Summary: sermon on how Joseph is sold into slavery by Norval Koch for our worship service
Sunday, July 7th, 2002
Sermon Text: Genesis 37:25-36
Today we begin a series of sermons based on the life of Joseph. Our first text in this series does not have what we’d call a very “positive tone,”as you may have gathered while listening to it. In fact, it describes a series of sins on the part of Joseph’s own brothers that leads from one evil deed to another. Along with those evil deeds come tragedy and heartbreak. If we didn’t already know the entire Joseph story and that it ends up with a happy ending for him, we might be left to question why we are having a series of sermons on the life of Joseph in the first place.
What happened in our text, however, is a situation that is not unfamiliar to us and the world in which we live today. Evil is all around us, it is within us, and it often seems to be coming out on top, so to speak. How, then, can we stay positive as Christians who continue to live out our lives in this world? How can we find strength to be positive influences in the world? How can we maintain a positive attitude as we continue with our mission as a church?
The first installment of our Joseph series invites us to take a good, hard look at such questions because in all honesty it is hard to avoid them. It is honestly hard, at times, to stay positive when we see the influence of all the evil in the world. But we can indeed answer these questions and learn some valuable lessons as we face evil in our world and in our lives today, just as Joseph did. Let’s begin our study then by asking this question:
WHAT CAN WE SAY WHEN EVIL SEEMS TO BE WINNING?
1–Sin’s progress must be stopped!
2–God’s plan cannot be stopped!
Joseph’s brothers must have thought that they had won a major victory. They got rid of the brother that they had grown to hate, and they did so without going too far (or so they thought). But what they had done was truly evil. It went far enough to be labeled nothing else. To grasp just how evil their actions were we need to back up a bit to see what led to their evil deeds. As we do so we will notice that there was a progression of sin in their hearts that gradually got worse.
Joseph was the son born to Jacob in old age and therefore a “favorite” son. Jacob showed this special love of his for Joseph by giving him that famous “richly ornament coat.” But Joseph’s brothers did not handle this special relationship well at all. They hated Joseph for it, to the point where they could not speak a kind word to him. And when Joseph revealed to his brothers the dreams that he had in which they were pictured as bowing down to him, it only infuriated them all the more. Little did they realize that Joseph was being given a prophecy of what was to come. For all they knew he was “milking” his father’s special love for himself for all it was worth!
Jealousy and hatred led them to plot further evil. They plotted to kill Joseph. If not for brother Reuben’s persuasion to throw Joseph into the cistern they may indeed have ended his life. Later on brother Judah comes up with the plan to sell Joseph to some traders on their way to Egypt, justifying that act by saying that at least they weren’t shedding the blood of their own flesh and blood. The other brothers, of course, agreed.
But the progression doesn’t stop there. After selling their brother to the traders they now plot to hide their evil by making it look as though a wild animal had attacked and killed Joseph. How deceptive they were in front of their own father as they led him to believe that his precious child had been brutally killed by an animal. How could they stand there and let their father be so overcome with grief that he refused even to be comforted? How could they stand to watch their father be so stricken with sadness when they knew all along it was the result of a lie?
That’s how sin had progressed in the hearts and minds of these brothers! It had gone too far, and they had let it happen. Just look at all the damage this progression of sin caused. It damaged their father by inflicting him with extreme sadness. It deprived their father of spending more days on earth with his beloved son. It damaged their own souls as they allowed evil to get the better of them. They lived out the future days and years with a dark cloud over their heads. If they weren’t bothered in their consciences about this, then they had become sons of the devil. If they were bothered, then they had to suffer from that guilt. Meanwhile, a young man who had grown up in the home of one of the great patriarchs of the Old Testament and had tried to serve his dear father in all sincerity is now on his way to a far-off land to live as a slave. For all he knew, he would never see home again. It seems like evil had won, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what Joseph was thinking.