We pick back up from last week and the story of a boy named Joseph. Joseph is the story of one, who according to Joey Nelson in his sermon Life of Joseph, “who had no supernatural strength. He had no halos. He never performed miracles. But he had a great heart of grace.”
Joseph is often maligned as a spoiled brat who instigated division and used his “favorite son” status to needle his siblings, but I respectfully disagree. Maybe it is just my merciful spirit but I think he gets a bad rap for being young and immature. (Grace is believing others are doing the best they can with what they know; the Grace of God is Him seeing us as we will become, not as we are!) Our look at Joseph’s many time outs begins when he is seventeen years old. I mean, really, a seventeen year old boy who through no fault of his own is favored by a father who had waited a very long time to have this child with the love of his life, Rachel. This same father named him Joseph, which means “may God add another son.” Joseph has barely taken his first breath and his dad is looking forward to another son. Jacob struggled with being satisfied. Jacob the father of Joseph struggled with the internal condition of his heart (his name meant supplanter) always wanting more, and Joseph will struggle with external conditions of mistreatment and life circumstances. I personally believe this young man was doing the best he knew how to do with what he knew. For example: He had dreams he shared with who else, his family! But his family immediately sees these are not your ordinary, everyday dreams, but of a prophetic nature and they do NOT like the implications. Ok, so think back to when you were seventeen…..would you have had the discretion to “keep it to yourself?” Me either! Does this dysfunctional family make yours not appear quite so dysfunctional? If this was all they did, maybe so but these brothers of his were a hateful bunch. No matter how much we argued, my siblings did not throw me in a well, sell me, and then tell my parents, “oops, she died.”
Joseph will spend the best years of his young life in a God ordained and orchestrated time out for doing absolutely nothing wrong! What’s up with that? He suffered rejection, false accusation, and he totally lacked understanding of why God would allow this in his life. At seventeen he is sold into slavery by jealous and spiteful brothers.. From favored son to a slave, would you call this a good thing?
One phrase that is repeated over and over in Genesis chapters 37-50 is “The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served.” (NLT) Despite his mistreatment, God honored him with favor in a foreign land, among foreign people because Joseph accepted his plight and made the best of the situation by giving it his best effort and it was noticed and he was honored for this behavior. He gained the trust of those he served and he was promoted to positions of honor and importance.
Then, once more Joseph is cast into a deeper timeout. The first time out he goes from favored son to slave but this time he goes from favored slave to prisoner of Pharaoh because he did the RIGHT thing! How does this happen? Jealousy, scorn, quilt, all projected on the innocent. Where is God in this?
The story of Joseph’s life proves that our God is right smack in the middle of it. One commentator suggested that Satan and the LORD had a conversation about Joseph much like the one they had concerning Job. That sounds pretty reasonable to me. Satan on a leash reeking havoc in the lives of God’s people. God’s people totally unaware that our God is making sure His people are cared for and the covenant will be fulfilled! God used all of Joseph’s time outs to refine his character into the image of grace and forgiveness. Not once in the story of Joseph do we see him ever desiring to retaliate against those who have harmed him. Joseph offered to others what was not offered to him–GRACE and forgiveness.
Are you in a time out and you do not know of one thing you have done intentionally wrong or because you chose to do the right thing? Yes, it feels terribly wrong! Yes, it seems unfair. Yes, you wonder if you will ever be vindicated. Yes, it would be easy to become bitter. Yes, some would turn away from God because He did not do what we presume He should have done. Can we together learn a valuable lesson from the life of Joseph?
Joseph was a young boy when his dad Jacob became Israel after an all night encounter with the LORD. Joseph had lessons in life his older brothers did not have as young boys and the impact on his life was tremendous. His time spent tending the sheep taught him lessons in care and compassion and patience and meditation. Joseph’s character was refined in the fire of adversity. His life became a shining example of what is possible when we trust the LORD with our tomorrows.
Malachi 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,
Genesis 45:5-8 sums up the reason God the Father allowed these time outs that seemed so unjust in this way:
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (KJV)
The Sovereignty of our God is on display in the life of Joseph and all that our God does is for our good and His glory! Is God on display in your life? Can we apply the lesson of Joseph’s life to our own and make the decision to trust God with tomorrow no matter how bad today looks? Can we forgive others before forgiveness is sought? Notice Joseph did not go running back home even when he could have to seek out those who rejected him. He WAITED on God. Was this a natural inclination? I do not think so. Joseph had a unique gift for fixing problems and handling situations. To sit back and trust God with a family reunion knowing his father was old could not have been an easy decision. Joseph was accepting of where God placed him in time. Joseph was sent to Egypt for such a time as this (famine) and because he was faithful, the covenant people were preserved and God’s plan of redemption for the whole of mankind would be accomplished.
If you are like me, a rejection timeout is painful! To be falsely accused brings out our warrior spirit and we are ready to defend ourselves. The Word tells us in II Chronicles 20:17, Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.
At some point in life, we may all face a timeout that is not of our own making. May we see it in a different light as we move forward and rest in the LORD and trust His divine providence in our life and the life of those we love. By waiting on God, Joseph’s reunion with his family was a holy moment. I could use more of those in my life. How about you?
I will praise Him, still by Fernado Ortega