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Believing Lies

After a two-week break, today we are getting back to our story of Joseph. We began looking at the life of Joseph back in May, so we’ve already covered a large portion of his story. By this point, we’ve worked through most of the Sunday school stories that are usually associated with Joseph. 

We’ve talked about how he was his dad’s favourite and how he had that beautiful coat of many colours that gave him special status far above his brothers.

We’ve talked about how his brothers hated him and how they sold him as a slave into Egypt when he was just 17 years old.

We’ve talked about how, even as a slave, he prospered in the home of his Egyptian master, Potiphar, and rose to to be the head of the whole house. We also talked about how he stood up for what was right when he refused to sleep with Potiphar’s wife and ended up being falsely accused and thrown into prison because of that.

We also talked about his dreams. You’ll remember that he had those dreams way back before his brother’s sold him as a slave – dreams that seemed to indicate that one day he would rule over his entire family.

But not only did Jospeh have these dreams about his future, he also also interpreted the dreams of others. While he was in the prison in Egypt, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and his chief baker. Both of those interpretations came true – the baker was executed and the cup-bearer returned to work for Pharaoh – just as Joseph had predicted.

And it was through that cup-bearer that Joseph was called on to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. You’ll recall how God had warned Pharaoh through dreams of cows and grain that there would be 7 years of great prosperity in Egypt, but afterwards, that prosperity would be followed by 7 years of terrible famine.

Of course, when Joseph explained to Pharaoh what his dreams meant, Pharaoh recognized Joseph’s God-given wisdom and He put Joseph in charge of the entire land of Egypt – giving him full authority to collect grain throughout Egypt during the 7 good years and then to distribute it to everyone during the 7 bad years.

And that almost brings us to where we left off. Just before we ended last time, we saw Joseph’s brothers actually come to Egypt to buy food – because they were facing the same famine as everyone else. Of course, they had no idea that Jospeh was alive – let alone that he was the 2nd most powerful man in all of Egypt and they had to buy food from him!

So when they showed up, they didn’t recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized them. Taking advantage of the situation, Joseph decided to put them to the test to see what kind of men his brothers had become in the 20 years since they had sold him as a slave. So he accused them of being spies and he threw them all in prison for three days. After those three days, he told them that one of them had to remain in prison while the others could go home and take food back for their families. But they had to return with their younger brother, Benjamin, to prove that they were not spies, and that their story about having a younger brother at home with their father was indeed true.

So we ended last time with Joseph sending his 9 brothers home, still with no idea that they had been dealing with their long lost brother Joseph, and with a strict warning not to return to Egypt unless they had their younger brother, Benjamin, with them. 

So off they went, with Simeon left behind in prison. Joseph supplied them with food and supplies for the journey. He also secretly returned the money that they had paid for everything – and snuck it back into their sacks of grain.

And that’s just where we’ll pick it up today. The 9 brothers have just started their journey home and we read in Genesis chapter 42, verse 27….

27 But when they stopped for the night and one of them opened his sack to get grain for his donkey, he found his money in the top of his sack. 28 “Look!” he exclaimed to his brothers. “My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!” Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?” Genesis 42:27-28

Now, for you and I to suddenly find a bunch of unexpected money might seem like an incredible blessing. I think most of us would be celebrating! But let me just to remind you of the context here. Remember, they are foreigners in what seems to be a pretty hostile land. They’ve just come out of prison after being accused of being spies. It seems obvious that the Egyptians do not trust them. 

So what’s it going to look like to the Egyptians for them to have the Egyptian’s grain PLUS the money they were supposed to have paid for it? It’s bad enough that the Egyptians think they are spies, but now it looks like they are thieves as well! No wonder their hearts sank!

But it’s interesting that they exclaim, “What has God done to us?” In their minds, this is not fluke of chance or a twist of fate – God was directly responsible for this.

Joseph’s brothers are convinced that all the trouble they’ve had in Egypt was God punishing them for what they had done to Joseph 20-some years ago. You’ll remember when Joseph accused them of being spies and put them all in prison, the Bible records a little conversation the brothers had…. If you jump back to verse 21 it says…

21 Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”

22 “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!” Genesis 42:21-22

Clearly, the brothers believe that God is punishing them for their sins. And so now, when they find their money in their sacks of grain, they immediately presume that God is out to get them. They believe that God has somehow made it look like they took the grain without paying for it.

You can understand why it says…

Then their hearts sank. Trembling, they said to each other, “What has God done to us?” Genesis 42:28b

They were sure that God was setting them up for disaster! If they went back to the Egyptians now, they’d be thrown in prison as thieves! But if they didn’t return, Simeon would remain in prison and their families would eventually starve! They were convinced that because of their sins, God had set them up for disaster.

And while you can certainly understand why they would feel that way, the reality of the situation couldn’t have been more different. God was not setting them up for disaster, God was actually at work saving them from disaster. Little did they know that the money was a gift from their brother who was taking care of them – and all their misadventures in Egypt would eventually lead to their families being spare from the famine.

If they had only known what God knew, their perspective would have been totally different!

If they had known what God knew, they wouldn’t be trembling in fear when they discovered the money in their sacks, they’d be rejoicing at God’s provision.

If they had been able to see God’s plan at work, their perspective, their attitudes, their reactions – everything would have been completely different. Knowing the truth of a situation changes everything!

And I imagine that most of us can relate to that. Often times, we don’t understand why God allows certain things to happen in our lives. 

Sometimes when things fall apart, or when unexpected disaster strikes, we wonder, “Is God out to get us? Is God punishing us for some sin?” Sometimes it seems that way.

And it is true that God does punish sin, and that sometimes, He brings things into our life to lead us to repentance. But certainly not every bad thing that happens in life is a punishment for sin.

Sometimes, what seems to be a disaster in our perspective, is actually God at work saving us from disaster. 

We can’t see the whole picture – we don’t know what God knows. But we do know that God loves us like crazy and He wants what is best for us.

God is not a malicious God. He’s not one who delights in our struggles. He doesn’t set us up for disaster. In fact, God says in Jeremiah 29:11…

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

That’s God’s heart desire for all of us. He wants to give us a future and a hope!

That was certainly true for Joseph’s brothers. Even though it seemed like a disaster to them, God was working through it all to give them and their entire family a future and a hope. 

But of course, they didn’t see that. All they saw was trouble and tragedy – which, by the way, was exactly what their father thought too! As we continue our story in Genesis 42 verse 29 it says…

29 When the brothers came to their father, Jacob, in the land of Canaan, they told him everything that had happened to them. 30 “The man who is governor of the land spoke very harshly to us,” they told him. “He accused us of being spies scouting the land. 31 But we said, ‘We are honest men, not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of one father. One brother is no longer with us, and the youngest is at home with our father in the land of Canaan.’

33 “Then the man who is governor of the land told us, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men. Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home. 34 But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. Then I will know you are honest men and not spies. Then I will give you back your brother, and you may trade freely in the land.’”

35 As they emptied out their sacks, there in each man’s sack was the bag of money he had paid for the grain! The brothers and their father were terrified when they saw the bags of money. 36 Jacob exclaimed, “You are robbing me of my children! Joseph is gone! Simeon is gone! And now you want to take Benjamin, too. Everything is going against me!” Genesis 42:29-36

Just like his 9 sons, all Jacob could see was trouble and tragedy. He couldn’t see the hand of  God at work. From what he saw, his life was a disaster! He believed that he had lost two sons already, and the third would be taken from him as well! Everything was going against him!

But can you imagine how differently he would have reacted if he had known the truth? That this money and all the grain was actually a gift from his beloved son, Joseph – who was still alive? That Simeon was still alive and well, and soon, they would be reunited? And that through all this, Jacob and all his entire family would be saved from starvation!

If he had only known the truth, Jacob’s reaction would have been soooo different!

And I think that just re-affirms for us once again how important it is to know the truth. When we believe things that are not true, we set ourselves up for sorrow and misery! What we believe completely impacts everything about our life!

To go back to our earlier example, if we believe that God is out to get us – that He’s ready to pounce and punish us the moment we slip up – we’re gonna live a life filled with fear and worry, guilt and misery! We’ll feel like we can never be good enough. Like we’re failures. Like God is our enemy.

But on the other hand, if we believe that God is for us – that He loves us like crazy and he’s eager to forgive us and help us to change our sinful ways – that changes everything! Suddenly – we look for God rather than hide from him. We can live a life filled with joy and peace – knowing that even if we do slip up, God will be there to help pick us up and to get us back on track. We can feel good about who we are – not because of anything we’ve done, but simply because we know God loves us regardless!

What we believe completely changes how we live. That’s why it’s so important that what we believe is actually true!

Let me give you a real life example: one of the lies that I struggle with is that my value is measured by my success. When I’m successful in ministry or in my work or raising my kids or whatever it is – when I’m succeeding, that’s when I feel I’m valuable. And certainly the world would promote that belief. 

But here’s the problem with that: whenever I fail at something or even when I accomplish less than I think I should or when I disappoint someone, I automatically feel that my value and worth becomes less. As a result, I can easily become discouraged or depressed, I contastly worry about what other people think, I do things just to please people, I stress about things that I shouldn’t…. And there are all kinds of negative consequences that come when I believe that my value comes from my success.

However, the truth of the matter is that my success has nothing to do with my value and worth. My value and worth comes from being God’s creation and being his beloved child. I don’t just love my kids when they are successful – I love them just as much when they fail! In the same way, I am loved by God no matter if I fail or succeed. In his eyes, I have incredible value and worth no matter what I do!

And knowing the truth makes the difference in how I live my life.

So many people, so many Christian, believe things about themselves, about God, about how life works best, that are simply not true. And as a result, we suffer anxiety, depression, addiction, fear, insecurity – we make poor choices and we suffer the consequences.

And all of that comes from the root of believing something that is simply not true.

But here’s the great news! We can be freed from all that by knowing the truth. God, in his great kindness to us, has revealed the truth to us. He has revealed it to us, first of all, through His written Word, the Bible. And he has also revealed the truth to us by sending us his Son, Jesus – who is truth personified!

Jesus Himself said, in John 14:6…

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:7

And in another passage, in John 8:31…

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

The more we know God’s Word – the more we know His Son, Jesus Christ – the more we will know the truth – and knowing that truth will set you free from all kinds negative consequences that come with believing the lies that are so prevalent in the world around us.

I mean, can you imagine how much despair, sorrow, heartache, depression, and misery that Jacob could have avoided if he had only known the truth!? But as it was, he suffered for years because he believed a lie.

And not only did he suffer because he believed a lie, his false beliefs jeopardized the lives of his children… Look at the next two verses:

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.”

38 But Jacob replied, “My son will not go down with you. His brother Joseph is dead, and he is all I have left. If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.” Genesis 42:37-38

Even though Reuben was willing to take full responsibility for Benjamin – even guaranteeing it with the lives of his own two children – Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt, thus jeopardizing the life of his other son Simeon – who was still in prison in Egypt – and jeopardizing the lives of his entire family (who would soon starve once this first batch of food would run out.)

Jacob’s false beliefs weren’t just harmful to him, but they threatened the well-being of his entire family.

False beliefs are dangerous! Whether its false beliefs about how we determine our own identity and value, or false beliefs about how we find joy & fulfilment in life, or false beliefs about who God is and what He’s like, or false beliefs about life after death – false beliefs are incredible dangerous both to us and the people that we influence.

It’s so important that we believe is actually true!

You know, on a similar, but slightly different note – as I read through this passage this week, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between Jacob’s actions and attitudes and the actions and attitude of his grandfather, Abraham.

I know we tend to forget as we focus on Jospeh, that his father, Jacob, was the grandson of Abraham. We spent some time looking at the life of Abraham back in 2018, and if you’ll recall, Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a twin sons named Jacob & Esau. Well, this is that same Jacob.

This is the Jacob who undoubtedly heard the story many times over of how God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God. It was Jacob’s father who, when he was just a child, was bound by Abraham and laid on that altar as a sacrifice in obedience to God.

And even though it was likely the most painful thing that Abraham had ever done, he was willing to sacrifice his own child out of love and obedience to God. Of course, Abraham didn’t realize it at the time, but God never intended him to actually kill his son – it was all a test. But none the less, Abraham was willing to give up his one and only child out of love and obedience to God.

Jacob, on the other hand, had no such willingness. And I realize that their situations were certainly different, but I think it’s kind of ironic, that Jacob, who Issac’s very own son, was not willing to allow even an element of risk to his favourite child, Benjamin, in order to spare the life of his other child, Simeon – as well as spare the lives of the entire family from starvation.

And you know, I think the big difference between these two men is that Abraham knew the truth. Not to say that he knew everything that was about to happen, but he knew the truth about the character of God. He knew the truth about the faithfulness of God, the trustworthiness of God, the goodness of God. And if God asked him to sacrifice his son, as difficult as that would be, Abraham could trust and obey God even with the life of his son.

Jacob on the other hand seem to doubt that He could trust God with the life of his son. It seems that Jacob doubted the faithfulness of God, the trustworthiness of God, the goodness of God. The lies that he had bought into some 20 years ago had impacted his beliefs and his confidence in God.

It just underscores for us again how important it is to have true beliefs!

I would encourage you, not to be like Jacob! Instead, ensure that what you believe about yourself, about God, about the world around you is true! You can do that by continually going back to your Bible – making sure that your beliefs line up with what the Word of God says. Cultivate your relationship with God – the more you know Him, the more you will know the truth.

In fact, the Bible tells us that when we enter into a relationship with God, trusting Him as our Lord and Saviour, God sends us the Holy Spirit to live right within us. And guess what His job is? In John 16:13, it says…

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13a

The Holy Spirit (Or the Spirit of Truth as He is called here) will help guide us to know the truth. That’s His full-time 24/7 job – working in your life – using the Scriptures, prayer, sermons, podcast, songs, the wise words of other Christians…. whatever he can use, to guide you to know the truth.

I think that’s a real encouragement – that God wants you to know the truth. He doesn’t hide the truth from us – he actively leads us to the truth if we would just pay attention and listen to Him. He wants you to live your life in the freedom that comes with knowing the truth.

Don’t be like Jacob. Don’t live your life believing a lie and then suffering the consequences for it. Determine to know – and living according to – the truth!

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