Story III 09/25/16—Highland–Meute
The Story: “Joseph: From Slave to Deputy Pharaoh”
The Story, Chapter III
Pearl: Joseph’s life drama clearly shows the overlay of God’s “upper story” upon his “lower story.”
Function: Encourage worshippers with assurance that God’s purposes will be accomplished despite the appearance that all is lost.
Previously in The Story… we met one of the bible’s premier examples of faith. Abraham was one “reckoned as righteous” by God because he fully trusted the promises of God. We saw that God chose a people for himself to relate to and to reveal God’s self to. His plan was to relate to a special people so that he would one day extend that relation to all peoples. Abraham was so trusting of the promises of God that he would have given up his miracle son of promise as a sacrifice but in the end was prevented from doing so by the same God who would do this very thing one day with his own Son—Jesus of Nazareth– crucified on the cross to atone for the sins of the world and through whom God inaugurated his kingdom on earth.
In my middle year of seminary I landed an internship to work in a church for a year in the panhandle of Texas. I would take a year off of classes, work in a church full time for a year, and then return to seminary to finish up.
1. Nancy was pregnant with our firstborn—so he would have been a native Texan.
2. Interestingly neither side of our families thought this was a good idea. In fact, my most trusted mentors also thought it wasn’t a good idea and that I should just finish my degree and get on with my calling.
3. We went forward with our plans and at the very last minute prior to making a cross-country move, it fell through. Nancy had resigned from her teaching job. I hadn’t even enrolled in classes. I would have to seek financial aid just before the start of classes. We were shocked. We thought it was God’s will and plan to go on this internship/adventure.
4. Thankfully when I made moves to enter into my senior year of seminary everything worked out. I needed a field education position—I got one in the suburbs of Philly. I got the courses and financial aid I needed. I even got a part-time job to help with bills.
5. Nancy’s pregnancy was somewhat risky so Princeton Medical Center made us more comfortable than where we would have been in Texas.
6. After graduating I received a call to a fine church in Pittsburgh, my hometown, to work with an excellent Senior Pastor where I served for 8 years just prior to going to Avondale, PA, where I served for the last 20 years.
a. Serving in Avondale was an excellent season of service but it ended in a way which was not how I imagined or preferred.
b. Yet, as difficult as that was, I am so happy to have landed here for this transitional season as your Interim Pastor at Highland.
c. I tell you all of this to say that God’s “upper story” is always being advanced and worked out in the “lower story” of our lives, overlaid upon our lives, even when it is not apparent and even when it sometimes looks like all is lost.
There is no better biblical example of how God’s “upper story” is advancing and being worked out overlaid upon our lives than through the “lower story” of Joseph’s life.
1. Joseph was the “favorite” of his father Jacob.
2. As a young person Joseph had dreams of his brothers and parents bowing down to him which he quite freely reported to them.
3. So Joseph’s brothers hatched a plan to get rid of him by feigning his death to wild animals and sold him as a slave to a passing caravan.
4. Joseph ended up in Egypt. He rose to a trusted position in Pharaoh’s court. Then he wound up in prison after being framed by Pharaoh’s wife who tried and failed to seduce him. She made up a story about his attacking her and he was put in prison.
5. Even in prison Joseph rose to a position of trust using his fine administrative skills—reminds you of Andy, the main character in “The Shawshank Redemption.”
6. Joseph’s skill in the interpretation of dreams is used in prison and gets reported to the Pharaoh when no one is able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph is cleaned up and brought before the Pharaoh. He is able to see that seven years of plenty would come and be followed by seven years of famine so that Egypt could prepare for it. Joseph is elevated from the dregs of prison to the highest position of trust in the land just beneath the Pharaoh.
When the years of famine began, those in neighboring lands made their way to Egypt to buy food. Eventually Joseph’s brothers were sent by their father Israel (Jacob) to go to Egypt to buy grain. They end up going before Joseph and (fulfilling his youthful dream) indeed did bow down to him. At first he did not disclose his identity to them even though he knew that it was them. But they did not recognize him. As far as they knew Joseph was dead. His whereabouts or even existence was absolutely out of their minds.
1. What follows is a wonderful drama of how Joseph interacted, even sported with them for a while before he revealed himself to them. Finally, Joseph could not bear it any longer and he revealed himself as Joseph, their long-forgotten and thoroughly-betrayed brother.
2. They were filled with fear upon his revelation. They expected revenge.
3. Joseph ordered them to bring their father Jacob to him and there was an incredible reunion of father and son. Jacob even said that he was finally ready to die because he had seen his beloved Joseph again. His many years of grief over his loss were restored to him.
4. Indeed shortly, father Jacob died and all of the brothers took him back to Canaan to bury him.
After their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers, once again, feared that he would finally exact his revenge upon them for their grave injustice toward him.
1. But Joseph did not take revenge upon them, amazingly! The question is “Why?” In so many families revenge is taken and relationships are broken over much smaller things.
a. You have to admire Joseph’s way of dealing with the betrayal of his brothers.
2. Joseph was well acquainted with the God who is constantly working out his “upper story” of making a new earth and a new heaven despite the messy details and complexities of our lives.
a. Joseph reassured his worried brothers, saying: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
3. Can you imagine all that Joseph had to work through to get to that point? Can you imagine the feelings that he felt? Was any family more cruel to one of their own than Joseph’s brothers were to him?
a. He was able to do so because he knew and trusted a living God who was at work overlaying his good plans upon his life. He trusted that all would work out despite the apparent opposite.
b. Joseph is a model of grace and forgiveness that came from knowing that his faithful God was at work in his life and that God would never leave him or forsake him.
You are empowered to live as Joseph lived. You are in a better position than Joseph was by far. You know that God did not spare his own Son (Romans 8:32) but gave him up to death on a cross so that we might have the power to forgive and live out of grace.
On this Recovery Sunday, Joseph is a fitting model of someone who literally “recovered” his life. His life was stolen from him by jealousy and hate (his brothers), then again by deception (Pharaoh’s wife), but through it all Joseph did not waiver from trusting in the Lord. He did not waiver from maintaining a good rapport with all. He continued to do the right thing and to use his God-given capabilities in whatever circumstances he found himself. Joseph took one day at a time and sought to please his God.
God’s people proclaim that God is at work in the midst of the details and failures and complexities of our lives accomplishing his good purposes (Roman 8:28). Even when you are down in the depths, at the bottom, you are not forgotten.