Sunday, February 12, 2012

Joseph in Genesis--Knowing Grief

I.  Joseph knew grief.
II.  Joseph knew God.
III.  Joseph knew grace.

Open your Bibles and turn to the Book of Genesis.  That's the last time I will be saying that for a while.  We are finishing up the book and that puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, which is actually appropriate for our topic today.  I'll try to explain.  It puts me at a disadvantage because I knew I wouldn't have a long time to preach this morning and so I am preaching a slightly abbreviated message and that's ok if we get to baptize someone.  But I'm also disadvantaged because I need to sum up the book while at the same time introducing a major character.

I said it is appropriate for me to be disadvantaged because that was something our character knew well.  In fact, he was disadvantaged while being in a well.  He was disadvantaged while being sold into slavery.  He was disadvantaged while being in prison.  He was disadvantaged for many years of his life.  Can you figure out who I am talking about?  Joseph.  Son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.

I'm sure most of you know his story already and since it covers more chapters than any other character in Genesis, we will not be reading the whole thing.  To say he was disadvantaged is quite the understatement.  I want to read a few passages to show show you first that, in fact, Joseph knew grief.

His story starts in chapter 37 where we meet him at the age of 17 and the favorite son of Jacob.  While Jacob did some things to bring out the worst in his brothers he is one of the few characters in the Bible that has no mention of him sinning.  I'm sure he did at some point but there is no mention of it.  In fact, there are many, many similarities between Joseph and Jesus Himself.  I won't go into all that but you might keep that in the back of your mind as we read.

In chapter 37 you can read where he has some dreams that make him look good and his family pretty bad.  He is then sent by his father to check on his brothers who are tending sheep and Joseph is wearing his fancy, schmancy coat that his father gave him.  Let's pick up in the middle of verse 17 where it says...  (read 17-20 and 23-24)

He didn't do anything wrong and yet his brothers hated him and threw him into a pit.  Joseph knew grief.  Joseph was then sold to some travelers who then sold him into slavery in Egypt.  He was taken from his home and his family and became a slave in the house of Potiphar, who was one of Pharoah's officials.  He worked hard, was obedient and made wise decisions and prospered there in Egypt until Potiphar's wife approached him one day.  In chapter 39 verses 7 & 8 it says...

He refused and so the wife made a false claim against Joseph and we see in verse 20 what happened.  Read  v.20.  Joseph knew grief.

While in prison, you probably remember that Joseph correctly interpreted dreams that the cup bearer and the baker had.  The dream the cupbearer had meant he would be restored to his former position working directly for Pharoah and so Joseph asked the man to remember him when he saw Pharoah.  In chapter 40, verse 23, though, it says...(read 23)  Joseph knew grief.

Years later pharoah himself had a dream and Joseph was finally asked to interpret and he did so correctly and so Pharoah appointed him to be second in command.  He again made wise decisions and was obedient and prospered in Egypt.  He prospered so much that his brothers came to him for food many years later.  They didn't recognize him but Joseph recognized them and after talking to them for a while it says in chapter 42, verse 24 that...

Joseph saw in his brothers all the years that had been wasted.  All the hurt.  All the pain.  He saw the grief in their own faces and he broke down and cried.  Joseph knew grief.

We see over and over again that Joseph well knew grief but that was not all he knew.  He also knew God.  He knew God because God was with him every step of the way.  When he was in the pit, God was with him.  In chapter 39 verse 2 it says that the Lord was with him in Potiphar's house.  In verse 21 it says that God was with him in prison.  The Lord was with him as Pharoah made him second in command and everything Joseph did prospered.  It was obvious that he knew God because in everything he did he gave God credit.

In chapter 41, verse 16 Joseph tells Pharoah, "I cannot do it but God will give the answer."  In chapter 45 verse 7 Joseph tells his brothers, "God sent me ahead of you to save your lives."  He always gave God the credit for everything good in his life and even though he knew grief intimately, he knew God and because he knew God, he also knew grace. 

Joseph knew grace.  He knew grace when his brothers didn't kill him.  He knew grace in Potiphar's house.  He knew it even in prison.  It even spilled out of Joseph's life and into the lives of his family.  Over and over again God showed Joseph grace.  Over and over again God proved Himself trustworthy.  It's the story of Joseph and it is the story of Genesis.  And you know what I am going to say.  It is the story of our lives as well.

Many of you are intimately familiar with grief.  You know it all too well.  Sometimes it is tempting to blame God for your grief.  Sometimes you wonder where He is or why He would allow you to go through such a thing.  Turn to the last chapter of Genesis.  Let's all read what Joseph tells his brothers years later in chapter 50, verse 20.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
I can't explain why we all have to go through grief, discouragement, heartbreak and pain.  We all go through it though.  Job 14:1 says, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble."  And no matter what happens or why it happens, God is there.  The same God that Abe, Isaac and Jacob served.  The same God of Joseph, the same God of David, Paul, Peter and John is there with you waiting to show you grace.  Do you know Him today?

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