Intro: studies sometimes collide. Your focus in one particular part of the scriptures intersects with another study at the same time. For a few weeks we have been studying about godliness, especially as it is discussed in 1 Timothy (training for godliness; the mystery of godliness). But from a practical standpoint, what does godliness look like? Jesus is the person of godliness in every respect. He sought to please His Father in all things and did the will of God without fail.
But there are several personal and practical pictures of godliness in the scriptures. When the study at the Seven Lakes Bible class reached the life of Joseph in Genesis 37, I sensed a collision. I want to explore that connection today. Godliness is reflected in the life of Joseph. In that sense, his story is for us. The last half of Genesis is godliness in action.
I. Joseph’s Life Story: You may be very familiar with story of Joseph. It begins in Genesis 37. He was a great grandson of Abraham. He was one of 12 sons born to Jacob, and the oldest of 2 sons born to Rachel, Jacob’s favored wife. Joseph was his daddy’s favorite. He did not have a good relationship with his siblings. He was willing to tell his father about the bad things his brothers were doing. (37:2) You remember that Jacob displayed this favoritism by giving Joseph a multi-colored coat (37:3). A multi-colored garment is nothing special to us, but it was a treasured and very expensive item in Joseph’s day. This made Joseph’s brothers envious of him and they grew to hate Joseph. (37:4)
A. And then there were the dreams. Joseph told his brothers that he dreamed about he and his 11 brothers binding sheaves of grain in the field. His sheave stood up and their sheaves gathered around and bowed down to his. Later he dreamed another dream about the sun, moon and 11 stars bowing down before him. His father rebuked his presumption but took note of these dreams. His brothers just hated him even more.
B. How much did they hate him? Joseph is sent by his father to check on his brothers –Gen 37:17-20– So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” They conspired to kill him. I have 3 brothers. There were times when I dreamed about all three of them being someone else’s’ brother, but I cannot remember ever considering killing them. I might have been willing to sell them for the right price.
C. Reuben intercedes and the brothers cast Joseph into a pit. Judah suggests they sell their brother to some Ishmaelite traders. Joseph is on his way to Egypt as a slave. What a difference a day can make! From favored son to indentured servant in a foreign land. Gen 37:28 – they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. The boys dipped that favorite coat in goat’s blood and told their father they found it – is your son’s robe? Jacob grieved and refused to be comforted.
D. If Joseph’s story starts here, what can we expect from him? Joseph has every excuse at his disposal.
1. He is alone. There is no one else around him serving God.
2. He has been betrayed by his own brothers. “I would serve God, but you do not know how badly I have been treated by people claiming to be Christians” May have even been tempted to resent his father for not coming to rescue him, and make things right again. But Jacob never came.
3. He has lost every vestige of his inheritance and his prosperity.“I served God once, and what did it get me.” He does not care about me. Seemed not way to ever get it back. Who would expect him to serve God?
II. Joseph’s Godly Choices: Despite these difficult circumstances, the text would have us notice Joseph’s godly choices. For over 13 years he makes no excuses. Everyone has choices, and those choices are not made in a vacuum. Joseph displays godliness.
A. Genesis 39 – Joseph ends up as a slave in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar. Joseph is a good slave. He does the best he can, and God blesses him. (v. 2) He is both successful and good-looking. Potiphar’s wife notices both, and sets out to seduce him. Joseph consistently chooses to turn her down. Gen 39:7-10 – And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
1. “You are his wife” – I will not betray my master. I can have everything in this house except you. He has a wife and you have a husband.
2. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God” – Many pagans had a sense of morality when it came to offending or sinning against other people. But not a strong ethical sense about being responsible to the gods. They might be offended at what you did, but they were fickle. They might punish or bless you for any number of reasons, but there was not a strong ethical sense of not doing something because it was a sin against the gods.
a. This godliness on display – It is more than righteousness (doing what is right). But rather it is living with a God-consciousness. There is an all-seeing eye watching you. God sees – God knows – God cares. Even children understand this God-conscious approach… Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see …be careful, little ears, what you hear …be careful, little tongue, what you say… be careful, little hands, what you do …be careful, little feet, where you go… There’s a Father up above looking down in tender love, Oh, be careful, little feet, where you go.
3. The young Joseph understood what the prophet Jonah did not. There is no evidence that Jonah served other gods, but he seemed to hold a pagan view of God. Monotheism – one God; Polytheism – many gods; but not all polytheists attempted to worship all the gods that might exist. They chose gods by their jurisdiction. [Curtis Pope introduced me to the word that describes that approach – Henotheism] Every pagan god had its jurisdiction: mountains, river, ocean, storm, rain, death, a god concerned about Babylon, Egypt, Israel. Jonah thought he could escape Jehovah’s jurisdiction. He was wrong! Even in Egypt Joseph understood that God would See, Know and Care about what he was doing.
4. We need to understand that God sees all – you cannot get out of His jurisdiction – He is going to know what you did in the back seat of a car, down by the riverbank, at the church house, in your home. Prov 15:3– The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. Ps 139:1-12 – Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. 3 You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord. 5 You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. 6 This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. 7 Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. 9 If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, 10 even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will become night”—12 even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You. (HCSB) Heb 4:13 – And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
B. Fast forward to Genesis 50 – Joseph is second in command in all of Egypt, and he has been reunited with his brothers and his father. They all now live in the best land in Egypt. You may remember what transpired between Potiphar’s prison and Pharaoh’s right hand. While in prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of 2 fellow prisoners, the former baker and butler of the Pharaoh.Gen 40:8– And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.” So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.” Notice that Joseph is still relying upon God – knowing He knows, sees and cares. God provides the interpretation -one favorable – one unfavorable. Genesis 40:21-23– Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Joseph had specially asked the butler to remember him to the pharaoh, but once again he is betrayed and forgotten for a whole 2 years.
1. Pharaoh has a dream which no one can interpret [7 fat cows come out of the river followed by 7 skinny (ugly and gaunt – nkjv) cows who proceed to eat the fat cows, but get not fatter. Seven good heads of grain followed by 7 blighted heads of grain; the 7 blighted heads devour the good heads] The butler remembers Joseph.
2. Genesis 41:16 – “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” 7 years of plenty, followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph advises Pharaoh to find a competent manager who can make the necessary preparation.
3. Genesis 41:38-40 – Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” Pharaoh puts his own ring on joseph, a royal robe on his back (multi-colored?) gold chain on his neck (unlike the one he wore in prison) gives him a new wife, commands all the people of Egypt to bow before him as he rides by in the chariot! What a difference a day makes!
4. During the course of the famine, he is reunited with his brothers, brings his father and the family to Egypt and saved them from starvation. Jacob lived 17 years in the land of Egypt, and died at the age of 147.
5. Genesis 50:15-18 – 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” This last look of Joseph is one of the more profound images in the story. Would Joseph exact revenge? How does he view his difficult past?
6. Genesis 50:19-21– Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. This is another clear reflection of Joseph’s godly character.
a. He recognized God’s sovereignty over all the events – good and bad. This gave him the perspective from which to do what many would not have done.
b. He did not seek revenge, but returned evil with good. Am I in the place of God. He does not need my help in dishing out justice.
c. Joseph allowed time for God to work things out. Some give up on God and His people because they do not allow God time. At any point we can be discouraged. But if we wait on God, and remain faithful through these times, He can work things for our good. I am not convinced He maliciously inflicts us or taunts us with obstacles. But He does allow us to suffer, and in that suffering we often are made better. He works things out in His Isa 40:31– …those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. At times our greatest strength comes by waiting on God – do not give up on him. . Some who are praying and waiting for a spouse, give up and fall into the trap of sexual immorality.
Conclusion: there is more to say about Joseph’s faith – maybe we will finish our thoughts tonight. But consider this… Joseph spent most of his life Joseph in a very unfavorable environment to serve God. He stood alone as servant of Jehovah in an idolatrous country. His livelihood depended on pleasing those who did not care about God. There were many reasons for him to give up on serving God in Egypt. But he never lost sight of God – He was always aware that God sees. God knows, and God cares.
Are you willing to sojourn here with God? Are you a child of God? Come through faith in His promises – He will forgive you.
(Adapted from a sermon by Curtis Pope)