The Righteous Keep Moving Forward

January 27, 2019

The title of my message for this morning is actually a Bible verse found in Job 17:9.  Job had lost everything and had been crying out to God, unable to understand why he was being put through so much adversity.  To make matters worse, although he had done no wrong, his so-called friends told him that God was surely punishing him.  Job barely had the strength to keep moving forward.  And yet God had not forsaken him, and his best days were yet to come.

All of our Scripture readings this morning (Genesis 37:1-11,18-28, 39:1-6b and 41:1-41) were about Joseph, the son of Jacob.  Because he was his father’s favorite, his brothers hated him.   They were jealous of the coat of many colors that their father made for him.  They were infuriated at the dream he had and told them about.  Bow to Joseph?  That was the last thing on earth they wanted to do.    They actually were thinking about killing him, but Reuben talked them out of that and convinced them to throw him into a well with no water instead.  The fact that Reuben wanted to go back and save him later suggests that the well was deep enough that Joseph would not have been able to crawl out of it on his own.  So imagine how it would have felt to be dropped into a deep well that had no water at the bottom.  Ouch.  Then they pull him back out, sell him into slavery, and tell his father that he is dead.  Now I’m sure many of you have had some fights with brothers and sisters, and with your parents, too.  But I doubt any of you would have gone to the length these brothers did.  At least I hope not.

Sitting at the bottom of that well, I’m sure Joseph thought he was going to be left there to die.  Perhaps he even became as despondent as Job did when he lost everything – family, possessions, even his health.  When his brothers came to pull him out, he was probably hoping they had felt bad and were going to rescue him.   But his hopes were quickly shattered as his brothers handed him over as a slave to the Midianites in exchange for 20 pieces of silver.  And I’m sure you know who else was betrayed for pieces of silver, even though inflation upped the price to 30 pieces.  (I love how the Old Testament is a shadow of the New Testament!)

So here is poor Joseph being carted off to Egypt… his brothers overjoyed that he was finally gone from their lives.  (All except Reuben who did go back to look for him).  They even dipped that beautiful coat Jacob had made him in blood and took it back to their father.  The Bible says that when Jacob saw it, “He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe!  Some ferocious animal has devoured him.  Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”  (Genesis 37:33)  And then it says that “Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.  All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.  ‘No,’ he said, ‘in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.’  So his father wept for him.” (vs. 34).  But did Joseph quit, did he grumble and give up, and just resign himself to a life of slavery?  Did he hate his brothers for what they did to him, and for the grief they caused his father?  Isn’t that what most of us would have done?

No, he kept moving forward, slowly at first.  He started out as a slave to Potiphar, but ended up in prison under a false accusation made against him by Potiphar’s wife (chapter 39).  Still not giving up, while in prison, he used the gift of dream interpretation that God had given him, and that had caused his brothers to hate him.  First Joseph successfully interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker, telling the cupbearer that in 3 days he would be released out of prison and restored to his former position.  He asked the cupbearer to speak favorably of him when he was released, but the cupbearer forgot about him and did not.  Then he told the baker that in 3 days he would be hanged, which he was.

So for two more years Joseph remained locked away in prison.  But still he did not give up.  And then God’s plan quickly escalated.  Pharaoh had a dream that his magicians could not interpret.  And finally the cupbearer remembered Joseph (as you heard in our third Scripture reading).  So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and Joseph interpreted his dream, and suggested that Pharaoh act on that interpretation in order to save the land from famine in seven years.  And Joseph, who was once hated by his brothers, dropped into a well, sold into slavery, and locked in a prison cell, now advanced so far forward that he became second in command in the land of Egypt.  But was God’s blessing of Joseph’s faith and endurance merely for Joseph’s benefit?  Or was there a greater plan that Joseph’s suffering was meant to bring about?

The famine that Joseph predicted did indeed befall Egypt, but also spread throughout other countries as well – including Canaan where his family lived.  So Jacob sent ten of Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy food, which Joseph had administrated the storage of during the seven preceding good years.  Now what would you have done if your brothers had done to you what Joseph’s did to him, after which you became vice-president of the United States, and then they came to you during a famine, begging for food?  Well, his brothers didn’t recognize him, now that he had become a ruler in Egypt.  So he decided to test them by putting silver in their sacks, and he held one of them (Simeon) in prison, but only because he desperately wanted to see his younger brother, who had not come with them.   Doing so caused them all to see how wrong they were for what they had done, and they believed God was now going to punish them.  And so they acted wisely.  After they took the sacks of grain back to Canaan, they returned to Egypt and gave back the silver that Joseph had put in their sacks of grain to test them, and they also brought Benjamin back with them, against their father’s wishes.  Joseph was overjoyed to the point of tears to see his younger brother.  Then he asked about his father, Jacob. (chapter 42 and 43).

After they all ate together, he set out to send them back home again, with even more food, but put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack (chapter 45).  He intended to charge him with stealing it in order to keep him in Egypt with him.  But his brothers pleaded with him because their father loved him so, and didn’t want to send him in the first place.  He would be heartbroken if Benjamin didn’t come home.

Finally, Joseph could stand it no more and revealed to his brothers who he was.  Then He sent them back to Canaan telling them not to “quarrel on the way!” (45:24), and when they returned home they told Jacob “Joseph is still alive!  In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.”  (vs 26).  And Jacob believed them and told them he wanted to see Joseph before he died.  After he set out God spoke to him in a vision and said, “Jacob, Jacob!... I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.  I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.  And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”  (46:2-4)   And this all came about just as God said. 

Indeed, just as Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

But what if Joseph had not kept moving forward?  What if he had given up, wallowed in his own misery, and forsaken his faith, his God, and his love for his family, because his brothers had betrayed him?

His brothers probably would never have repented.  His family, and countless more, would have all perished in the famine.  And the lineage would have been broken - the lineage that would bring about the birth of Jesus (see Genesis 38 and Matthew 1).  But God knew Joseph’s heart.  And God’s plans never fail. 

So the next time you are tempted to give up, and stop moving forward, remember Joseph.   And remember that you, too, are part of God’s plan, and he will see you through whatever it is you are going through, and it will work for good. He promised that to all who love God (Romans 8:28), and God never breaks his promises.   Amen.


"Move" (Keep Walkin') - Toby Mac

"Move" - MercyMe 

Children's Message:            

May Joseph’s coat of many colors,

His father gave him out of love,

Remind you that your Heavenly Father,

Wraps you in blessings from above.