Why I’m Glad God Chose Joseph for the first Christmas

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Hand of Mercy

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Joseph, Jesus, and the Key to Your Choices: Genesis 49:22-26

Make Good Choices Jesus Joseph Genesis 49To see the previous post from Genesis, go to Can God Use a Sinner Like You, or Like Me?

Joseph is a fruitful vine,
a fruitful vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel

Genesis 49:22-24

Joseph

Joseph endured a difficult life. Described as “archers” in this passage, Joseph faced arrows of persecution from his own siblings–they plotted to murder him, then they settled for selling him into slavery. So he was separated from his family, while he served as a slave in Egypt. Then he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, after which, he was tossed into a dungeon–for years.

Jesus

Jesus was another who was committed to living his life God’s way, no matter what arrows flew in his direction. He loved people, all people, including promiscuous women, prostitutes, and thieves–even when it brought brutal criticism. Although on the surface he looked as ordinary as anyone else, he healed, and helped so many, it was impossible to write it all down. (John 21:25) And though he did all these things, things no one else could do, he never bragged. The religious leadership of his day hated him. Over and over they tried to catch him in a verbal ambush, but Christ answered so cleverly and completely they eventually stopped trying. Several times they tried to kill him, but they couldn’t until his time came. His dream was to make a way for us to go to heaven, but it meant he had to die. He did it anyway.

You might be asking yourself, “How? How did Joseph and Jesus live this way?” The source of power for both Joseph and Jesus is revealed by Jacob in our text. They were both able to live the way they did “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel…”

Your Choices

You have access to that same source of power you know.

Those decisions you’ve made the last few years that haven’t worked out for you? The ones that made you say, “Yea but…”

“Yea but she seemed like such a nice girl.”

“I know but he was so good to my five year old daughter.”

“Yes but she was so much fun to party with.” Continue reading

9/11 and the Coming Election: Genesis 47:1-6

Photo by 9/11 Photos, Creative Commons

To read the last post on Genesis, go to Ready to Die.

Read Genesis 47:1-6

Joseph’s family are now with him in Egypt, and while that’s good, he still has a big frog to swallow. He has to present some of his family members to Pharaoh and gain permission for them to settle in Egypt, in the land of Goshen.

So Joseph goes to Pharaoh and tells him his family is in Goshen. He chooses five of his brothers and he presents them to Pharaoh.

What’s your occupation? Pharaoh asks.

Your servants are shepherds just as our fathers were, they reply. And we’ve come to live here for awhile, because the famine is so bad in Canaan we have no pasture for our flocks. So please, let your servants settle in Goshen.

Pharaoh says to Joseph, Your father and your brothers can settle anywhere you like. Put them in the best part of Egypt. Let them live in Goshen. And if any of them have special talent with livestock, put them in charge of my herds.

Genesis 47:1-6

9/11

Today is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. While I was still a firefighter I traveled to New York City, after the towers were attacked, with a group of Christian police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers to see what we could do to help. I spoke with many firefighters who experienced the loss of family and/or friends when the twin towers were taken down. (There were so many killed, very often firefighters had to choose between attending the funeral of a fellow firefighter who was family, or one who was a friend, because they were held at the same time) I attended funerals where Mayor Giuliani addressed the crowd. I spoke with forensics specialists who collected gruesome evidence at ground zero.

I’ve given this terrible tragedy a lot of thought over the last eleven years. And I’ve not just thought about 9/11, but I’ve also given considerable thought to our country’s leadership during that tragedy, and the leadership to come in the 2012 election.

I’ve come to a conclusion.

Egypt’s Tragedy

Egypt had a tragedy with the potential to kill more than we lost on 9/11. A seven year famine could have been devastating. However through God’s intervention with His servant Joseph, Pharaoh and Egypt escaped this famine relatively unscathed. But in spite of his success, can’t you just hear the criticisms that must have come from the people?

Pharaoh didn’t handle it right. He shouldn’t have given the best of the land to Israel and his family. He shouldn’t have given them positions of authority over Pharaoh’s flocks. That land and those job positions should have been given to Egyptians. This only happened because Joseph is so well connected.

The Coming Election

Just a few minutes ago I came across a video about how 9/11 was an inside job. How President Bush knew. How it was all a part of Bush’s effort to usher in the new world order. (I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, so I won’t dignify this video by posting a link)

The last few months of the presidential race, I’ve seen both sides meet out huge doses of negative campaigning.

On Twitter and Facebook I see my friends and family lambasting the opposition, either Republican or Democrat, Romney or Obama, depending on their political leanings.

But think this thing through with me — Remember back to that moment of optimism after “our guy” won the election? How’s that been working for us? After “our man” was in office for awhile, was there any appreciable difference? Time and time again when “our man” is in there, the real tangible changes made have been negligible. Many today maintain that the differences between the parties are rapidly narrowing. The reality is…

…putting your time and energy into politics won’t make a difference.

The Answer

In a democracy, where we elect our leadership, we will continue to get what we ask for. You and I and the rest of the voting population are responsible for who serves in political office. And the voting public seems to choose leadership that doesn’t change much, time and time again.

In a democracy, the voting population gets what they deserve — every time.

You know what? Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and Israel’s family weren’t made because of Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s decisions concerning the famine, Israel, and his family were all a part of God’s divine plan.

God is where the power is for change. So why invest your time and energy into a man?

Here’s my conclusion: Take all the time and energy you invest in the political process and reapportion it into prayer. Because here’s the real solution to effecting change in a democracy:

Revival.

Because after revival, the voting public will no longer put up with mediocre leadership. They’ll vote in better (not perfect but better) leaders into office. After revival, many of the country’s problems will be mitigated. We’ll see a reduction in corruption, drug and alcohol abuse, broken families, crime, etc. We’ll see these things improve because after revival more people will walk through life closer to Christ.

So stop bashing the other guy, whatever side you’re on, and start praying.

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in your family, in your church, in your city, in your state, in your entire country.

Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and revival in you.

God is where the power is for effecting change.

Pray.

What Does God Want? Genesis Chapter 44

What does God wantTo read the last post on Genesis click on Starving But Afraid to Return: Genesis 43.

Read Genesis 44

In our last post we left Joseph’s brothers feasting and drinking freely with Joseph. After the end of chapter 43, one might think the brothers are out of the woods, so to speak. But look what happens next.

Before the brothers leave for home, Joseph gives the steward of his house these instructions: Fill up their sacks with all the food they can carry, and put their silver in their sacks. Also, put my silver cup in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver and grain.

So the steward does as Joseph instructed.

Morning comes and the men are sent on their way. They aren’t very far along on their journey when Joseph says to his steward, Go after them, and when you catch them, say, Why have you repaid good with evil? You have the cup my master drinks from and uses for divination. This is a wicked thing you’ve done.

So when the steward catches up with them he says what he was ordered to say. And they answer, Why are you saying these things? We would never do anything like that! We brought back the silver we had from last time. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master now? Tell you what, if you find the cup on any one of us, that person will die; and the rest of us will become your master’s slaves.

All right then, the steward says, It’ll be how you want it. Whoever has it will become my slave, the rest will be free from blame.

They all toss their sacks to the ground and open them up. Then the steward searches them, beginning with the oldest and working his way to the youngest. And there it is, the cup, in Benjamins sack. Right away they despair and tear their clothes. Then they load up their donkeys and head back to Joseph’s house in the city.

Joseph is still there when Judah and his brothers come in, and they throw themselves to the ground in front of Joseph. Joseph says, What have you done? Don’t you realize a man like me can find out what’s happened by divination?

What can we say? Judah responds. What can we say? What could we do to prove our innocence? God has exposed your servants’ guilt. We’re now your slaves — we ourselves and the one who had the cup.

But Joseph says, Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the one who had the cup will become my slave. The rest can go back to your father in peace.

Then Judah goes up to him and says, Please excuse your servant, my lord, please allow me to have a word with my lord. Don’t be angry with your servant, even though you’re equal to Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, Do you have a father or a brother? And we told you, We have an elderly father, and there’s a young boy born to him in his old age. His brother’s dead, and he’s the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.

Then you said to us, your servants, Bring him down here to me so I can see him for myself. And we said to my lord, The youngest son can’t leave his father, if he leaves, his father will die. But you told us, your servants, Unless you bring him back, you won’t see me again. When we went back to your servant, my father, we told him everything you said.

Then our father said, Go back to Egypt and buy some more food. But we told him, We can’t go unless our youngest brother goes with us. We can’t see the man’s face unless we bring Benjamin.

Your servant, my father, said, You know my wife had two sons. One of them went away and never came back, I said, He has surely been torn to pieces. And I haven’t seen him since. If you take Benjamin, and harm comes to him, I’ll die from grief.

So at this point, if the youngest isn’t with us when we go back, and my father, whose life is closely bound up with the his, sees he isn’t with us, my father will die. Your servants will bring him down to the grave in grief and sorrow. I myself guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father.

So please, let me remain here as your slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return to his brothers. How can I go back to my father if he’s not with me? No! Don’t let me see the misery that would come upon my father.

What Does He Want?

Imagine with me what Judah and his brother’s must be saying to each other at this point: What, what, what? What does Joseph want? Why is this happening? When will it stop? We gave Joseph our silver to buy food. We left Simeon as a prisoner. We went home, we came back, we brought Benjamin as requested. We brought gifts, almonds, honey, the best the land has to offer. We bowed before Joseph — four times so far! But no, none of that is what Joseph wants. So what then? What? What is it?

What does Joseph want from us?

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever asked those questions? Maybe like Judah and his brothers, you’re asking yourself those questions now: “Why is this happening to me? When will it stop? What does God want? What does Jesus want from me?”

The answer for Judah and his brothers concerning what Joseph wanted was this: Joseph wanted the brothers themselves. He wanted the brothers to give themselves to him. At the end of our text we see Judah offer himself to Joseph. And we’ll see in chapter 45, it’s not until Judah finally offers himself to Joseph, that Joseph reveals himself to Judah, and the rest of the brothers.

The answer for you is the same. It’s the same with your greater than Joseph, Jesus. He doesn’t crave your money. He doesn’t need your worship. He doesn’t want to imprison anybody. He doesn’t need your gifts. He doesn’t need your sacrifices. What does He want?

He wants you…

…to give yourself…

…to Him.

All of you. Everything. Everything you are.

He wants your life.

The moment you make that commitment, the moment you flip that switch in your head and your heart, to give all of yourself to Him — as Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, Jesus will begin to reveal Himself to you.

So do it! What reason is there not to? You only have blessings awaiting you on the other side of that commitment. So what are you waiting for? Flip that switch. Pray to Him right now. Give yourself, all of yourself, to Him

Do it, and like Judah and his brothers — your life will never be the same.

[Image via Fenway71 – Creative Commons]

References:

Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Jon Courson

Notes:

Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him, fulfilling Joseph’s prophetic dream, a total of five times:

  1. Genesis 42:6: Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground
  2. Genesis 43:26: When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.
  3. Genesis 43:28: They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
  4. Genesis 44:14: Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him.
  5. Genesis 50:18: His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
 

Help in Times of Famine: Genesis 42:1-2

Photo Credit: tvstar.com.mk

Read Genesis 42:1-2

Last post on Genesis we saw what happened to Joseph after Pharaoh heard him interpret his dreams. We also examined how Joseph determined direction for the nation of Egypt and how you can determine direction yourself. (see previous post: God, Joseph, and Direction)

In today’s post we’ll look at where Jacob sends his sons for grain during a famine. And we’ll look at where we can go when we’re experiencing famine, be it financial, physical, or emotional famine.


Genesis 42:1-2

After Jacob figures out there’s grain in Egypt, he says to his sons, Why just sit around and look at each other? Go where the bread is, go to the source of nourishment. Go to where you, and me, and our families can be saved — from this famine. Go to where the bread is, so that we may live and not die.


Help in Times of Famine:

Jacob’s sons” reluctance to go to Egypt for grain reminds me of another story:

“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.

I want to get down to the pool, because I think it’ll heal me, but I have no one to help me. Someone always gets there ahead of me, the lame man said.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The only problem was, Jesus did this on the Sabbath. So when the leaders found out, they were angry. That’s when Jesus said to them, concerning the Old Testament: “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (emphasis mine, see John Chapter 5)

Jacob and his sons don’t know it yet, but it won’t be long before they’ll find out, Joseph is the source they’ll be receiving food from, so that they may live and not die. And we also know Jesus said of the Old Testament: “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40) So here we have another example of how the Scriptures testify of Jesus. We again see in Joseph, a divine prophetic expression of Jesus Christ.

Jacob’s sons looking at each other, and their reluctance to go to Joseph to be saved, is a picture of how Jesus’ brothers, the Jewish leadership, were reluctant to go to Jesus. It’s also a picture of what you and I so often do when we respond to famine. When the famine comes, we often look to each other, and other human beings, to be saved. But what God, our heavenly Father, would have us do, is go to Jesus for our bread. Christ is the source of our grain, if you will. He is the Word made flesh. He is the Bread of life. (John 1:14)

Jesus is our Joseph.

And Jesus is the Word. So God’s word is where God would have us go “so that we may live and not die.”

Maybe things are so bad right now, you feel like you’re going to die. Maybe you’re experiencing famine. Maybe it’s a financial famine: you’re unemployed or just struggling to make it. Or maybe it’s a physical famine: you’re sick, or injured, or the doctor came back with a diagnosis of cancer. Or maybe it’s an emotional famine: you’re dealing with a divorce, or she betrayed you, or they’re attacking you personally.

The question is, where do you go when there’s famine? Do you look at those around you for answers? Or do you go to where the bread is?

The Bible, is where the bread is, and God has good reasons for sending us there.

When I read the Bible I’m gaining insight into the very mind of God. That, in and of itself, makes it the most important book to read there is.

When I read the Bible I’m reading the very same words Jesus studied and read.

When I read the gospels in the Bible, I’m studying the very words spoken by Jesus Christ Himself.

When I read the Bible I’m reminded of great truths.

When I read the Bible I’m more oriented toward what’s important to God and less anxious about the things of this world.

When I read the Bible I’m more mindful of eternal things, heavenly things, things that will matter forever (and that’s a long time).

I know from experience, reading the Bible regularly, changes who I am. When I read the Bible I’m a different person than when I don’t. I know this because my wife says she prefers the kurt who reads the Bible regularly, to the kurt who does not.

It’s true for anybody. Reading the Bible regularly will make you less like your current self, and more like the person both you and God want you to become.

So why just sit around and look at each other? Go where the bread is, go to the source of nourishment. Go to where you and your family can be saved. Go to where the bread is, “so that you may live and not die.”

Read your Bible.

It will change your life.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT


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

God, Fire, and Interpretation: Genesis 40:1-8

Four adults and three children were killed in this house fire in Philadelphia (Photo Credit: article.wn.com)

Read Genesis 40:1-8

In the last post on Genesis, we saw how Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in their prime possess, somehow avoided succumbing to the relentless propositions of Potiphar’s wife. (see previous post: Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation) At the end of the previous chapter, she (falsely) accuses him of rape. It was the word of a slave, against the word of the wife of a high government official, and, of course, she won. So Joseph finds himself in a dungeon. But, by God’s grace, he also finds favor with the warden of the dungeon. And after awhile, the warden puts him in charge of other prisoners.

In today’s post we’ll learn about two of Pharaoh’s prisoners, the cupbearer and the baker, and their respective dreams. And we’ll look at interpretation as it relates to fire, and as it relates to God.

Genesis 40:1-8

So Joseph has been in prison for some time when a couple of new convicts arrive. They were officials in the king’s court who had offended their master, the Pharaoh. One was the chief cupbearer, and the other the chief baker. And Joseph is assigned to take care of both of them.

They had been in custody for awhile when each of them, the cupbearer and the baker, has a dream on the same night, and each dream has its own meaning. The only thing is, neither of them can figure it out.

When Joseph shows up the next morning he can tell they’re both dejected. So he asks, Why so sad?

They both answer, We both had dreams but there’s no one to interpret them.

Then Joseph says, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Interpretation: Fire and God

On the topic of interpretations, and who they belong to: In my thirty years in the fire service, I have heard of only one person crazy enough to disregard the interpretation of a fire scene by firefighters. Unfortunately I experienced it first hand. The call came in around 7 in the morning, as a house fire with children trapped at 503 Alberts St. When we rolled up we saw the house was well involved with fire. I’ll never forget my surprise when, as we deployed off our fire engines, we were met by a man screaming obscenities. He was, if you will, challenging our interpretation of the fire scene — in no uncertain terms. He continued to scream obscenities at us while we removed three children trapped in a back bedroom of the burning house. Sadly, we were too late to save two of them. One survived.

Later we found out the man screaming was a neighbor, and Vietnam vet, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. After it was all over, he apologized profusely. He felt terrible. I actually feel sorry for the guy.

Let me ask you something:

If your house was on fire.

And your family was trapped inside.

And you were standing out in the street next to me.

And a half dozen or so fire engines rolled up to the scene.

Would you interpret that fire scene — or would you rely on me, as a firefighter, to interpret it for you?

Of course, you would rely on my interpretation — even though you wouldn’t understand much of what I did. Undoubtedly you’d have questions. Why are you cutting a hole in my roof? you might ask. Why are you using precious time to take your fire hose all the way around to the back? you may question. What are you doing with those big fans? And what does all this have to do with saving my family?

Yes, you would definitely have questions. There would definitely be things you wouldn’t understand. But to give you and your family the best possible chance, you’d rely on my interpretation anyway.

You would put your faith in me, as a firefighter, and you would be wise to do so. If you tried to figure it out yourself, your family could die in the flames.

And yet, the difference between me and you isn’t that great. After all, I’m just a man. My time on the earth may not be as long as yours. My life experience might not be as extensive as yours. My accomplishments probably aren’t as great as yours.

But still, you’d rely on my interpretation.

How much more then, should we rely on Jesus Christ’s interpretation of the scriptures, because of who He is.

I’m not talking about checking your brain. I enjoy discussing questions concerning scripture with others, and also exploring questions about scripture myself. Romans 12:2 says we’re to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. And the Jews of Berea received Paul’s information, but they had questions. So they diligently researched to see if what he was saying was true. (Acts 17:10-12)

Asking questions about the Bible is healthy and should be commended. The people at Berea were said to be of more noble character than others.

What I’m talking about is recognizing who Jesus is compared to who you are and who I am.

So who does Jesus say he is?

He said, He was with God before the world even existed. (John 17:5)

Jesus said to His disciples, If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you even say, Show us the Father? (John 14:9)

In these and other places in the Bible, Jesus says He is God.

In John 10:33 we see clearly, the Jews understood Jesus claim that He was God: “We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”  they said.

So it makes sense for you to rely on me, a mere man, not much different than you, for the interpretation of a fire scene, and for the salvation of your family from a house fire. How much more then, does it make sense for you to rely on the Christ, who is God, as much as you possibly can, for your interpretation of scripture, as well as your salvation.

The only thing that makes sense is to rely on Jesus’ view of scripture.

And how does He see it?

I think it’s impossible to read the four gospels without coming to the conclusion Jesus viewed (and views) scripture as God’s word.

“But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” Jesus said, substantiating the account of the destruction of Sodom. (Luke 17:29)

“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” Jesus said, confirming manna fell from heaven (John 6:49)

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—” Jesus stated, validating Daniel of the Old Testament as a real and genuine prophet. (Matthew 24:15)

Let the reader understand, Jesus really did view the Old Testament as God’s word. He quoted from twenty four different books of the Old Testament. He quoted from it often and as having the weight of God’s authority behind it. He accepted the Old Testament as “that which was spoken unto you by God” (Matthew 22:31) But please, let me encourage you not to take my word for it. Read the gospels and see for yourself.

I don’t think there’s any question, we’ll never understand everything in the Old Testament, or the New Testament for that matter, this side of heaven. The interpretation of scripture is infinitely more complex than the interpretation of a fire scene. If you have questions about a fire scene, it’s only natural you would have questions about scripture. But because Jesus is God, the only thing that makes sense is to view the scriptures as He did.

I know how to rescue people from a house fire (IF, you give me a handful of fire engines and 20 or so trained firefighters). So you put your faith in me. Jesus knows how to raise people from the dead! I know how to extinguish the flames. So you put your faith in me. Jesus created fire, and everything in the earth, and the entire universe!

In fact, because Jesus is God, it makes infinitely more sense for you to rely on Jesus for your interpretation of scripture, than it does for you to rely on me to interpret a fire scene. In either case, if you try to lean on your own understanding, you and the people you love and care about will get burned. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

In the end, what you’re left with is a choice: Will you buy the secular criticisms of the Bible so prevalent on the internet today? Or will you believe God’s word in the same way Jesus did?

Will you believe the critics or Christ?

“Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8)

Joseph said it well.

Put your faith in Him.


Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation: Genesis 39:6-23

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Simone Contarini, Italian, about 1640 (Photo Credit: AlainTruong.com)

Read Genesis 39:6-23

In our last post on Genesis, we looked at Joseph’s seduction in light of Joseph’s fidelity — to God. (See previous post on Joseph’s Seduction) Today we’ll look at the same story, but we’ll focus on the 5 steps Joseph took to avoid temptation.

(The paraphrase of Genesis 39:6-23 is the same as our last post on Genesis. So if you read the last post on Genesis, you might like to skip down to the next section.)

Genesis 39:6-23

I don’t know what Joseph’s early responsibilities were when he first began at Potiphar’s house, but they may have been intensely physical because Joseph was ripped (“well built” verse six tells us). He was also a good looking guy. And because of this, Joseph’s master’s wife notices him and begins to proposition him, without much in the way of subtlety either.

“Come to bed with me!” she says to him.

But Joseph consistently refuses her. He says, Hey look, my master has such trust in me that he doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house; he’s put everything he owns in my care. I’m the top guy here. He’s kept nothing of his from me, except for you, because you’re his wife. So, with all that in mind, how could I possibly do such a terrible thing, and sin against God?

But in spite of his refusals, she persists. Day, after day, after day she continues to proposition him. But Joseph continues to refuse to go to bed with her, or even to be with her.

One day though, he goes into the house to do his work, and the place is empty. None of the other servants are around. Potiphar’s wife is the only one there. She grabs him by his cloak and says (for the one-thousandth time), “Come to bed with me!” But he escapes out of his cloak, leaving it in her hand, and runs out of the house.

When she realizes Joseph left his cloak in her hand when he fled, she calls in her servants and says, Look! This Hebrew is making a joke of us! He came in here to have his way with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he left his cloak laying here beside me and ran.

She keeps his cloak next to her until Potiphar comes home, and she tells him her story: That Hebrew slave guy you brought us came into my room to force himself on me. But fortunately, I screamed, and as soon as I did he left his cloak beside me and ran. This is how your slave has treated me!

After Potiphar hears the story he’s outraged. He takes Joseph and has him locked up where the king’s prisoners are kept.

But, while Joseph’s in the king’s prison, the Lord is with him again! God shows him kindness and grants Joseph favor with the warden. Eventually, his situation is the same or similar to when he was with Potiphar. The warden puts Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and gives him the job of running the place. And like Potiphar, the warden trusts him completely, he pays no attention to anything Joseph’s responsible for, because the Lord is with Joseph, and gives him success in everything he puts his hand to.

Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation

Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in the prime of their life possess, somehow avoids this temptation from Potiphar’s wife.

How’d he do that?

We see from our story, he took 5 steps.

1) Responsibility — Take It

We see in verse 9, Joseph says the words, “How then could I do such a…”

“How then could I…” Joseph said. He took responsibility for his own behavior. How many might have said, “Well what could I do? I’m just a slave and she’s the boss’s wife. I mean, really, I couldn’t refuse now could I?” Or, “Come on, give me a break, this was a situation where an older woman took advantage of a young man. What would you expect someone my age to do, with hormones raging? How could I help it?”

No, Joseph didn’t go there. He took responsibility for his own actions.

2) Recognize Sin

We see in verse 9, Joseph recognizes what Potiphar’s wife wants as something wicked and terrible. Joseph sees it for what it is: sin. The Bible is God’s word for humanity. He loves us enough to define sin in His scriptures and to warn us away from it. He does so not because he’s against pleasure, but because He knows in the long run, sin is disastrous for you. He’s trying to spare you from heartache and pain you’ll experience in the end, though you may experience pleasure in the short term. Today there’s a huge push in our culture to discount what the Bible says about sin as old-fashioned and irrelevant. Right now there’s actually a website author offering 1 million dollars for Tim Tebow’s virginity. This person’s stated goal is to bring our culture to the point where adultery is viewed as inconsequential. (see Washington Post article by Esther Fleece) I know that might seem unlikely right now, but many sins that were previously recognized as bad behavior have already been brought a long way toward a perception they’re trivial, or even a perception those who commit a given sin are victims.

Joseph didn’t discount what Potiphar’s wife asked him to do. He saw it for what it was. So should you and I.

3) Respond to God

We see in the last part of verse 9 how Joseph recognizes, if he gratifies his desires, he will sin against God. Joseph has a depth of relationship with God such that it would grieve Joseph to sin against Him. He can’t bear to sin because he can’t bear to disappoint the God he loves. Yes, he’s loyal to his earthly master Potiphar, but in the end, it’s God who Joseph is most concerned about. Living your life loving God, and concerned about God and what He thinks is one of the great keys to living the abundant life God has in mind for you. (John 15:11) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37. (See previous post: How to Love Like Jesus — God First)

4) Refuse to be Present

We see in verse 10 he not only refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, but he refused to even be with her. I wonder how many marriages would still be intact if both the husband and the wife decided to simply avoid putting themselves in situations that might lead to temptation. I’m talking about not friending the old high school flame on Facebook. I’m talking about staying out of bars. I’m talking about never allowing yourself to be alone with another person of the opposite sex, ever.

What a small price to pay if it results in you keeping your family intact.

And what a heavy price to pay if you break your family apart.

Today divorce is so acceptable, our culture has endorsed it so strongly, most are so nonchalant about it, you never hear much concerning its consequences. But five years after divorce more than 1/3 of children experience depression. Kids from divorced families are less successful in life than children from intact families, especially in their careers and their relationships. And the great majority of children from divorced families say they want their original family back together.

After a divorce, custody usually goes to the mother. And about half of all single mothers live below the poverty line — on average for six years. For African American single mothers it’s even worse: 2/3 are still single and in poverty 10 years after their divorce. (The AtlanticMcLanahan-Garfinkel)

No one talks about these things. You never see these findings in the news.

Joseph was a slave and didn’t have control of his own life to the degree you do. Yet he did his best to avoid putting himself in situations where he might be tempted. You can do the same.

5) Run

We see in verse 12, when he was unavoidably confronted with temptation, he fled. He left. He split immediately.

When she grabbed his robe, he didn’t stop and use the moment to teach Potiphar’s wife about his faith. He didn’t hesitate and share with her that he’s flattered but must decline, or how it’s nothing personal, or how it might be different, under different circumstances. He didn’t spend one moment on one word of conversation. And he didn’t go back for his coat. He bailed, he beat it, he bounced out of there — right away.

Again, how many marriages might still be intact if this were how people responded to sexual temptation.

Next time you’re confronted with temptation: leave, immediately.

The 6th Step (Two failures, and two outcomes: Why David recovered and Samson did not)

As an important aside, there’s one way in which Joseph was a major anomaly, he was able to avoid temptation without support from believing friends. This is profoundly rare. We can see the more usual pattern for humanity in scripture when we look at two other men of God who experienced temptation. Both Samson and David fell into temptation but only one of them recovered from its consequences. And here’s the reason why.

More was written about Samson than most other men in the Bible yet not one friend is named in all the pages devoted to Samson’s life. He was a loner. In contrast, David’s list of friends is a long one. And we see that he had certain friends like Jonathan who were especially close. (1 Samuel 18:1-5) And we see David was open to being held accountable, for instance when he subjected himself to correction by his friend Nathan. (2 Samuel 12:1-14)

So here’s the deal: To rid yourself of a temptation, like porn or alcohol or some other selfish pursuit, do whatever you have to do to find friends–men who have overcome the same temptation you’re battling against. Sit down with each of these men one at a time and tell them your story without pretense. If you become open and vulnerable, you’ll be surprised at how many friends you attract.

Going it alone as Samson did will almost certainly produce the same result that Samson experienced. You’ll become a prisoner. You’ll find yourself living life blindly walking in circles.

Instead, invest in friends the way David did. Develop close friendships the way David did. And become a man who is wide open to being held accountable–the way David did. Invest in friends the same way David did and you’ll find the same results that David did. He confessed his sin. He repented. And he never fell into sexual temptation again.

Joseph was an anomaly, an outlier. The first five steps are only the beginning steps to avoid temptation. The sixth step, that’s actually the biggest and most important step for us all.

Joseph Imprisoned

Of course, Potiphar’s wife had no integrity when it came to her marriage, and we see she had no integrity when she gave her account of what happened either. She lied and told her husband the Hebrew tried to rape her, using Joseph’s coat as a false proof of her deception. Interestingly, Joseph’s coat was also central to his brother’s deception before Jacob concerning his death.

We live in a fallen world. You can do everything according to God’s word and still wind up in a dungeon.

But Potiphar’s response is interesting because the punishment for attempted rape was death. And even though Joseph, a slave, was (wrongly) found to have attempted rape against the wife of a powerful official, Joseph is not put to death but put in prison. Verse 19 says Potiphar was angry but doesn’t say who he was angry with. Perhaps he recognized Joseph’s innocence but was forced to do something because of his wife’s insistence. Perhaps he even gave instruction for the warden to show Joseph favor.

Whether it came through Potiphar or not, God was the reason Joseph found favor in prison.

Even in the dungeon, God was with Joseph.

Nothing can separate us from His love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

References:

Nate Larkin, Samson and the Pirate MonksThomas Nelson, 2007

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

Joseph’s Seduction: Genesis 39:6-23

Who Has Your Heart? (Photo Credit: The Rooted Blog)

In our last post on Genesis, we saw, though Joseph began as a lowly seventeen year old slave boy, he rose rapidly to prominence in Potiphar’s household. And we explored the four steps Joseph took to get there. (see previous post: Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success: Genesis 39:1-6)

In today’s post on Genesis 39:6-23 we’ll see Joseph tested with seduction and temptation, then we’ll explore the question: Who’s seducing you?


Genesis 39:6-23

I don’t know what Joseph’s early responsibilities were when he first began at Potiphar’s house, but they may have been intensely physical, because Joseph was ripped (“well built” verse six tells us). He was also a good looking guy. And because of this, Joseph’s master’s wife notices him, and begins to proposition him, without much in the way of subtlety either.

“Come to bed with me!” she says to him.

But Joseph consistently refuses her. He says, Hey look, my master has such trust in me, he doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house; he’s put everything he owns in my care. I’m the top guy here. He’s kept nothing of his from me, except for you, because you’re his wife. So, with all that in mind, how could I possibly do such a terrible thing, and sin against God.

But in spite of his refusals, she persists. Day, after day, after day she continues to proposition him. But Joseph continues to refuse to go to bed with her, or even to be with her.

One day though, he goes into the house to do his work, and the place is empty. None of the other servants are around. Potiphar’s wife is the only one there. She grabs him by his cloak and says (for the one thousandth time), “Come to bed with me!” But he escapes out of his cloak, leaving it in her hand, and runs out of the house.

When she realizes Joseph left his cloak in her hand when he fled, she calls in her servants and says, Look! This Hebrew is making a joke of us! He came in here to have his way with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he left his cloak laying here beside me and ran.

She keeps his cloak next to her until Potiphar comes home, and she tells him her story: That Hebrew slave guy you brought us came into my room to force himself on me. But fortunately, I screamed, and as soon as I did he left his cloak beside me and ran. This is how your slave has treated me!

After Potiphar hears the story he’s outraged. He takes Joseph and has him locked up in the prison where the king’s prisoners are kept.

But, while Joseph’s in the king’s prison, the Lord is with him again! God shows him kindness and grants Joseph favor with the warden. Eventually his situation is the same or similar to when he was with Potiphar. The warden puts Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and gives him the job of running the place. And like Potiphar, the warden trusts him completely, he pays no attention to anything Joseph’s responsible for, because the Lord is with Joseph, and gives him success in everything he puts his hand to.


Who’s Seducing You?

Potiphar’s wife was relentless in her efforts to seduce Joseph. But the question for you today is, who’s seducing you? Or more accurately, who or what is seducing you?

I think it’s important to see we can learn from Joseph’s example concerning relationships with the opposite sex, and we’ll explore that in the next post on Genesis. But there’s something even more important to learn here. I think the key words in this passage of scripture are Joseph’s words about God. (39:9) What’s most important here is the issue of fidelity, but not Joseph’s fidelity to Potiphar, or Potiphar’s wife’s infidelity, but Joseph’s fidelity to his God.

Through the incessant relentless daily seduction, Joseph maintained God as the ultimate in his life.

Which brings us back to the question.

Who or what is seducing you?

Who or what is tempting you to make them first in your life?

Who or what desires to take God’s place as the ultimate in your life?

It could be a person of the opposite sex, trying to seduce you, as Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph. Or it could be your career, or sports, or video games, or a hobby, or social networks, or TV, or food, or shopping.

You know it’s interesting, Potiphar’s wife wasn’t faithful to Potiphar, nor was she faithful to the truth when she falsely accused Joseph. It’s the same with whoever, or whatever from that list in the last paragraph, is seducing you. It promises fulfillment but, like Potiphar’s wife, it’s absent of fidelity to the truth. In the end fulfillment comes only when you devote yourself to God. Fulfillment only comes when He’s first in your life.

The ultimate, the most important, the top person or activity — who or what is it? What consumes your thinking? Where do you invest your time? Where do you invest your money?

Who or what has your heart?

Is it God?

Or someone, or something else?

Joseph kept God foremost in his life, through rejection by his family, through his being sold into slavery, through Potiphar’s wife’s attempts at seduction, through wrong accusation, and through imprisonment.

Joseph kept God as his ultimate.

Who or what is yours?


References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Max Lucado Country Music Song: Story of Joseph

Has it ever occurred to you the story of Joseph sounds like a country music song?

Apparently it did to Max Lucado…