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Tag Archives: Faith

Joseph’s Brothers In Egypt

“And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” (Genesis 42:6)

With the arrival of Joseph’s brothers in Egypt, there is a literal fulfillment of the prophecy Joseph gave back in Genesis 37:7. The brethren fall down and bow before their brother, for he is the viceroy over all the land. The prophecy has been fulfilled, Joseph has been elevated to a position of power, and his brothers have been humbled in his sight. But strangely enough, Joseph chooses not to reveal who he truly is to them at this time. Rather than identifying himself to them and seeking a peaceful reconciliation (or else exacting retribution for their treacherous deeds), Joseph conceals the fact that the man who they supposed was long since dead is the same one seated upon the throne before them and speaking through an interpreter.

What follows over the course of the next few chapters might seem to be a very peculiar and capricious way for Joseph to deal with his brothers: the one moment accusing them of espionage, the next lavishing gifts upon them; at once locking them away in prison, only to quickly set most of them at liberty. What exactly was Joseph attempting to accomplish through all of this? First of all, there can be no doubt that God Himself was guiding Joseph’s decisions through this entire ordeal. God had a definite purpose for each and every one of the actions Joseph would take. Secondly, we understand that Joseph’s harsh treatment was the most expedient method for convincing the brothers to bring Benjamin into Egypt. And thirdly, had Joseph revealed himself immediately, it is very likely that the brothers would have never returned at all after this first visit. We learn later that they continued to fear the prospect of Joseph seeking revenge against them, even until the end of their lives (Gen. 45:3, 50:15). Perhaps a fear for their own safety would have prevented them from returning again once they had made it back home to Canaan.

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” (Genesis 42:21)

As we begin to consider the specific details surrounding Joseph’s dealings with his brothers, much about it seems very familiar. The locking away in prison, the “sacrifice” of the younger brother, the adoration for one brother (Benjamin) above the others are all staggeringly similar to events which we have already read. Many people today reject the idea of “what goes around comes around”, or “as a man soweth, that shall he also reap”, but the sons of Jacob obviously did not. Their assumption concerning the treatment given to them is that they have fallen under the judgment of God. They believed that what had come upon them was a direct consequence for what they had earlier done to Joseph.

So what was the purpose that God was accomplishing in the lives of these men? We learn later that this was not a judgment upon them, so what was it? It is an often visited theme in Scripture, as well as a reality in the lives of many believers, that the Lord will bring us to a place of testing precisely at a point wherein we have failed before. So many times, to our own horror, circumstances will line up in such a way that we are brought face-to-face with a situation similar to one which previously resulted in sin and failure. We sometimes find ourselves again in a place marked by our own sinfulness and shame. But God does not allow us to re-enter such predicaments that we might fail again, but that we might do what is right. For a second time, the precious life of Jacob’s most beloved son is in the hands of his eldest ten sons; how will they respond?

The testing that the brothers will undergo is so that Joseph might know if these men had changed since the time they dealt so wickedly with him, and so that the brothers themselves would know if they were any different. This time of trial was for the benefit of the sons of Jacob, but not God. God knew what the outcome would be; our testing is never for Him to learn something about our character, but for us to learn something about His. We never truly know the strength and vitality of our faith until it is tested.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Joseph In Prison

“And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” (Genesis 40:8)

To be completely honest, I prefer Chapter 41 of Genesis over Chapter 40. Chapter 41 is a reassuring portrait of justice being meted out in the life of Joseph; it is a perfect picture of God rewarding His own faithful servant and lifting him from the depths of an Egyptian prison cell to the second most powerful position in all of the land. It is that blissfully comforting resolution which is common in all of our favorite stories (fiction and factual) and the ending that we all so wistfully yearn for at the turning points in our own lives. But Joseph is not a remarkable man because he knows how to trust God while seated on a throne beside Pharaoh, but because he knows how to trust God while chained to the wall of a prison cell.

Joseph is just as aware that he has been placed exactly where God wants him in the bowels of Pharaoh’s dungeon as he will later be in the majesty of Pharaoh’s court. Like the Apostle Paul will declare centuries later, Joseph is able at the end of his own life to declare without pretension that he, too, knows how both to be abased and to abound (Phil. 4:12). It is the rarest of faith that is not content to simmer in the recesses of the soul during seasons of trial, compelling the suffering servant to remain silent around others about his beliefs until his trust in God is visibly vindicated. Joseph’s is not a faith barely hanging on as it so often feels when we face our own darkest hours, but a vivacious and exuberant trust in the Living God.

That he remains ever cheerful even in the confines of incarceration is evidenced by Joseph’s heartfelt concern for his temporary companions as he is moved by their dampened demeanor on the morning following their revelatory dreams. “Wherefore look ye so sadly today?”, he inquires (v. 7). Such a question posed to men in a desperately hopeless situation who know nothing of the Providence of God must, in itself, seem peculiar at best. Nevertheless, the chief butler and the chief baker share their concerns with the chief trustee of Pharaoh’s prison. “We have dreamed a dream“, they lament, “and there is no interpreter of it.” Joseph’s response, in light of all that he has gone through hitherto, is extraordinary: “Do not interpretations belong to God?…”

It was not very difficult to stand as a faithful witness of God’s goodness and glory adorned in the coat of many colors and living in the warmth and safety of his father’s house, but what about in the prison cell? Joseph continues to glorify God and tell others about Him even as his own circumstances appear to be deteriorating beyond hope. What must the butler and baker have thought about this young Hebrew and his talk of a foreign God Who alone possesses the answers to the questions of the heart? It must not have appeared to them that God was doing much in this man’s life. But Joseph praised God and gave glory to Him, nonetheless. Going all the way back to the days of Job, it has always been the tendency of man to view a person’s circumstances as an indication of whether or not God’s favor rested upon them. Even to this day, there are those who proclaim a person’s prosperity is in direct proportion to the strength of their faith. Yet Joseph certainly lacked no faith and more dire circumstances for him can scarcely be imagined. Joseph understood that those who will serve God must yield themselves to be used for His purposes and for His good pleasure, not their own. Regardless of the situation, Joseph knew that God was causing all things to work in his best interests according to His own purposes (Rom. 8:28).

“And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.” (Mark 15:28)

Finally, we see even in this hour of Joseph’s life further similarities between him and the Lord Jesus Christ. Although guiltless, Joseph finds himself in the same predicament as two malefactors. To the one he proclaims deliverance and redemption, to the other judgment and condemnation. Yet Joseph will not arrive in Paradise on that same day with the chief butler but must await God’s perfect timing to see his own redemption. Joseph’s work is not finished, for he has yet another dream which must be interpreted. Although Joseph is unwaveringly faithful in his service to God, it pleases the Lord to leave him right where he is until such time that his path will cross that of none other than Pharaoh himself.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 1, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Joseph In Egypt

“And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (Genesis 39:2)

I wonder if anyone would ever suspect that the Lord was with Joseph if we were not specifically told so in Genesis 39:2? The song “Go, Go, Go Joseph” from the campy Broadway musical, “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” offers the encouraging words as the protagonist languishes away in prison: “Don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop, we’ve read the Book and you come out on top.” Sometimes, it is all too easy looking backward through history from our vantage point to forget the uncertainty of events for those who lived through them.

But as we read on into the saga of Joseph, it becomes clearer and clearer that he was an extraordinary man. When we first met him, he was a young boy of 17 years, untried and untouched by the tragedies and injustices of life. Perhaps a bit naive, Joseph possessed the innocence that we all did at one point or another; an innocence of youth that is unsullied by the bitterness which proceeds from discouragement and so often tries to creep into our hearts. Joseph dreamed big dreams and entertained lofty hopes, but character untested is no character at all. Now the trials begin to come like so many raindrops; first pattering lightly and sporadically before crescendoing into a downpour of utter misfortune.
Yet written across the cruel and unjust events of Joseph’s life are the words: “The Lord was with him.” This simple statement gives meaning and purpose to the most horrific of circumstances and lends hope during the most desperate hours. Joseph was cast into a pit by his brothers, then pulled out only to be sold into slavery, then cast into prison. How many of us would resign ourselves to an inconsolable despair in the face of such circumstances? For it seems that just as a ray of light begins to shine through the darkness surrounding Joseph, it is quickly snuffed out and the latter condition is worse than the former. But in all of these things, the Lord was with him.
Sprinkled throughout the narrative and bookending Joseph’s tragedies are the tell-tale signs of a life empowered by the Spirit of God. Joseph does not serve Potiphar for long before the fact that God is with the young Hebrew becomes apparent to his master. Consequently, Joseph is elevated to a position of great authority. The same thing happens again when Joseph is cast into prison (Gen. 39:21-22). Wherever Joseph finds himself, God is there with him — and those around him see this. Joseph’s story is a profound reminder of God’s ability to manipulate our circumstances in order to bring about His purposes in our lives. It may seem to the human eye that Joseph is slipping further and further into a bleak chasm of desperation, but God is merely getting him closer and closer to the exalted position of service that he will one day find himself in.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
The account of the despicable accusation brought against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife reveals to us even more admirable traits in the character of Joseph. It is ironic how the manner in which one responds to being falsely accused of the most contemptible behavior can speak volumes in vindicating their dignity. It is within our nature to, when falsely accused, protest with the greatest vehemence we can possibly muster. Our tendency is to strive to make certain that our plea of innocence has not been overlooked nor misunderstood. But the silence of Joseph in the face of such heinous charges being brought against him points steadfastly at the Lord Jesus’ response in the presence of the Sanhedrin and later before Pilate. Perhaps Joseph, out of respect and gratitude for Potiphar’s kindness toward him, is unwilling to bring scandal upon his household. That Potiphar was likely already aware of his wife’s adulterous tendencies is evidenced by the relatively lenient punishment that Joseph receives at his hands. Would any other slave have likely escaped with his life had their master been so powerful a man in the government of Egypt? Or perhaps it was the impression left on Joseph’s heart by the Lord that compelled him to bear this injustice knowing that God desired to bring about a greater good from it. As our Lord knew that the Cross lay in the path that led Him in obedience to the will of the Father, so, too, was Joseph aware that the way to being lifted up before God was through humility and death to self. He knew not how nor why, but Joseph knew that the dungeon of Pharaoh was just as much a part of God’s plans for him as the pit in Dothan and the slave caravan of the Ismaelites had been.
And where do you find yourself, child of God? Whatever valley you are passing through, whatever ditch you have been thrown into, is the Lord not with you even there? Is not even the despair of this very hour a part of God’s plan for you? Oh, but that we could know the end from the beginning, if only we were privy to knowing all the details of the book that is written about our own lives! Would we not see as Joseph did that God intended for good even those things which were done to us for evil (Gen. 50:20)?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 22, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Jacob Mourns Joseph

“And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35)

Something is strangely familiar about the scene of the sons of Jacob presenting the blood-stained coat of many colors to their father. A deliberate misidentification, a tricked father, even the scent of goat that lingered on the coat. The incident bears a striking resemblance to the deception of Isaac by Jacob himself carried out so many years prior and recorded in Genesis 27. This time, Jacob is on the receiving end of the deception and he is the one being tricked into believing his own son has been killed by wild animals. The Scriptural law of reaping and sowing is a recurring theme throughout the Book of Genesis. Jacob had dealt dishonestly with his father, and now his sons are dealing the same way with him. That no one ultimately gets away with their sinfulness is a lesson in this book that cannot be missed.

Before moving on to Chapter 38, we notice the condition in which Jacob is left after hearing the news of Joseph’s supposed demise. “For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning“, he laments. He is obviously absolutely devastated by the report of his dearest son’s death and remains completely inconsolable.

The loss of a child is an incomparable tragedy for any parent to go through. Regardless of the age, no parent is ever prepared to outlive their own children. Those who have endured such a horrific loss can certainly sympathize with what Jacob must have been going through. Yet it is at times such as these that we are all reminded of the hope that we have in the Lord. Paul encouraged the Church at Thessalonica:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

This is not to say that grieving does not have its place, but we are not to grieve as the world grieves. Of course, it was appropriate for Jacob to mourn the loss of his son, but to conclude that his own life was now without worth seems to be grieving like those who are without hope. We all may feel such a sense of devastation to one degree or another, especially when the wounds of our loss are still new. But the time comes when we must lay the burden of our grief in the loving hands of our precious Savior. The time comes when we must look to Him to show us the way to carry onward; to continue to live the life that He has called us to live.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 12, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Jacob Returns To Bethel

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” (Genesis 35:1)

Few things are as moving and touching as seeing a person surrender themselves to God for the very first time. To make a decision once and for all that they are going to put their faith in the Living God Who loves them and making Him their Lord. In that moment of pure and genuine devotion, we behold the end of one way of life and the beginning of a new. That person is born again in a moment of time and they become a new creation who has never before lived.

Yet those of us who have at one time stood in their shoes know that this is not the end of God’s work in their life, only the beginning. We know that the journey is just starting out and that a lifetime of growth, sometimes very painful growth, awaits them. We are overjoyed by the heartfelt words of a new child of God: declaring and vowing what wondrous things they will do for their newfound Savior. Such powerful zeal and emotion touches us deeply and inspires excitement in our own hearts toward the service of our Heavenly Father. But with this excitement comes the memories of what things we experienced between that moment of first commitment and the place where we now stand.

Few of us have any real understanding whatsoever when we become saved of just how much our commitment to Jesus Christ will cost us. The expression Death To Self seems to be more of a pious axiom than an actual process which God will require us to undergo. Not that we would hesitate for an instant to agree to even the harshest terms of surrender to the Lord at the moment of our re-birth; so great is the power of God’s Spirit upon our hearts at that time. But it is the very rare Christian who can accurately see exactly what things stand between where he is and where God wants him in that blissful hour he first believes.

Jacob, or rather Israel, walked now as a broken man. Since that fateful night beside the Brook Jabbok, where he wrestled with the Lord until daybreak, he had learned to trust in God’s strength rather than his own. Without a doubt, he walked away from that place the next morning a changed man. But there remained some things in Jacob’s life and things which he tolerated in the lives of those in his household which kept him from the fellowship and walk with God that the Lord intended. They were things which were keeping him from being the person God had called him to be. So the Lord called to him again telling him to return to Bethel; to return to where he had first encountered God. Jacob and his family put aside those things that were standing between them and God and went to where the Lord was telling them to go.

God calls all of His children back to Bethel at one point or another. But we, like Jacob, must leave some things behind when we answer that call. When the Lord calls each of us into a closer fellowship with Him, when He calls us to walk nearer to Him, when He draws us into a deeper communion with Himself, we, too, must respond as Jacob did. Let’s take a closer look at what he did:

Going Back To The Beginning

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” (Genesis 35:1)

It is significant that God is calling Jacob back to where he first encountered Him. Go back to the beginning, He is telling him. So often we feel that we must press ever forward; to go to new places and try new techniques, new programs in order to come closer to God. But God desires a purity of faith and a contrition of heart, a “childlike faith” like we had when we first met Him. Jacob vowed a vow that first morning in Bethel, so many years ago, after his dream of the ladder (Gen. 28:20-21). The Lord shall be my God, he promised, if He takes care of me. Well, God had certainly taken care of Jacob. The time had come for Jacob to make God his Lord indeed.

Putting Away The Strange Gods

“Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:” (Genesis 35:2)

Jacob himself does not seem to have been indulging in the worship of idols, but he tolerated it in his household. We know that Rachel had brought her father Laban’s idols with her when they left Haran (Gen. 31:19) and, judging by what Jacob says here, it seems that he found out about it eventually. Why did he allow the idols to stay? The first step in coming closer to God is the laying aside of everything which competes with Him for our affection. We may not worship “images” like Jacob’s household did, but what things do we tolerate in our own lives which compete for the love and devotion which rightfully belongs to God alone? What strange gods do we bow our own knees to? Possessions, money, lust? We can never walk in the place where God wants us until we lay those “gods” aside.

Being Clean

The next step is being washed clean from the sins which ensnare us. Jacob tells his company after instructing them to rid themselves of their foreign idols to be clean. James tells us in the same context of submitting to God and drawing near to Him to: Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (James 4:8). We simply cannot come closer to God without being cleansed from sin. We cannot walk nearer to Him and continue to walk in sin. We must be clean before we can enjoy fellowship with God.

Changing Our Garments

Be clean and change your garments, Jacob instructs his household. Our garments, our clothes, refer to our daily practices and our way of life. Our clothes identify who we are and what we do. There are some things we are doing that must change before we can come closer to God. Our habits, routines, and day-to-day activities must be conformed to what pleases Him. There are some things that we must stop doing and other things we must start doing if we are going to live a life truly pleasing to God. Not only must we ourselves be clean, but our clothes must be too.

Recognizing And Honoring God

“And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” (Genesis 35:3)

Jacob is giving glory to God and making plans to build an altar honoring Him. We cannot walk near the Lord until we learn to recognize Him for Who He is and honor Him accordingly. Jacob did not complain about the 20 wasted years in Haran and how mean Uncle Laban was to him. He did not talk about his regrets over the misfortunes of his life, no, he praised the God Who was “with me in the way which I went.” To be able to recognize that we have never taken a step which God did not have His hand upon us is to give the Lord the glory that He deserves. We are not going to fellowship with Him if we are not praising Him.

Burying The Earrings

“And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.” (Genesis 35:4)

Earrings in the Bible symbolize idolatry, but they also symbolize slavery. Deuteronomy 15, speaking of master/slave relationships under the Law of Moses, gives a stipulation whereby a slave who loves their master may indenture themselves voluntarily to them forever (Deut. 15:16-17). A slave volunteering to remain with his master was to be marked in his ear and this earring would be a sign of whom he belonged to. When the members of Jacob’s household relinquished their earrings to him, they were declaring that they were no longer beholden to the false idols they had been serving. They were changing their allegiance from the “gods” they served to the living God. They would belong to God alone henceforth.

So must we do in order to walk in fellowship with the Lord. We cannot wear the earring of another “master” and walk in service to God. The household of Jacob did not just put their idols and earrings in their back pocket, nor did they pack them away in their luggage before the trip. They let go of them and they were buried away out of their sight. The break was clean and, for all intents and purposes, irreversible. The time had come when they must choose who they would serve and which god they would worship. Just as the children of Israel would be compelled to do hundreds of years later at the word of Elijah (1 Kings 18:21), the household of Jacob could not stride the fence any longer: they had to decide who would be their god.

God is calling all of those who belong to Him to walk with Him and fellowship with Him. But we must put away our own strange gods, be clean, change our garments, honor and recognize God for Who He is, and bury the earrings which marked us as slaves to another. When we do this, we can return to Bethel like Jacob did and meet God in that spiritual place where we first encountered Him.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published July 29, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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