Whenever a person goes away to college, or any endeavor like that, they start out usually with high hopes and expectations, uh, plenty of money, usually, and they're ready to go. They're gonna get straight A's and conquer the world, and that's probably the way you ought to approach it. However, when reality sets in along with hard work, and you start running out of money, and you start losing a little bit on your grade point average, what do you do? Well, there was one girl who had this problem who decided to use a tool called perspective on her parents, and she wrote them a letter. "Dear Mom and Dad, just thought I'd drop you a note and clue you in on my plans. I've fallen in love with a guy named Jim. He quit high-school after grade eleven to get married. About a year ago, he got a divorce. We've been going steady for two months and plan to get married in the fall. Until then, I've decided to move in to his apartment. I think I might be pregnant. At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I'd like to finish college sometime in the future." On the very next page, she continued by writing, "Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I've written so far in this letter is false. None of it is true. But Mom and Dad, it is true that I got a C in French and flunked Math (laughter). And it is true that I'm gonna need some more money for my tuition payments." So much depends on perspective, doesn't it? Whether if, if she were to come and say, "I'm doing horribly in French," they would've gotten uptight, but to put it in perspective of something worse, it's, "Hey, get a D in French (laughter)." If you and I were to sit down and talk to Joseph and say, "Joseph, how did you do it? How did you get from being in Canaan with your family, to going to a pit, to going through a prison, to becoming a prime minister of Egypt? What kind of a toll did it take on you emotionally? How, now, through all of that stuff, do you view your life?" Joseph would not have given you a sob story. He probably would have started the conversation by saying, "Well, to answer the question, let me tell you how I named my children, Ephram and Manasseh," for in those two names are meanings which show us his perspective on life, how he viewed things, how he viewed his past and how he was living in the present. That perspective of Joseph, I hope that you will discover today, brought him hope. It says in Hebrews that knowing Jesus Christ is an anchor for the soul. It is that hope that is an anchor to the soul. Joseph has a hope that anchored him through all of the stuff we read about the last six weeks; he is stable, he is stabilized. I meet people every week who, although they know God and are Christians, Jesus is not a reality in their daily life. They get beat up so badly, they don't know what it's like anymore to trust God for things. They're Christians, yes, but they're losing hope quick. Joseph could relate to that. He has gone through the mill of bad stuff, he's now in the palace as a prime minister over Egypt, and in this section, he looks with perspective back through life, and tells us how he lives in the present.
In Chapter 41, we're gonna look around verse 44 through the end. It tells us the new start that Joseph had- he had a brand new start in life. He has a new family here. He gets married, he has children, he has a new job, exciting potential. But more than that, he has a new perspective that he tells us about. In verse 44, it says that, "Pharaoh also said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.' And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah." I like Joe better, "And gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah, the priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. And so he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was without number." Joseph has really changed, has undergone some radical changes, from when he was single in Canaan, even as he was single in the house of Potiphar, even as being prime minister, he's now married and in the next few verses, he has children. Such radical change to have a family. Yesterday, believe it or not, I did a wedding in a little town called Carlinville, Illinois. Some people who were in the church and family's back there. And after the wedding, I turned to the groom and I said, "Uh, Shane. You're a husband, now. You have a wife. What does that sound like to you? How does that feel?" And he was still very stunned after the wedding and he said, "I think I need to see a contract. I gotta see something that shows me it's really real." Because those changes are so radical to get married, especially in a place like Egypt after being in Canaan and having children. I can still remember the changes I went through when I asked my to marry me. We got married, had a honeymoon of three days on the coast of California, moved out to New Mexico after three days of being married, got a new job, had a new wife, lived in a new place, had a new everything. It was "Zzzzz" overload. Joseph is a family man here in these verses and he's got an exciting job ahead of him as the prime minister of Egypt.
There's a problem that many people have with this. Let me tell you what it is. There is a attitude in the modern church that uplifts suffering and pain and adversity and almost criticizes all kind of promotion and wealth. The first is seen as spiritual, the second is seen as carnal. Now, I got to admit that the modern church in many cases overemphasizes health, wealth, prosperity and all of that nonsense that is unbiblical. However, many of us react to that kind of teaching and go the opposite extreme. And we fail to realize that God can abase but God can abound and overflow. And we read Joseph and we relate with Joseph. He's suffering, he's been a slave in Egypt. He would be at the top of our prayer list. He would arouse our compassion, and he should. But the breaking point is is when God says, "I'm gonna bless you and I'm gonna prosper and I'm gonna promote you and you're now prime minister over all the land of Egypt." We have just lost Joseph, many of us. We can no longer relate to that. And yet it is God's hand in both cases, who caused or allowed affliction for thirteen years, and now has lifted him up. God is the one that is doing this all the way along. It is a lot easier for us to weep with people who are weeping and it's a lot harder to rejoice with people who rejoice. You're going through a trial, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh, let me weep with you." "Oh, you just got a brand new car, and a brand new home and a raise? (sarcastically) Praise God (laughter). You see, I didn't and you did. You're promoted and I'm not", and it's tough to see others get blessed sometimes, isn't it? Gotta guard ourselves against that. God was in both of these cases, abasing and abounding.
There's another problem we should quickly solve as we go on, and people have brought this to my attention. That is, um, "Something doesn't make sense here, Skip. How in the world can a man get promoted to such an office so quick?" Doesn't it seem kind of strange? Guy gets out of prison, says, "Well, your dreams mean this and you oughta do this." "Good! Will you be my second in command?" Somehow, that doesn't work out too well in our minds. It's just too, um, Cinderella-like. And so to clear that up, if any of you were wondering about that, it is supposed by scholars there, there was a group of kings reigning during this time called the Hyksos Kings, who were not native Egyptians- they were Bedouin tent dwellers from the Arabian desert who, at that time, were ruling Egypt, and it was very hard for these kings to be sure that the native Egyptians were faithful to the rulers of Egypt because they were not of the same bloodline. Joseph comes on the scene, and Joseph is much closer in background and bloodline to the Pharaoh, and is very faithful, has been shown to be faithful to Potiphar, who was an Egyptian, shown to be faithful as a prisoner while locked up, and now he's in front of the Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh was willing because of those two factors to take a risk and say, "Come and join me."
Now he's married, it says, to a girl in these verses called Asenath. She's a pagan girl. Her dad is a priest in a pagan temple. And yet, I believe that Joseph and Asenath were very loyal to God. You see, Joseph's in a pagan culture and yet he's loyal to God. He names his two children, in verse 51 and 52, Hebrew names. Also, she must've been a special lady, because she was the only gal in Joseph's life. Which was really strange in Egypt for a monarch to have one wife. Even Joseph's own father, who was Hebrew, had two wives. And the people in Egypt had many wives, especially the rulers. Joseph had one monogamous relationship, had two kids, and named them names that glorified and honored God. That's his life. This is home, by the way. He will never again go back to Canaan, he will never hang out in Israel. His home is to live and die until he's 110 years old in Egypt. He will never return home. He's found his home. Brings up a, an important point. A home, folks, is not a where. A home is a when and a why and a how. It's not where your home is. It's when the Lord brings someone to you that He has called you to be a mate with and gives you children, and it's how you submit to the will of the Lord internally that makes a home. There's a great number of couples that are out there building houses, and they have neglected to build a home. They're looking for all of the wrong things. It doesn't matter where you are, or how big the place is. Home is where the will of God has taken you, and you submit to that. And Joseph has found a home and a purpose. God is using him. It's a whole brand new start. Joseph, this little guy out there, as a manager over his brothers and a multicolored coat, is not standing as the second in command over the land of Egypt and is responsible for saving thousands of people's lives, at least, from the famine ahead. More than that, Joseph is used by God to preserve a nation called Israel, which will one day bring in the Messiah and the Savior of the world, that gives an opportunity for every person on earth to be saved. That is purpose. That's what I call a new start.
So here's Joseph, promoted, new start, new wife, kids, nice big two-camel garage home (light laughter), he's got it made. But more than that, Joseph has a new perspective. Yes, he has a new start. He's climbing up the corporate Egyptian ladder. But more than anything else, he has a perspective, a view on life that is seen through his children. It says in verse 51, and what is interesting here is the names that he gave his kids, "Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh, 'For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.' And the name of the second he called Ephraim: 'For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.'" Manasseh means literally "forgetful". The second name, Ephraim means, "fruitful". And one commentator has cleverly renamed them. Manasseh he called "amnesia". Ephraim he called "ambrosia", to put it in modern terms. "Here's my son, the one who causes to forget," or forgetful. Not that he would be forgetful but God, in interpreting this, "has made me forget all my toil in my father's house". These two kids, the two names that he has given them, it's a viewpoint, it's a perspective for Joseph. It is how he is viewing his life, past and present. Names back then, folks, meant so much more than they mean to people today. I have a name book that's got so many names, it was impossible for us to pick a name for my son before he was born. There was just too many names, too many options. I got tired of looking at that book. And names in our society sort of run in vogue- whatever, it, there are certain names that are in for a certain generation. And you'll find in one year there'll be many Nathans, they'll be many this and on and on. Back then, a name was significant. It showed a circumstance at birth or a hope that the parents had for the child to grow up. In this case, Joseph's kids were lenses by which he looked back through all of the suffering, in which he looked ahead in the present to what God had called him to do. So much, as we said, depends on perspective. There are some Christians who view everything on the downside of life- total negativism. Everything is always a bummer. "How you doin'?" The best they can do is, "Oh, okay." There are others who dare to look and see the light at the end of every tunnel. Every problem has an opportunity to them. It's more than positive thinking or positive confession. It is seeing God in the light of their circumstance and they dare to see more than the other people.
There's a little kid who spent weeks building a boat. Painted it up. It was just classically done. Designed and engineered to float and he put a little sail on it so that the wind would catch it, a gentle breeze, and move it across the lake. And one day, after weeks, it was all done, he took his friends out and he said, "I'm gonna sail my boat." He went down to the lake and a nice little breeze, you know, put his finger up, nice perfect constant little breeze was blowing. He stuck the boat down at the shore, let it go, and that boat started sailing and it looked so good, until a gale came up, a huge wind, like we've been having here the last couple days, just (whew) came up and the boat sank. The kid looked at it and went, "Wow. It's a great day to fly a kite (laughter)." It's perspective. You know the stuff that happened to Joseph certainly must have taken an incredibly big toll on his emotional life. When you are rejected by your own family, your own brothers, the people you love, and it seems that life is a series of those kind of rejections, it takes a toll on a person, it usually makes a person hard, harsh, an isolationist. It makes a person build up walls to keep other people out. Not Joseph. Every time his boat sank, he went out and got his kite. And that's how he viewed his life.
Before we jump into these verses and their meanings in depth, these things, these two things, I know there are more, but these two things in Joseph's life are keys for you and I, folks. Especially, this is directed to those of you whose life has been spent, you feel and wasted, and you've got nothing left. You have felt the sting of rejections because of your past, of a spouse, of a parent, of a boss, of a teacher, of a friend. You have felt or you still feel the sting of a pagan, godless society around you that is not friendly toward you in the least. Those are things that erode our hope. But in looking at Joseph's perspective, we see things that bring hope in the midst of hopelessness. First of all, he said, "My firstborn will be called Manasseh." And look at his name, look carefully at the name and what it means. "For God has made me forget all of my toil," or as the NIV says, "My trouble and all of my father's house." I wanna give you a better translation, from the New American Bible. "God has made me forget all of the suffering that I have endured at the hands of my family." God has caused me to forget all of the suffering I have endured at the hands of my family. Now what does that mean? What does that mean that he forgot? Does that mean the day that they ripped Joseph's colorful robe off of him, that he forgot that incident altogether, doesn't even remember it in his mind? Does it mean that Joseph forgot when they stuck him in a pit and were wondering if they should kill him or keep him alive? Did Joseph forget when the Midianite traitors came along and his brothers were bartering on how much they should sell him for and finally settled on twenty shekels of silver? Did Joseph forget the incident when he was sold to the highest bidder at a slave market in Egypt when Potiphar bought him? Does Joseph completely have out of his mind the fact that there was a woman who, day after day, was tempting him sexually? Did he forget completely the words, "rape!" as he ran out of the house to save his integrity? Did he completely forget the two years he spent in prison for doing nothing wrong? Of course not! He did not forget the incidences. In fact, if he would've forgotten completely that those things happened, those things would have been of little value to him. And the fact that he calls it trouble or toil shows that he didn't forget it. What did he forget, then? Because the human mind, scientists tell us, don't forget anything. Let me read what one scholar says concerning this. "The human mind," listen carefully, "is a fabulous computer. As a matter of fact, no one has been able to design a computer as intricate and efficient as the human mind. Consider this- your brain is capable of recording 800 memories per second for twent- or for seventy-five years without ever getting tired." Your forty megabyte hard drive can't do that. I heard some persons complain that their brain is too tired to get involved in a program of scripture memorization. I have news for them. The body can get tired, but the brain never does. A human being doesn't use more than two percent of his brain power scientists tell us and, of course, some demonstrate this fact more obviously than others. The point is, the brain is capable of an incredible amount of work and it retains everything it takes, everything is on permanent file in your brain, you never forget anything, you just, listen, you just don't recall it. When it says, "God made me forget all of the toil in my father's household, all of the suffering," doesn't mean he forgot the experience, it means he willfully made a choice to let go of the pain that could put him into bondage. The painful emotions that could grab ahold of him and cause him to be bitter, he let go of them. "God made me to forget." I looked up "forget" in Webster's the other day. Webster said it not only means to lose the memory of something, it means to "treat with inattention or disregard." To treat something with inattention or disregard. There are some folks who absolutely hold on to all of the painful experiences of the past and use it as a copout. "I am the way I am because my daddy did this when I was a child. My brother said I was this way, and I can't go on in life until I do this thing to get rid of it before I can go on." The more that you conform to the image of Jesus Christ and walk as a Christian, God is able to get your focus of attention off of the painful experiences and on to Him and you tend to be as Joseph, to forget the suffering you have endured at the hands of your family, mom, dad, spouse, teachers, whoever has messed you up in life, God is able to do that. That's exactly what the scripture tells us. Paul, in the book of Philippians says, "Forgetting those things which are behind me, pressing on to those things which are before. I press toward the goal for the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus." Look back briefly, but then move on definitely. "I forget the things which are behind." And Paul was speaking in athletic terms, if you know the epistle. It was a picture of an athlete coming close to the finish line and completely forgetting, blocking out, the fact that he had opponents right behind him. He didn't need to look back because he was running ahead of them. How much trouble would that athlete get into if he was always turning his head to see who was behind him? It would slow him down, it would mess up his pace. Imagine running forward on a track like this (looks back). Bam! Eventually, that's what's gonna happen to you. And Christians, as you are running toward the finish line, all of those painful experiences that you and I have all endured, cause life hasn't been a bed of roses for anyone, you've gotta let them go or they can simply put you flat on your face. You can't hold on to them. You need to make a decision to not give them the attention and be in bondage to that painful, painful kind of a dilemma. "Well, I forgive, but I can't forget." Ever heard that? I've heard it. Listen to what Paul says about it. He says, "Love suffers long and is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not parade itself. Love is not puffed up. Love does not behave rudely, it does not seek it's on, it is not provoked. It thinks no evil," or literally, "love never keeps a record of the wrongs done to it." In other words, "overlook it, don't keep score, refuse to keep score." Amy Carmichael put it best. She said, "If I say, 'Oh I forgive but I can never forget,' as though the God who twice a day washes all of the sand on all of the seashores of all the world could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love." In looking back to all of those experiences, Joseph said, "God has made me forget the trauma, the pain, the bondage that would bring me into such an emotional bitterness. I've let it go. I've let it go, I've overlooked it." Beautiful. I think if anybody had the right to have a hate list, it was Joseph. Anyone had the right to nurse his wounds, it was Joseph. But you notice the word order of the verse we just read, "God made me forget." You can never erase those painful memories alone without the help of God in your life; it will never be done effectively. I don't care how much therapy you have. Listen to what God promises to Isaiah. He tells his people, "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed nor be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame, for you will forget the shame of your youth and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood." That's God's promise. God will make you to forget.
How? Now this is kind of interesting. We just read, "God made me forget all my toil in my father's house." How'd he do it, Joe? What was the method God used? Did you just pray about it and it left? Well I'm sure he did turn it over to the Lord, but the context of this, interestingly enough, is in the context of a family that God has given him. It says he got married, he has kids, and he named the first one, "God made me to forget all of that stuff." Which is so interesting because it was Joseph's first family that initially brought on all of the pain. It's Joseph's second family that caused so much emotional healing in his life. That's so true. There have been many of you who have experienced a, an emotional stability because of a husband or a wife who has loved you unconditionally, caused you to feel secure and then to move out into other areas where you thought you couldn't before. God made me to forget. Did it through a family. First, gave him a wife who took away his loneliness. And then those two little boys he could put in his arms. There's nothing like kids, I gotta say this. Someone once said, "The presence of children heals the soul." The soul is healed by the presence of children. Ahh, that's right on. And I gotta admit, the brain is fried many times (laughter) by the presence of children, the, uh, nerves are unraveled, but there's nothing like being around kids. Whether they're your own or you work in the children's ministry and you get down to their level, they loosen you up, they give you a fresh perspective on life. And I realized how much responsibility and care was required, and after getting up night after night with this kid, and my eyes are drooping and big and red, I called up my parents. They answered the phone, I said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." They said, "For what?" "For being my mom and dad." And they thought I was absolutely nuts. And I just shared with them the perspective that I gained. The care that they invested in me that I did not realize till I had my own. The, the major point of this is, God uses his people to heal your past wounds, whether it's a wife, or children, or the family of God. You have entered into a new family here. It's a reparenting process. And God has designed each local body of Christ to be an accepting, loving, healing agent for all of that stuff, so that you can be accepted and you can forget all of the suffering you've endured at the hands of your family, or whatever. God uses every human being, which means every relationship that you and I have, that comes our way, is, has a potential of becoming a healing agent to us. If we could only see relationships like that, they'd be more dear to us. It's a capacity of being a healing agent for you and you for them. "God made me to forget."
Now, look at the next name, Ephraim. Huh, or Ephraim, "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." And again we ask okay, what does that mean? Does he mean by being fruitful that God made me to be a fruitful vine, like the Bible says? In other words, I have a wife and I have children in this land of Egypt, the land which was my afflicting land. Or, does he mean his position of being prime minister and making a fruitful impact in a land that really needed it? I believe that's what he's talking about. Yes, he was fruitful in that he had a couple kids and one wife, but according to Egyptian standards, that's not that fruitful. What he meant, I believe, is what we read in these verses. Look at verse 47. "In the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. He gathered up all the food," this is his job, "of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up food in the cities; in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them." Look over at verse 53, "The seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. And Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, 'Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.' The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all of the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. The famine became severe in the land of Egypt. So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all of the lands." I believe he was fruitful by virtue of his position. Which, again, is another key to getting hope in an eroding, hopeless situation. Here we see a spiritual man in the secular world. Now follow this closely. He is a spiritual, godly man in the midst of a very pagan, secular society. Every time Joseph was displaced and suffered, he emerged and found his place, a place of making an impact of getting involved. Every single time. He was involved as a son for his dad. When he was in Potiphar's household as a slave, he was the best. When he was in prison, he was the best prisoner. And now he is a fruitful prime minister. "Thus God made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."
I think that there are three responses that the Christian can have to the secular society that you and I, from the vantage point this morning of the church kind of look around, we're protected in here. But you look around at the world around you, and you hear Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel in the local news and you read USA Today, and there's a lot of stuff going on out there. And what is our response? It's one of these three. First of all, intimidation. We wanna find a convenient hole, pretend it's not there, maybe it'll go away. Probably because we feel so inadequate to do anything about it. "The problems are too big, I am inadequate, what have I to offer?" Number two, isolation, which is a lot like intimidation. Instead of just finding a hole to crawl into, pretending it'll go away, you find a spiritual hole. You isolate yourself only among Christians. You know that the society is really wicked and bad out there, and your job, because you dislike it so much, is to protect yourself and your family from it, period. Then there's the third response, and that's Joseph's response. Not intimidation, not isolation, infiltration. That is where you look at all the junk around you and you are moved with compassion at an ugly world. You don't say, "That is horrible. All those homeless people, oh, the abortion issue." You get involved and infiltrate the world to make a change. Not just involved for involvement's sake, to spin your wheels, but to expand the kingdom of God and to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Joseph saw his position in Egypt as a divine call of God. "I've got an opportunity, I've been offered job as second in command, I'm gonna do it. There's no greater place for me to make an impact then here." For Joseph to be less involved would mean Joseph would've been less obedient.
In a book by John Stott I read, he's found this poem, or this, these words, "I was hungry, and you formed a humanity's group to discuss my hunger. I was imprisoned, and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release. I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health. I was homeless, and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me. You seemed so holy and so close to God, but I am still very hungry and lonely and cold. Jesus, when he prayed for the disciples, and we're part of that group, he said, "Father, please, don't take them out of this world, but keep them from the evil one. And Father, as you have sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. I don't want them locked up. I want them out there as salt-carrying scent. If we could see ourselves as ambassadors dispatched to a messed up planet, it would help. This place is messed up. Don't isolate yourself. Don't be intimidated. Say, "God, how can I get involved?" Edmund Burke said, " The only that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." Do absolutely nothing.
There's something I'd like you to do this morning, more than just listening. I would like you, not only as we pray at the end of this message, but as you go home, to do two things. Number one, to look back. Actively do this. Look back to the past, to the painful experiences, to all of the rejection, to all of the reasons why should keep a list, and tear it up and throw it away and say, "God, I'm turning this over to You." And then share it with a friend. Share it with somebody that you can dump on, you can be close to, who can help become a healing agent to you. Look back. And second of all, determine, as you look around, how in some way you could make a difference in the world around you, whether it is at your job, in the community, something that would help you to become involved. To not just become involved, but to spread the Gospel. Those two things will give you more hope because you've got purpose. You just don't have a house, you just don't have a church, you've got purpose- a reason for living. And that brings more hope than anything else. The greatest way for you to use your life is to spend it on something that will outlive it. Would you bow your head and pray with me?
We just now wanna look back. And there's a lot of things, whew, lot's of things that we can, we can, uh, point to, that have made us certain ways, think certain ways, feel other ways, put up walls, become less vulnerable, become less loving. We have long pointed the finger at others for being the way they were to make us the way we are. Lord, just now as a body, we confess that that is wrong and we let it go, Lord. Heal the pain, the emotional trauma that could bring us into bondage. God, make us people who reach out to one another so that we can become those healing agents. And Lord, I pray that we will not isolate ourselves, nor look around in disgust at this world, that we'd do something, we'd use our life for something that will outlast it. In Jesus name, Amen.