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Joseph in Prison

Today we continue looking at the story of Joseph. For those who may not have been with us for these past few weeks, Joseph was a young man, who, although the favourite of his father, was hated by his brothers. I won’t rehash the backstory of why that was, but they hated him so much that they were willing to kill him! In fact, one day they grabbed him and threw him in a pit and left him to die. But then, through the providence of God, a roving band of slave traders came by and so rather than leaving him to die, they decided to sell Joseph as a slave to these slave traders instead.

To make a long story short, Jospeh’s new owners took him down to Egypt where he was sold to a man named Potiphar – who happened to be the captain of the the guard for Pharaoh.

And as Mike shared with us two week ago, the Lord was with Joseph – even in slavery – and Joseph quickly rose in the ranks among the slaves in Potiphar’s house – eventually becoming the head of the household – with no one having more authority than he did (except of course for Potiphar himself).

Mike also noted that the Bible described Joseph as being very handsome and well-built. Potiphar’s wife made note of that as well and she tried relentlessly to convince Joseph to sleep with her. But Joseph wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t sin against his master Potiphar and he would not sin against God.

This didn’t sit well with Mrs. Potiphar and so one day, after her advances were once again rejected by Joseph, she falsely accused Joseph of trying to sleep with her. She painted him as the bad guy and Joseph ended up being thrown into prison.

And so that’s where we last left Joseph a couple weeks ago. And you’ve really got to appreciate the roller coaster ride that Joseph life has been so far. It’s just a series of highs and then lows, highs and then lows – over and over again.

  • He was the favourite of his father – but all his brothers hated him.
  • His dad honored him with a beautiful coat of many colours – then his brother’s threw him in a pit and left him to die.
  • He was was rescued from that pit – only to be sold as a slave.
  • He rose to be the head of Potiphar’s house – but then falsely accused and thrown in prison.

It’s just one thing after another after another….

But throughout the story we get this cool little reminder – there’s a phrase that keeps popping up: (I think it comes up 4 times in Genesis 39…) And it’s that phrase that I want to start with today. I think I’m overlapping a little bit with where Mike left off, but I want to start in Genesis chapter 39, starting at verse 21.

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The Pit of Despair

Two week ago, we started looking at the life of Joseph – and last we left him, he was on his way to check up on his brothers as they were tending their father’s flocks some 70 miles away from home.

Now before we jump into what happened next, let me give you a quick summary of what we’ve learned about Joseph so far.

To begin with, Joseph came from the family tree of Abraham. He was Abraham’s great-grandson and it was Joseph and his 11 brothers who would eventually grow to become the 12 tribes of Israel. Their father Jacob would actually have his named change by God from Jacob to Israel, and so Jacob’s 12 sons would eventually became known as the 12 sons (or 12 tribes) of Israel.

So Joseph and his family are some very famous and some very central characters of the Old Testament. However, this family was also extremely dysfunctional. Jacob had married four wives (two of them sisters, and the other two were servants of those sisters) and so family relationships were complicated to say the least! 

But to make a long story short, both the wives and the children in this family, felt they continually had to compete for Jacob’s love and affection – and as a result, their home was filled with jealousy, favouritism, bitterness, and a pile of anger.

However, not everyone felt they had to compete for Jacob’s love. Joseph knew without a doubt that he was dearly loved by his father. He was clearly the favourite son of Jacob because he was the first-born of Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel. 

And as evidence of this assured love, he had been given a beautiful robe – or a coat of many colours. But this wasn’t just any coat of many colours – this was a special robe that was intended to elevate Joseph’s status and position far above that of his brothers’. His father might as well have given him a crown – that’s almost the kind of statement this robe made!

So as you can imagine – because of their father’s favouritism, Joseph’s brothers didn’t have much love for Joseph. In fact, we’re told repeatedly that Joseph’s brothers’ hated him.

Of course, Joseph’s dreams didn’t help the situation either. You’ll remember that he had two dreams (which he happily shared with this family) in which his brothers and his parents bowed down before him. Joseph must have thought these dreams were great – they must be a sign from God! But the rest of the family wasn’t so sure. In fact, Josephs brother were pretty convinced that they would never allow such a thing to happen and they hated him all the more.

So that’s the introduction we were given to life of Joseph. Joseph was hated by his brothers because he was dad’s favourite, he was hated all the more when he got that beautiful robe, and then he was hated even more when he talked about those dreams he had.

And that sets the stage for the first major, life changing event for Joseph. It all began when Jacob sent Joseph to go check on his brothers as they tended the flocks….

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Choose Forgiveness

Last week we began looking at the life of Joseph. And while he’s a fairly well-known character of the Bible, he’s not really famous because of anything he did. Not like David who is famous for killing Goliath or Noah who built the ark or Joshua who conquered Jericho. Even though Joseph did some notable things, none of those accomplishments were really his claim to fame. Instead, Joseph’s fame mostly came because of something he owned. Something that he was given.

And of course, you guys remember what that was… the coat of many colours or as some translations put it, a beautiful robe.

Joseph was given this beautiful robe by his father, Jacob, and it wasn’t just so that Joseph could look good. It wasn’t just a fashion statement – but rather it was a symbol of the high position and privilege that Joseph enjoyed in the sight of his father.

You’ll remember that Joseph, while younger than his ten older brothers, was the first-born of Jacob’s second (and favorite) wife, Rachel. 

It’s a pretty messy family tree, but Jacob had married two sisters as well as their two servants. These two sisters lived in perpetual jealousy of one another because Jacob very clearly loved Rachel (the younger sister), and really only married Leah because he had been tricked by his father-in-law. (It’s a really weird story…)

But in order to try to win Jacob’s love now, these two sisters basically competed with each other by having children – both of them giving their servants to Jacob as additional wives in order to have more kids. So between these four wives, Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter. Joseph was child #10, but he was the first child that Jacob had with Rachel. 

Because of this, Jacob loved Joseph far more than any of his other children – and they knew it. It was no secret. In fact, this beautiful robe – the coat of many colours – that Jacob gave to Joseph shouted out just how much higher on the totem pole Joseph was as compared to his brothers.

You see, this robe could be compared to a kingly robe – it wasn’t the sort of clothing that you would wear to go work on the family farm. This was more the clothing of upper management. Jacob gave this to Joseph to elevate him above his brothers – to show the world, really, that Joseph was indeed his favourite and most beloved son.

And of course, this favouritism in the family – evident both with Jacob’s wives as well as their children, couldn’t help but make for some very unpleasant family dynamics. Multiple times we are told that Joseph’s brothers hated him. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.

This hatred was further compounded by Joseph’s dreams. You’ll remember that he had two dreams. In the first dream, he was out in the field with his brothers – gathering up bundles of grain – when suddenly, his bundle of grain stood up and all his brother’s bundles came and bowed dow before his bundle.

If that wasn’t enough to make his brothers upset, in the second dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars (representing his father, mother, and his eleven brothers) all bowed down to Joseph.

It seemed pretty clear to everyone that these dreams were insinuating, (that Joseph’s family would one day bow down to him) but it was much less clear how, or if, this would actually become reality. 

Joseph’s brothers refused to believe that they would one day bow down to Joseph – and they hated him all the more because of these dreams. Joseph’s father seemed to balk at the idea as well, but he at least considered what these dreams could mean.

And that’s about where we left off last week – with Joseph’s brothers hating him because he was the favorite child, and then hating him more when he got that beautiful robe, and then hating him even more when he had those dreams.

And you know, for a family that would one day grow to be God’s special people – the nation of Israel – this family was pretty messed up. And maybe even that is an encouragement to you this morning. Perhaps you can relate to being in a messed up family – but take heart – if God can do great things with this family – He can do some pretty awesome stuff in yours!

But let’s continue on today see what happens next in this messed up family. We’re going to pick it up in Genesis chapter 37, starting today at verse 12.

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Good Intentions

This morning I want to talk a little about good intentions. I would guess that many mother’s experienced good intentions this morning… Maybe your little ones attempted to make you breakfast in bed. And I’m sure for those who did that, they had very good intentions of giving you a relaxing morning, saving you all the work of making yourself breakfast, giving you a chance just to enjoy a delightful meal in the comfort of your own bed. I’m sure those were their intentions. But of course, as reality would play out – chances are, perhaps the toast was burnt or the half-cooked pancakes were not much more than warmed batter, cleaning up the mess left behind in the kitchen was 3 times as much work as making breakfast yourself, so it was hardly the relaxing morning that your kids had envisioned for you…

Now of course, you appreciated their effort – it’s the thought that counts… I’m sure you felt loved and appreciated… But despite their good intentions for this 5-star Mother’s Day breakfast experience, their intentions likely never came to pass quite like they envisioned. 

And I would guess most of us can relate that. All of us have had good intentions that we never quite followed through on. Maybe we had good intentions of starting a savings account, but for some reason, as the bills arrived and the car broke down and a bunch of other stuff happened, our good intentions never became reality. Maybe we had good intentions of taking our wife out on a date sometime this month – but there was that meeting, and then the babysitter canceled and then one of you got sick…. and again, somehow your good intentions never became reality.

I think this is a pretty common experience. We have lots of good intentions, but somehow something gets in the way and our good intentions never become anymore than good intentions.

But that’s not the case with God. God’s good intentions never remain simply good intentions. God’s good intentions always become reality. Even things seem to go wrong – even when things seem to get in the way – even when it looks like God’s plans have been blown apart by all kinds of disaster – somehow God uses everything that happens to actually carry out his good intentions.

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Hearts Fully Committed

So there I was last Monday – sitting in my office – in the privacy of my own basement – minding my own business… At the time, I was reading through 2 Chronicles chapter 16 when all of a sudden – without any warning – a verse jumped out of the Bible and smacked me!

Now I don’t know if that’s every happened to you – you know, when you’re just reading your Bible and you run across this verse that just seems to jump off the pages and grab your attention?

Well, that’s what happened to me this last Monday. I was reading through 2 Chronicles chapter 16 – and I came across this verse… And it wasn’t a new verse – it’s not like I hadn’t read it before. In fact, several years ago I had even preached right from this very chapter that I had been reading. But for some reason, on this day, this one verse grabbed my attention and it totally struck me in a new way.

And so this morning, I want to share that verse with you. Now, I don’t know if it’ll strike you in the same way or not – I’ll leave that to the Holy Spirit – He’s the One who does the smacking anyway… But I’ll share the verse with you and then explain a little bit of the thought process that I had as I thought about that verse and how it applied to me.

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Separated By Sin

This morning we want to continue to count the cost of sin. Well, actually, that may not be entirely true. We probably don’t WANT to count the cost of sin. If fact, I think most of us would much rather not talk about sin at all!

Talking about sin is unpleasant. It’s depressing. It’s discouraging. But it’s also necessary. To ignore the topic of sin is to ignore the reality of the world in which we live. 

As we talked about last week, sin and its consequences are unavoidable. We have all experienced the shame, the guilt, and the fear that comes when we do wrong. We know what’s it’s like to have broken relationships. We know what it’s like to endure the struggle and the pain of this life.

That’s the reality we all experience. But of course, that’s not the reality that God intended for us. We were reminded last week that the world that God created was very good. As John MacArthur put it….

When God completed His perfect creation it was very good because there was no disorder, there was no chaos, there was no conflict, there was no struggle, there was no pain, there was no discord, there was no disease, there was no decline, there was no death. ~ John MacArthur

That’s the very good world that God created – a world free from all that junk. But that’s sure not the world that we find ourselves in today. The curse of sin has tainted and twisted God’s good creation – and we all suffer the consequences for it. We suffer because of sin in the world and we suffer because of the sin in our own lives. 

We saw two weeks ago that we are born as slaves to sin – slaves to our own selfish inclinations. As a result, much of the shame, guilt, fear, broken relationships, struggle and pain we experience in this life – we bring upon ourselves. Not all of it, of course, but much of it – because we act selfishly and we fail to love one another and we fail to love God. We fail to be accurate reflections of God’s goodness and glory. 

And as a result, we suffer the consequences of our own sinfulness. And we talked quite a bit about that last week – about those consequences of sin, and today I want to dig into that a little more – specifically regarding the consequence of death. And again, I know that’s not a real uplifting topic to talk about – but it’s the reality that we face.

We read Romans 6:23 last week which says:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

So today we’re going to continue to count the cost of sin – or as this verse puts it “the wages of sin” – which is death. But don’t worry – we’re also going to look at the second half of that verse and see how the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. We’re going to see how Jesus came to make right the wrongs – and to restore God’s good creation and to free us from the slavery of sin and to give us life.

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