It’s Time To Get Up—Joseph Got Up
Genesis 37:12-36 Matthew 18:21-35
How many of you have asked that question, “Lord how many times should I forgive? How many times should I put up with this? How many times is enough”. Those are some of the questions that are being asked in our nation today.
But they are not new questions. They were been asked by the people of God as slaves in Egypt for 400 years in the Bible. God’s chosen people said to God “if you are who you say you are, then why do we continue to be oppressed by other people.”
Not only have nations asked this question, individuals have asked the questions as well. How many of you have asked the same questions when you have looked at circumstances in your own life? One person that dealt with this question was Joseph in our Scripture reading today.
I saw a quote this past week that said, “God is doing a hundred things in your life, but you are probably aware of only three of them.” The reality is, sometimes we have no idea of how where we are right now, are part of a much bigger plan that God has for God’s own purposes.
Can you imagine for a moment that day when Jesus was crucified and was up there on the cross bleeding, sweating, gasping for breath, slowly and painfully dying. I am sure that some people passing by got angry that day. Somebody probably said, “I am sick of tired of another Jew being strung up by the Roman government.” No justice, no peace.”
I am certain they probably wanted to kill the Roman soldiers who were there to make sure no one got to Jesus until he was dead. They may have even thought, one day, “I’m going to get my revenge.” They had no idea that the hand of God was involved in all of this.
Some may have said, this is “why I don’t want anything to do with religion. Where was God when this innocent man was dying?” Yet God was right there in this innocent man who was crying out, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”
Are we willing to believe that Jesus might be right? People might not understand what they are doing when they are hurting others
Let’s look at this guy named Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50. Joseph was in a family with 11 brothers from four different women, but all the same father, whose name was Jacob. Unfortunately that almost sound like my dad who had nine kids by four different women, but they never all lived together under the same roof at one time with all the women and all the kids.
So there was a lot of family tension in that home. To make matters worse Joseph’s mom had been his father Jacob’s favorite wife and everyone knew it. Her name was Rachel, but Rachel died in childbirth with Joseph’s brother Benjamin.
Maybe it was out of grief over the loss of his wife Rachel, that Jacob went overboard with his affection for Joseph and Benjamin, his two youngest sons. But it was clear that Joseph became the favorite of his father and his other 10 brothers resented him for it.
Benjamin was too young to notice all this, and he and Joseph had a good relationship with each other since they had the same mother and were the only ones whose mother had died while they were young kids.
Jacob’s family is proof that God does not look for perfect people or perfect homes to bring about His work in the world. We would have written them as a pretty messed up family. But the reality is we cannot write off anybody as being a nobody because we don’t know what God is doing.
This messed up family is going to one day have a descendant who is going to transform history for all of humanity. That descendant will be none other than Jesus Christ.
We all like to say, I’d like for God to speak to me, or I’d love for God to give me a vision. We don’t realize that can set us up for envy, jealousy and dislike by others. Joseph’s brothers already did not like him. But when God starts to set Joseph apart from them spiritually, things start to get worse.
God chose Joseph for a certain task in life and gave him some dreams about what was going to happen in the future. Joseph had two dreams, but it was obvious, that in both dreams, one day his brothers would kneel down before him as if he was ruling over them.
In his second dream, not only was his brothers bowing down in front of him, but his father and step mothers were as well. Even his father got a little ticked off on this dream.
Now with Joseph being the second youngest of all the family, the fulfillment of these dreams were extremely unlikely to happen. Now if you combine Joseph’s ego that he was going to be somebody special, with his father’s favoritism you can see why his brothers were not very fond of him.
Then to make matters worse, the brothers were out doing something they were not supposed to be doing, and they all made an agreement not to tell what they had done. Everybody went along with this plot except Joseph. He told his father what his brothers had done, and they got in trouble for it. This made them even more furious with Joseph.
Joseph is about 17 when his father sent him looking for his brothers, because his father thought something might have happened to his other sons. They had been gone for a number of days and should have been back home by now. Jacob loved his other children but they didn’t know it. They could only see his favoritism toward Joseph.
I think there was guilt that Jacob carried around inside that led to his favoritism of Joseph. Before Jacob left his father in law Laban, Laban had accused Jacob of stealing his household god. Jacob knew he had not taken it, but he didn’t know that Rachel had.
Jacob made a bold statement to Laban, “If anyone has taken your gods, that person shall not live among my people.” Rachel died just before Jacob finally made it back home to his people. I wonder when it was that he found out Rachel had taken Laban’s gods. I wonder if he blamed himself for her death because of his bold statement. “If only he had not of said it, would Joseph’s mother still be alive.
The favoritism you parents may have shown to your brother or sister, might not have had anything to do with you. It could have been due to something they never worked out with God in their lives. They couldn’t forgive themselves so they didn’t know how to get up and move on. You can choose to forgive them, so that you can move on.
Joseph is willing to go look for his brothers as his father requested. He may be risking his life to the same trouble which may have befallen his brothers. But he could see his father’s concerns, so he went.
When Joseph does finally get information on the direction his brothers were last headed, he comes over a hill. His brothers recognize him coming at a distance, because he was wearing that special designer coat of many colors that his father had made for him.
Just seeing that coat made them angry and jealous and upset. One of them said, “here comes that dreamer, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the pits and lie, and say a ferocious animal tore him to pieces. Then we will see what comes of his dreams.”
One of his brothers Rueben, the oldest, said “let’s not kill him, but just throw him into the pit and let him die there.”
Envy and jealousy will cause us to see a distorted version of the truth. Joseph’s brothers did not see a person coming to them who was genuinely concerned about their welfare. All they saw, was that beautiful multicolored robe which represented a privilege they did not have. What they didn’t see, was what they did have.
We use terms that lock us into seeing the world in a particular way, that shapes how we view one another. One term that we use, that is actually racist and it causes us to treat one another a certain way.
Let me be honest, I live in Glenville. If I am walking down the street, and I had the choice between seeing two white policeman walking toward me or two black men I didn’t know walking toward me, I would probably prefer the two white policeman.
Why. Because “black on black” crime has been drilled in my head and in my heart. I have even used the term and so have you. Let me ask you something. “Who commits most of the crime in neighborhoods that are predominantly white?” Who commits most of the murders against white people in the states where there are very few black people?
Who commit most of the financial crimes through fraud and outright theft on white people? Why is the phrase “white on white crime” not a regular part of our culture? Why is no one asking the question what’s wrong with white people killing white people.”
Do you see how the term “black on black crime” makes us afraid of each other and also terrifies whites when they see us coming toward them? Can you also understand why whites do not fear each other in the same way we fear each other. That’s a privilege that comes from not being constantly reminded that they are proned to commit crimes against each other
When people find out we live near 110th and St. Clair, they think we are in Afghanistan in a war zone. That’s what the news image gives of my community so that’s what people believe about us. If we want to stop the problems of racial tension, we need to stop highlighting tragedies as though they are the norm.
Can we also be honest and admit, things are not like they were in the 50’s and 60’s. My grandmother raised 13 kids. They lived next to the butcher pen in Ga. In the summer, it smelled terrible. There were times my grandmother would go and get some of the meat that was thrown in the trash before it had spoiled. Some of us had similar stories. But God has brought us a mighty long way.
White privilege is something that is real in today’s world. But not all whites participate in the privilege to the same degree. We forget that there are a lot of poor white people. There are a lot of poor brown people, red people, yellow people and black people. Dr. King was one of the first ones to point this out and that was what the Poor People’s march on Washington was all about.
The temptation we face is to focus on the beautiful multicolored coat on those above us have, but we forget many of us have our own multicolored coat. There are millions of white people who would love to be able to live in the kind of home you live in, to drive the kind of car you have, and to have received the education you received. They don’t see white privilege in the same way as you may see it from our middle class view.
To say that we have not made progress is ridiculous. Racism may have held some of us back to make us work harder, but we chose to still rise up and move head.
Let me ask you this, when we get our brighter multicolored coat, what are we going to do with it to help those who still have nothing. Will we simply invest it in more stocks and bonds. Will we move further away from those people so that we can be safe. Or will we seek to invest it back into our poor communities.
Here’s a radical thought from Jesus- he talked about a man who was greatly blessed. Instead of reaching out to bless others, he decided to invest it all in future stocks and bonds. After making his plans, Jesus said, you fool, because tonight you are going to die and who is going to get what you have prepared for yourself. Are you rich toward God?
Joseph finally reached his brothers, after this long journey and said, “boy I sure am glad I found you guys. I was getting so worried. I got lost myself.” The next thing he knew, his brothers had stripped him of his designer coat, and threw him down into this well. He hit the bottom with a thud and was trying to figure out what was going on.”
You know sometimes the very people you go out to help, are going to turn around and try to rip you off or to cause you harm. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a policemen today or to be a policeman’s son or daughter? They get the comments from other kids on how bad policeman are.
There is no question that we need a change in how quickly we should get bad policeman off the streets and into another profession or into jail if it is warranted.
But the reality is the vast majority of policeman are just like us, wanting to do a job, get paid and go back home. We have turned a vast majority of hard working public servants into a despised despicable group of people because of a few rotten apples. The maker of the children toy Lego, announced they would pull their adds for their policeman and firefighters figures. Who are you going to call when you need help?
The other day as I was driving near E. 79th and St. Clair, I saw an older Black man getting ready to cross the street, when somethings he was carrying fell out of a bag and all over the sidewalk. A police car pulled up and two young white officers got out and went over to assist the man picking up the stuff.
When our member Edith LeGrand and Pastor Toby got locked out of her house at night in Glenville. They called the fire department. Two white firefighters got up on the porch roof, took out the AC and went into the house. Pastor Toby said they were so kind to them. These are the stories that make the news because they don’t generate hate. They don’t appeal to the side of us that wants to see bad things.
Little did Joseph know, that although he saw himself as the rescuer, he was the one who was going to need to be rescued. Jesus had a Father who was concerned about his children who had been gone away for far too long. The Father sent Jesus to come looking after us to bring us back home. Just like Joseph’s brothers, we saw Jesus coming at a distance.
We made up our minds in advance as to why Jesus was coming towards us and decided that we did not want him. We also said, here comes the dreamer, let’s kill him and see what becomes of his dreams.
What dreams did Jesus have. He didn’t come with a dream of a white man’s religion. Jesus was middle eastern. Jesus dreamed of a kingdom that would be made up of all races, of all nations, and of all people. He talked about people from the east and west, and north and south to sit together at the table in his kingdom.
He spoke of a kingdom that people paid fair wages and then some. A kingdom that was concerned about poor people, especially widows and orphans. A kingdom that included political enemies Jews, and Romans kneeling before the same God. A kingdom that included loving your enemies.
He spoke of a kingdom in which the lame, the disabled and the physically handicap would be invited to a banquet along with everyone else. He spoke of a kingdom in which those who had much would have a desire to equip those who had very little.
He spoke of a kingdom in which we would recognize one King, One Lord, One Master and we would serve him with an obedient heart. He spoke of a kingdom in which everyone entering, would recognize themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior and that no one had any kind of privilege in the eyes of God in relationship to the kingdom. His followers would then work to show that the kingdom of God was coming.
Jesus wasn’t crucified because he wanted people to go to heaven. He was thrown by us down into the pit because he wanted to change the way we treated each other. He actually claimed he had something to say about our money which he claimed was really his. He actually claimed he had something to say about how we should live our lives when it comes to righteousness. He actually claimed we were no better than the worst of the sinners of his day. He actually would say no justice, is no peace.
But he would deal with the justice in relationship to our sin as well. What justice is there in asking to be forgiven, but refusing to forgive? What justice is there in hating another person, but expecting to be accepted? What justice is there in rejecting the laws of God, but expecting to receive an eternal reward in heaven from God.
Without the work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for our injustices, there can be no lasting justice. But because he did it willingly, we can be justified before God through Christ. The penalty has already been paid.
Joseph started begging with them to please help him out of that pit. But his brothers were all laughing at his pleas and his pain. He’s in the pit starting to cry, he started to feel where his body was hurting from landing so hard in that well. He probably called them by name to help him. He’s saying, “I think I’m hurt, why won’t you help me.”
Joseph is down in the pit in pain. They are sitting up top eating a meal having a good time. Then the brothers spot some slave traders passing by on the road to Egypt. Judah, one of the brothers say, “Hey why should we kill him and get nothing for it. After all he is our brother, let’s sell him as a slave and get some money for it.”
We Will pick up the story next week As Joseph comes out of the pit.