We understand that there are events in our lives that are painful. We also recognize that God is sovereign over everything that happens in our lives. But how do we recognize that both these facts are true and that God is both good and sovereign over the bad? In this message in Genesis, Pastor David Platt uses the story of Joseph to explain how God is good and in control despite the hardship in our lives.
- We have a Lord who is with us.
- We have a King who is guiding us.
- We have a Savior who has redeemed us.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, then I invite you to open with me to Genesis 37. I told you I wasn’t going to talk too much about India tonight, but I do want to give you one picture. Think with me about the majesty and wonder and beauty of God. Oftentimes, we think about creation and how we see His grandeur on display. You go to the Grand Canyon, and you see the beauty and the wonder of God. Let me tell you something that will rival that, though. Looking in the face of a woman who a year ago had never heard of Christ; who had no access to clean water for her or her baby, and looking at her countenance as she shares how she has come to Christ, as she holds a healthy baby in her arms. That’s the beauty and the wonder of God. It is worship in the middle of Indian slum, and church, I praise God for you. I praise God for the gospel alive in you.
This road that we are on is probably not the easiest road, but it is a good road. Even this road, walking through the Word like we are…is this not rich, walking through it? Like, I was sitting on the airplane, flying back this week, studying for tonight, and I could hardly stay in my seat. The guy next to me, unfortunately, did not speak English, because if he did, he was going to hear an eight-hour sermon on that ride. I thought about sharing anyway, and just asking the Spirit to do the translation, but this truth here…so rich, and so you look at the top of your notes there, you see we’ve got a good bit of ground to cover, but we’re going to look at Genesis 37–50, which is Joseph’s life. If you’ve been following along in the reading, this is reading that you’ve done this week, and I want us to look at the overview of Joseph’s life, his story, what one called the “most artistic and most fascinating of the Old Testament biographies.” I want us to see it, and then I want us to see how his story and our stories in this room come together in this grand story of redemption, and so we’re going to start in Genesis 37. We’re going to read the first eleven verses just to set the stage for the rest of the story, and we’re going to hit the high points from there. So, start with me in Genesis 37:1.
Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being 17 years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now, Israel…
Now, remember, Israel and Jacob, these are interchangeable names. God changed that name earlier in the reading.
[Now] Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
This is the beginning of Joseph’s story. Last week, we looked at Abraham’s story, the beginning there, Genesis 12, 15, 17. We talked about Chapter 1 in this story, Chronicle of Redemption: “Believe in God.” Now, I want us to see in Joseph’s story, “Chapter 2, Pain and Providence.” I wrestled with how to best kind of give an overview of Joseph’s story. Hopefully, you’ve read through it, but I want to hit the high points.
The Portraits of Joseph Through Genesis
The favorite son.
So, what you’ve got in your notes there are eight portraits of Joseph, basically, pictures we see along the way that I think will help us to get the overall picture of this story, so we’ll start. We’re introduced to Joseph…first portrait…as the favorite son. When the story starts, Joseph is 17 years old, and for 17 years, he has been the golden child. His father’s favorite. We know how Jacob loved his wife Rachel. Rachel was barren for a long time, and then God blessed her with a son, Joseph, and then Benjamin after that, but Jacob loved Joseph more than the other sons, demonstrated by this robe of many colors that he gave to Joseph.
The despised brother.
So, Joseph, we are introduced to, as the favorite son, which also means he was…second portrait…the despised brother. When it comes to Joseph’s relationship to his brothers, we are introduced to Joseph as a tattletale, bringing a bad report about his brothers to their father. Don’t you hate that? Like, when you were a kid, and you do something wrong and your brother or sister sees it, the first thing you say to them is what? “Whatever you do, don’t tell mom or dad,” and what is the first thing they do? They go and tell mom or dad. It’s almost innate.
I got home this week, and I was playing in the house…we were playing hide-and-go-seek…me and my sons, Joshua and Caleb, and it was Caleb’s turn to count, and Joshua and I were going to hide. So, Caleb goes off to count, and Joshua thinks it’s best to hide in the middle of the room, where there’s nothing around, and so he’s convinced that’s the good place to hide. So, he just stands there and says, “I’m hiding here.” I said, “All right, buddy, but I’m not with you. I’m going in the closet over here, but whatever you do, don’t tell Caleb where I am.” So, Caleb, “Ready or not, here I come,” he comes in, and miraculously he is able to find Joshua because he’s standing in the middle of the room, and Caleb says, “Where’s daddy?” I’m listening to this from inside the closet, and Joshua’s immediate response, “He’s over there in the closet.”
So, this is Joseph, the tattletale, and it didn’t make things better when he would come down to the morning breakfast table and tell his brothers about his dreams. “You’ll never guess what I dreamed. You were bowing down to me. The sun, the moon and the stars bow down to me.” He was the despised brother, and so one day, when the brothers are out in the field, they see Joseph coming, prancing out in his multicolored robe, and they decide they’ve had enough, and they say they want to kill him. Reuben persuades them not to kill Joseph, “Let’s just throw him in a pit,” and Reuben’s thought is later he can come back and save Joseph. So, they throw him in the pit, but it’s actually Judah’s plan that comes to fruition. The brothers are sitting around, and a group of Ishmaelites, also called Midianites in this story, comes by, and Judah says, “Why don’t we sell him? Make a profit off of him?” So, for 20 shekels, they give their brother away to the Ishmaelites, take Joseph’s multicolored robe, dip it in blood, go back to their father, contrive a story about how Joseph was mauled and killed, and for the next 20-plus years, Jacob mourns the supposed loss of his favorite son.
The slave in a foreign land: Genesis 38
Favorite son, despised brother. Third portrait: a slave in a foreign land. We come to Genesis 39, after a brief interlude in Genesis 38 between Judah and Tamar…pretty shady interlude, at that. Significant because of the preservation of the line of Judah, but a lot of questions there…come to Genesis 39, and this is what we see. Verse 1:
[Now] Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he had made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord [listen to this] blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him, he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
Don’t miss what’s happening here. Remember Genesis 12, we saw last week, God had said, “Abraham, through your line, all the nations will receive my blessing.” We’re seeing this picture. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, through the line of Abraham. Where he is, the blessing of God in this Egyptian’s house, a slave in a foreign land, as if that is not bad enough, being a slave in Potiphar’s house, one day, Potiphar’s wife comes up to him. She had made multiple passes at him at various points. As I was reading Genesis 39 this week, I could not help but to pray for men in this faith family to respond to sexual temptation like Joseph did; for the purity among women in this faith family. Verse 9, right in the middle of that verse, Joseph says, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Brothers in this room, let this be your response to any temptation, to look at an image on the Internet, or to flirt with a coworker, or to even go near sexual temptation, that you would say, “How could I do such great wickedness and sin against God?” God, raise up women across this faith family who love purity, and do not even begin a step toward compromising purity.
The pure servant.
A slave in a foreign land is also the next portrait: the pure servant. What a contrast with the immorality that we sometimes see in the stories of the Patriarchs, and even in Genesis 38 right before this. Joseph is tempted by Potiphar’s wife, all kinds of potential justifications here, “No one else will know; no one else will see. Potiphar has given me everything else in his house, why not his wife?” and yet, Joseph runs. This right here…don’t miss this…I am convinced that God in His sovereign grace has brought men and women into this room tonight to hear this one word: run. Run. If there is any semblance of toying with, flirting with sexual temptation, then the word of God for you tonight is run. Run fast, run hard away. Hear that word. I read something from John Piper this week that was so poignant. He said, “To be caught in secret sin is a horrible thing. There is only one thing worse: not to be caught.” Run. By the grace of God, hear that word tonight, run.
The slandered prisoner: Genesis 41
The pure servant runs, but Potiphar’s wife grabs his coat, setting the stage for him to be framed as…next portrait…the slandered prisoner. She accuses him, and Joseph is thrown into prison through no fault of his own. He is righteous and pure, and imprisoned for 13 years in a dungeon. Slandered and imprisoned, he actually rises to leadership in the prison. He’s given charge for various people, including, one day, a cupbearer and a baker, who upset Pharaoh…made a bad meal or something…and were thrown into prison. One night, they don’t sleep well; have dreams, wake up the next morning and Joseph walks by, sees the look on their faces and says, “What is wrong?” They share their dreams with him. Joseph, by the Spirit of God in him, interprets those dreams. For the cupbearer, “You will live.” For the baker, “You will die,” and that’s exactly what happens.
Joseph says to the cupbearer, “You’re going to live, and when you get out of prison, don’t forget me. Remember me. Tell Pharaoh about me here in prison.” The cupbearer lives and gets out of prison, and yet, forgets Joseph. For the next couple of years, Joseph remains in the dungeon in prison until one day, Pharaoh himself has a bad night’s sleep, dreams, and can’t find anyone in all of Egypt to interpret his dreams. As he’s asking different magicians to interpret his dreams, the cupbearer overhears this and goes to Pharaoh and says, “I know a guy who can interpret your dreams,” and, all of a sudden, Joseph is summoned from prison to stand before Pharaoh.
By the Spirit of God in him, he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, that there will be seven years of plenty in the land, followed by seven years of famine in the land, so he says to Pharaoh, “You need to prepare now. You need to store up reserve for these years of famine.” Pharaoh is awed by the Spirit of God in Joseph and says, “You alone can administrate and lead in this,” and so he sets Joseph, who earlier that day had been a prisoner, sets him as, basically, the Prime Minister in Egypt. Look at this contrast. Look in 41:41. Think about this contrast, where we see Joseph at one moment as a prisoner, and the next moment…listen to this…Pharaoh said to Joseph in 41:41, “‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, ‘Bow the knee.’ Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.” Not just the land of Egypt. The reality is, when famine came, it was people from all the land, even beyond Egypt, coming and bowing the knee at Joseph’s feet.
The leader over all the land: Genesis 42
The slave in a foreign land has now become the leader over all the land, and the stage is set for Genesis 42, when the famine and its effects would impact Jacob and his brothers.
In 42:1, “[When] Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’ And he said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’ So, ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.” Here we see the brothers coming to bow the knee in front of Joseph. They get to him, and they do not recognize him; he recognizes them.
The restorative brother.
This begins a process over a few chapters where Joseph becomes…next to the last portrait here…the restorative brother. There’s so much in these chapters. There’s probably a lot of questions about why Joseph was doing this at this point, or this at that point. What I want you to see, though…and to be honest, it’s something that I had not really seen in my previous reading and studying for this passage the way I did this last week…but I want you to think with me, just kind of lodge this in the back of your mind about the prominent role that Judah plays in this whole interchange. There’s really, when you step back and look at it, a strong interplay between Judah and Joseph in this story. I’ve already mentioned Judah is the one whose idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery, to bring about this picture. Obviously, Judah didn’t know what was going to happen.
When his brothers come before Joseph, and Joseph sends them back home with grain, and it’s time for them to come back, Jacob is trying to decide whether or not to send them back, especially, because Benjamin has been requested to go with them. He’s not sure, and it’s Judah who steps up and says, “Jacob, father, we must go back.” It’s Judah who steps up and gives a pledge, a guarantee. He says, “I will guarantee that Benjamin will be kept safe.” When they get back to Joseph, it’s Judah who speaks as the representative for his brothers. It’s Judah who, basically, offers himself at one point as a substitute for Benjamin, and then, after Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and says, “Go back and bring our father and your families here,” it’s Judah that leads the sons of Israel into the land.
The reunited son: Genesis 50
So, in this picture, Joseph is the restorative brother who preserves the family. All of that leading to the last portrait: the reunited son. In 46:28, “[Jacob] sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to show the way before him in Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen.” Listen to this, 46:29, “[Then] Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph…” after 20-plus years of mourning the loss of his son, “‘Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.’” The reunited son with his father. A couple of chapters later, Genesis 48, Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons. Genesis 49, Jacob blesses his sons, including Judah and Joseph, and then, at the end of Genesis 49, Jacob passes away. Verse 50:1 says, “Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him.” The reunited son. So, there’s the story of Joseph.
I want you to step back for just a second and look at those eight different portraits. I want you to look at them and maybe even, in a sense, see yourself in them. The favorite son and despised brother. Have you ever been a part of family conflict? Have you ever been the favorite son or daughter, or not been the favorite son or daughter? Have you ever had conflict with a brother or sister? We can see ourselves in his shoes, can’t we? A slave in a foreign land. Have you ever found yourself in a place that’s unfamiliar? Have you ever found yourself in a place of hurt and pain? Have you ever found yourself in a place of hurt and pain at the hands of those whom you love?
The pure servant becomes a slandered prisoner. Have you ever taken a stand for purity and righteousness only to be seemingly penalized for it? Things are harder, things are worse as a result of purity. The leader over all the land, restorative brother, reunited son. Have you ever longed for a resolution like that in your life, in your family, in your relationships? You can see yourself in these stages, and you think about how Joseph walked through these different stages. One preacher described…when he was talking about this story…he described the Joseph question. He said the Joseph question is this: “God, what in the world are you doing in my life?” Have you ever thought that? Have you ever been at one of these stages, whatever stage it might be in your life, where you thought, “Why is this happening? How did this happen? God, what are you doing here?”
The Providence of God In Genesis 50
All of this story sets the stage for the punch line in Genesis 50:20. I am convinced this is the best punch line in all the Old Testament. It’s our memory verse for this week. If you need to, read along. If you have it memorized, say it with me. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.” It’s kind of a wordy one. Again, a big challenging with the kids. But what does that mean? What does this mean, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
He is the ever-present Lord.
I want you to see here the providence of God in this whole picture. What does that mean, “the providence of God?” I want you to think about what we have seen. We’ve talked about the portraits of Joseph. Let’s think about what we had learned about God in this story. First, we learned that He is the ever-present Lord. This is what God’s providence means. He is the ever-present Lord. This is most beautifully illustrated in the story of Joseph in Potiphar’s house, so go back real quick with me to Genesis 39. Let’s fill in a couple of the gaps here. I want to show you a phrase that is mentioned four times in Genesis 39…you might underline it…two times in the very beginning of the chapter, two times in the end, kind of bookends on the chapter that the author gives us to draw our attention to it.
Look at 39:1. It talks about how Joseph had been brought down to Egypt. “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had brought him down there.” Verse 2, underline it, “The Lord was with Joseph.” That’s the first time. That’s the phrase. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that…” second time “…the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” Why was Joseph successful in Potiphar’s house. Because of his intellect? Because of his great skill, great leadership personality? No. He was successful because the Lord was with him.
You get to the end of the chapter, that was right after he’d been sold into slavery; this is right after he’s thrown into prison, and verse 21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph…” Underline it. “The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” You go down to verse 23, the last verse, “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him.” Underline it. “Whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” The low points of Joseph’s life here…a slave, a prisoner. What we see is that in those low points, God was with him, and God is credited with every advancement in Joseph’s life, the ever-present Lord. The deepest, darkest times of Joseph’s life, the Lord was with him. He’s the ever-present Lord.
He is the ever-subtle King.
Second, God is the ever-subtle King. He is King, and yet He is subtle. It’s kind of like the story of Ruth that we looked at last year. It’s interesting. When you look at this whole story, from Genesis 37 to Genesis 50, you really don’t see any breathtaking, overwhelming displays of supernatural power from God. Instead, you see subtle indicators all along the way that point us to the invisible hand of God that is at work in every detail of this story.
Look at Genesis 45. I want to show you this. Genesis 45. This is when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, and I want you to hear what he says. When Joseph confronts the men, the brothers who had sold him into slavery, which resulted in his imprisonment. He suffered for years as a result of what they had done, right? However, listen to what he says. Verse 4, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, please.’” This is an incredible picture. These are brothers who deserve condemnation, and he says, “No, come near to me,” and they came near and he said, “‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for…’” underline this “‘…God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.’” And second time, “‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here…’” third time “‘…but God.’” God is the one who sent me. “‘He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me Lord of all Egypt.”’”
Listen to this. Joseph is saying to his brothers, “You sold me, but God sent me here. God did this. When I was sold into slavery, that was God at work. When I was thrown into prison, that was God at work. When I was summoned before Pharaoh, that was God at work. God has been doing this whole thing.” Notice what Joseph doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “Well, you sold me, and God responded by figuring out a way to take that and turn it into good.” No. Joseph is saying that God was in control of the whole picture. God sent the famine. There, in verse 6…I don’t have time to turn there, but Psalm 105:16–17, you might write that down. Psalm 105:16–17, God is the one who summoned the famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, and sent a man, Joseph, ahead to be sold as a slave. God did it all.
Now how does this work? How can the brothers sell him and God send him? This is where we see, in the Old Testament and all throughout Scripture, two unexplainable friends. First, divine sovereignty, “God sent me. God did this. God sent me to be a slave, to be a prisoner. God did all of this.” So, God is in control of this whole picture, sovereign over the whole picture, but that does not mean that the brothers had nothing to do with it. Second, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, “You sold me into slavery. You decided to do that. You made a choice.” So, the picture here is divine sovereignty and human responsibility, both side by side.
Now, how do you reconcile those two together? Unexplainable, but undeniable. It’s all throughout Scripture. It’s the mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and we must be careful. The conclusion here that we’ve got to come to, based on this picture in Scripture, and what we will see throughout the rest of our journey this year, the responsibility of man cannot be ignored. We’ve got to be careful when we think about the sovereignty of God not to begin to think that we’re just puppets in a play, robotically doing whatever is mandated that we do. We have responsibility. We have choices that we are held responsible for. This is evident. You go to Genesis 49, and you see Jacob’s blessings, and, really, cursing on some of his sons. They are held responsible for the things they have done. The responsibility of man cannot be ignored. We are all responsible for the actions, decisions, and choices we make. Responsibility of man cannot be ignored. At the same time, the will of God cannot be thwarted. God will carry out what He intends, guaranteed. Even in the worst of circumstances…slavery and an imprisoned dungeon…Joseph says, “God sent me here.” Divine sovereignty, human responsibility; the will of God cannot be thwarted. God intends things.
He is the ever-faithful Savior.
Finally, this picture of God helps us understand His providence that He is the ever-faithful Savior. Don’t miss where God’s sovereignty and providence are leading. The story shows…it’s stated there in your notes…that God keeps His promises. God keeps His promises. Think about it. These dreams that Joseph had in the very beginning that we read about in Genesis 37, these dreams of his brothers bowing down to him, did they come true? Sure. Absolutely they did. Just think about how it happened. The brothers’ efforts to destroy the dreamer ended up fulfilling the dreams. It was not in their plans, “Let’s sell him into slavery, and his dreams will come true.” The will of God cannot be thwarted. God keeps His promises.
What we’ve talked about already, God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12, that through his line would come blessings for the nations. We’re seeing blessing all over Egypt and all over the land, through the line of Abraham. This is what God has promised. What God said in Genesis 15 that we looked at last week, when God told Abraham, “Your people will be sojourners in a land that is not their own for 400 years.” That’s exactly what’s happening. God is taking the line of Abraham, the people of Abraham, the people of Israel to a land not their own, where they will be for generations before they come into the Promised Land. God is keeping His promises. That’s why, in Genesis 46, when God speaks to Jacob, He says, “Go to Egypt. I am being faithful to you, and I will show myself faithful to you.”
The ever-faithful Savior who keeps His promises, and God preserves His people. Don’t miss this. Go over to Genesis 46:27. Remember, a couple of weeks ago, we saw the fall of man in Genesis 3, and we talked just briefly about how that climaxed, in a sense, this picture of sin in Genesis 10 and 11. In Genesis 10, you have the table of nations. In Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel, nations scattered because of the rebellion against God, and if you look at the table of nations there in Genesis 10, and you count it, there’s 70 nations there. So, the picture is 70 nations scattered because of the rebellion against God, and then, right after that, in Genesis 12, God begins to call out a people, a nation for Himself, the nation of Israel. The story from there is the development and the preservation of this people, and in the middle of famine, God brings His people safely into the prosperous land of Egypt, and look at what it says in Genesis 46:27. “The sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were…” how many? “…seventy.” That’s, like, totally not a coincidence. I don’t have time to go there, but write down Deuteronomy 32:8, “[When] the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.”
The picture is God is forming a people for Himself. Think about it. We saw in the very beginning of the story, God’s people, Adam and Eve, in the prosperous land of Eden, marred by the Fall, but by the end of the book, we see that God has formed a people for Himself and placed them in the prosperous land of Egypt. It bookends on the book, here, to show that God is forming a people for Himself, and even in the midst of famine, He will work through the most unusual of circumstances to preserve His people. The ever-faithful Savior, who keeps His promises and preserves His people.
The Point for Us …
So, He’s the ever-present Lord, ever-subtle King, ever-faithful Savior, keeping promises and preserving His people. So, what does that mean? What does that mean when it comes to how this story fits into the whole story of redemption, and what does that mean for our stories represented across this room? This is where I want to put before you three truths that I pray God will lodge deeply into your heart and your soul, especially, if you are walking right now through pain or difficulty or hurt, or that these truths will be preparation for pain and difficulty and hurt that lies ahead, that these truths will be deep within you.
We have a Lord who is with us.
The first truth, brothers and sisters, we have a Lord who is with us. Think of it. The same God whose presence was with Joseph when he was sold into slavery, the same God whose presence was with Joseph in the dark recesses of that dungeon, the same God who was with Joseph as he was summoned before Pharaoh to become a leader over all the land, that same God is with you. Just let that soak in. He is with you. He is with you in your exultation, when things are going great, and when your life and family are prospering, He is with you, and you’re prospering due to the presence of God, and He is with you in your humiliation, when things are at their worst and when nothing is going right. When you think you are alone, brothers and sisters, you are not alone. When you feel that you have been abandoned and no one understands, no one is with you, God is with you. It’s Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:16–17, he says, “No one stood by me at one point. Everyone deserted me, but the Lord stood by me and the Lord strengthened me.” That is bedrock truth. Know this: no matter what you are walking through or will walk through, you, people of God, you will never, ever, ever be alone. He will be with you. We have the Lord who is with us.
Genesis 50 Shows We have a King who is guiding us.
Second truth: God, lodge these in our hearts…deep in our hearts. We have a King who is guiding us. We have a King who is guiding us. We learn, in Genesis 37–50, the picture of God is the ever-subtle King. What this means for our lives…don’t miss this…God is not overlooking some of the details in your life. Do you ever wonder if He is? Do you ever wonder, like, “God, do you see what is happening? Do you not see I can’t handle this? Do you see all of this that is happening? Do you care about what is happening?” Know this: God is not overlooking some of the details in your life. Not only is He not overlooking some of the details in your life, but, brothers and sisters, God is orchestrating all the details in your life. He is orchestrating all the details in your life. Again, not in some robotic way; not in a way that you or others are not responsible for sinful decisions or otherwise. Instead, in the same way we’ve seen here, God is working behind the scenes throughout the story to bring Joseph to the right place at the right time, and He is doing the same thing in our lives.
Think about it. He is orchestrating a variety of circumstances. You look at Joseph’s life. You could take any one of these isolated incidences, and just label everything a tragedy if that’s all you look at, but when you put all these portraits together, you see this beautiful tapestry of grace that God has woven through Joseph’s life to bring about good…great good.
You think about these circumstances coming together. Joseph sitting there in a dungeon in prison, and it just so happens that a cupbearer and a baker catch Pharaoh in a bad mood, and they get thrown into prison, and it just so happens that, after they’ve had dreams, Joseph walks by the next morning and sees their faces; and it just so happens that he interprets these dreams and says to the cupbearer, “Don’t forget me.” And it just so happens that the cupbearer totally forgets him, until the day when Pharaoh has a dream that needs to be interpreted, and cupbearer just so happens to overhear it, and the cupbearer says, “I know exactly where a guy is who can help you with this,” and he goes to Joseph; and it just so happens Joseph is brought before Pharaoh to become leader of the land. You don’t plan that. Like, you don’t sit down and make out a to-do list and put that on your schedule. It’s not the way it works.
I was in Mumbai, India this last week, a city of 21 million people. That’s a lot of people in one city. One day, we were going with this Indian pastor to visit houses in that city, and he had planned for us to go visit this one particular house. We got there, and he went and knocked on the door, and nobody was there. So, he turned around, and he said, “Where are we going to go?” I was like, “There’s 21 million people here. We can find another house,” so we go to another house. We get to this house, and it just so happens, it’s the house of this family…an elderly woman there, a grandmother, who is there at the house, who a week ago was a Hindu, and a week ago heard the gospel and trusted in Christ. So, we sat there for a couple of hours, and we were encouraging this new sister in her faith, and she says to us, “I was not supposed to be here today. I was at another house. I had laid down to take a nap at that house, and, as I laid down, something told me that I needed to get up and come to this house, and so that’s why I came.” God has this thing rigged. It’s not fair.
This is the picture: God is orchestrating in every instant a variety of circumstances in a variety of people. Think about it. Do we realize that your life and my life are not the only lives God is working in? This may come as a stunning realization to some of us, but we are not the center of God’s universe. He’s working in 6.8 billion people’s lives. That doesn’t mean He is not intimately involved in the details of our lives. He is, every single one of them, but it does mean that when we ask the question, “God, what are you doing in my life?” the answer actually may be about what He is doing in someone else’s life, and what He is doing in your life or my life at any point may not be ultimately for us, but it may actually be for who knows who else, or how many other people’s lives, a variety of circumstances, and a variety of people for a variety of goals.
Think about it. God was bringing Joseph to a point of humility, and in the end, joy and gladness. He was bringing Joseph’s brothers, Jacob’s sons, to a point of confession, their sin; was bringing Jacob to a point of ultimate fulfillment, and God was weaving all of this together. Don’t miss it; this is the point of Genesis 50:20. For God’s people, He’s always bringing it all together for good. Always for good. The same truth we see reiterated in the New Testament, Romans 8:28, “We know all things work together for good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” That’s the picture, and based on that, I want you to let this truth soak in: Stand on this rock. God’s providence is the only foundation for embracing life’s pain. Let this be a rock that you stand on. God’s providence, the only foundation for embracing life’s pain. There’s a lot of people today, even people who claim to be Christians, who are throwing this one out the window, the providence and the sovereignty of God. “God is not sovereign. God is not in control. God doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the end. He doesn’t know the future. He’s just discovering it as we are.” This is very prevalent. Think about that kind of worldview.
In Joseph’s story, Joseph sitting in a dungeon, “Well, I hope something good comes out in the end, Joseph. I’m with you, and we’ll see what happens.” It’s not the picture of Joseph that we see. He doesn’t stand on that kind of hollow worldview. That’s sinking. He stands on a rock, and when he confronts his brothers…you think about this…he is free from bitterness, revenge, hatred. He is free from it. Why? Because he knows the providence of God, and he confronts his brothers. He gets out a prison, and he doesn’t go lashing out at Potiphar’s wife. He doesn’t go off on the cupbearer, who has no memory whatsoever, and he doesn’t stand before his brothers and condemn them, knock them down. Instead, he says, “Come near to me. God did this.”
What freedom that is. What freedom. He knows that God takes evil and turns it into good. When you know that, that frees you up. Think about it. Think about this: The evil words and actions of sinful men against you, people who want to harm you, God takes their evil actions against you and uses them for good. That frees you up from bitterness and revenge and hatred toward them because you can rejoice, “Thank you, this is good,” in the end. He takes evil and turns it into good, and He takes suffering…now this is even more beautiful…He takes suffering and turns it into satisfaction.
Listen to this: Genesis 41:51–52 is when Joseph names his sons. Listen to what he names them. Genesis 41:51–52, “Joseph called the name of his firstborn Manasseh. ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The second he called Ephraim.” Listen to this, memorize verse 52, “‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.’” What a good word. God takes the land of affliction in your life, and He bears fruit. Is that really true? Like, does God really take suffering and turn it into satisfaction? I believe He does, and I want to point you to a brother in our faith family that demonstrates that.
When I flew in from India, as soon as I turned on my phone, I get text messages and emails that one of our brothers in this faith family, who, in the 11:00 worship gathering, sat right there, three or four rows back on the end. John Jones had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on Wednesday of this week. John has shared with me before about his health struggles. Not in a way that he was trying to draw attention to himself, but in a way that pointed to the faithfulness of God. I want you to hear those struggles. He was diagnosed with kidney disease at 29, diabetes at 34, heart attack at 38, five-bypass open-heart surgery at 40. At 45, his kidneys failed, and he started dialysis five hours a day, three days a week. A year later, he had a kidney transplant, all of that resulting in severe neuropathy, myelopathy, spinal sclerosis in both his lower and upper spine, a stroke in the area of his brain that affected balance, all of this leading to limited and deteriorating mobility; truth be told, excruciating pain every day. He, most of the time, would not stand when we sang just because it was too much.
After he told me about his health struggles, he wrote, “The question for me has changed from, ‘Why?’ to, ‘What are you wanting to teach me through all of this?’ And God answered me, ‘I am teaching you to walk and live by faith.’” John said, “I am in extremely bad health, have very limited mobility, and live with tremendous pain every day. I think every day about the fact that I will likely not see my grandchildren, and that my wife will spend her golden years without me, but God is sovereign. My life is but a piece of His plan. He is good, and all things work together to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and because He is sovereign, I do not need to worry how this will all play out in my life, in my death, or thereafter. I just need to be obedient until death.”
Ladies and gentlemen, those are the words of a brother who knows God is sovereign over all things in this world; therefore, he has nothing to fear in this world. He wrote me six months ago, and I want you to listen to what he said. He said, “My health and mobility have continued to worsen, and have seemed to do so more rapidly over the last three months. Yet, over these same three months, I have begun to experience an unusual, almost strange sense of hope and increased faith. Not necessarily a hope and faith that He’s going to provide physical healing, but that God is going to do something that will bring great glory and honor to Himself, that in some way something awesome is getting ready to happen. While I’m a pretty positive guy, I have to say that I have not felt this level of hopeful anticipation in a very long time.” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you tonight that it has happened. This last Wednesday, something awesome happened, and John Jones was brought into the presence of Christ, where he was freed from all of his pain, and where he glimpsed the face of his Savior. He knew what lied ahead before him because his God is sovereign. As a result, you and I can live in the same anticipation something awesome is going to happen because we know God is in control, and His providence is the supreme and only foundation for embracing life’s pain. Let’s not limit the character of God and think that will bring us comfort. Let’s see God as supreme and find our comfort in His greatness.
This is the picture. He does indeed bring about fruit in His people in the middle of affliction. How do we know that? I mean how do we really know? Maybe you’re sitting in the middle of some dark point, difficult point in your life. How do you know? How do you know that the evil around you is going to be used for good? How do you know that suffering is going to bring about satisfaction?
We have a Savior who has redeemed us.
That leads us to this last truth. Let it lodge in your heart. We know because we have a Savior who has redeemed us. Don’t miss the parallels in this story. Stay here in your notes. Think about it. God uses a dreadful sin to preserve His people in Genesis…a dreadful sin…brothers selling their own brother into slavery. What shame and dishonor, lying to cover it up, dreadful sin, and God uses dreadful sin to preserve His people in Genesis, setting the stage for one day when God will use a dreadful sin to save His people for all of eternity; when God will take those who will falsely accuse, try and murder Christ on a cross, and He will use that dreadful sin to bring about salvation for His people for all of eternity. Think about it. This is breathtaking reality.
Listen to this: In both stories, God takes the sins of the destroyers and makes them the means of their deliverance. Brothers wanting nothing but harm toward their brother, selling him into slavery, and God takes their sins against them to provide for their deliverance one day. Their sin provides for their deliverance. Picture the cross. They’re nailing Christ to the cross, and we, in a sense, with them, but do they realize as they crucify Him that in their murderous sin, they are actually making it possible for the forgiveness of their sins? That makes no sense, but it is the gospel. Think about Joseph, when he reveals his identity to his brothers, and instead of cursing them and condemning them and their sin, he says, “Come near to me. Because of your sin against me, I now provide for you.” Then, see yourself before Christ, the one whom you have sinned against in His holiness and His righteousness, and instead of hearing curses and condemnation, hear Christ saying to you as His people, “Come near to me. Because of your sin against me, I will now provide for you.” He has redeemed us. Don’t miss those parallels, and don’t miss the promise here.
We mentioned earlier how this is really an interplay in the story between Judah and Joseph, and we see Judah leading the people of God into the land of Goshen in Egypt, and when Jacob blesses his sons, he certainly richly blesses Joseph, but the richest blessing is reserved for who? For Judah. Did you see it, Genesis 49:8? Don’t miss it. Genesis 49:8, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies…” Listen to this: “Your father’s sons shall bow down before you.” See the picture here? “Your father’s sons bowing down before you, Judah. “Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff [the sign of a king] from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” The promise here of a king, who would come from Judah’s line, the one to whom belongs the obedience of all the peoples.
There is a promise here. In Genesis 49:8–10, that points us forward. God will take the lion of Judah and make him the lamb who was slain. That’s the promise of Christ, who would come through, from the line of Judah. What we see in this story is not just about Joseph; it’s God using Joseph to preserve His people, and, more specifically, it’s to preserve a Lion that would come from Judah that would bring about the Lamb who is slain. This is the picture in Revelation 5, “Weep no more, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, and a crowd surrounding the throne singing, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, for you have purchased men from every people, language, tribe and nation.’” It’s the fulfillment of Genesis 49. Revelation 5, the Lion of Judah is the Lamb who was slain. This is Christ. This is the point here. Don’t miss the point of the story. Ultimately, Joseph is in Scripture not so that we walk away saying, “Wow, what a great story. We really like Joseph.” No. Joseph is in Scripture to point us to Jesus. That’s why he’s here.
I want you to look with me at the top of the page there, those eight portraits of Joseph, and I want you to think about Jesus. Now, the parallels are not exact and the details cannot be pressed too far, but picture with me the favorite son of the Father, who came to the earth despised by His brothers, His fellow men, you and me. He humbled Himself and became a slave in a foreign land, pure and righteous in every way. He was slandered and sentenced to death on a cross. God did it. God ordained that sinful men would murder His only Son so that He might be raised as Lord over all the land, that it might be said in every corner of the earth, “Bow the knee before Him,” and He made a way for His brothers, you and I, to be restored. He ascended to the right hand the Father, where He became the reunited Son, and where He promises you and me full and final redemption with Him. This is how you can know that, no matter how deep and dark it gets in this world, that evil will be turned into good and suffering into satisfaction. You can know that, because in this grand story of redemption, the one who has saved us from our sins will one day glorify us with Him. Guaranteed. Stand on that rock. It’s guaranteed.