Our central verse for this series is Micah 6:8.
Micah 6:8 (ESV)
8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
For the past two weeks we have talked about how God walked with people in scripture. We are looking at the paths that God has put people and how he walked with them. The common theme is that God put them on a path and promised to love and care for them – to walk with them.
- Adam & Eve – Sin robbed them of their path
- Abraham – God set him on a path to greatness
This week we talked about Joseph the son of Jacob.
Genesis 37:1–4 (ESV)
1Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Joseph’s brother hated him. It didn’t get better when he told about the dreams that he had had.
Genesis 37:5–11 (ESV)
5Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
This caused his brothers to be even more jealous so they took drastic action. They sold Jacob’s favorite son into slavery. They not only did this but also tricked their father.
Genesis 37:32–36 (ESV)
32And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
In Genesis 39:1-20 we see young Joseph (age 17) bought as a slave. Not how he saw his life going I’m sure. It certainly didn’t see to line up with the promises of his dreams. Then he was falsely accused of rape and thrown in prison!
What did Joseph do next?
Did he admit defeat? He had been a slave and now he was in prison with no hope of parole. His life seemed to be over before it even really began. I would have probably just given up. I think many people would.
But what did Joseph do?
He did what any man would do who had been sold into slavery, had been falsely accused of rape, and had been thrown into jail who knew that God was with him.
He knew that even though God was often very silent he was never absent.
But God still blessed Joseph!
Genesis 39:21–23 (ESV)
21But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
So Joseph prospered even in prison. He was the Warden’s favorite. Not the story that you write home to mom and dad (besides his parents thought he was dead). “Hey Dad, guess what? I’m the warden’s favorite. I’m chief prisoner!!” Nope, not the best life but God blessed him!
But then God begins to prepare Joseph’s life for something else.
Genesis 40:1–23 (ESV)
1Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. 2And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody. 5And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” 9So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 12Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” 16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” 20On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
But the Chief Cupbearer forgot him. Until . . . .
Genesis 41:1–14 (ESV)
1After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. 9Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” 14Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.
2 more years have gone by. Joseph has been in Egypt for 13 years. He is 30 years old. Then one night Pharaoh has a disturbing dream.
Genesis 41:15–24 (ESV)
15And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 17Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. 18Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. 22I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. 23Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, 24and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”
7 healthy cows – 7 sickly cows – 7 ears of corn, full and good – 7 more ears of corn, sickly and thin
Joseph is now standing in front of the leader of the free world. A leader so powerful that he had declared himself as god. To step in his presence meant that you faced the judgement of god!
What did Joseph do?
He could have buckled and said “This is too big for me” or said, “Please send me back to prison where I can just live. I’m the warden’s favorite – the guy – the man!” Nope!!
He did what any man would do who had been sold into slavery, been falsely accused of rape, and had been thrown into jail for 13 years and then stood in front of Pharaoh to risk his life to interpret a dream but who knew that God was with him.
He interpreted the dream!
Genesis 41:25–36 (ESV)
25Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
Notice he stands before god (little g) and declares the might of the real God (big G). The power and the risk of doing this doesn’t phase him. God is with him and he is with God!
Joseph is appointed ruler in Egypt second to only Pharaoh. He is now on the throne!
The famine begins and the entire world is starving. Except in Egypt. This is when Joseph’s brother come back into the picture. Joseph’s dreams are coming true. He can now get his revenge. He can punish them to the full extent of the law – because “he is the law”!!
But he doesn’t yet. He sends his brothers to bring his younger brother, his father and the entire family to Egypt. Joseph takes care of them. He feeds them. He give them land where they can live. Joseph must be plotting his revenge. He must be waiting. Surely he will punish his brothers!!
Then Jacob dies.
His brothers come, fall down and beg for their lives. So here it comes – Joseph can have his revenge!! Father is dead. Nothing stands in his way! He is ruler. He is supreme! They are bowing down to him. Ok Joseph. Gloat a little then kills these guys. They hurt you. The imprisoned you for 13 years!! Kill them!!
But what did Joseph do?
He did what any man would do who had been sold into slavery, had been falsely accused of rape, had been thrown into jail for 13 years and stood in front of Pharaoh to risk his life to interpret a dream and declare God’s sovereignty to a man who declared himself to be god and ended up being promoted to ruler over Egypt but who knew that God was with him. And he knew that even though God was often silent he was never, ever absent.
Here is what he did.
Genesis 50:18–21 (ESV)
18His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
He saw the path the God put him on and he knew the work that God had done for him. Joseph saw the big picture and was blessed by God even when God seemed silent. His life was used by God and Joseph lived like the blessed man that he knew he was – even – in – prison!
Where are you today? Has your life seemed cursed or have you struggled with your circumstances and God’s silence?
May we remember this “even though God often seems silent he is never, ever absent!”.
NOTE: This sermon and post is greatly influenced, driven and informed by one of my favorites sermons by one of my favorite teachers, Andy Stanley. It was several years ago at Catalyst that I heard the sermon about one of my favorite people, Joseph. The sermon changed my life drastically because God is always present even when he is silent!