Summary: Why did God allow Joseph to suffer as he did? Why not show his love for this great hero of the faith by removing him from all the difficulties of life?
OPEN: When I was taking my kids home from King’s Island (an amusement park in southern Ohio) yesterday we were listening to a Country Music station that was playing a popular song by a group named “Ricochet”.
The song told the story of a man who was sitting in church when he noticed a young woman he’d grown up with – and she was looking at HIM. In the chorus he told of all her qualities that made her appealing to him:
“She’s got her daddy’s money, her momma’s good looks.
More laughs than a stack of comic books.
A wild imagination, a college education.
Add it all up it’s a deadly combination.
She’s a good bass fisher. A dynomite kisser.
Country as a turnip green.
She’s got her daddy’s money. Her momma’s good looks, and look who’s looking at me!”
It’s a cute song.
But what caught my attention was that the singer was describing a woman most people would consider successful in this world. She had all the advantages any person could want: money, looks, education… and obvious good taste.
There are people in this world who look at this kind of person and they get a little jealous. They think to themselves: “If only I could have THEIR advantages. If only I had their family, their money, their education – I could be accomplish great things with my life.”
Several years ago, there was a famous study done by Victor and Mildred Goertzel, entitled “Cradles of Eminence” where they examined the backgrounds of 300 highly successful people.
· Winston Churchill,
· Franklin D. Roosevelt
· Helen Keller
· Albert Schweitzer
· Clara Barton
· and Freud.
Among the things they studied were how these prominent individuals grew up. And what they found was surprising:
* They discovered that 3/4s of the children endured poverty, or broken homes, or were raised by parents who rejected them, were over possessive, or dominating.
* Nearly all the writers - 74 out of 85 writers of fiction or drama and 16 of the 20 poets - came from homes where they experienced “tense psychological drama”. In other words, their parents didn’t get along and screamed and abused each other.
* And over ¼ of these great people suffered from physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs.
It makes one wonder if the kind of home life these men and women endured as children influenced the type of people they became.
In our text this morning, we read about another man, named Joseph, who overcame similar problems in his life. Joseph came from a highly dysfunctional family. Today, we might it call it a “blended” family (the 12 brothers were born of 4 different mothers), and the brothers always seemed to be fighting. About the only thing that united his brothers was their hatred of him.
And because his brothers hated him, Joseph ended up thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and ultimately accused of a crime he didn’t commit – he was thrown into prison.
Joseph’s brothers had actually planned to kill him, but their greed overcame their hatred long enough for them say:
“What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all (pause) he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." Genesis 37:26-27
Then they soaked Joseph’s cherished coat in goat’s blood and brought it back to their father and watched callously as their father cried out in anguish, tore his garments and mourned for days.
With brothers like that, Joseph didn’t need enemies.
So – in Genesis 39 - we find Joseph in Egypt.
Now Egypt had already become a great nation before Joseph had been born.
They’d already built their famous pyramids, the sphinx, and the temple at Luxor.
In those days – as now – Egypt was a tourist paradise
But (of course) Joseph wasn’t there as a tourist.
He was there as a slave.
He had been ripped from his home and his friends
Dragged across the desert to a land that he’d never known
And surrounded by a strange people who spoke in a language he couldn’t understand.
Even if he could have gotten away from his slave owner, he probably couldn’t have found his way home!
At 17, he’d lost everything that he’d loved and considered important.
And now he lives at the whim of his master.
He’s the lowest form of life in the nation of Egypt.
He has nothing… he owns nothing… he IS nothing.
Just like all the other slaves of that day he has no rights, no status, no value.
BUT, Joseph did have one thing that other slaves in Egypt didn’t.