Summary: This is the fifth in a series on the life of Joseph. His "test" here is how he will treat those who have treated him so horribly, now that he has power, position and privilege.
Trinity Baptist Church July 16, 2006
Series: Character on Display
When Integrity Encounters the Guilty
Most people love “rags to riches” stories -- especially if the people who suddenly come into wealth are the “good people“ in the story.
One of my favorite “rags to riches” accounts is The Count of Monte Christo. I’m not fascinated just by the illustration of a poor prisoner who suddenly gains freedom and wealth. What grabs me is how he’s transformed -- from a man who could -- most would say should -- take revenge on his enemies -- into a man who realizes that vengeance is completely unsatisfying. As a matter of fact, he discovers that vengeance weakens the character of the one who takes it.
Today’s chapter from Joseph’s life begins a period, lasting at least a few months, when he could have had amazing revenge. But, when revenge was his for the taking, the man of character chose a very different course.
We’ve looked at several episodes in Joseph’s life. We saw him separated from his father who favored him over all his brothers. In reality, God rescued Joseph from a lifetime of dysfunctional relationships. His brothers had hated him and they plotted his death, then decided to sell him instead, to traders on their way to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph became a slave who rose to authority and responsibility. In that role, he was repeatedly tempted by the woman of the house. Because he refused her, he was falsely accused and incarcerated. There in prison, he again rose to responsibility.
Genesis has repeatedly said, God never abandoned him. And Joseph never budged from faithfulness to God. Out of faithfulness to God, he served his different masters faithfully. No grumbling and complaining about where God had him for the time. No bitterness toward his brothers or others is evident. No gossiping or whining about unjust treatment -- all because Joseph recognized God’s hand and he knew God’s heart. We’ve learned that all Joseph endured was, in reality, God’s character-building curriculum.
God took a man who’d been a prime candidate to become a selfish prig, like his father -- and He transformed him into a man of character and integrity. He’s a guy, about whom the OT says practically nothing negative. But let’s not forget: God did His good work on Joseph’s character -- not with an air brush -- but with a hammer and chisel, with intense heat and horrible darkness -- and with lots of time.
There was abuse, affliction, accusation and abandonment. But God was with him. God provided him the gift of His nearness and God revealed to him His character. So Joseph learned in long dark days to trust God alone, when nothing and no person was trustworthy. Like the Psalms teach us, he threw himself on God alone, and he found that God was enough.
The remainder of Joseph’s life is associated with power, privilege and possessions. God tested him with affliction, now He trusts him with great resources and authority. The one-time slave, one-time prisoner is now Prime Minister of Egypt. We studied that sudden move last time.
Now comes a whole brand of temptation. God places into his hands the very people who “did him dirty”. His own brothers.
I don’t know about you, but at different times in my life, I’ve had a list of people, written in the back of mind and guarded closely. It was a list of people who had hurt me. There was an abuser on my list. And hateful people. Accusers. Christians who were uncaring or harsh. Gossips, people who treated me shabbily.
You have a list like that? Joseph is going to teach us what to do those lists.
We’ve watched events unfold in Joseph’s experience down in Egypt. Suddenly Genesis takes us back to his homeland and to his family. Twenty years or so have passed since his departure. We’ll see in the account that he’s not been forgotten, though his guild-ridden brothers have tried to put out of their memories the pain they caused him.
This famine God revealed to Pharaoh in dreams Joseph interpreted has come. It’s hit full force. There is no food growing anywhere. Chapter 41 describes the famine as worldwide. There is universal suffering, except in one place. Down in Egypt a capable and faithful administrator has consistently stored up grain enough, that now, there is food. All the grain stored during the years of plenty is now available and being distributed.
Chapter 42, verse 1. “Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons,‘Why are you staring at one another.’” In other words,“don’t just stand there helpless.”
“I’ve heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us...so that we may live and not die.“