Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Neil Ortiz: My name is Neil, last name Ortiz. I serve as one of the pastors here. Thankfully I see so many familiar and friendly faces out there. If you and I haven't met, I want to greet you in the name of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. I gotta tell you, I'm so grateful for the peace that I always feel after 21 years of coming to gather with this body of Christ, every time I even get near this premises I feel a peace come upon me and I'm so grateful for that, and you're all a part of the that, so thank you so much for that. I'll tell you what; we're going to get into God's Word tonight. We're going to be in Genesis, chapter 37 to start with and as you're turning there would you please allow me to lead us in a word of prayer.
Lord God, you are so, so good to us. You have given us so much, and so, Father, we humbly ask that by your Holy Spirit you would meet with us here tonight, that you would feed our souls, that you would encourage our spirits. And then for having made the sacrifice of gathering together like this as a family, Lord, you would visit with us and enable us each to be better men and better women for having spent time with you and with one another in your great name tonight. We're so grateful, Father, for all that you lavish us with. We again ask for you to feed us this evening, in the name of our great Savior Jesus Christ we pray, amen.
An epic fail---some of you know what that is. For those of you that don't, an epic fail is like the coup de grâce of all failures. It's an utterly abysmal failure. You might even say it's a catastrophically unsuccessful attempt at accomplishing something. In fact, our world is full of photographs, videos online where you could find people failing in the most bizarre ways. You can literally spend hours going through epic fail compilations on YouTube, and some of you have seen some of those things that I'm referencing. You see, these are the kind of things that happen and the response of the person who failed or for any of the witnesses is something like, "Oh, no!" or "What just happened?!" some kind of stunned disbelief.
Or it can even go all the way to the other end of the spectrum to uncontrollable laughter. You see, some of you are familiar with the recent story in the news---perhaps seeing video or photographs of it---of a 10 million dollar yacht, 90 feet long, being placed into the water for its maiden voyage but experiences a mechanical failure and, unfortunately, doesn't make it in the water before it tilts on its side with six people in it and it never, ever gets to sail. There's other times where you might see a lumberjack felling a tree. And he had every intention for that huge tree to go one direction and it goes the opposite direction crushing a house or a car or a garage. There's tons of these where people are trying to load a motorcycle or a car or a truck onto a trailer and they fail miserably.
The vehicle falls off the side or doesn't even make it up the ramp perhaps. So these are what modern vernacular refers to as "epic fails." Now, if I could just give you some encouragement, please don't go online and look for these things. I'll tell you what, there's a point to which it's embarrassing and perhaps you'll feel uncomfortable like I did, taking either a laugh at somebody's misery. Or you're going to discover that a lot of times when these things happen, especially on video, it brings out the worst in people, whether it's expletives of unbelief, or a further encouragement to continue something even if it's damaging to oneself. But either way, whether it's extreme laughter or inciting deep pity, these epic fails are not unfamiliar to us as Christians.
In fact, when we read the Scripture, we're going to find out, because God is so honest about those that are referenced in the Scripture, even many of main characters of the Bible, that this Book is full of epic fails. In fact, there's some men and women that have their own epic fails compilation just straight from the Scripture. The most easy that comes to my mind is Peter. You see, in the first years of walking with God he had an epic fail compilation of biblical proportions. Our mind goes to that time where Jesus beckoned him to walk on the water. And initially it started out just fine, but eventually he took his eyes off of Jesus and placed it on the tumultuous waves. And what happened? He began to sink.
If we had video of that, that would be a moment where we say, "Oh, man, total epic fail." Then there was the other time on the eve of the most excruciating time of Jesus' life as he invites three of the disciples to be with him in this elite group in the garden of Gethsemane asking them to watch for who he knew was coming for him while he went off to pray. And not once, not twice, but three times he and the two others fall asleep. Finally, the third time Jesus says, "Could you not watch and pray even once?" It's too late now, my betrayers are coming for me." And then not too long after that when Jesus' sufferings were beginning a prophecy that Christ told him came true. He said, "Peter, you're going to deny me three times before the cock crows."
And sure enough he denied knowing Jesus three times in the hour which Jesus could have used his support the most. And perhaps even more embarrassing, the first two times that Peter denied him it was with two young girls. Epic fails, yet, in time we discover that even these failures were redeemed by God to eventually bring out the best in Peter. You see, what we see in Peter's life is what we see repeatedly in any life that God is actively involved in through a person, a man or a woman, yielding their life to Christ; and that is, a beautiful fusion of failure and God's providence whereby "God works out all things to work for the good," that precious promise that we find in Romans 8:28.
What is God's providence? Well, God's providence could be described as his extraordinary intervention through natural means in the ordinary occurrences of life. Or you could put it another way by saying that God's providence is his working supernaturally naturally in each of our lives. You see, with God's providence in mind, which I believe is what the man we're going to look at tonight in more detail also possessed, was an awareness of God's providence when it came to God working everything together for good, even when we can't recognize that God's actually using all of it. And that brings us to the man of the hour for this evening, and that's going to be Joseph.
Again, out of Genesis, chapter 37, we look at his life, and for these first 30 years, his, like Peter, looks to be an epic fail compilation. You see, during this time he was criticized harshly, he suffered treachery, he yielded to inequity, unfairness, and he endured apathy. Yet, we're going to discover that because of God's providence he was able to experience, much like Peter, that his life amounted to an epic feat. He was able to achieve victory in God's kingdom and in God's economy. Yet, for those first 30 years it seemed like he couldn't catch a break. You see, unlike Peter, all of the failures we're going to look at in Joseph's life were not his fault. They weren't of his own making or of his doing.
Most of us are familiar with Murphy's Law, right? "If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong." As we read of Joseph, we come up with "Joseph's Law," that if something could happen unfavorably to this man, regardless of how faithful he was being to God, it seems as if it was going to happen. You ever known someone like that, they just can't seem to catch a break? And perhaps some of you yourself feel like that describes you. Wherever you find yourself at in life, young, old, be encouraged tonight as we consider Joseph. As we're going to go from chapter 37 and skim all the way through to chapter 50, we're going to look at 14 chapters of Scripture. In doing so we conduct an audit, an official examination in Joseph's life.
And you know what we're going to find out? He comes out clean. He comes out clean. Consider the fact that one quarter of the book of Genesis is devoted to the life of Joseph, and yet there is not one negative thing recorded in Scripture about this man. It's exceptional. There's only one other person in Scripture, other than Jesus of course, where nothing negative is recorded about them, and that would be the man Daniel. We're going to discover that Joseph lives an exceptional life despite great adversity. And we're going to discover that in his life too God worked it all together for the good. So we should be encouraged tonight that even in our lives God is in control through his providence. We're going to discover that God, every step of the way, had Joseph exactly where he wanted him to be.
And we too can take heart having the same confidence that wherever we find ourselves in life right now, we are right where God wants us to be. So as you open your Bible to the thirty-seventh chapter of Genesis, we're going to look at first how it was that this man was criticized harshly. Chapter 37, verse 1, we begin. "Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. And this is the story of Jacob. Joseph, at this time being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock along with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel, that would be Jacob, "loved Joseph more than all his other children, because he was the son of his old age."
"He made him a tunic of many colors. But when he brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, 'Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.' And his brothers said to him, 'Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?' And so they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words."
"Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, 'Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.' And so he told it to his father and his brothers; and this time his father rebuked him and said to him, 'What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?' And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind." We see here that for no fault of his own he was enduring harsh criticism. Let's consider exactly why. First off, he was being criticized harshly for simply being born second to the last. He was the firstborn of Rachel who, incidentally, was Jacob's preferred wife, and that made him special in Jacob's eyes.
He was also criticized harshly because he happened to be, through no fault of his own, the one son that his father loved more than the rest. Now, granted, that wasn't very wise on Jacob's part. And yet, at the same time, Joseph didn't have anything to do with that. Next we see he was treated poorly, unfairly, criticized harshly, simply for being committed to leadership as a young man. How do we know that? Well, first off, there's an issue of the robe that his father had made for him. You see, this wasn't just any robe. It wasn't just any nice piece of clothing for him to wear, this was believed to be a robe that would mark him as the future head of the family. In fact, this kind of robe was the robe that would normally be given to the firstborn.
Why would Israel give this to Joseph? Often times we hear from sermons that it's simply because he liked him more, but I want to propose to you some other considerations tonight. Perhaps as Jacob looked at Joseph he saw something in him that also a captain and a Pharaoh would see in Joseph in the coming years. He saw somebody, perhaps, in this son that he didn't see in the other sons. And, consequently, he wanted to establish him as the one who was going to lead this clan, lead this tribe going forward. And, consequently, he also wanted to make the statement very clear and he did that by giving him this robe and having him wear it, even if the brothers weren't warm to that, even if they didn't like him for it.
Then you have an issue of his dreams. Now this too has often been presented in one particular way, and I want you to consider it from another angle perhaps. He's given these dreams, he then shares these dreams with his brothers. It doesn't sound good, does it? It comes off, perhaps, as if he's baiting them and as if he's goading them. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, the Bible never says anything negative about Joseph. And, in fact, it never even ascribes pride to him, not even when he's relaying the information that he gathered in these dreams. So rather than just think that he was just being arrogant, cocky, bigheaded, the very things that his brothers probably hated him for, I want you to consider that perhaps he was very sincere in receiving these dreams as a message from God.
You see, we find out later in his life that on two other occasions he was a very gifted interpreter of dreams. Better yet, to understand it better, he was very attuned to the voice of God when it came to God interpreting a dream for him and then passing that information on to those people who dreamed the dream. So he received this information from God, and believing that it was just perhaps a message from God that they needed to hear, he goes ahead and shares it. This may in fact be one of the very early indications of a very consistent pulse in Joseph's life of how much he was mindful of God at all times. In addition to what the dreams say, let me add something else that I really appreciate about Joseph; and that is, anybody who's been in leadership knows that it comes with great responsibility.
So that, on the one hand, it's not all glory and it's not all benefit, but it carries with it great responsibility for the lives of other people. So, perhaps, Joseph received this information via his dreams and he is with enthusiasm willing to be God's leader to lead his clan, if that's in fact what God wants. I appreciate his willingness to take on this great responsibility and the difficult task of leadership. He's also being criticized, not just for the robe, not just for his dreams, but also for simply doing his job. We read in the latter part of verse 2 that he was a messenger who brought a bad report to his father about two of his brothers. We find out later in verses 12 through 14 that he was tasked with being in charge of his brothers.
In fact, his father sends him out to find out the state of affairs of the flocks. You see, this was their family business. The livestock that this family owned and how they cared for them and how they took them out to pasture was where all of their wealth as a family was wrapped up in. And so as part of the family business Joseph stayed back, but was sent by his father to go bring back a report. Perhaps one of those qualities that made his father want to entrust to him the leadership of the family was that of trustworthiness. You see, he looked at Joseph and he knew that Joseph's reports would be dependable, reliable.
In fact, contrast Joseph's life of integrity with the life of his brothers---as some of know the story and what happens next, for the rest of you who don't, you're going to find out---and what you discover is Joseph obviously was much more conscious of God, much more holy in his living than his brothers. So what happens now? Well, his father rebukes him in verse 10. And then we see that his brothers, as we read, hated him and then even envied him in verse 11. I believe all of this was simply because Joseph was a man who had a pure heart. I believe a lot of his actions came simply as a result of him being innocent, even to the point of being blissfully ignorant of how his family would respond to him.
So he's criticized harshly for things that were out of his control, things that were given to him, position that he was given, responsibility that he was afforded, but he didn't do anything wrong. He was just being who God made him and was following orders, doing his job. But as it is right now, his young family life and his young professional life aren't starting out so great. In fact, right now he's looking like an epic fail when it comes to being a brother and when it comes to being a leader in this family. He's experiencing something that many of us have experienced; and that is, that the people closest to him, that undoubtedly he loves the most, are being very harsh in criticizing him.
And such might be your situation like Joseph at work, or like Joseph within your family. And it's very difficult when this happens, because with work and family is where we spend most of our time. And the constant drum beat of judgments and criticisms can put a unique stress upon any life that can lead to great insecurity. You see, when we hear these criticisms, often we begin to think, "What am I doing wrong?" It produces a paranoia in many and they begin to question the certainty of their situation. So how was it that, as we continue to read, Joseph didn't skip a beat? He went on being who he was and doing what God called him to do.
How do we endure criticism and also be that same way? Well, consider the fact that one of the reasons why I marvel at the quality of life that so many of the men and women of the Old Testament lived, as compared to lives that many of us live, is that they didn't have the Bible like we have the Bible. Their lives are recorded, like in this case, in the Bible. So at times they had the books of the law, but they didn't have the entire Old Testament, and they surely didn't have a New Testament, but we do. And for our benefit I want to bring to our attention a principle out of the New Testament that will enable us to endure these harsh criticisms; and that is, the principle of leading a quiet life, a quiet life.
Would you please turn with me to First Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 11; First Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 11. As you're turning there, I want to let you know that this quiet life that we're called to live, it's not a silent life, but it's a life that isn't distracted with the sinful chatter and activity of meddling in others' lives and business for whom we're not responsible. So, First Thessalonians, chapter 4, beginning in verse 11 we read the Holy Spirit through Paul telling us as believers: "Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you," just like we told you. It's a requirement to lead this quiet life. You see, this quiet life speaks of one that is getting along with those around them.
They're not being contentious. They're not inciting conflict with others. But, rather, they are one who has a restful, peaceful tranquility of the inner man as they stick to their job or task. Furthermore, it speaks of an inner peace and a confidence that comes from a resolve and a confidence in God knowing who he has made you and knowing what he's called you to do, and you continue on being that and doing that even in the midst of adversity. The corollary to this condition of a quiet life is that these mind their own business. You see, there's no record as we read of Joseph's life and his inner action with his brothers, even though they hated him and envied him, there's no record of him becoming argumentative with him, or with them rather, or defensive.
Not only that, but he never apologized for who God had made him. There's no indication that he felt any kind of shame for wearing the robe that was given to him, nor for shying away from the work that the God had called him to. He simply pressed on living this quiet life of confidence in God, for who God had made him, and for what God had called him to do. That's how he endured this harsh criticism. Well, next we're going to see that it gets worse for him. He suffers treachery, treachery. As we go back to Genesis 37, beginning in verse 18, we read, "Now when they [his brothers] saw him afar off, [this is after his father had sent Joseph to find out the state of affairs and bring back report to him that his brothers] saw him from afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him."
"And they said to one another, 'Look, the dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, "Some wild beast has devoured him." And we shall see what will become of his dreams!' " These guys were bitter about these dreams and they felt they were going to put an end once and for all to what this young man had told them about them bowing down to him any time in their future. Verse 21, we continue, "But Reuben heard it, and he delivered Joseph out of their hands, and said, '[No, no, no, no.] Let us not kill him. Let us shed no blood, but cast him into a pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him'---that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father."
Don't throw him in the pit dead, throw him in the pit alive. And in verse 23, "So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. And they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; and there was no water in it. And they sat down," at that point, "to eat a meal." They were just going to have a meal. They figured they're taking care of this problem child. Let's continue. "Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt."
"And so Judah said to his brothers, '[Hey,] what profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.' And his brothers listened. Then Midianites traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph down to Egypt." So apparently the Ishmaelites came, the Midianites came, they took the highest bid. It went to the Ishmaelites and he was sold into slavery. Human trafficking is what these brothers now become involved in. This would be epic fail number two. He's betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery.
When it comes to betrayal, disloyalty, infidelity, whether it's through a confidence breached, a disappointment of a friend not coming through as promised, perhaps it's even the flagrant betrayal of infidelity in a marriage, or even being disowned by family, or as in Joseph's case sold by his family. This kind of betrayal can bring a bitterness to life that can be absolutely paralyzing, the reason for which Charles Spurgeon put this way, quote, "Reproaches from those who have been intimate with us, and trusted by us, cut us to the quick; they are usually so well acquainted with our particular weaknesses that they know how to touch us and where we are most sensitive, and to speak so as to do us the most damage."
It's not looking good for Joseph. Let me advance the story a little bit in order to get to where we need to go in our understanding of what's going on. He's sold to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites make their way to Egypt and from there they sell him to a man named Potiphar. Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh, a captain of the guard. And he's believed to be the leader of the personal security detail of Pharaoh. You might say, Pharaoh's own Secret Service. During this time that he worked under Potiphar we discover that he excelled, he was promoted. In fact, I'm going to take us to Genesis, chapter---let's see here. Go to Genesis 39, beginning in chapter 2. Chapter 38 doesn't advance the narrative of what's going on in Joseph's life, so we jump to verse 2 of 39.
And we're going to read a few verses here about how it was that he excelled under this man's leadership. "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he had in the house of his master, uh---was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had put under---and all this he had he put under his authority. So it was, from that time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field."
Thus he left all that he had in Joseph's hand," to the point that "he didn't even know what he had except for the bread which he ate." He didn't concern himself with anything that was going on in his stead, in his responsibility, because he knew Joseph was such a trustworthy man. You see, he goes from being sold out of a caravan to now being in a castle. He was actually in a good arrangement. We might say, though he was still a slave, it could have been a lot worse. But there was very fortunate conditions in being sold to Potiphar. So, the point I want to get to is this: he was just betrayed, and you would think that the man would be paralyzed after this, good for nothing; yet, he's working within Potiphar's household and excelling.
How was it that the treachery he experienced didn't cripple him or paralyze him? How was it that he wasn't fully disabled by experiencing this? Well, again, we have the blessing of a New Testament principle that I want to take you to; and that is, forgiveness sucks out the paralyzing poison of bitterness. We read this in the New Testament out of Ephesians, chapter 4, beginning in verse 31. If you would, please turn there. Ephesians 4 verse 31, here the Holy Spirit through Paul writing to the church in Ephesus tells us that we are to "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you." And from this principle we discover that the key here is obedience to the Lord by forgiving others.
And in order to do this it begins with the perspective that God has forgiven each of us an insurmountable debt. And inasmuch as all the poison of our sinful life has been sucked out through the forgiveness of Christ, in our forgiveness of others it too will suck out the poison of bitterness that would otherwise paralyze us. You see, don't turn here, but I want to read to you a few words of Jesus himself out of the gospel of Matthew where he speaks about the importance of forgiveness. In chapter 6, verse 43, he begins by saying, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to though who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and even persecute you,"---why?---"that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
You see, it's part of what it takes to stay on the team. To be like your Father in heaven requires this kind of forgiveness. Now, this kind of forgiveness doesn't mean that you forget. You see, such treachery is impossible to forget. So forgiveness isn't forgetting as much as it is choosing, determining, committing to no longer hold the offense against the person who has betrayed you. Now, if these words of Christ that we just read weren't enough, Jesus then motivates us by consequence. You see, earlier in that same chapter out of Matthew 6, we read these words from him: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive yours."
It's absolutely essential that we forgive. And we see here that Joseph was a man who had forgiven. Now some might say, "You know what, Neil? This is what I think happened: I think that the betrayal so affected him, it angered him. It made him so consumed with hatred for his family that he turned all of those feelings inward into his work and that's what made him excel." I would beg to differ with that, because we see later on in his life that he forgives his brothers, and it was a natural outgrowing of this constant condition of his heart that not only was forgiving, but it was consistent in keeping fellowship with God. It was that consistent fellowship with God that we see ultimately is what pulls him through these first 30 years of his life.
So here we are, after being criticized harshly, suffering the betrayal of being sold into slavery, just when we think his life is turning upward and he's excelling within Potiphar's company, things get worse. He encounters more trouble, this time through Potiphar's wife. Here we find that this man had to yield to inequity, unfairness. He couldn't fight it; he had to just endure it. Again, let's go back to Genesis 39. Beginning in the latter part of verse 6 we read a little bit about Joseph, that "he was handsome in form and appearance," and Potiphar's wife took notice. We continue, "And it came to pass after these things that his master's wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, 'Lie with me.'
"But he refused and he said to his master's wife, 'Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' " You see, there again we see this constant pulse of Joseph's mindfulness of God, all throughout his life never losing sight of God and God's involvement, God's oversight of him. Verse 10, "So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her."
"But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me.' But he left his garment in her hand, and he fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, 'See, he has brought us a Hebrew---he's brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.' So she kept his garment with her until his master came home.
"And then she spoke to him with word like these, saying, 'The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.' And so it was, when his master heard these things that his wife spoke to him, that 'Your servant did to me after this manner,' that his anger was aroused." It gets worse. He's now having to endure epic fail number three: the unfairness of a false accusation that ultimately led to an unjust sentencing. He was then placed in prison. At this point in reading about his life, you say, "Enough is enough!" As a son, he simply obeyed his father and was despised, betrayed, and sold.
As a slave, he had obeyed God and honored his master with faithful, hard work that was extremely effective, and once again he gets the short end of the stick. This isn't fair. And as many of us know, being treated unfairly can lead to developing extreme anger and deep hatred toward those that we believe are discriminating against us, cheating us, being unjust or unfair to us. Now, again, God has given us a way to endure this. In fact, would you please turn with me to First Peter chapter 2 verse 19. As you're turning there, we're going to come to the New Testament principle articulated in this passage that God is fair and just and he sees everything and he knows everything. And it is in that that we have to take comfort and confidence.
First Peter, chapter 2, beginning in verse 19, and this passage we read Peter saying, "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is [actually] commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But [rather,] when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in his steps: 'Who,' " referring to Jesus, " 'committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth'; who, when he was reviled, he didn't revile in return; when he suffered, he didn't threaten, but [rather] he committed himself to him who judges righteously."
That last part is the key to all of this: "committing yourself to him [God] who judges righteously." How does he judge righteously? Because God knows all things. God knows the truth about your life and he knew the truth about what happened with Joseph here. Not only does God know everything, he is fair and he is just. The key here is to trust that God knows the truth about our lives. And that when we're in a situation like this, rather than responding with anger or hatred, perhaps taking matters into our own hands through retribution, that is not the way forward. Just as a side here, I want to refer back in our minds at least to when Joseph was sold into slavery.
You see, during the time that we read in chapter 37, there's no indication that he resisted what was going on. Yet, we do find a little bit more information about that time from chapter 42, verse 21. You don't have to turn there, but I just want to read it to you. The brothers were talking amongst themselves. "And they said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear him.' " Therefore the distress that they were experiencing at that time, they believed came upon them because they didn't listen to their brother's appeals. You see, when life is unfair and unjust, it doesn't hurt if given opportunity to try to present a case for fairness.
Yet, in the situation that Joseph was in, he knew that it wasn't a situation that he would be successful in. We find out now that, not slavery, but imprisonment was to be his experience for the next few years. You see, in Genesis chapter 39 verse 20, the second part of that, we see that he was put into prison where the king's prisoners were confined. Now, let me just point out something that I find very interesting. It says that once Potiphar found out about this he was angry. It says "his anger was aroused," but the Scripture doesn't indicate that his anger was directed toward Joseph. Now we would assume that it would be. Yet, consider also that a bit of background regarding the history of Egypt at this time tells us that adultery was punishable by capital punishment.
He should have been executed, but he wasn't, rather he was put into prison. You see, it could have been a situation where Potiphar is figuring, "I can't do nothing and make my wife out to look like a liar." And, yet, perhaps the fact that he did not execute Joseph was an indication that he knew his wife, and perhaps his wife was someone he didn't feel that he could trust. So as a result he imprisoned Joseph and he puts him in this unique part of the prison where the king's prisoners were confined. I want you to consider this when you think about what ends up happening to Joseph later on. As he worked with Potiphar as security detail for the Pharaoh, he was able to mingle amongst the noblemen, the royalty of Egypt.
Now even as a prisoner with those who were imprisoned that also were tied into Pharaoh, through these two opportunities he was learning the manners and customs of Egypt, perhaps by overhearing and by observing he was learning ways that would come to be a benefit to him later on when it came to the management job that God would afford him as we continue to read on. So now he's in prison and, again, not crippled by this lack of fairness, but rather again he excels. Let's look at verse 21 of chapter 39 which says, "But [again] the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and he gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison." And what happened? "The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all of the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing."
"And the keeper of the prison didn't look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with Joseph; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper." Perhaps now is when everything will start to turn around for this man. Yet, again we have one more epic fail that we need to consider; and that is, as time goes on he ends up having to endure apathy, somebody who overlooked him, didn't care for him. You see, what we read in the continuing verses is that as he was in charge of all the prisoners there came a day where two new prisoners were admitted: one was the chief butler and the other was a chief baker, both chief butler and baker to Pharaoh.
Obviously they had done something wrong and there was an investigation going on. While the investigation was taking place they were in the prison and Joseph was put in charge to take care of them also. Well, a morning comes where Joseph, in going to care for them, looks upon their faces and he sees that they're sad. And he asks, "Why are you so sad?" And they say, "Because we each had a dream that was troubling to us, and we don't understand what these dreams mean." And so Joseph then says, "Is not the Lord the interpreter of dreams?" Again, an evidence of that constant pulse of Joseph being mindful of God. And so he begs the first, the chief butler, to tell him the dream, and so he does.
And so after he tells him the dream Joseph interprets it and he says to the chief butler, "You're going to live." And the chief butler is excited about that and so is the baker. The baker then hearing of that favorable interpretation says, "Interpret mine as well." And at the end of the relaying of the dream, Joseph interprets it and he tells the chief baker, "You're going to be executed." And sure enough it happens just like he interpreted. With this in mind, let us now go to Genesis, chapter 40, and begin in verse 14. And this is where we begin to understand how he had to endure being forgotten. Chapter 40, verse 14, this is right after he interprets favorably for the chief butler.
He says, "You're going to live," and as a result of living he shares these words: "Would you please remember me when it is well with you. Would you please show kindness to me; could you make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house?" He goes on to share a little bit more of his story. He says, "For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and I've also done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon." "Could you put in a good word for me? Could you help get me out of here?" Well, unfortunately, as your eyes drop down to verse 23, after the chief butler was released we read: "The chief butler did not remember Joseph, but rather forgot him." Epic fail number four---forgot him.
You see, the chief butler didn't seem to care enough to remember. In a sense it's not that he did anything to Joseph other than doing nothing for Joseph. And being forgotten, being overlooked, not considered, all of these can sting and produce a great resentment in any man or woman, whether being overlooked from a boss or an employer, overlooked for a promotion. They selected somebody else instead of you. Or perhaps being overlooked by family, you're not considered where when everybody wants to go out to eat. They never ask you where you want to go. They don't ask you how you want to spend holidays. Or perhaps you live in a house where you feel like you don't really have family members, you have roommates, and the people you live with come off as if it really doesn't matter if you lived or died.
You feel overlooked. And now he's being overlooked by someone who he felt had become a friend. You know, when we're overlooked like this, one of the things that's really difficult about it is we consider the people that aren't considering us, and eventually we begin to turn our attention to God feeling as if he too has forgotten. Yet, you would think that maybe this fourth blow would have crippled this man. Yet, in Joseph, again, we find no record of acrimony, no animosity, no spitefulness, or despair, no vengeance. Furthermore, there was no self-reliance or self-determination that if, "Hey, if they're not going to take care of me, I'll take care of myself."
There's no indication that he made an effort to take matters into his own hands and try to make his own situation better, other than being faithful to God and working hard. We find out later that Pharaoh then needs an interpretation of a dream that he had. And yet again, Joseph without skipping a beat presents himself to hear from God and properly interpret that dream. How is it that this man can endure all of these epic fails and not become bitter, incapacitated, angry, resentful, vengeful? Well, there's a verse that a lot of us are familiar with. It's Isaiah 26 verse 3, which says this: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon you, because he trusts in you."
You know that consistent pulse that I keep referring to of Joseph's mindfulness to God and of God? That's what kept him in perfect peace no matter what it was that he was suffering. He was in prison during this time, and, you know, sometimes a marriage can feel like a prison, or a job can feel like a prison, or even a living situation can feel like a prison. We live with these thoughts: "When am I going to be noticed so that I can be appreciated? When am I going to be noticed so that I can be rewarded or perhaps even liberated?" It's not wrong to want those things, but we always have to be careful to know that it's wrong when we make these things requirements, because God may not grant those to us.
And so we come here, again, to a consideration of a verse out of First Peter. I'm going to ask you to not turn there for the sake of time, but I'll just read it to you. Because it's in this verse that we find this principle that will help someone get through a period of time and experience where they do feel like they're being overlooked. And that is out of chapter 5, verses 6 and 7, which read: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all of your cares upon him, for he cares for you." You want your reward? You want your liberation? It's through humility.
In chapter 41, verse 12 of Genesis, we read that the chief butler when talking to Pharaoh about the person he finally remembers after a time had gone by that can interpret dreams, he makes a confession: "I blew it. I was supposed to remember this guy, but I forgot." And in telling Pharaoh of Joseph, he refers to Joseph not as a prisoner but as a servant. Consider these words of Spurgeon about us as God's servants: "Ministers are servants; they are not guests, but waiters; they are not landlords, but laborers. Let us remember that we are servants in our Lord's house. And don't forget the words of our Lord who said, 'Whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.' So therefore let us be willing to be doormats at our Master's entrance-hall."
Our lives, through humble servanthood, should be other people's access into God's presence, being able to see God and experiencing God through us as we are humble servants. When it comes to recognition, we need to know that it's God who makes people to overlook us or to notice us. You see, Psalm 75:6 says, "For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: And he puts down one, and exalts another." So far with these epic fails, four, maybe five, if you're counting the two times he was sold as a slave, so far Joseph has had all the right responses, which lead us to consider the sweet fact that eventually after 30 years he's able to achieve some victory.
You see, his life, which looked like an epic fail compilation, ended up resulting in an epic feat. How do we know that? Well, as I mentioned, Pharaoh then has these incredibly disturbing dreams. He dreams of seven fine looking and fat cows emerging. And after those seven emerge, seven gaunt and ugly cows emerge, and those gaunt and ugly cows devour the seven fine looking and fat cows. And then he has another dream in which there's one stalk of grain that has seven plump heads, and after that another stalk that's thin with seven heads also emerges and it consumes that plump stalk of wheat. Now as a leader and as a manager, there was something about these dreams that vexed Pharaoh.
He was greatly disturbed. He didn't know what to do with it. And so he called all of his magicians and anyone who he felt could interpret the dreams within his empire, and none of them were successful. And so there it was that the chief butler sometime remembered a man who can interpret dreams, and he brings Joseph to interpret. Joseph then interprets the dreams. Not only does he interpret the dreams as there being seven years of feast, seven years of plenty upon the land, which are going to be followed by seven years of famine, he goes on to tell Pharaoh giving him instructions as to the kind of man Pharaoh's going to need to lead the task of making sure that Egypt prepares properly for those seven years of famine that are coming upon them after seven years of plenty.
Consequently, what happens is finally, finally, the man experiences some vindication. Look with me, if you will, at chapter 41, beginning in verse 38. We read: "Pharaoh says to his servants," after Joseph tells him of the kind of man that's going to be needed to lead this charge, he says, " 'Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Inasmuch as God has shown you all of this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.' And Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.' "
On that note, I want us to think back to those dreams that he had as a young man, perhaps as a 17-year-old. What ends up happening is his father and brothers become hungry after the seven years of plenty when the famine has hit the land. And Jacob hears of there being grain in Egypt and sends his sons to go get some grain. And in Genesis 43 verse 6 we read that when Joseph came home, this company of his brothers were brought to him into his house and they bowed down before him asking for grain. There was the fulfillment, in part, of his dream---the brothers had bowed down. At this time Joseph recognizes them and he takes them through a series of tests, them not recognizing him. They didn't know it was him.
And it brings us to Genesis 45 verses 3 through 8 where, after these series of tests to see if their hearts had actually changed, discovering that they had, we read: "Joseph [finally] says to his brothers, 'I am Joseph; does my father still live?' But his brothers couldn't answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence," shocked. So, "He says again to his brothers, 'Please come near me.' They came near him. And he says, "I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years,' " he's about 39 years old now, " 'the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.' "
But don't worry, brothers, all of this happened because "God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. And so now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.' "You know what this brings to my mind? Psalm 33 verses 18 and 19, which says, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him," Joseph feared him, "on those who hope in his mercy, and deliver their soul from death, to keep them alive even in the midst of famine." Looking back for Joseph, all of it now made sense. God's providence is fully on display.
Every seeming epic fail had Joseph placed exactly where God wanted him to be every step of the way so that eventually he would be put in this position to save many. Let's close with a consideration of Genesis 50 verses 18 through 21. You see, now what happened is his father died and the brothers have become very insecure, thinking, "Maybe Joseph has not yet killed us because our dad was alive. Now that Dad is dead, he's going to take us out." So their sin had bred great insecurity in their lives, and yet we find Joseph again being consistently godly. "Then his brothers also went and fell down before Joseph's face, and they said, 'Behold, we are your servants,' "
"Let's just set the record straight. We get it. We are we are bowed down to you." "Joseph said to them, 'Don't be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but [the whole time] God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.' And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Friend, what is your epic fail? What are you feeling like when it comes to the criticism you're experiencing, or the ways in which you've been betrayed, or how it is you're having to endure unfair treatment, whether from family or in the workplace?
And how is it that you're having to endure being overlooked? Because of God's providence and because of his sweet promise like that of Romans 8:28, that God through his providence is able to "work all things together for the good to those who love him and to those who are call the according to his purpose," we have nothing to worry about. God will always be victorious. God can never lose. God is not intimidated. God will not be overcome. God will always succeed. Not only as he did here through Joseph, but also the promise the same for us. You see, his life ended up being an epic feat. Let me summarize it this way: in Genesis chapter 12 verse 3 there was a promise given to his great-grandfather that through him the entire world would be blessed.
And so God had to have a plan to save this family's life that they wouldn't die in the famine. And so he sent Joseph. And because he had a plan for Joseph, that meant he had a plan for this family, that family that would become a nation. After three to four hundred years later they would become in number of about 2 million, and eventually God would lead them out of Egypt. Not only that, it would be through this line that Messiah would eventually come. So not only were millions, perhaps, of lives saved because of Joseph's faithfulness, but you and I through the salvation that comes through this bloodline Israel have our salvation in Jesus Christ.
So what about your life? Is it going to be an epic fail compilation or are you going to trust that when it's all said and done God will make it an epic feat? Consider this: What sufferings of yours that are brought on by others who mean evil against you, is God intending for good? Or to put it another way: whose salvation might your present sufferings be for? Family members? Coworkers? Friends? Maybe even neighbors? Trust that God has his purposes to accomplish in the midst of your sufferings, through his providence, as he intends it ultimately for a greater good. Let's pray.
Father, you know us. You know us well. And so, Father, you know our weaknesses, our frailties, you know, Lord, us intimately. You know those of us who are being constantly criticized in some setting. You know each of us, Lord, who are perhaps having to persevere through having been betrayed. Lord, I'm sure there's some of us who've had to endure being overlooked or being treated unfairly. Father, through Joseph's life and his example, please give us the encouragement we need in order to persevere, trusting in your sweet providence, that you do in fact work all things together for the good. And even when others intend evil for us, you intend it for good. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.