Joseph-The Ruler

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God ensures that we are where we need to be. We can trust God to provide for us, for our needs, for skills and abilities; for blessing others.

Before we turn to the reading of God's word, let's pray and ask for his blessing. Father in heaven, we ask that you would open our hearts and our minds to hear and to receive your word and to be transformed by it, and we thank you for the presence of your Holy Spirit, who works in the words as they are spoken and in the ears and hearts and minds as we listen. This we ask in Jesus name, Amen.
Please turn with me to scriptures, to Genesis, Chapter 41.
An ongoing theme in this series is faithfulness. Faithfulness or faith can sometimes be hard to understand. Some people think that faith is hoping or believing in something with absolutely no evidence to support it. In fact, some people will say that the more outlandish the claims, the more faith you need to have.
Apologist Greg Koukl, in answer to the question, “Can you give a biblical definition of faith?” Writes the following.
“Biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. Let me explain what I mean. If we want to exercise biblical faith, Christian faith, then we ought first to find out how the Bible defines faith. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11 verse one, this verse says, ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’”
“Now, there's something very important in these words, we see the word hope, we see the word assurance and we see the word conviction, that is confidence. Now, what gives us confidence? "If you buy a lottery ticket," Greg goes on to say, "Do you hope you'll win the lottery? Yes, of course you do. Do you have any assurance you'll win the lottery? Absolutely not. You have no way of knowing that your ticket is any better than the millions of other lottery tickets out there competing for the same pot.
“But what if you had X-ray vision and you could see through the gray scratch off coating on the lottery tickets you buy at the supermarket, you'd know, if you had 100, 200 or a thousand dollar winner, wouldn't you? In that case, would you merely hope you win? No, you would have assurance, wouldn't you? You would have assurance of those things you previously only hoped for. It would be hope with conviction, not a mere hoped, but a hope buttressed by facts and evidence. We believe we have faith in God's promise to take away all our sin, all our shame, all our guilt. He has promised us everlasting life with him. We'll be perfectly set up for life, true life one day.”
All we have to do is trust that it is so. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to know to see that this is true based on the evidence. That Christ will return and restore and make all things new, and we will live with him in life everlasting.
Pharaoh's actions in our passage is an excellent example of faith as knowing the results in action, so “faith,” says Greg Koukl, “as described in the Scriptures, faith is knowing, believing, trusting, understanding, the results in action.” Pharaoh trusted the dreams God gave him. Pharaoh trusted that the dreams did, in fact, show him what God was going to do.
And in this story, in this passage, we see it as an example of how God works and has worked throughout history.
God is going to do something, God is going to raise up a man who would save the lives of everyone in Egypt, that person, of course, was Joseph. But Joseph was a kind of foreshadowing of another person. But he wasn’t the only one.
We can see similar foreshadowing action in another person named Moses. And we can see actions repeated in Jonah. We can see it repeated in Elijah. And finally, all of these things, all of these people are pointing us to one person in particular and that person is Jesus.
In our passage this morning, Pharaoh believed, accepted, and acted on Joseph's interpretation. Pharaoh believed that the God Joseph worshiped was powerful enough to bring about what would happen. The seven years of bountiful harvest followed by seven years of famine. He accepted it, he accepted Joseph's interpretation, he accepted Joseph's plan and surprised Joseph by putting him in charge of everything.
Do you see how God works in you, His people? Like the parable of the talents, those who have been faithful with a few things will be put in charge of many things.
Joseph was faithful in the work that was given to him by his father, even though his brothers proved that they were somewhat less faithful than Joseph was. Even though we can infer that perhaps they tried to make Joseph think along the same lines as them and to put less than his best effort forward. But Joseph was determined.
Joseph was determined to be faithful to act out on the trust that was given to him by his father. And then when Joseph was sold into slavery, he was bought by Potiphar and given responsibilities, and he was faithful and diligent in all those responsibilities.
And so Potiphar gave him more and more responsibilities until he came to the point where Joseph was in charge of everything, and the only thing that Potiphar was worried about, day in and day out was what he would eat.
Potiphar's wife, falsely accused Joseph of adultery, Joseph was thrown into prison. And again, he demonstrated his faithfulness, his trust in God, by being diligent in the work that was given to him to the point where the captain of the guard who's in charge of all the prisoners, like Potiphar before him, did not worry himself about anything as long as Joseph was in charge. Joseph was faithful with the small things and then was given more responsibility, he was faithful in the small things in the prison and given more responsibility.
And then finally, Joseph is given responsibility over all Egypt to prepare them for the seven years of famine.
No matter how awful Joseph's situations became. No matter how bleak, no matter how hard or difficult the job, Joseph did it to the best of his ability each and every time, trusting the work of the Holy Spirit in his life.
What did he have, though, to go on?
What set Joseph apart, maybe, from other people?
What made him this unique individual that we read about in the scriptures?
He had God's promise, right? The dreams that started his whole thing off.
The dreams that showed his brothers gathering around and falling down in worship before him, pleading with him to save them. And then another dream, of his brothers and even his parents. Pleading with him to save them. As we found out in this passage, when dreams are repeated, it's an assurance that it's going to happen.
Joseph had received the dreams from God as a promise of what God was going to do, there is no way he knew then what he knew now as ruler of Egypt. Who would have imagined? That the scared 17-year-old, cowering at the bottom of a cistern, waiting for his brothers to murder him, would be the ruler of Egypt in just 13 years? Who could have predicted that the young man who was thrown into prison would be set in charge of the entire nation, second only to Pharaoh?
How's it going with you? What are you living for? What are you working to achieve? Are you merely putting in your time? Are you working for the weekend as the song goes? Are you working for the paycheck, the holidays, your family yourself? For God?
Joseph dedicated his life to the Lord, the Lord was with him, even Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God was in Joseph.
That same spirit, the Holy Spirit, is in you. This means that any work you do as an employee, as an employer, self-employed, stay at home mom, working moms, stay at home dad, working dad, student, teacher, you name it, the spirit is in you to serve God with all your ability.
Now, it seems to me that we live in a culture, a Christian culture, which emphasizes radical Christian living. We focus on the stories of great things and great actions and great activities by great people. We see this, in a way, in the scriptures, too, don't we? We have records of people who did amazing things like Abraham and Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, John, all of them did amazing, radical things. But consider this, congregation, of all the people who are recorded in the Bible, how many of them have their whole or even part of their stories told?
What percentage of all the people in history? Israelites and Gentiles in this span of thousands of years, what percentage of them are recorded for us? It's probably less than one percent, isn't it?
Even Elijah, right?
Feeling under all kinds of pressure, his life, certainly was in danger, but he declared to God, he says, I'm the only one in all Israel who is still faithful.
The Lord said, no, no, no, no.
I have kept 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
7000 people who are quietly serving their lord in their lives. And that's all the mention we have of them. No names. No descriptions of their life. Doing ordinary faithfulness.
Doesn't God require an ordinary faithfulness from you, from me?
God considers and rewards faithfulness, making no distinction between those who do amazing things and those who do ordinary things.
The reward for the one who returned five talents was the same for the one who returned 10, but for the one who exercised no faith who did nothing, even what he had was taken from him.
God isn't watching you simply to see if you are doing extraordinarily extraordinary things for him.
God is watching you because he loves you and he delights in you. As a father, delights in and is proud of his son or daughter as a mother, delights in, and is proud of her daughter or son.
God is watching you exercise your faith, your trust.
That is, knowing what you know about God, what Jesus has done for you on the cross in forgiving you of all your sins, of making you right forever with God. Knowing that the Holy Spirit is in you and is working in you so that you can live in faithful obedience to his commandments, this knowledge results in action.
It results in a life that is holy, that is set apart by God, that is sanctified, that's what sanctification means, being the process of being set apart, the process of being made holy, the process of becoming more and more like Christ.
God isn't watching you to see if you do more good things than bad things.
He's not waiting for you to do something so that he can bless you. He's not withholding things just because you're an ordinary person doing ordinary things as an ordinary Christian.
God has already blessed you and given you everything you need, God has already given you his best, absolutely greatest treasure: Himself.
You cannot do anything to gain more love from God because God already loves you perfectly. Nor can you do anything to make God love you less than the perfect love he loves you already with.
Joseph was called to an extraordinary task. Prior to that, he demonstrated faithfulness in his life, he was faithful to his father, he was faithful to Potiphar, he was faithful to the captain of the prison. He was faithful to Pharaoh. Why?
Because he was faithful to God. He trusted God, he loved God, he honoured God over all else, he knew God, he knew God's promises for him, and he acted on those promises. He served in this life, in this world with all his ability.
So I ask you again. What are you working for? What are you living for, or perhaps a better question would be who are you working for? Who are you living for?
Know that you work for the Lord, that you live for the Lord who takes great delight in what you do. Know that you have already received all you need in him, know that God's plan for you is being worked out, know that you have a role to play in daily ordinary faithfulness.
Do what you are already doing to the very best of your ability each and every day. Oh and know this also. God, who began a good work in you? He is faithful to complete it in you. Amen. Let us pray.
Father in heaven. We thank you for the presence and work of your Holy Spirit in us. We thank you that at times we aspire to doing great things and in fact, we have examples of great and amazing things that you have done in and through your people in this congregation.
We thank you for their examples of faithfulness to us. We thank you, Lord, that you are faithful to us in all the ordinary things of life.
Being obedient children and being parents. Being employees and employers, teachers and students, Lord, we thank you for the opportunities daily we have to show our knowledge and certainty and hope that we have in Christ, by producing actions. We thank you for the work of your Holy Spirit in us. We thank you for Jesus Christ in his name, Amen.
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