Joseph – Keys to Spiritual Authority
2nd in a Series of Messages to Young People
So Pharaoh asked them, "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God ?" Genesis 41:38.
With these words came the most amazing promotion anyone can imagine. Joseph was transported from being a prisoner to the top man in the nation of Egypt, next to the Pharaoh himself. Joseph did more than climb the ladder of success. He bypassed all the rungs and went from the bottom to the top almost overnight. How did he do this? What could possibly prompt an ancient pagan monarch to recognize the spirit of God in a man whom he had never met before?
In the first message of this series on the life of Joseph, we looked at the importance of God – given dreams. Every young person needs to understand that God does have a prescribed plan for his or her life. It is never too early to ask God to reveal his will for your life. It is my intention in this series of messages to encourage you to follow the dream that God gives you.
Success is never automatic. I remember my father, who is now with the Lord, saying that talent is just another name for hard work. Most people who succeed worked hard to attain their success. To succeed in the Kingdom of God also requires diligence and hard work. It also requires a great deal of faith, for success with God is not measured by the same standards the world uses.
In this message, I will focus on three very important principles that Joseph employed in his life that caused his eventual rise to prominence and authority. These principles are taught throughout the Bible and apply to us today.
Spiritual Covering – Learning a life of submission
When we last looked at the life of Joseph we noted the significance of his splendid coat of many colours. It was a gift from his father and is a type of the covering that we receive from our heavenly Father when we receive the gift of his Son. Jesus covers us in his righteousness lifting us from sin to sonship. Our identities change as a result of his covering.
The idea of “covering” is found throughout the Bible. It symbolizes dependence through submission and without it we are very vulnerable to Satan and his attacks against us.
In the Book of Ruth, a book sometimes referred to as “the romance of redemption”, there is an incident where Ruth stealthily lays at the feet of the man who would one day be her husband. The man’s name was Boaz and during the barley harvest, which demanded his full attention, he slept in the barn. Very quietly Ruth sneaked into the barn and proceeded to lie down at his feet. Here is how the Bible describes this event:
One day Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? Is not Boaz, with whose servant girls you have been, a kinsman of ours? Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do." "I will do whatever you say," Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." "The LORD bless you, my daughter," he replied. "This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and finding a beautiful woman lying at your feet! That’s what happened to Boaz, and at first glance one might think of Ruth as being a seductress. However, that was not the case. By asking Baoz to cover her with his garment Ruth was asking him to marry her. Ruth’s former husband had died and afterward Ruth moved to Israel with her mother in law, Naomi. It was the custom in Israel for a kinsman to marry a widow in order to preserve the family name and inheritance. Ruth, who had no right to ask for marriage since she was a foreigner, took a great step of faith when she lay at the feet of Boaz. Boaz could have accused her of immorality and made things very difficult for her. Instead, in a spirit of love so similar to that of our Lord’s love for us, Boaz left his barley harvest to attend to the more important business of obtaining Ruth as his wife. Ruth’s act of submission changed her life forever and it was for the good.
Here then are two stories that signify the idea of submission by covering. The first was Joseph’s coat and the second is the garment of Boaz.
In the life of Joseph we see a man who understood submission to those who had authority over him. While he was a boy, Joseph submitted to his father who in turn loved him very much. Later while in Egypt, Potipher promoted Joseph because he knew he could trust him. He knew Joseph would never betray the trust he had received. Even self-gratification could not lure Joseph away from that place of respect for the authority he was under.
The same was true when the keeper of the prison promoted Joseph. This man was willing to bet his life on Joseph’s faithfulness to submit to him for if Joseph ever took advantage of the position he was given and used it as a means of escape, the keeper of the prison could very easily have been executed.
Then came the moment of greatest promotion for Joseph. The Pharaoh himself, the king of Egypt, made Joseph his Prime Minister after Joseph interpreted his dreams. Joseph maintained a life of submission, never abusing the trust placed in him and through this he became the instrument whereby thousands were spared from a horrible death that would have befallen them through famine.
To rise to a place of great spiritual authority, one must be in submission to the authorities under which God places him or her. In the life of Jesus there was an incident that demonstrates this principle so clearly. It is the story of the healing of the Centurions servant. Here is how the Bible describes what took place:
Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ’Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ’Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ’Do this,’ and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
Jesus honoured this man’s faith and the servant was healed. Notice what the centurion said; “I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me”. To have authority, one must be under authority. This is a key principle in the kingdom of God.
There are five main areas where God asks us to submit to authority he has placed over us.
First, is submission to Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ”. In that text Paul referred to headship as an ordinance or a tradition that must be observed. Paul stated that Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23) and he asked the church to recognize this fact and live in submission to Christ.
Second, we are to submit to our parents. Paul said,
“ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1.
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Obeying parents is not something young people always like to do. Your parents might ask you to stay at home and study or do some work when you want to be with your friends and have fun. If you refuse to accept the authority of your parents then you are actually refusing to accept God’s authority, for it is God who gives authority to parents. Some may ask, “What do I do if my parents are abusive and cruel, am I still to submit to them?” If that is the case, I suggest that you seek the counsel of a your pastor.
Third, God asks us to submit to civil authority. The apostle Paul wrote:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:1-3
This means that we need to obey the laws of our country and this includes things like speed limits and other traffic laws. Some Christians believe there are no consequences to speeding and believe they “can get away with it”. But, when we disobey traffic laws or any other civil law, we are disobeying God.
The fourth area of submission is to those who we work for. Peter wrote:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 1 Peter 2:18
In Bible days slavery was practiced in a way that was somewhat different than what we usually think of when we think of slavery. Some people entered into slavery willingly as a way to pay their debts. Some translations use the word “servant” instead of “slave”. The principle Peter sets before us is that we are to submit to those who are over us when it comes to our employment. It does not honour God when we cheat or do not give an honest days work for the pay we receive. This same principle applies to students. God asks you to honour your teachers by showing them respect and doing the work they ask us to do. This is an important area of submission.
Fifth, God asks us to submit to spiritual authority. The Book of Hebrews states:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17
God has placed pastors, elders and other leaders in the church for important reasons. Learn to appreciate them and respect them. Do not disregard the things they say and the influence they try to have in your life. Many have dishonoured spiritual leaders by speaking against them or complaining about them (usually when they are not present) and this causes a great deal of spiritual damage in a church. Submission to spiritual authority is an important key to success.
Joseph honoured every person that God placed over him. He honoured his father, which God said is very important. One of the Ten Commandments is:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12
Some Christian young people think they can disobey their parents and dishonour them by insisting on having their own way. When young people do this they are adopting into their lives patterns that will be repeated in other relationships and prevent them from realizing the dream God has given them for their life.
In the Book of Proverbs we read:
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs 1:8
In the life of Joseph we observe a man who honoured everyone in his life. Even his brothers who hated him and sold him into slavery were one day honoured by Joseph. We live in a world where contempt is very common. Contempt is shown for people who are not as smart, have different colour skin, are of the opposite sex, who make mistakes and for a host of other reasons. It is common to show contempt for those in positions of authority. The person who learns how to honour and respect others is the kind of person God is looking for to use in his kingdom.
Joseph learned submission. He never complained no matter how difficult his circumstances were. He learned to honour those who were over him, even those who treated him cruelly. In these and in so many other respects, Joseph was like Jesus.
To do all he did, Joseph had to have great faith. The writer of the Book of Hebrews, when giving his roll call of the heroes of faith that serve as examples to the church said this about Joseph.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. Hebrews 11:22
Though Joseph was very successful in Egypt and had become its Prime Minister he knew that God’s purposes were greater. God had a chosen people and it was this group that commanded Joseph’s greatest loyalty. Joseph’s faith was in God and not in Egypt.
How many times, I wonder, would most people have given up if they were called upon to endure all that Joseph endured. Life is full of processes that God allows us to go through that refine us and make us better Christians, more able to fulfill the will of God.
I remember when I first started training to be a pilot. I was a young pastor and lived in Labrador in the north east part of Canada. The church purchased a bush plane to be used for outreach in parts of the region where there were no churches of any kind so I needed to learn to fly. On my very first lesson the flight instructor directed me to sit in the left seat in the cockpit, the seat where the pilot in command sits. I protested, saying I was not ready since I knew very little about airplanes. Nevertheless, I was required to do what the instructor asked. It was frightening for me and yet this is how I learned to fly. Looking back, I see the wisdom in the method that was used. Sometimes we can do more than we think we can. The truth was, the instructor was in control at all times and there was never any danger that arose from me sitting where I did.
The same is true for all that pursue the will of God. At times you might feel alone and uncertain. The challenges are greater than you ever imagined they would be. Joseph must have felt this way many times. The truth is; God is never far away and he is in control. Don’t be afraid to take steps of faith, even if they seem to you to be giant ones. God will never let you down!
God bless you!
Messaged preached to young people at
Emmanuel English Church, Hong Kong
By Bruce Morrison, pastor
May 25, 2003