In a fallen world, the rocks of evil and injustice and betrayal will happen to all of us, sooner or later. Two main characters in the New Testament are Peter and Paul. And Peter’s ministry is primarily to the Jews. And Paul’s is primarily to the Gentiles. And Peter would write, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”
In other words, when things are very painful, difficult, evil, unjust in a fallen world, like, don’t be surprised. The apostle Paul would take it one step farther in II Timothy 3:12 and 13. He says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” and then notice this, “while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And the question I have for you as we get started this morning, is who has wounded or betrayed or abused or abandoned or forsaken you or forgotten you or hurt you more than anyone else in the world? If you had to just, you know, I’m not going to ask you to share this, I’m not going to ask you to write it down. But I am going to ask you to reach back into some stuff that most of you have pushed down very, very deeply and it could have been a parent, it could have been a sibling, it could have been a mate, it could have been one of your kids, it could have been a business partner, it could have been someone involved in a church.
But whose picture, whose face comes to your mind when you think of being lied to, betrayed, hurt, wounded? Or did something to someone you love. They did it to one of your kids or they did it to your mom or they did it to your dad. And in your most honest moments, you have a rock. And you have a rock of wound.
How do we, as R12 Christians, respond and then overcome the evil that is aimed at us? Because everyone has it. You’re not alone. But what we tend to do is push it down, go into denial, and then a lot of the issues we have in our lives is because we are walking around with rocks inside our heart and they weigh us down.
And they block our relationship with God, they produce all kinds of things inside of us emotionally. I want to look at a man’s life who, I think, endured more injustice, betrayal, evil than anyone that I can find in all of Scripture. And he had a secret and he responded in such a way that he overcame the evil aimed at him.
Joseph’s journey reveals how to overcome the evil that is aimed at you and aimed at me. And if you’ll open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 37, we begin a story of this amazing guy. He doesn’t start out very amazing, however.
And if you’re familiar with the Bible, you know that a big portion of all of the book of Genesis, chapters 37 all the way through 50, talk about him. And so that’s thirteen chapters.
So they probably didn’t tell you, but church will be two and a half hours. I’ll start reading now, and I’d like you to follow along closely. Not. But what I do want to do is I want to give you a feel for the passage and give you the situation. The overview, let me tell you the beginning and the ending of his entire story.
It’s going to start in a pit and he is going to end in a palace. He is going to start, we’re going to learn a little bit about his life, he has a dysfunctional family, his father shows great favoritism that sets him up for failure. And Joseph has a lot of good responses, but early on, it’s going to open up, he’s seventeen years old, he’s the center of attention. He has this special coat that marks him off. His dad shows favoritism.
He tattles on his brothers, he is a narcissist, he thinks he’s the center of the universe, God gives him a dream and instead of stewarding it like, “Wow, that’s sort of a holy dream,” he blurts it out and comes to his brothers and says, “You guys are going to bow down to me someday.”
And so he has some issues to deal with. But in chapter 37, it says, “So Jacob settled in the land of Canaan where his father had lived. And this is the history of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks with his half-brothers, the sons of his father’s wives, Bilhah and Zilphah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing,” which made him very popular, of course.
“Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children,” by the way, that’s a recipe for disaster, “because Joseph had been born to him at an old age; so one day he gave Joseph a special gift – a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. The couldn’t say a kind word about him.
“One night, Joseph had a dream, he promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more. ‘Listen to this dream,’ he said. ‘We were all out in the field, tying bundles of grain and my bundles stood up and your bundles all gathered around and bowed down before me!’” You know? This is like, boy, don’t you love your little brother?
And so they say, “‘So you’re going to be our king, are you?’ his brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream when he had said it. Then Joseph had another dream,” and this other dream tells the same story.
And so let me give you, sort of, a running development of this pit to the palace story. You’ll notice in your notes, he was born in a dysfunctional family. So write down dysfunctional, because what I am going to do is I am going to go through this quickly but I’m going to give you the trailer of a movie. If you want to get the movie you need to go home and read chapters 37 through 50 slowly and thoughtfully.
But what I want you to get is the key words that I have you underline is the kind of stuff that you go through. Some of us grew up in dysfunctional families, right? Well, you’re going to see that, I guess, that can happen and God can still do something good.
So the dysfunctional family is his dad, his partiality, and it produces some not good things in Joseph, and a bad family dynamic. So then his brothers, they reject him. He is rejected by his siblings. And the story will unfold, you know, his dad says, “Hey, I want you to go over there and check on your brothers because they are doing some sheep,” and so Joseph is checking on his brothers and he can’t find them and he asks this guy, “Hey, have you seen my brothers?” He says, “Yeah, the guys are over there.” This is a very loose translation of the exact Hebrew, of course.
And so on the way, he’s there, his brothers are thinking, “We hate this guy’s guts; let’s kill him.” And there is a little argument about the best way to get rid of him. And one of his brothers kind of cares. And so he talks the other brothers into, “Let’s put him in this pit. I mean, why kill him? Let’s just put him in this pit.”
And then while they are waiting, this caravan of Ishmaelites comes by and one of the other brothers goes, “Well, why should we have his blood on our hands? Let’s get something for him?” So twenty pieces of silver, they sell him to this caravan and this caravan is on its way to Egypt.
So he is seventeen years old. He has this dysfunctional family; his dad doesn’t do a really good job on this; he’s got some narcissistic, arrogant issues and so those are his issues. But he is rejected by his siblings and then he is abandoned to a foreign land.
So imagine, if you’re older and have a seventeen-year-old or so, imagine your seventeen-year-old getting on a caravan with people who speak a different language, being taken to a world with all these different gods, the gods of Egypt, and he gets dropped off, he doesn’t know the culture, doesn’t know the language. And he goes from being the privileged, Mr. “I’m the center of the universe,” to a slave. So life is getting pretty difficult in a hurry.
So when he gets there, there’s a little slave auction and Potiphar, who is the head of the Secret Service for the king of Egypt, he buys Joseph. And so he is sold as a slave and Potiphar brings him in, and Joseph has this unique ability, he has two great strengths. One, God has given him an ability to interpret dreams. And number two, he is administratively gifted. The guy just gets it.
I mean, he’s a strategic thinker who knows how to implement a strategic plan. And so Potiphar watches and God’s hand is on Joseph and everything he puts his hand on goes really well.
So Potiphar is a very smart guy, he eventually turns over everything to Joseph, gives him his black American Express card, turns over his CPA to Joseph, and all employees and basically says, “Joseph, you run my world,” and the text says that he didn’t worry about anything.
And so Joseph, even though he’s a slave, God’s hand is on his life, things are going pretty well, and then Potiphar’s wife … apparently Joseph was sort of the Brad Pitt of his day, a good looking young guy. And things are going well for a couple of years. And Potiphar’s wife gets the hots for Joseph. This was all in the original text.
And so she says, “Hey, my husband does a lot of business travel or whatever. I want to sleep with you. Come on. Come on.” And Joseph says, “I will not betray your husband who has been good to me. And I couldn’t ever do this against God.”
And so day after day, I mean, imagine being nineteen years old, a young male, in a very difficult situation and some gal wants to have sex with you. I’m just telling you, most young men in that situation are saying, “That sounds like a good idea.”
But there is something about Joseph and his convictions. There’s something about Joseph - he is learning. There is something about Joseph understanding who has blessed his life. He resists and he resists. Finally, she ends up alone with him one time, as he is walking through the house. She grabs him, pulls him into the bedroom. He takes off his jacket, runs for his life, and then when Potiphar comes home, she says, “This Hebrew that you brought into our house tried to rape me.”
Well, Potiphar is very upset. And so Joseph is falsely accused of rape, by chapter 39, and then he is sent to prison unjustly. Now, does anybody have any situations in your life or people that you love where you have come from a dysfunctional family, you have suffered great rejection, you have been abandoned, you have been sold into slavery, falsely accused about something, or been in prison?
So, I’m trying to build the case that I don’t know what you have been through or I have been through but this guy probably has been through it in spades.
Finally, he is forgotten by a friend. And here’s where I’m going to have to ask you to read a little bit on your own to really enjoy the entire historical, truthful documentary movie that is placed in Genesis 37 through 40 because to get the feel of it, what you need to understand is that he is in this prison and while he is in prison, two of the king’s officials – a baker and a cupbearer – they both land in prison. They both have dreams.
They come to Joseph, they are totally distraught, and the cupbearer has a dream and Joseph interprets the dream and says, “In three days, you’re going to be restored to your position.” And the baker goes, “This guy is great with dreams. What do you think about my dream?” Joseph interprets his dream and he says, “In three days, you’re going to get your head cut off.” Both things come true.
And so Joseph says to the cupbearer, “Man, you have seen me. I’m innocent, I didn’t do any of this. When you get back to Pharaoh, put in a good word for me. I mean, come on, man, this is so unfair. I’m losing my youth… My dad, my brothers… I have been rejected at every level.” He’s probably now in his early to mid-twenties. This is so unjust and so unfair and he has been betrayed and rejected.
And the cupbearer gets so excited and is so faithful that he totally forgets him. In fact, Joseph is twenty-eight by this time. He has been in prison the better part of probably eight, nine years. And he is forgotten. Anybody ever have these kind of things happen to you? These are rocks.
If anyone endured evil in their lifetime, it was Joseph. Rejected, abandoned, falsely accused, a slave, imprisoned, forgotten. And yet, here’s the thing. Instead of it breaking him, it makes him. Very difficult, painful, especially unjust times. Especially when someone walks out on you, when someone lies to you, when someone betrays you, when someone abuses you. In most cases, it breaks a person.
They get bitter, they have unresolved emotional issues and social issues. Often they turn against people, or they turn against God. If you talk to people in recovery programs and alcoholic programs and drug rehab programs, what you find is they start telling their story, and they usually have one of these seven, or a handful of others. And yet, you find some people, they come through those things and it’s like it makes them. There is character and there is compassion and there is strength.
And what eventually happens is Pharaoh is going to have a dream. And his magicians can’t figure out what the dream is all about and the cupbearer has a moment where his amnesia goes away and he goes, “Oh! Hey, Pharaoh!” Because Pharaoh is getting a little angry about no one being able to answer this. And the cupbearer, having been in prison once, I think he’s thinking, “You know, I think we have a man who can solve this,” and he brings Joseph in front of him.
They give him a quick shave, literally, the text says. And he comes before Pharaoh, Pharaoh tells him his two dreams, Joseph accurately interprets both of the dreams. But in fact, when he does it, something has happened. See, Joseph was arrogant, narcissistic, “I’m the center of the world,” and now he has got his one window of time to get out of prison and Pharaoh says, “Joseph, I understand that you can interpret dreams.”
And he says, “Actually, Pharaoh, no one can do that.” And if you were watching a movie right now, you would say, “Joseph! You idiot! This was your chance! Don’t say that! Tell him you can do it!” And then his next line is, “Only God can.”
Now, think of that. There are all these gods of Egypt. He says, “Only the God, Yahweh, my God, only He can reveal these things.” So he has this amazing integrity.
And the Pharaoh is saying, “Well, my god and my magicians can’t pull it off. So tell me.” And he interprets both accurately and then the Pharaoh goes, “You know, you have the greatest discernment and wisdom…” and Joseph gives a recommendation because the dream is that there is going to be seven years of bounty followed by seven years of absolute famine that is going to destroy all the land and unless the king builds all these storehouses and saves the grain during the bounty years, Egypt and all the nations around it, is going to go down the tubes.
Well, he appoints Joseph to be second in command, he rules all of Egypt, and that’s how the story progresses.
A little bit later, what you’re going to find is, his brothers, because of the famine, don’t have any food and they are ready to die and, “Oh, hey, there’s food in Egypt,” and they will go up to Egypt and I wish we had time to get through this whole story.
And so they come up to Egypt and as they come up to Egypt, they don’t recognize Joseph. Because now he is in all Egyptian garb. The Pharaoh actually gave him a wife. And then he has had two children. And he is the second most powerful person in all the world. And Pharaoh basically saw the same thing as Potiphar. He said, “You know what? When this guy runs it, it goes great.”
Over and over, as you would read it a little bit later this week, this phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph,” is the theme of his life. In bad times and good times, the Lord was with Joseph. The thing is, when you look at his circumstances, you would say, I don’t think the Lord is with him.
If the Lord is with him, how did he end up in prison? If the Lord is with him, how did he get rejected? If the Lord is with him, how come he gets a raw deal? If the Lord is with him, then how come that cupbearer forgets?
Joseph, by faith, is going to trust that even though he can’t see it in his circumstances, “God really is with me,” and then notice how he responds. Let me give you an overview of his response.
His response to evil, first, he survived. And, by the way, when you go through a time like this, sometimes you get an A+ just for surviving. You have been abused, you come home and there is a note on the refrigerator and your mate has walked out, “I don’t love you anymore.”
You have been in a business relationship and you realize this good “Christian” business person that you have been in it with is also a good embezzler and he has left town and you have all the debt and then you’re just fuming.
Joseph learned a new language, he learned a new culture, and he went from being hyper-privileged to being a peasant. He survived.
The second thing he did is he thrived. He used his gifts where he was at. He ended up being the head of the prison. Everywhere he goes, he didn’t say, “Well, God has rejected me and the world has rejected me and life isn’t fair and I’m a victim and it’s so terrible and I’m just going to stay home and watch soap operas and eat chocolates.”
He took his gifts and he said, “You know, I can’t control that out there,” but his gifts of administration, his gifts of interpreting dreams, he jumps in and he thrives where he’s at. He does what he can, with what he has, and he doesn’t look at circumstances.
Third, he resisted. He refuses to bail out on God’s agenda for his life. You know, when you’re down, when you’re tired, when life is unfair, when you have been betrayed, what do you feel like doing? You feel like, “You know what? Maybe an extra glass of wine or two would make me feel a little bit better. You know, those prescriptions for those migraine headaches or for my back, but I get a little buzz and I feel depressed so I think I’ll take them when my back isn’t hurting!” That’s how it starts.
“You know, I’ve been walked out on and I don’t have anybody to be with and it can’t hurt to watch just a few little pictures.” But Joseph said, “Nuh-uh.” He resisted. No short cuts. “I’m going to honor God in the midst of the difficulty and the pain.”
And then notice he waited on God’s time and God’s place. And I hope, I really do hope that you will look at the whole movie later this week, because what you’ll see is, watch this, God had a really big, wonderful plan and since God is in absolute control, I’m going to get a little ahead of myself, but you have to hear this now, and God is all wise and God is caring and God is loving, when people try and wreck your life with their tiny, little, bad, evil plans, God takes them, refashions them, puts them back into the big, good plan, and He orchestrates even their bad stuff to bring about His highest, good stuff.