Summary: This sermon deals with the situational irony in the life of Joseph.
The workweek seems to have more hours in it than it used to have. A housewife with three children she adores becomes tired, exhausted, and wondering why she ever married in the first place.
A healthy, robust man suddenly becomes ill and has to be rushed to the nearest hospital for evaluation and a week-long stay. College students just beginning what will be a four-to-six-year stretch of going to classes, listening to lectures, taking tests, and trying to squeeze in hours for a social life that appears virtually non-existent regrets the day of enrolling at college. The scenarios are as many and as varied as there are people in the world. The common link with all these folk rests in the presence of bad situations that cause anxiety and frustration.
Joseph in the Book of Genesis could fit right in with modern man’s constant barrage of problems and difficulties. Joseph was a dreamer, an idealist, and an optimist whose cheery personality and positive approach to life aggravated his jealous brothers. The brothers saw Joseph dressed in the coat of many colors that his father had made for him; they were outraged at the love Joseph seemed to be receiving and the neglect that they seemed to be experiencing.
So, Genesis tells us, they physically overpowered Joseph and threw him into a pit where he was later found and sold into Midianite or Egyptian servitude. The fellow with all the breaks in life became a broken man – the bad intentions of his brothers catapulted him into a life of imprisonment – especially after Potiphar’s wife (Potiphar was the ruler of the land of Egypt) falsely accused Joseph of molesting her. Through the dreamer’s ability to interpret dreams by the power of god, Joseph was released from jail and became second in command in Potiphar’s regime. Through his newly-acquired position, Joseph helped Potiphar and Egypt during a time of extreme famine. Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt in hopes of securing food that could be puchaed and stored for their survival – totally unaware that Joseph was still alive and certainly unaware of his royal status.
Through a paln that Joseph developed, all his brothers – and his aged father – were brought before him and the secret that Joseph was still alive became known. Near the end of Genesis, Joseph says these words in chapter 50, verse 20 (to his brothers): “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is in this day, to save much people alive.” Bad intentions were changed into wonderful blessings.
Now, how does this story have relevance today?
This story shows that God’s people undergo hardships that often come as a result of circumstances beyond their control. People who love God are not immune to troubled marriages, divorce proceedings, rebellious children, job and financial pressures, and poor health. One could say that evil seems to intend that God’s people suffer. Even Jesus Christ, God’s Son, had to die on a cross to redeem sinful mankind and to shed His actual blood for our salvation.
Many times good people appear to suffer more intensely others who claim no religious faith or who never go to a church unless a death in the family necessitates their presence. Like Joseph, they dream of better times; also, like Joseph, they face the world when life becomes cruel and everyone seems to be elsewhere. Such problems come to the best of God’s servants.
This story also indicates though trouble exists for the believer in God, there exists a redemptive purpose as a result. Joseph’s testimony in Genesis 50:20 affirms that an all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present God had taken notice about what was happening to Joseph. God was not taken by surprise by the bad intentions Joseph’s brothers had - nor was He shocked to see Joseph going from pit to prison to Potiphar’s palace. God has not changed in power, presence, purpose, or potential since the days of Joseph.
Just as He brought Joseph out of trouble, just as He brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, and just as He delivered the only Son He ever had out of a grave three days after Jesus’ death, so God will redeem the situations of life that trouble and torment His children to the point of exasperation, fear, dread, and despair.
God sees the housewife whose three kids make her happy and yet worn-out at the same time. God is aware of the healthy fellow who enters into a hospital in fear of losing his health. God knows the feelings of a college student with too many classes and not enough hours in the day to work, study, and socialize. He sees the infant, the child, the teenager, the young adult, the middle-ager, and the elderly – none of their plights escapes His eyesight or His concern or His power to deliver them from the forces that oppress them.