Joseph in prison

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Joseph in Prison.

♦           We usually preach a Gospel message when we come out here but tonight I thought that I’d bring a word of encouragement from the Scriptures to you who are believers, those who know Jesus personally.

♦           Israel the father of the nation and people of Israel had 12 sons, from 2 wives and 2 concubines but there was one wife that he loved and her first son was his favourite: Joseph – no doubt he was spoilt – and you know what that does for family relationships – his other brothers hated him.

♦           To add fuel to the fire he had a couple of dreams (Genesis 37:3-11 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicoloured tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.) God speaks – divine revelation: Now these dreams were not because he ate too much cheese just before he went to bed. These dreams were God speaking to him. God still speaks in dreams – I’ve only had one, but it was so different to every other dream I’ve had – you know when it is from God! Other dreams fade with the morning, that one still lives with me. You know when you’ve heard from God! This was revelation from God! It is less common today because we have the Scriptures, God’s Word in written form – there was no Scripture in Joseph’s day, God had to communicate by other means. But this was not imaginations of his head – this was God! What do you do with revelation from God? Bask in it? Share it with everyone? The thing is, if God has spoken to you, He has done so for a reason – you are going to need that word, it is important; you have to know it, absorb it, and live by it, base your life on it – that is faith. Has God ever spoken to you? Given you a promise. Then hold fast to it.

♦           Well it wasn’t happy families and the dreams made it worse. The brothers were off looking after the sheep, Joseph was at home – I bet that went down well too! His dad sent him to check up on the flocks, i.e. check up on his older brothers! Joseph probably knew what kind of reception he’d receive, but he obeyed. The brothers saw him coming (who wouldn’t with that coat) and plotted to kill him. In the end they didn’t go that far, they just sold him as a slave to some travelling traders.

♦           The traders sold him in Egypt and he was bought by the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Wherever Joseph went he seemed to rise in position – quite spontaneously he was given responsibility. He was a natural administrator, he was very capable and whatever he was in charge of seemed to succeed. There was a reason – God was with him. Soon Joseph ended up running the estate, everything was going so well that his master just let him get on with it, took it easy and left everything in Joseph’s capable hands.

♦           But if success seemed to follow Joseph, so did difficulty. His master’s wife took a fancy to Joseph and when he refused her advances she, in the fury of a spurned woman, falsely accused him of attempted rape. As a result Joseph was thrown into jail.

♦           In prison – where is God? There is Joseph in prison, just a youth. Great promise, Divine promises of leading and being exalted and honoured and here he was in a scummy Egyptian jail! And here you are in prison too. That’s why I chose this story – here is a man of God who shared the same experience as you. I don’t know what its like to be in jail, but Joseph did. Joseph was in jail even though he was innocent. I don’t know about you – you may be here fairly or unfairly – that is not the issue. The issue is that you are here. God is in control: Do you believe God is in control? Of everything? Of you being here? The thing with reading the Bible is that you know how the story ends, you can see the way God is working – it ain’t so easy when you are going through it. You can’t see the end or the purpose when you are in the middle of it. We know that Joseph got out of jail, that jail opened the door to the promotion God promised. But he didn’t at the time. Everything seemed to have gone wrong, fallen apart – maybe you think you’ve messed things up so badly that there is no way to right it. Do you believe God is in control, that He has a plan and purpose for your life? The final page isn’t written yet – the trouble is that we are living half-way through the book. You may be here because of your own failure, sin, folly – but God can still be using that in accomplishing His purposes (Romans 8:28 We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.)

♦           So Joseph was unfairly in jail, the natural reaction would be to be angry, depressed, bitter, to mope, be disillusioned, discouraged. But Joseph didn’t – how do I know? He carried on faithfully administering, doing what he was good at, he ended up running the jail – just like he ran the estate of his master. How can you do that?! Not be overcome by your situation but be bringing valuable contribution to where you are. He was outward, not taken up with himself – he was sensitive to the situation of others, saw when some fellow inmates were not their normal selves. How come he did not get depressed and inward? – He held onto God’s Word. Hold fast to God’s Word: God’s Word is TRUE! God had said that his brothers would bow down to him; therefore God must be going to get him out of this hole. If I can give a word of encouragement to you tonight, it would be: “HOLD FAST TO GOD’S WORD!” When all falls to pieces around your ears – that is what will keep you. (Romans 15:4-6 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.) The Scriptures will encourage you – there you will find God’s will and purpose for you (Romans 12:1 I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Jeremiah 29:11-13 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.)

♦           God’s presence – our vital need: Prison isn’t a pit; it is a place of hope and service to God! I don’t know what its like to be in prison – but God does – He’s been there! He was in prison with Joseph. God is with you, even in prison (Genesis 39:21-23 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.). God can make you prosper, even in prison, if He is with you. You need the presence of God. God can be with you, even in this place. If He is with you what more do you need? (Psalm 73:22-28 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 16:8-11 I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.)

♦           Because Joseph wasn’t taken up with himself he noticed others, he saw two prisoners looking dejected – they were worried because they had both had a dream that night. God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dreams and it was true. God had spoken through dreams and His word is true. As the dreams had predicted one was executed the other restored to office – Joseph appealed for him to put in a good word for him because he worked for the pharaoh. There was a glimmer of hope – but that man forgot Joseph. You ever had your hope raised only to have them dashed again? If there is anything to bring you down it is that. But Joseph was not – he still held fast to the promise, to what God had said.

♦           Lifted out of prison: And finally God’s word was fulfilled – the pharaoh had a dream and Joseph’s former cellmate remembered – Joseph was called out and God gave him the meaning of the pharaoh’s dream. Again, Joseph naturally arose and was given responsibility. The dream predicted a severe famine and Joseph was given the responsibility of preparing the nation of Egypt for it. He was raised to the position of prime minister of the greatest nation on earth at the tme. The famine effected the nations around and Joseph’s family came to Egypt for grain.  They all bowed before Joseph – just as God had said in the dream. God’s Word is true! God’s Word is TRUE! It never fails. You can rely on it.

♦           Here was a former prisoner exalted to position of prime-minister of the greatest nation of earth! Was it just to vindicate Joseph, make a happy ending to the story for him? God has a plan and a purpose: No, God had a purpose. He had His people and He was going to keep them alive through a seven year famine. Joseph was not taken up with his own situation he stood back and saw things from God’s perspective (Genesis 45:5-11 “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvesting. “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. “Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, “God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. “You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. “There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.” ’ Genesis 50:20-21 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.) It was all God’s doing – even working through their evil intent. It makes a great difference to see things from God’s perspective – that there is a purpose and a plan for all you go through. Your time here can be of no profit to you – you can become inward and bitter or you can hold fast to God’s promise, absorb His Word, abide in His presence and see things from God’s perspective – there is a purpose and a plan.

♦           Restoration and salvation: Of course the story ends with Joseph being reconciled to his brothers and family – no doubt something that some of you are looking forward to or longing to see happen. God arranged the circumstances in order that lives may be preserved, saved. That is still God’s purpose, to save lives. That is God’s purpose for you, that through you other lives may be saved.

♦           God can exalt, restore, and He is well able to save, no matter how dire the situation. His plan does not revolve around your little world but in His higher purpose to save many lives. Put aside your own agenda and plans and align yourselves with the Divine purpose.

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