Joseph and Jesus–Sold by His Brothers: Genesis 37:12-36

Joseph Sold by His Brothers (Photo credit: DoJewish Blog)

From the archives:

Read Genesis 37:12-36.

Jesus said to them on the road to Emmaus:

“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27

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Joseph And The War Vet: How Both Were Forgotten

Remember God Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the time we take to honor those who died while serving our country. In today’s post we’ll look at the life of Joseph and what he had in common with one U.S. war vet who died much later than you would imagine.

Genesis 40:8-23

Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker each have dreams on the same night. Joseph, their fellow prisoner, sees they’re dejected because they recognize the dreams as having meaning, but they can’t figure out the interpretation. So Joseph asks them the rhetorical question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”

So the cupbearer decides to share his dream with Joseph.

The cupbearer, says, In my dream I see Continue reading

Joseph and Israel, Jesus and the Jew: Genesis 47:28-31

Israel ChristianityJacob lived for seventeen more years after he arrived in Egypt. When he was 147 it was near the time for Israel to die. He called his son Joseph to him and said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” I’ll do as you say, Joseph answered. “Swear to me,” Jacob said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on his staff.

Putting a hand under another person’s thigh was the custom for swearing an oath.

Joseph and Israel Interestingly, Jacob, also called by God, Israel, cared for Joseph for his first seventeen years, and now we see Joseph care for Israel for his last seventeen years. We also see Joseph promise to carry Israel from Egypt, a picture of the world, into the promised land, a picture of heaven. Jesus and the Jew This speaks to an important issue often discussed in this season of campaigning and debating before our presidential election: the nation of Israel. Even as Joseph remained tied to Israel, I believe our greater than Joseph, Jesus, remains tied to Israel. The name Israel is used more than 2,300 times in the Bible. Compared to 380 times for the word sin, or 280 times for the word love. (Bridges for Peace) God made multiple covenants with Israel. We’ve seen a number of them throughout this study in Genesis. (Genesis 12:2-312:6-713:14-1715:7-2117:822:17-18) And there are plenty more throughout scripture. Ishmael was promised blessings as well and his descendants received them. Truly Ishmael has become a great nation just as God promised. (Genesis 17:20) And the descendants of Ishmael, the Arab nations, are not only great in number, but are among the richest in the world. God does not break His covenants. (Psalm 89:30-37) He didn’t break His covenant with Abraham regarding Ishmael, and He won’t break His covenant with Israel. I’m often amazed at the political expectations put on Israel today. Israel has less land area than 22 counties in the United States. (Israel land area,  List of U.S. counties by land area) Whatever source you use to determine Middle East land area, Israel comprises only a fraction of one percent of all the land in the Middle East. This combined with the long narrow shape of their country makes their borders barely defensible right now. “Land for peace” is the political cry we often hear regarding Israel’s borders. But removing territory and narrowing Israel would only make them more vulnerable, and would almost certainly lead to more attacks. I was on a tour bus once with my wife Kathy in Mexico City. At one point our tour guide referred to the “North American invasion.” “North American invasion? What North American invasion?” I thought to myself. After the tour I did a little research and discovered the United States currently possesses California, Nevada, Utah, and much of New Mexico and Arizona as a result of an invasion of Mexico. Can you imagine giving those states back? And that’s not even representative of what’s being asked of Israel. A more accurate portrayal would be if we were to give Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska to Mexico, virtually cutting our country in half. Would you trade that land for peace? For those looking for perfection from Israel, keep in mind, throughout scripture, everything God has ever done has been in spite of sinful rebellious people. Our greater than Joseph, Jesus, is not done with Israel. She’s still an integral part of God’s plan and the scriptures plainly exhort us to support her. (Numbers 24:9, Psalm 122:6, Zechariah 2:8, Joel 3:1-3, Romans 11:1-36) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and Israel.

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!

Romans 11:1

Related Links: The Peace of Jerusalem Notes: Even as Joseph promised to take Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land, our greater than Joseph, Jesus promises to do the same for you personally. Yes we’re in the world, but like Joseph, Jesus won’t leave us here. He’ll take us to the promised land, to the place He has prepared for us. But even as Israel had to ask Joseph to take him to the promised land, you have to ask Jesus to do the same for you. You have to ask Him to take you. God has provided a way for you to go, from here, from the world, to heaven, to be with Him. This is God’s truth. As I’m typing these words I’m serving as God’s agent to share His truth. But in the end, it’s up to you. God will never compromise your free will to chose Jesus Christ and life, over a rejection of Christ and death. So you can decide. You can decide right now. Christ and life? Or rejection of God’s offer and death? What do you have to lose?

Choose life.

[Image via MmMmMmMatt – Creative Commons]

Prepare Yourself for What’s Ahead: Genesis 47:14-27

To see the previous post on Genesis go to Financial Feast and Famine.

Read Genesis 47:14-27.


Joseph’s Choices and Consequences

So here we see Joseph, after his preparation for these years of famine that have come upon Egypt and Canaan. And now he’s experiencing the consequences of that preparation. You know, God gives us the freedom to make choices, but He doesn’t give us the freedom to choose the consequences of our choices. That’s just the way His universe works. If you jump off a 100 story building, that’s your choice, but you don’t get to choose whether or not you’ll experience the consequence of gravity. That’s how it is with everything. A whole lot of pain can be avoided if you can just understand that one principle.

Because Joseph chose to prepare for the famine, the consequences of his choice put him in a position to receive tremendous blessings:

He collects money from those in Egypt and Canaan, in payment for the grain they were buying.

When the money ran out, he gathered up livestock as payment.

When the livestock ran out, he exchanged land for payment.

Ultimately he received 20% of their crop production every year.

Everything listed above was on behalf of Pharaoh. But he also found himself, personally, in a position to establish his family, the Israelites, in the land of Goshen, where they acquired property, and became fruitful, and grew in number.


Individual Choices and Consequences

Often times, wisdom is simply doing now, what you will be glad you did, one, or seven, or ten, or thirty years from now. Joseph was able to receive all these blessings, and enjoy all these benefits, as a result of his preparation according to the leading of God’s Spirit, beginning seven years before.

Any individual living in Egypt or Canaan could have done the same, on a smaller scale. They could have recognized the time of plenty, and they could have anticipated a time of economic correction. They could have saved their grain. They could have put themselves in a position to receive great blessing during the time of famine.

But they chose not to. And they had to live with the consequences.


Your Choices and Consequences

Preparing for hard economic times is important. But infinitely more important is preparing for eternity. Every single one of us will die. And we know this time on earth is the briefest of time compared to our eternal life on the other side of the door of death. David asked God, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days…” And the answer came, …the span of David’s years was as nothing before God. “Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure,” David said. (Psalm 39:4-5)

As important as it was to prepare for the seven years of famine, it was only seven years. When it comes to preparing yourself for death we’re talking about eternity. There is no more important preparation to be made. Not for school, or for marriage, or for work, or for retirement. Nothing compares in importance to your preparation for eternity.

Nothing.

So prepare for it. Right now. Recognize you’re a sinner. You’ve made wrong choices in your life. Those wrong choices alienate you from God. There’s no way to save yourself. But God provided a way. He sent His Son to die on your behalf, to pay for your wrong choices. He says, yes, if you insist, you can spend eternity in hell, but it will have to be over my Son’s dead body!

God doesn’t want that!

He wants to spend eternity with you. He wants that so bad He sacrificed His Son to provide you a way, a path, to get you there, to get you to heaven, to spend eternity with Him.

So do it. Ask Him. Ask God to forgive you for your wrong choices. Tell God you know you’re a sinner. Tell Him you know you need a savior. Tell Him you accept the sacrifice His Son Jesus made on your behalf. Tell Him you’re opening your heart up to receive His Son into your life. Tell Him you’re giving your life over to Him.

Surrender yourself to God.

And live…

…for eternity…

…with Him…

…in heaven.

Do it now.

He’s waiting.

Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

Matthew 14:30-31

 

 

What God Says to You: Genesis 45:1-4

Painting by Peter Cornelius, circa 1816. Photograph by Notanyron, Creative Commons

To read the last post on Genesis, see What Does God Want?: Genesis 44

Read Genesis 45:1-4

In the last post on Genesis, we left Joseph’s brothers in deep deep trouble. Joseph’s steward had just found Joseph’s divining cup in Benjamin’s bag. Joseph has ordered that Benjamin be taken as a slave. Judah, realizing his father Jacob will die of grief if they don’t return with Benjamin, offers himself to Joseph, in place of his youngest brother.

It’s at this point Joseph can no longer contain himself. He orders all his attendants out. “Have everyone leave my presence!” he says. So he’s alone with his brothers. And he weeps. He weeps so loudly, the Egyptians outside hear him. And the word spreads to Pharaoh about Joseph’s weeping.

Joseph says, I’m Joseph! Is my father still alive? But his brothers are unable to speak, because they’re terrified at his presence.

Then Joseph says to his brothers these words, “Come close to me.”

What God Says to You:

What does God say to you? Before He says anything, He weeps for you. He desires you. He wants you to draw close to Him. Your greater than Joseph, Jesus, says the same thing Joseph said. He says, “Come. Please come. Come close to me.”

Listen, I know, it’s like it was with Joseph’s brothers. Your terrified at His presence. You might even be speechless. It is, without question, a daunting thing to come close to Jesus. Like Joseph, Jesus knows about your past sins against Him. And He knows about your misplaced confidence in your own ability. He knows, well, He knows everything. And like Joseph, He has incredible power. Like Joseph He has the power of life and death over you. He has the power to destroy you.

He has the power to change your life forever–one way or the other.

So you’re terrified. You’re terrified at His presence because you know if you draw close, your life will change forever. And there will without question be collateral portions of your life left behind.

But the thing is, you need a Person with that power. You need a Savior. You need your life changed. Your anxiety, your problems, require Someone with that much power to overcome them. Yes it’s dangerous, but the risk is worth the reward. Because the reward is release! You’ll be freed from your burdens!

Listen:

You can unload your problems.

You can be freed from your emotional burdens.

You can be freed from your depression.

Just give yourself to Him.

The degree to which you give yourself to Christ, is the degree to which you’ll experience release from your anxiety.

So do it.

Go to your knees. Or fall on your face before Him.

Pray.

Pray a prayer of surrender.

If you do, you’ll begin a process of healing.

If you do, you’ll be freed.

 

God, Joseph, and Direction: Genesis 41:41-57

Read Genesis 41:41-57

In our last post on Genesis we saw how Joseph, after living faithfully through all kinds of hardships: betrayal by his family, slavery, false accusation, and ten years in a dungeon, was ultimately raised up, raised up in one day, to second in command over Egypt. In today’s post we’ll look at what happens to Joseph and Egypt, after Pharaoh’s decision to appoint him as governor. Where Joseph’s life continues to paint a picture of Jesus, I simply couldn’t help myself, I just had to insert commentary to point out those scriptures. Finally, we’ll look at Joseph’s process for choosing direction as it relates to God’s Spirit and Joseph’s abilities.


Genesis 41:41-57

So after Pharaoh hears what the cupbearer says about how the Lord used Joseph to accurately interpret dreams, and after Pharaoh hears Joseph’s interpretation of his own dreams, he sees God’s Spirit is in Joseph. (Genesis 41:38) Just as soon as Pharaoh recognizes Joseph is led by God’s Spirit, he makes a command decision.

I’m putting you in charge, of the whole country, Pharaoh says to Joseph. Then he takes off his signet ring and puts it on Joseph’s finger. He orders up some clothes fitting for a man who’s second in command and has Joseph put them on. He gives Joseph a gold chain to wear around his neck. And he has him ride in a chariot, as his right hand man, and the people shout out before him, Make way!

And that’s how it went down when Joseph was appointed as the governor of Egypt, only with respect to the throne, was Pharaoh greater than Joseph. (Genesis 41:40)

After all the ceremony, Pharaoh says to Joseph, Yes I’m Pharaoh, but nobody will lift a finger in all of Egypt without your word. Pharaoh renames Joseph, he calls him Zaphenath-Paneah. And he gives him a wife named Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

Pharaoh says to Joseph, “,,,without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” (Genesis 41:44) Even as Jesus said in John 15:5, “…apart from me you can do nothing.”

Joseph is given a Gentile bride. Even as Jesus is given His Gentile bride, us, you and me, the church. (Revelation 21:9)

Then Joseph travels all over Egypt to learn about the land he’s governing.

He’s thirty years old when he enters into public service.

I can’t help but notice Joseph is thirty years old when he enters into serving the public, even as Jesus was thirty when he entered into public ministry. (Luke 3:23)

So he’s traveling throughout Egypt, and during the seven years of prosperity the land produces bountifully, just as God, through Joseph, said it would. And Joseph collects all the food produced in those seven years and stores it in the cities. Each city has it’s storage from the food produced in the fields around it. The quantities of grain Joseph collects and stores are like the sand of the sea; there’s so much that he can’t keep track of it so he stops keeping records. The crop production is so great, it’s beyond measure.

During these first seven years Joseph has two sons with his wife Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph names his first son Manasseh (which means causing to forget). He says he named him that, “…because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he names Ephraim (which means I shall be doubly fruitful), “…because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Well, just as God’s Spirit predicted, the seven years of abundance come to an end, and the seven years of famine begin. All around people are hurting for food. But Egypt is prepared for the shortage. When Egypt begins to feel the famine, the people cry out to Pharaoh, who tells all the Egyptians, Just go see Joseph and do whatever he tells you.

When the people cry out to be saved, from starvation, Pharaoh directs them to Joseph. “…do what he tells you,” Pharaoh says to the Egyptians. (Genesis 41:55) Even as God, when the people cry out to be saved, from their own sin, directs them to Jesus. Speaking of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration God said, “…listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)

When the famine is effecting the whole of Egypt, Joseph opens the storehouses and sells grain to the Egyptians. The famine is terrible, and everyone both inside and outside of Egypt comes to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine is so severe, everywhere.

Through Joseph, God saves the nations from starvation. Through Jesus, God saves the world from their sin.


God, Joseph, and Decisions:

It’s obvious Joseph was one in whom is the Spirit of God. (Genesis 41:38) And God’s Spirit in him resulted in his prospering and in an ability to make great decisions.

But maybe you’ve read about Joseph and you’re asking yourself, How does that work? Does Joseph use reason and wisdom? Or does he use the leading of God’s Spirit to make decisions?

I believe the answer is both. To gain insight, I think it’s important to see how Joseph had God’s Spirit two distinct ways.

1) First, he had God’s Spirit in the same way some of the craftsmen who built the tabernacle had God’s Spirit: …he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills, Moses said of the man chosen to lead the building of the tabernacle. (Exodus 35:30-35)

Joseph had skills born of God’s Spirit. Joseph was faithful to his duty, even in the beginning, in the day of small things. He was industrious and he had great integrity. Based on his rapid rise to prominence in Potipher’s household, and in prison, and in Pharaoh’s administration, I believe Jospeh also had great skills as a communicator, as an organizer, and as a problem solver. (see previous post Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success)

No doubt Joseph used all these skills in his decision making and problem solving wherever he worked. And I don’t think there’s any doubt these skills served him well.

But there’s a danger here. Sometimes the more skills God blesses you with, the more you tend to rely on those skills — at the exclusion of seeking God’s direction. Which brings us to the second way in which Joseph experienced God’s Spirit.

2) The second way in which Joseph had God’s Spirit was through connection. Joseph was connected to God in a way that opened communication with God’s Spirit. I believe Joseph was someone who was constantly seeking God’s direction. He was seeking God’s will in his life. He was sensitive to God’s Spirit.

Can you imagine the consequences, had Joseph relied solely on his gifts and skills, without tapping into the leading of the Spirit? Egypt’s economy would have gone into deep depression. The recovery from such devastation would have taken decades, if there even was a recovery. And most importantly, millions in Egypt and in the surrounding nations would have died of starvation.

I’m reminded of Joshua, another man gifted with great administrative abilities. When the Gibeonites came and requested of Joshua that Israel enter into an alliance with them, they told him they were from a far away country. Joshua, relying on his powers of deduction, saw they had worn clothes, and old wineskins, and moldy bread. What a seemingly simple decision. It’s so obvious. They’re from a far away country.

We’re not to ally ourselves with anyone local, Joshua told them, but an alliance with you? No problem. It’s easy to figure out, you’re not from around here.

Joshua 9:14 says, they checked out their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. (see Joshua Chapter 9)

Three days later the Israeli people find out the truth about the Gibeonites. And they’re protesting against Joshua and the others leading Israel, because they were duped.

Not long after that, Israel has to march all night, and risk lives in battle, to honor their alliance with the Gibeonites.

Like Joshua, Joseph was blessed with brains and abilities, but he recognized the value in seeking God’s direction. And like Joseph, like Joshua, and like anyone, you and I can’t see one single second into the future. Right now you can’t see beyond the four walls of the room you’re in, or if you’re outside, you’re limited to the strength of your eyesight. You can’t see into the past except for what others have recorded and what you remember. Even with television and the internet, your awareness of the time-space continuum is just the tiniest fraction of what God sees, which is everything.

Joseph recognized this. “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” He said to the cupbearer and to the baker. (Genesis 40:8) When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dreams he immediately said,

“I can’t do it…”

“…but…”

“…God will give the answer…”

God had the answer. He saved millions of lives from death by starvation.

God has the answers still. For you and for me.

Thank God for the skills, gifts, and abilities He’s blessed you with. But don’t rely on your gifts exclusively. Don’t neglect seeking His direction.

Pray through life decisions.

Seek His direction constantly.

Pray for Him to direct your steps.

Pray for sensitivity to His Holy Spirit.

If you do you could be blessed like Joseph was.

If you do you could be led down a path that will save you and your people from disaster.

I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

J.B. Jackson, A Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names1908

Matthew Henry

Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, (2000) IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament

Jon Courson

Forgotten

Forgotten (Photo Credit: davidknightwrites.blogspot.com)

Read Genesis 40:8-23

Last post on Genesis, we looked at Joseph’s comment about interpretation and how it relates to fire, and more importantly, how it relates to God. (see previous post: God, Fire, and Interpretation)

In today’s post we’ll see how Joseph is used by God to interpret the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s prisoners: Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer, and his chief baker. We’ll also look at even more parallels in Joseph’s life that continue to paint a prophetic picture of Jesus. Jesus Himself said in Luke 24:44-45, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 

Finally we’ll look at what it feels like to be forgotten.


Genesis 40:8-23

Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker each have dreams on the same night. Joseph sees they’re dejected because they recognize the dreams as having meaning, but they can’t figure out the interpretation. So Joseph asks them the rhetorical question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”

So the cupbearer decides to share his dream with Joseph.

He, the cupbearer, says, In my dream I see this vine in front of me, and it has three branches. As soon as the vine buds, it blossoms, and it’s clusters ripen into grapes. In my dream, Pharaoh’s cup is in my hand so I take the grapes, squeeze the juice out of them into Pharaoh’s cup, and put the cup in his hand.

Joseph says, This is the interpretation, The three branches are three days. Inside of three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and call you back up to your former position. You’ll put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand just like you used to. Now listen, when you’re back in Pharaoh’s good graces, remember me and do me a favor, mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was taken by force from the land of the Hebrews, and I’ve never done anything to deserve a life sentence in a dungeon.

When the baker sees that the cupbearer received a favorable interpretation he decides to share his dream as well.

I also had a dream, the baker says. In my dream I have three baskets of bread on top of my head. Inside the top basket there are all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the only thing is, birds are eating them out of the basket on my head.

This is what it means, The three baskets equal three days. In three days Pharaoh will have your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat your flesh.

Cut to three days later and it’s Pharaoh’s birthday. He gives a feast for all his officials. Pharaoh lifts up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, in front of all his administration. He restores the chief cupbearer to his old position, so he’s serving Pharaoh his cup once again. But he has the chief baker impaled. Everything happened just as God, through Joseph, had interpreted.

But the chief cupbearer forgot about Joseph and his request.


Joseph and Jesus:

The picture of Jesus painted in Joseph’s life continues as we see still more parallels between them:

1) Both were sentenced based on false accusations: Joseph accused of raping Potiphar’s wife, and Jesus of inciting rebellion against the established government. (Luke 23:1-4)

2) Both were numbered with two transgressors: Joseph with the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and Jesus with the two thieves on either side of Him as He hung on the cross. (Mark 15:27-28)

The baker of bread and the cupbearer of wine also speak of Jesus’ command for us to take communion. And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

3) Both endured feeling forgotten: Joseph thought he was forgotten by the cupbearer, but he wasn’t, as we’ll see later. And Jesus, felt forsaken when He was separated from His Father for the first time in eternity. He cried out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-50)


Forgotten

I spoke with a good friend of mine day before yesterday and he shared with me how he’s feeling forgotten. He’s separated from family, he has financial problems, and he has health problems. Maybe you’re feeling forgotten. Maybe you’re not stuck in a dungeon but stuck in a job, or stuck on unemployment, or stuck in a house that’s upside down financially, or stuck in debt, or stuck in a tough marriage.

You know, just one chapter previous, the Bible says of Joseph, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness. (Genesis 39:21) Given Joseph’s story so far, you might be saying to yourself right now, “Are you kidding me? The Lord was with him? The Lord showed him kindness? What kindness? Joseph’s family badmouthed him behind his back, they plotted to kill him, they tossed him into a cistern, they sold him into slavery, they told his father he was dead, then he was falsely accused of rape, tossed into a dungeon, and now… Now the cupbearer’s forgotten about him altogether and he’s rotting in this dungeon for who knows how long! Kindness you say?”

Speaking of God the Father, Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

In other words, we all have problems.

Jesus said it again, even more directly, when He stated, In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33)

It’s not surprising then that Joseph has had trouble, serious trouble. We all either do have, or will have trouble. You either have, or are going to have trouble, serious trouble. Every single person on the planet experiences problems. No one escapes. Not one of us. No matter what we do.

Because we live in a fallen world, we have no choice when it comes to troubles, we’ll all have them. The choice we do have though, is whether or not we want the Lord with us in the dungeon, whether or not we want Him to show us kindness when we’re stuck in that tough situation, when we’re in the midst of our trouble. Walking through problems with Him can make our difficulties so much better than they would be otherwise.

Last night a man named Louie Zamperini was interviewed on a talk show. Louie was a juvenile delinquent who seemed to turn things around when he became a track star as a teenager. He went to the Olympics and it appeared he had a bright future ahead of him. Many thought he’d be the first to break the four minute mile barrier. But before the next Olympics, World War II started. Louie enlisted as a bombardier. During a rescue mission his plane crashed into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He was lost at sea on a life raft with two fellow soldiers for 47 days, longer than any other person in history. During that time he was nearly killed by starvation, sharks, storms, and a Japanese bomber that strafed his raft — twice.

But that wasn’t even the hard part. On the 48th day they were captured by the Japanese. Louie was tortured mercilessly by a Japanese guard, nicknamed “the Bird” by the prisoners. This went on for years.

During his time lost at sea and as a P.O.W. Louie prayed fervently for God to spare his life. In return, Louie promised he would serve Him.

Miraculously, Louie did survive the war but afterwards he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He had intense horrific dreams of his tormentor, the Bird, every single night. He even attempted to find him in Japan so he could kill him in revenge. He started drinking heavily. He had trouble holding a job. He was at rock bottom. Eventually his wife told him she was filing for divorce.

Then one day his wife attended a Billy Graham crusade. She made a commitment to Christ and came home a changed woman. She announced to Louie the divorce was off. She also drug Louie to the next crusade meeting. He was resentful and angry about it. But then she talked him into attending another, and as he listened to Billy Graham that second time, it hit him.

I have forgotten!

On the talk show he said, I thought to myself, what an idiot! Here I had told God if He saved me I’d serve Him for the rest of my life. God kept his end of the deal, but I had forgotten mine. So I committed myself to Christ. Up until that time I dreamed of the Bird every night. But since that day I committed myself to Christ, I haven’t dreamed of him once, and I haven’t had any drinking problems. (Unbroken)

The point is, God didn’t forget Joseph while he was in the dungeon. And God didn’t forget Louie Zamperini, not even while he was stranded at sea and suffering torture from the Bird.

But Louie forgot Him!

It’s not a question of God forgetting you. It’s a question of you forgetting Him!

I’m telling you right now, remember Him. Whatever you do, remember to TAKE HIM WITH YOU, into the dungeon you’re dwelling in currently. Remember Him. Remember to TAKE HIM WITH you out in whatever sea you’re stranded in. Remember Him. Remember to TAKE HIM WITH you into whatever torture you’re enduring.

Take Him into your heart and mind by reading His Bible. Take Him into conversation by praying to Him. Take Him into your company by worshiping Him at His house, with His people.

And do this in remembrance of Him — take communion.

He hasn’t forgotten you.

Remember Him.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come.

Ecclesiastes 12:1


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Chuck Smith

Jon Courson

Chuck Smith Blog Post: Not Abandoned

Laura Hillenbrand (2010). Unbroken, Random House

Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success: Genesis 39:1-6

May God Pour Out His Spirit Upon You (Photo Credit: Pursuing Holiness Blogspot)

In our last post on Genesis we saw Judah fall in a disturbing way, when he had sexual relations with his daughter-in-law while she posed as a shrine prostitute. (see previous post: Judah and Tamar) In today’s post, we’ll look at Joseph’s rapid rise to success in Potiphar’s household, and the four steps he took to get there.


Genesis 39:1-6

Here in Genesis 39 we pick up our story with Joseph, just sold into slavery. The Ishmaelites who bought him from his brothers, turn around and sell him to an Egyptian named Potiphar who’s the captain of the guard for Pharoah, the king of Egypt.

Can you even imagine what Joseph went through? Can you imagine having your family turn on you? If my siblings sold me into slavery, and I was taken away to serve a master in a far away foreign country, I don’t know what I’d do. But look what Joseph did.

We see Joseph as a picture of Jesus in that, like Jesus, Joseph takes on the role of a servant. And the Lord is with him so he rocks his new position in Potiphar’s house. When Potiphar sees the Lord is with him in the small things, and how the Lord blesses Joseph with success in everything, Potiphar shows him favor and makes Joseph his attendant. He puts Joseph in charge of his whole household. All Potiphar owns is placed under Joseph’s charge. After Potiphar promotes him to run it all, the Lord blesses his entire estate because of Joseph. Everything thrives: inside, outside, in the house, and in the field. He trusts Joseph so much he leaves every detail in his care. Potiphar doesn’t concern himself with anything except the food he eats.


Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success: Steps You Can Take Too

1) Ask for God’s Spirit

The first five words of verse two say, “The Lord was with Joseph…” It’s a wise man who remains close to God all his days. You never know when you might be separated from every other living soul in your life. Joseph was. He was separated from his family and every single person who was familiar to him.

But he still had his God. And that proved to be his saving grace. The Lord was with Joseph…

And it’s obvious God’s Spirit was upon him. Which brings to mind a favorite saying of one of my favorite fire department Captains, Rick Rohrbough, who would sometimes remark, “You don’t dig with your shovel when the backhoe is comin’.”

That saying comes to mind because living life without God’s Spirit compared to living life with His Spirit is like digging with a shovel compared to digging with a backhoe. Life flows when you’re living in the Spirit. Life’s so much harder when you’re not. It just doesn’t make any sense to live without His Holy Spirit poured out on your life.

And all you have to do is ask for it. Jesus said, If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

Ask God to pour His Holy Spirit upon you, to be with you in what you put your hand to.

Ask.

Ask every day.


2) The Day of the Small Things

I think it’s important to keep in mind, as a slave, Joseph had to have started with small responsibilities. It’s a great reminder for you and for me not to despise the day of the small things. (Zechariah 4:10) When I started with the fire department my duties included cleaning the toilets. Having lived it, I recommend, if you’re assigned to clean the toilets, clean them well. I remember another time when we needed to find someone to take on the task of managing the laundry service for the fire department. This is not a glamorous task by any stretch of the imagination. A firefighter, who was already passed over four times for Captain, volunteered for the assignment and handled it extremely well. Today he serves as the Deputy Chief of Administration.

God’s word speaks of minding the day of the small things in Zechariah, and we see Jesus operates in the same way in Matthew 25:21.

So don’t despise the day of the small things. It results in great blessings, in the long run. (see previous post, Pat Summit: The Day of Small Things)


3) Work With All Your Heart

It’s been said: “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” After reading the story of Joseph, I’m left with the distinct impression, he was industrious. Running the estate of a high government official, and running it well, had to be demanding of his time and energy. The Holy Spirit is God’s part, and the most important part, but Joseph had an important part too, and that was to give it his best.  Joseph’s response is remarkable given the circumstances. He had to have been tempted to succumb to depression as a result of his brother’s intense hostility and rejection of him, as well as his current circumstances in Egypt. But he didn’t fall into despondency. Instead he worked with all his heart, as working for the Lord, not for his strange new Egyptian master.

However difficult your circumstances, how do they compare to Joseph’s? Have you been sold into slavery lately?

Wherever you find yourself, whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… (Colossians 3:23)


4) Live According to God’s Word

In the biblical account of Joseph’s life, no sin is ever mentioned (another reason Joseph of the Old Testament is such a powerful picture of Jesus. See previous post: Joseph and Jesus). It’s obvious from our story, Potiphar trusted Joseph completely. Many of the simple truths in God’s scriptures are extremely valuable to those in authority. At the fire department some of us called certain employees who lived with great integrity and purpose, “fire and forget weapons.” When we gave them an assignment, they took responsibility and worked at it with all their heart. These people didn’t require much in the way of supervision. As Potiphar was with Joseph, once we gave them an assignment, we never gave it another thought.

Reading your Bible daily and living out the scriptures will pay off big in the long run. I have found Psalm 1 to be absolutely true.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

Do you want whatever you do to prosper?

Live like Joseph did — regardless of your circumstances.


References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Joseph and Jesus, Sold by His Brothers: Genesis 37:12-36

Joseph Sold by His Brothers (Photo credit: DoJewish Blog)

Jesus said to them on the road to Emmaus:

“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27



Genesis 37:12-36

So Joseph’s brothers are overseeing their father’s flocks in an area near Shechem. Israel (Jacob) says to Joseph, You know how your brothers are out with the flocks near Shechem? Well I need you to head out there.

Israel sent Joseph, his most favored son, to his flocks. Joseph would ultimately save his brothers and the nation of Egypt from perishing in the famine. God the Father sent Jesus, His most favored son, to His flocks, the people on earth. Jesus would ultimately provide a means to save his brothers, and the entire world. (Matthew 3:17)

Joseph replies to his father, Sounds good.

Israel says, Head out there and see how your brothers and the flocks are doing then come back and let me know what you found.

Then he sends Joseph out from where they are, in the Valley of Hebron, toward Shechem.

When Joseph gets to Shechem, he wanders around in the fields for awhile looking for his brothers until a man asks him, What are you looking for?

Joseph says, I’m looking for my brothers, they’re grazing their flocks around here somewhere. Can you tell me where they are?

They’ve moved on from here, the man answers. I overheard them say they’re going to Dothan.

So Joseph continues on to Dothan and finds his brothers. They see Joseph off in the distance and while he’s still out of earshot, they plot to kill him.

“Lazarus come out!” Jesus said. And Lazarus, who had been dead, left his resting place in the cave, and came out, witnessed by many. The Sanhedrin never disputed Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, in fact, they never disputed any of Jesus’ miracles. But they were afraid, because He was performing so many miracles, the people would follow Jesus, leaving the Sanhedrin without a power base. Bringing Lazarus back from the dead proved to be the last straw for them.

So they plotted to kill Jesus. (John 11:17-55)

Here comes the dreamer! they say to each other mockingly. We can kill him now and toss his body into one of these cisterns and we’ll just say a wild animal attacked him and ate him. Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams.

Problem for the brothers: the dreams aren’t Joseph’s, they’re from God, and God’s dreams always come to pass.

Well Reuben hears all this, and as the oldest, he knows he’ll ultimately be held responsible for Joseph, so he says, Let’s not kill him, let’s not shed any blood. Instead we’ll throw him into this empty cistern out here, but don’t hurt him. Reuben’s thinking he’ll come back later, pull Joseph out of the cistern, and return him to their father.

Reuben is hoping, by throwing Joseph in the cistern, he can satisfy his brothers, even as Pontius Pilate had Jesus scourged, hoping to satisfy Jesus’ brothers the Jews who cried for Jesus’ crucifixion.

So when Joseph shows up, they strip him of his robe, the one of many colors, with oversized sleeves, the one his father gave him, and they toss him into the empty cistern.

Joseph was stripped of his special garment, even as Jesus was stripped of his seamless garment. And down into the empty cistern Joseph goes, even as Jesus went down into the grave. (Matthew 27:59-60, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53, John 19:41-42)

Then they sit down to eat.

As they’re eating, they look up and see a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. The caravan’s loaded with goods: spices, balm, and myrrh. They’re on their way to Egypt to do some trading.

After seeing the caravan, Judah comes up with an idea, (or an idea was given to Judah by the Lord) he says, What do we gain if we kill him? Instead let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.

We can avoid having Joseph’s blood on our hands if we turn him over to these Gentiles, Judah and his brothers, the other fathers of the tribes of Israel are thinking. Likewise, their descendants said it was against Roman law for the Jews to execute Jesus themselves. So they turned Jesus over to the Gentiles. It’s interesting to note, though they said, “We have no right to execute anyone” they were perfectly willing to stone the woman caught in adultery, and they were more than enthusiastic about throwing Jesus off the cliff. But it was prophesied Jesus was to die by crucifixion and only the Romans executed criminals in that manner. So this took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. (John 8:1-11, Luke 4:29John 18:31-32)

Here also, we see the trap of comparing your own actions to an action or intention that’s worse. Let’s be good guys and not kill Joseph, he’s our brother after all. Instead lets sell him into slavery so we never see him again, then lie to our father saying he’s dead. How much better we’re treating him than if we had chosen to kill him!

Of course this makes no sense at all. It never makes sense to compare our own bad deeds to those that are even worse, whether they be your own or someone elses. Your own holiness is your only concern. And there isn’t anyone who is too holy before the Lord.

Finally we see here the result of envy. Matthew Henry states, “Where envy reigns, pity is banished, and humanity itself is forgotten.” And Proverbs 27:4 tells us, Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? In our story we see siblings driven by envy to plot the death of their own brother, even as he desperately pleaded for his life! (Genesis 42:21) Envy: stay clear of it. Don’t allow yourself to be caught by the green eyed monster, or you may find yourself doing things you never dreamed you were capable of.

His brothers buy into the idea so when the Midianite traders come by, they pull Joseph up out of the cistern and sell him into slavery for twenty shekels of silver. The Midianites then continue on their way to Egypt.

Jesus was sold, for 30 pieces of silver, by one of his brothers. (Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6, Zechariah 11:12-13)

All this occurs while Reuben was off somewhere. When he returns and sees Joseph isn’t there in the cistern, he tears his clothes. He goes back to his brothers and says, The boy’s not there! What am I going to do?

Reuben thinks he’s undone because of Joseph’s plight, when in reality, had Joseph not been sold into slavery, they all would have been undone, by famine. When the two Mary’s returned and saw Jesus wasn’t there in the tomb, they were distressed also, but in reality, had the tomb not been empty, we’re all undone. (Luke 24:1-8) (Matthew Henry)

So they kill a goat and dip Joseph’s robe in its blood. When they arrive home they show it to their father and say, We found this. You better have a look at it, it might be Joseph’s robe.

Of course Jacob recognizes it right away and says, It is my son’s robe! Some wild animal has devoured him. He’s been torn to pieces for sure.

Then Jacob tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth, and mourns for Joseph for many days. All his sons and daughters come to comfort him, but he refuses their consolation. “No,” he says, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

To Jacob, Joseph is dead. But, there’s good news he doesn’t know about.

Meanwhile, the Midianites sell Joseph to Potiphar, Pharoah’s captain of the guard.

To the disciples and all who knew of His crucifixion, Jesus was dead. But there was good news coming they didn’t know about. It was dark on Friday, but Sunday’s coming. (See previous post: Back From the Dead)

Speaking of Jesus, Luke 25 verse 7 says, Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

I think the story of Joseph was probably a big part of that explanation.

And I’m reminded of something else Jesus said:

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 8:8)

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, (2000), IVP Bible Background Commentary, O.T.

Jon Courson