You start out believing life is a great adventure. You are convinced you will enjoy a full, enjoyable, and fulfilling life. As you journey through life, how do you respond when …
- Your husband or wife files for divorce
- Your company loses its funding and you find yourself unemployed
- One of your children falls in with the wrong crowd and gets involved in drugs or alcohol
- Your doctor tells you that you have cancer
- Your first grandchild dies of SIDS
- Your business partner embezzles from the company
- Your days are spent caring for a special needs child
- Your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize you
- Your life is simply mundane day after day after day after day after day
How do you respond when life doesn’t match your dreams? Where do you turn when each day is more challenging than the previous one? Who do you rely on when your assignment goes from bad to worse? How do you react when life is filled with pain, challenges, disappointment, adversity, or is simply mundane and boring?
The story of Joseph is seemingly filled with one detour after another. And yet, each detour is part of God’s sovereign plan to prepare Joseph for an even greater assignment. Just like Joseph, we can see God’s fingerprints on the detours of life. We can have the confidence that God can be trusted even when it appears we are off course.
If you ask the average person to tell you the story of Joseph, chances are good that all they remember is his multicolored coat. Perhaps their recollection is based on the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. What they may not know is that Joseph faced the same temptations that we do—pride, resentment, laziness, bitterness, self-pity, self-promotion, power, and revenge.
In this story, God demonstrates his sovereignty through the activities of daily life. There are no miracles in the story of Joseph. It is an account of how God uses adversity and hardship to shape a man’s character and help him grow. Through the detours of life, “the Lord was with Joseph.”
Joseph grew up in a very dysfunctional family. The first time we meet Joseph (Genesis 37), he is telling his father about what his brothers have done wrong (2). Considering the fact that Joseph’s sister was raped and his brothers killed an entire village to enact revenge (Genesis 34), his brother, Reuben, committed incest with his father’s wife (Genesis 35), and his brother, Judah, committed incest with his daughter-in-law whom he thought was a prostitute (Genesis 38), it’s not hard to imagine what was contained in Joseph’s report.
On top of that, his father, Jacob, loved Joseph more than his other eleven brothers and gave him a special coat to demonstrate his favoritism (3-4). Imagine being an 18-year-old high school graduate. The day after graduation, your father gives you the keys to a brand new 2014 Corvette and names you as CEO of the family business, despite the fact you are the youngest of seven children. Guess what Thanksgiving Dinner would be like at your house and you have a glimpse into Joseph’s family.
All of this took place before Joseph had his dreams (5-11). In the first dream, the brothers’ sheaves of grain bowed down to Joseph’s grain. In the second, each of the family had stars which bowed down to Joseph’s star. God was letting Joseph know of the certainty of his destiny. But that doesn’t mean it sat well with his brothers.
With that as the back story, the events of Genesis 37:12-35 are perfectly understandable. The brothers hate Joseph and want to kill him. They capture him, strip him of his robe, throw him in to a pit, and then sit down to eat lunch (20-25). Talk about cold hearted! Coming to their senses, they decide to sell him into slavery (25-28) and lie to their father about what happened (29-35).
I take away four lessons from Genesis 37.
- God specializes in changing us and conforming us into his image, no matter what our family background. Despite coming from a dysfunctional family, God’s plan is for Joseph to lead. But he will need to transform his character first.
- God chooses whom he will. With his family history, Joseph would never pass one of our background checks. But God knows what he is doing.
- Those whom God chooses can expect opposition. Not everyone approves of God’s choice, and Joseph’s brothers are no exception.
- God understands our particular circumstances and wants to help us rise above the negative influences in our lives. Like Joseph, we may have difficult challenges and baggage to overcome. God offers his assistance to help us do just that.
This is the synopsis of a sermon preached at First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, on July 13, 2014. It is the opening message in a six-part series on the life of Joseph. While the sermons are the result of my own personal study, I borrowed the title for the series from Phil Tuttle, as his title was more creative than my original one. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.