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True Identity

Last week was a total game-changer for Joseph. If you’ve been with us for these past few weeks, you’ll recall that up until this point, it just seemed that no matter what Joseph did, something bad always happened to him. Even when things were going good, they quickly turned bad.

Because so far he’s been nearly killed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into prison, and then completely forgotten about. And this was all before he was 30 years old. It has been a rough life for Joseph. But then, in just one day, everything changed.

Last week we read about how Pharaoh had a dream – well, two dreams really, and he didn’t know what they meant. These dreams obviously had some significance, but neither Pharaoh or any of his wisemen could figure out the meaning of these two dreams.

Now as it happened, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer had been in prison with Joseph some time earlier and Joseph had accurately interpreted a dream that he had had – and so the cupbearer told Pharaoh about this Joseph guy that he had met in prison who could interpret dreams.

Well, with that information, Pharaoh called up Joseph out of prison and asked Joseph if he could interpret his dreams. And this is how Joseph responded:

16 “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” Genesis 41:16

Joseph knew that he didn’t have the ability to interpret dreams, but God certainly did. As we mentioned last week, Joseph had God-confidence – not self-confidence.

Well, to make a long story short, Joseph goes on to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which in essence, were a warning from God that after 7 years of great prosperity in Egypt, there would be 7 years of terrible famine.

And this is where everything changed for Joseph. Because Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh determined that no one in Egypt was as wise as Joseph and so he gave Joseph full authority over all of Egypt – so that Joseph could make the necessary preparations for this upcoming famine. No one would be greater than Joseph in all of Egypt except for Pharaoh himself.

In one day, everything changed for Joseph. He went from being a slave in prison, to the second-in-command over all of Egypt. Pharaoh even gave him him a new Egyptian name and an Egyptian wife. What a total life change!

And it’s right at that moment of life-change that we pick it up today – with Joseph now the second-in-command over all of Egypt. The story of Joseph is far from over, so we’re going to find out what happened next. We continue reading in Genesis 41, verse 45.

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The Day That Changed Everything

Most of our days are filled with the routine, ordinary, and rather mundane events of life. Things like brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, driving to work, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, watching tv…. Just regular run-of-the-mill stuff.

And most of our days are like that. Just another day – doing pretty much the same thing as you’ve done hundreds of times before.

But every once in a while, we have a different kind of day… A day that changes everything.

Coleson and Dana had one of those days yesterday. They may not have even fully realized it, but for them, yesterday changed everything! As they stood before friends and family and said their marriage vows to one another, their lives headed down a brand new path and things will be forever different in their lives.

John & Wendy had one of those days about 45 years ago! They celebrated 45 years of marriage a week ago Saturday and I’m sure they would testify that when they said “I do” 45 years ago – that was a day that changed everything!

And it’s not just wedding days that change everything. Sometimes its the day of the car accident that changes everything. Or the day your little one was born. Or the day you started that new job. Or whatever it is… Everyone once in a while, we have those days – those days that change everything!

Well, Joseph was about to have one of those days.

When we last left Joseph, he was in the prison in the palace of the guard in Egypt. 

Some time before this he had been sold as a slave (by his brothers) and had been bought by a man named Potiphar. But Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph and he was thrown into prison for a crime that he never committed. But through it all, we were reminded last week that the Lord was with Joseph – even in the prison – and God caused everything Joseph did to succeed, causing him to quickly gain the trust of the prison keeper who then put him in charge of all the other prisoners.

As it happened, Pharaoh had thrown his cup-bearer and his baker into that same prison and so one day as Joseph cared for these two men, Joseph noticed that they seemed to be upset about something. They went on to tell Joseph that they had each had a dream that clearly had some important meaning, but didn’t know what that meaning was.

Well to make a long story short, God revealed to Joseph what the dreams meant and so Joseph was able to tell these two men the meaning of their dreams. He told them that in three days, the baker unfortunately would be executed by Pharaoh and the cup-bearer would be freed from prison and would get his job back. And then, as Joseph is explaining all this, Joseph also says this to the cup-bearer: (In Genesis chapter 40, verse 14…)

14 And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. 15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.” Genesis 40:14-15

It was probably a long-shot to hope for Pharaoh’s help, but that was probably Joseph’s only hope that he would ever get out of that prison. 

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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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