We are going to look at the life of an outsider called Joseph. He’s very important. Joseph’s great-grandfather is Abraham. His grandfather is Isaac. His father is Jacob. And this has been messed up family for many generations.
a. Joseph is an amazing character because creation in the Book of Genesis gets two chapters. Joseph gets 13 chapters.
b. Special enough for his people to keep his bones for 400 years – but often forgotten by us as a children’s musical.
c. Joseph does really well. He’s a good role model. “Most godly person before Jesus”. Yet faces all the issues we face of living out our faith in the real world. For most of the story he is an alien living in a foreign land. Just like us (1 Peter 2.11). He is an outsider and we will get inside the outside so that we might also live as aliens.
d. Today we’re going to look at his relationship with his father, his brothers’ relationship with their father, and how their father made some mistakes in his parenting, and how it caused some great grief in the life of his sons, and how that ultimately was used by God to do some good things because God works through even the worst of circumstances.
The Outcome of Favouritism (Gen 37.2-4)
"Now Israel," – that’s Jacob. "Loved Joseph," – I want you parents to see this – "More than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him."
This is the sin of favouritism. Parents, please make note of this. Don’t play favourites with your kids.
Jacob did that. He really liked Joseph. He really didn’t like the other kids. Joseph was born to Rachel, his favourite wife. The other kids were born to Leah and to the other two women who were maidservants.
He really didn’t like them as much. And not only did he play favourites with the one son, Joseph. He made it obvious. He gave him a coat of many colours. He sinned against his other kids.
In your family, if there’s a lot of fighting between the siblings, it may have a lot to do with the parents. Everybody loves the parents, and nobody wants to put the responsibility where it really lies.
The Outcome of Jealousy (Gen 37.5-11)
The brothers hate the one brother because he’s a spoiled kid with a nice coat. And all of the sudden he gets a dream. Teenage kids 17 years of age, gets a prophetic dream from God. And the brothers hated him all the more.
The point is that God has chosen Joseph for leadership. And sometimes people hate God’s election.
How many of you hate your brother?
Don’t raise your hand, especially if he is here. But how many of you hate your brother or your sister because God has blessed them and they’re doing really, really well, and you are sick of it?
We get covetous in our heart. James calls it bitter envy and selfish ambition. We get envious, and we can’t rejoice with people that God is blessing. And so we get envious and jealous of them and we hate them. And we get bitter and we get angry and we get mad. And then eventually that leads to hostility and sin.
Don’t get jealous.
The Bible says we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. If God should elect to favour one person and lift them up and bless them, we should celebrate that. We should all celebrate that.
The Outcome of Hatred (Gen 37:12-35)
Joseph isn’t evil. He’s a teenager. But his brothers hate him, and the words here are very strong.
The word here for kill takes us all the way back to Genesis 4:8 where Cain killed his brother, Abel. Cain was unrighteous. Abel was righteous. Cain got jealous and envious, and hated and despised his brother, and murdered him.
It’s Cain and Abel, part two. It happens over and over and over in Genesis. There’s godly brother, ungodly brothers, and then there is friction and hostility. The ungodly want to murder and kill the godly.
Some of you know how this is. Your relationship with one sibling is almost altogether destroyed because of another sibling. They’ve so shoved that other sibling away from the family emotionally or physically that now your relationship is ruined too.
You and I, when we sin, we have two choices. We repent, or we try and cover it up.
They have chosen a path of sin, and now they must continue with additional sins to cover the grievous sin that they have committed. You and I are the same way. We either repent and come clean, or we keep trying to look good even though we’re bad.
Some families are like that. There’s great sin that everyone covers up.
It’s a sin to suppress the truth and unrighteousness, Romans says. It’s a sin to have things over in the dark, not out in the light (Rms 1:21).
They’re dishonouring their father – grievous sins.
These are not great boys. But these boys are the 12 tribes of Israel. They become the 12 boys who become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel by God’s grace.
The Outcome of a Promise (Gen 37:36)
In Genesis 12:2, the promise was given to Abraham, that he would become a great nation – that his family would become a great nation. At this point, they’re not yet a nation. They’re just a family.
The other thing that God said to them in Genesis 15:3 is that they would suffer for 400 years in a foreign land before they became that great nation. Here’s what happens.
Joseph gets sold into slavery in Egypt. They go into Egypt as a family of 60 some people. They are there for how many years? Four hundred years, just like God had promised. During that time, they became not just a family, but a nation of a few million people. They multiply to fulfil the promises of God in Genesis 12:2.
And so Joseph is how God fulfils his providential promises to make them into a great nation in a foreign land.
This is what providence looks like. God doesn’t cause people to sin. God doesn’t make people sin. God isn’t a bad God, but people sin of their own choosing, but God is bigger than they are. And God is able to take even sinful people and things, and he, through providence, is able to work that out for his glory and our good.
The key verse – Genesis 50:20. Make that your memory verse:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
The definition of providence is even when sinful people do sinful things, and they intend them to be used for nothing more than evil, the providential God uses those things for good and the saving of many lives.
That is why we are people of hope. That’s why – as Paul says, we don’t grieve as people grieve that do not know God. (1 Thess 4:13).
When hard times come, we do not freak out like people who don’t know God.
When someone sins against us, we do not give up and give in like people who don’t know God. Even when we do evil and deplorable things that we should not do, we do not become despairing.
We do not lose hope. We do not contemplate the end of our own life. We trust God. We trust that bigger than human history, bigger than creation, bigger than us, is God.
That is what means is when we say evil can still be used by God. And it can be used in such a way that it benefits many people.
Who here has been sinned against greatly? Who here has had terrible things done to you?
You have been raped. You have been molested. You have been stolen from. You have been beaten. You have been abandoned. Your spouse has been unfaithful. Your marriage covenant has been absolutely torn asunder. Your parents didn’t love you. You were the neglected one.
You’re just like Joseph – terrible things done to him. There will be many more terrible things done to him. This man’s life is predominantly spent being sinned against. He is lied about. He is brought in on false charges. He will spend huge portions of the best part of his life as a strong and capable young man in prison wasting away doing nothing.
For those of you who have been sinned against grievously, look at the life of Joseph. What you will find is that through it all, he loves and serves God faithfully. He doesn’t get bitter. He doesn’t curse God. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t lose hope. He doesn’t get jealous. He never points his finger into the sky and shakes his finger at God. He is deeply rooted in a confident faith that God is a God of providence.
Some of us have done deplorable things. And you know what?
The hard reality is you can’t fix them. The good news for you in this is you’re just like the brothers. They have plotted to murder their brother. They have sold him in slavery to Egypt. He’s now the possession of the mighty Pharaoh. A shepherding family is not going to go to Pharaoh and get the boy back. It’s over. Here’s their hope. The God of providence takes what they meant for evil, uses it for good.
So that’s the outsider Joseph. He just loves God his whole life. And he waits. He doesn’t worry about what God’s doing. He worries about what he’s doing. He serves God. He prays. He loves God.
He waits for the God to work it out. Twenty years, this man will wait.
And every day, he’s loving God, just waiting for that invisible hand of God to work everything out. God’s already working it out. He’s got him in Egypt. He’s going to make him into a great nation. He’s use him to bless the nations. All of this is part of the Abraham and covenant promise.
Joseph is the godliest man until Jesus Christ comes. And it’s curious because the story of Jesus, there’s a lot of parallels between him and Joseph. He’s born into a family. God is his father. He is exalted and favoured by God the Father – God the Son is. Because of that, everybody else gets jealous and envious, and they plot his murder. And it’s curious. There are 12 boys in the family. How many disciples does Jesus have? He’s got 12.
And just like his brother betrayed him, Joseph, for 20 pieces of silver, Jesus’ friend, Judas, betrays him for 30 pieces of silver. And just as Joseph is sinned against, Jesus is sinned against. Just as Joseph is betrayed, Jesus is betrayed. Just like they wanted to murder Joseph, they wanted to murder Jesus, and in fact, they did. They murdered him.
But unlike Joseph, three days later – we know the story. Jesus Christ rises from death. And Jesus is alive and well today. He’s greater than Joseph. And he ascended into heaven. He is on the throne, Revelation tells us, in heaven, as the God, ruling over creation and history.