All ten of them stood there in stunned silence.
Joseph! The prime minister of Egypt? The grand vizier of the whole land? Second only to Pharaoh?
“Come close to me,” he said. “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed…for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
He explained the famine would last for seven years. Then he asked them to go home and insist that Jacob and the entire family move to Egypt to keep them alive.
“Tell him God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come quickly. Do not delay,” Joseph insisted. Then he loaded them with provisions for the trip home. He sent a caravan of twenty donkeys and carts.
The brothers then had to tell their father that they had deceived him for all those years.
“Joseph is still alive!” they announced. “In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt” (Gen. 45:26).
Jacob was so stunned he could not believe them at first. But as they unraveled their story, he realized it was true, And his spirit revived. Hope sprang anew in those old eyes. The deception was finally over. The deceiver was relieved. The truth was finally out.
Jacob said in Genesis 45:28, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive,” he shouted. “I will go and see him before I die.”
It was an incredible sight! They packed up their belongings, took down their tents, rounded up their cattle, and seventy of them pulled out of Beersheba, heading toward Egypt. Excitement and anticipation beat in every heart. The men, women, and children who would become the nation of Israel were headed to an appointment with destiny.
Jacob wasn’t running for his life this time. He was riding in style. His son was the prime minister of Egypt. He was going to meet the Pharaoh. But more than anything, he was going to see his beloved Joseph again face-to-face.
When Jacob arrived, Joseph threw his arms around his father and wept a long time. The son that was presumed dead was alive. Jacob was finally satisfied.
“Now I am ready to die,” Jacob said. “I have seen you for myself.”
What a great reunion it must have been. Not just for a father and a son, but for a whole family was reunited. And in that family the promise was kept alive.
All’s Well That Ends Well
They settled in the fertile delta area in lower (northern) Egypt. There thy prospered and multiplied. God had reversed the brothers’ hostility into blessing. He had overruled their wickedness and made Joseph ruler of Egypt.
Several years later, Jacob died. Joseph had the body embalmed, and then a royal procession carried his mummified remains back to Canaan to the burial place of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob’s wanderings were over. He was finally coming home. What a homecoming it was!
God is still in the business of happy endings. He still takes shattered lives and rebuilds them to His glory.
You may feel that your life has been shattered by some personal crisis. But God can still turn it all around to His glory. Trust Him! He’s already in the process of working it out.