Life of Joseph  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea: I want to look at the character development of Judah and what it shows us about the messiah. God had a significant role for both Judah and Joseph in His grand story of redemption. You have a part to play in God’s story of redemption for this world and He often uses the small, seemingly insignificant, and unassuming things of this world to do big things in His kingdom. When viewed in terms of land, seed, and covenant, we see this story is ultimately about Judah coming into his own and taking leadership of the brothers. This narrative is meant to be seen beside Joseph’s testing and subsequent forgiveness of his brothers. Joseph can take it no longer when Judah offers to lay down his life for his brother and that is the moment that forgiveness comes.
Do brief Joseph intro…story behind the story...
Who in here is fascinated by human psychology? I am, so I want to read you guys a little something about psychology.
I want to read you guys a little excerpt about the phrase “stream of consciousness” (have you guys heard that expression before?) from an article entitled: Analysis of Montage Application in Modern Stream of Consciousness Movie Editing. So if you’ve ever wondered what being a pastor looks like, well…some days it looks like reading articles like this. Here is the deal though...You’ll have to pay really close attention or else you won’t get it. Here is the quote.
"Stream of Consciousness" originated from the book "The Principles of Psychology" written by American psychologist William James. The author thinks that the interpretation of human consciousness is not a simple fragment connection (meaning our consciousness doesn’t just stem from what is happening in the present moment), but consists of rational and conscious consciousness and illogical and irrational subconscious consciousness (that is to say our consciousness is made up of pretty much every element of human thought, but let’s just move on past that lol). In human thought, the past consciousness will be interwoven with the present consciousness, thus forming a realistic sense of time in subjective feeling, similar to the "river" that can flow (unpacked, that means that our consciousness is made from a complex set of experiences and events from past and the present much like a river is made from smaller streams, creeks and tributaries all flowing into one bigger body of water). From a certain point of view, the blending of human consciousness in time can be understood as the flow of consciousness, so it is called "stream of consciousness" end of quote.
Let me sum that all up for you…do the river bit...
Talk about how movie makers use the deep psychology of ‘stream of consciousness’ in montage to link our minds to that of the hero in the story.
The best stories make us feel like we are part of it and because we aren’t a billionaire scientist, or a champion golden glove boxer, they use the editing technique of montage to link our minds to the stream of consciousness of the hero through time. Through montage we are literally dumped into the river and get to swim around in the character’s stream of consciousness.
It is actually a brilliant technique of character development meant to connect you with the heroes journey in a deeper way than if he were to simply show up ready for battle.
The hope being that you feel like the character has a fighting chance against the big bad Russian who is better trained or the sports team or big bad guy that the hero has already lost once to.
Now what in the world do hero montage’s have to do with the story of Joseph?
Week one of this study I told you guys that the biblical writers were absolute literary geniuses. We see plot devices, character development, suspense, and closure in the story of Joseph that would go on to shape the way that all good stories were written after it. Joseph’s narrative is an undisputed literary work of art. Whether they believe it or not, that much is agreed upon by anyone who takes literary criticism seriously.
Now, what Lexie just read was the first part of what is essentially a four chapter montage. We aren’t going to read all four chapters this morning but are going to cover them because at the end of them, we get the Rocky on the stairs bit.
In order for us to really grasp the gravity of the montage and feel the hope it is meant to inspire in us, we have to first look backwards for a minute. Only then can we really sense the hope this montage is meant to inspire in us as we become part of the story.
If you are going to read the book of Genesis well, you have to keep in mind three major themes. Those being land, seed, and covenant promise.
I want to talk about the idea of seed this morning. And that conversation begins all the way back on page three of your Bible.
Genesis 3:15 NASB95
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
We see these two seeds of promise right here from the beginning. There is the seed of the serpent which represents the seeds of evil, and destruction. And this promised seed of the woman that will one day crush the head of sin, evil, destruction and temptation (everything the serpent stands for up to this point).
In the very next chapter, we get a story about how Cain is tempted by the seed of evil and sins as he murders the seed of promise (his brother Abel). We see another curse come to the seed of Cain.
At the end of that same chapter, however, Adam and Eve have another son and we learn that Seth is the seed of promise.
We typically skip over the next chapter, Genesis chapter 5, but if you do this, then you miss how the promise of God is passed down from promised seed to promised seed all the way to a man named Noah.
Now, I would venture a guess that we all know his story pretty well but what you may not recollect is what happens after the flood. One of the brothers Ham is again tempted again by the seed of evil and is cursed. While we see Noah say this about Shem:
Genesis 9:26 NASB95
He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.
So the promised seed is going to continue through the line of Shem.
And then we get two more chapters (chapter 9 and the latter half of chapter 10 that we typically skip right over) that tracks the seed of Shem. Here is how that Geneology ends:
Genesis 11:27–30 NASB95
Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Sarai was barren; she had no child.
So up to this point in the story what would we expect to come next? Well we would expect for the story to continue on with Nahor right?!? I mean if Abram’s wife was barren and she couldn’t have kids then well that sort of disqualifies Abram and Sarai from continuing on the lineage of the promised seed that would bring blessing and salvation from evil, temptation, and destruction in the world.
That’s what we would expect and yet the very next chapter sees the story continue with Abram.
Genesis 12:1–3 NASB95
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
Genesis 12:7 NASB95
The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
Now, even if you’ve not read that story before, is the idea of seed and bareness a big deal in the Abram story?!? YES!
God promises them a child and yet…nothing. So what do they do…? Here sleep with my servant and have a child with her. God says not that way. I didn’t just promise a seed that would save the world, I promised THE seed. And so God works a miracle and opens the womb of a nearly 100 year old couple to allow it to produce the seed of promise.
That child’s name was Isaac.
From Isaac, the story continues and this time we get two brothers. This story shows us that it is God who chooses who the promised seed is. It isn’t the older brother which was typical in that day and age but God elected the younger brother Jacob.
Jacob goes on to meet a woman who he is sure is the one, one, one, one (echo).
He works for seven years and gets duped into marrying the other one, one, one (echo).
He doesn’t love her and doesn’t even think she is beautiful but he’s kinda stuck so he works another seven years and finally gets to marry the one. Only problem is that his favored wife cannot have children.
Now, this is the part of the story where tracking the chosen seed gets kinda tough because Jacob is like snoop dog man. I mean if women spend too long in the same room with that dude they get pregnant.
And so the story progresses on and Jacob eventually has 12 sons…any of which could be the chosen seed because up to this point in the story we have established that it could be any of them…it doesn’t have to be the oldest or even the obvious pick…God decides.
But then…we meet…Joseph.
Joseph is the favored son from the favored wife who couldn’t have an children and immediately our minds are meant to go to the Abraham and Isaac stories.
And then the story continues on with Joseph…so you are thinking this is the guy. Until you read on that is… do the all the other guys were losers bit...
Here is a bit of good news as we just observe this story,
God uses people in spite of their brokenness.
Here is the deal…I know that was a simple and almost trite point to take away from that but I just want you to go back and think about the massive implications of that for a second. GOD USES PEOPLE IN SPITE OF THEIR BROKENNESS. Now that isn’t a license to sin. But the reality is that we don’t need a license to sin…we are going to do that anyways. No that is hope on the back side of our sin and freedom from guilt and shame.
Do you know how many people I have spoken with and how many stories I have heard of people making this statement right here: “Man God wouldn’t want anything to do with me because of the things I have done. I just can’t bring myself to come to church because of the kind of person I am. Or what about… I feel like I need to just be in a better place before I come back to God.”
Ya’ll look at me right here: You ever tricked your blind dying father out of his inheritance? How about this…You ever committed genocide before? Yeah…because that’s what some of the guys did that God ended up using.
I don’t know where you came in here at but when you really grasp the reality that God uses people in spite of their brokenness and there are no depths of that brokenness that can make you unreachable or unusable by God, there is a freedom and fullness of life that awaits you that nothing in this world can give you and to which nothing compares.
I could honestly camp there all day and we could end the sermon there and I don’t feel like I would’ve short changed any of you but we need to go on and see how the whole Joseph being reunited with his brother’s saga ends because it actually gets even better!
Now if you were here last week I did sort of give this away but if you remember this from last week then humor me and go back on the journey with me. Let’s assume that the promised seed could be Joseph but just to be fair, let’s also assume that it could be any of them.
We’ve been tracking Joseph’s story for the past several weeks so we kind of know where he is at right. But lets drop back in on the brothers and see what kind of state they are in.
Genesis 42:1–2 NASB95
Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.”
Dude don’t tell me there isn’t humor in the Bible. Ya’ll these are grown men! Look at what Jacob says…basically get your thumbs out of you know where and go down to Egypt to find some food so that we may live and not die. I just imagine the eleven brothers and Jacob standing around a table staring at a single bean when Jacob is like Reuben, Simeon you guys are like nearly fifty, I can’t believe daddy is still having to solve your problems for you. At which point some more harsh language comes from Jacob and then the boys like shamefully go load up the donkeys with their tails between their legs and head down to Egypt.
From this picture of the brothers, I think we see that there still is no clear leader. If the promised seed isn’t Joseph then there really aren’t any of the rest of these guys that look like they might be the one to carry forward that chosen seed.
But cue the montage music because we are about to see our hero arise.
Now if you remember from last week then you already know the answer to this. It’s Judah. We actually get the clue four chapters earlier when the narrative breaks away from Joseph to tell this weird…and I mean really weird story about Judah and his Daughter-in-law Tamar.
Do the story of Judah and Tamar from 38
We have already read how chapter 42 goes when the brothers go down to Egypt for the first time. Perhaps you missed them when Lexie was reading, but Joseph hits his brothers with seven trials to find out whether or not his brothers have changed the evil murderous ways or if they are the same lot of scoundrels that sold him into slavery twenty plus years ago. And wouldn’t you know it, they fail at every turn. The chapter ends with Simeon being held hostage by Joseph to ensure that they bring Joseph’s brother Benjamin back safely.
Chapter 43 opens up and they are once again out of food and needing to go back to Egypt and they have to break the bad news to Jacob that they must take his other favored son Benjamin down to Egypt or they won’t get any food or their brother Simeon back. Jacob isn’t too happy and then dun duh dun du Judah steps up and we see the first flicker of hope that Judah might actually be the promised seed.
Genesis 43:8–10 NASB95
Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. “I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. “For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.”
In this, we see a bit of character development in Judah that we haven’t seen before. For the first time ever in the story, Judah is thinking of someone besides himself. Here is what we got from Judah the last time his name popped up in the Joseph narrative:
Genesis 37:26–27 NASB95
Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.
Did you notice that he said: “What profit is it for US” Judah wasn’t being altruistic or morally upright…it was just easier to clear his own conscious if they didn’t kill him. Morally upright would have been, “Hey how about we don’t kill him or sell him into slavery because he is our brother.” Judah just didn’t wanna deal with another murder cover-up because he’s already been down that road once and doesn’t want the hassle of it.
But this time, we actually see some moral fiber…maybe even a backbone in Judah.
Let’s continue on… montage music still playing.
Joseph puts his brothers through another set of trials… In chapter 44 He questions them and then he puts their money they paid for the food back in their sacks as well as his silver cup and sends them on their way. But they didn’t just put those things in any person’s sack, they put them in Benjamin’s sack. Ah the plot thickens.
Joseph sends his servants to catch up with them on the road and they accuse the brothers of stealing the silver cup and the money and say that whoever’s sack they find it in (knowing full well where it is at) will become slaves in Egypt. Obviously the brothers are feeling pretty confident in themselves because they know they didn’t steal anything but then this happens:
Genesis 44:11–13 NASB95
Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city.
Ya’ll, I don’t think I can accurately convey the despair these men felt in this moment. We get one sentence about them tearing their clothes and going back to the city but can you just put yourselves in the position of these men for a second. They were given one express command by their father and that was to bring Benjamin home safely and now they are walking to perhaps watch Benjamin die as they are sold into slavery. Ya’ll these were grown men with kids and even grandchildren who were waiting for them to come home. Can you imagine the irony that set in on these men as they looked down at their torn robes as they walked into certain slavery in Egypt. The symmetry of that picture compared to the robe they tore up as they watched Joseph being marched into slavery in Egypt was not lost on these men.
But then look at the very next verse…whose name pops back up?
Genesis 44:14 NASB95
When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him.
Eleven brothers are standing there before Joseph and yet Judah’s name is mentioned specifically. It is because of what happens next…this is what the whole story has been building to. You see, this isn’t actually Joseph’s story. This isn’t Jacob’s story. This is actually Judah’s story. And for 13 verses Judah recounts what has gone on at home up until this point. And here is how Judah’s monologue ends…this is the rocky climbing the stair bit of the montage.
Genesis 44:33–34 NASB95
“Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. “For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?”
Look at me really really closely here. Please do not miss the symmetry nor the gravity of this statement here. It was Judah who proposed the plan of selling Joseph into slavery. That is where our hero started. Judah has been tested time and time again over these two chapters in his own sort of heroes montage. Look where he is now.
Judah is the one with torn robes willingly offering to become a slave so that Benjamin and his other brothers might go freely home.
Let’s look at the very next thing that happens in the story and then we are going to draw some conclusions.
Judah finally passes the test, Joseph breaks down crying and then does this:
Genesis 45:4–8 NASB95
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. “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 plowing 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.
Joseph knew that God was in control all along but I believe for the very first time, Joseph is realizing that this was actually God’s intended plan.
Oh my goodness where do you even close this thing out at? Right?!?
About how forgiveness is a process and that even though Joseph had forgiven his brothers in chapter 42, that process took some time to become real in his response to them. Anybody dealing with issues of forgiveness? Yeah? Well this story touches that and perhaps we could land there...
Maybe this is about how we set healthy boundaries with the people who have access to the most intimate parts of our heart. Nobody can hurt you like family can…that been any of your experiences? Yeah? Well maybe we can take a page out of Joseph’s book here about how he dealt with it. Perhaps we could land the plane on that one.
Maybe this is about how God uses the unsuspecting people to do great things. Paul tells us that God uses the weak to confound the strong, and the foolish to confound the wise. Maybe you don’t see your worth and perhaps you think the list of your failures is so great that God could never truly love accept or forgive you. But look at what God did in and through Judah. Look how God shaped Judah’s character in spite of his moral failures to bring salvation to the rest of his family. Anybody walk in here today feeling any of those things? Maybe we should spend some time there…Joseph’s story definitely informs that.
Did you notice that I didn’t even read this little gem?
Genesis 50:20 NASB95
“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.
You can’t preach this story without talking about this. Anybody walk in here feeling defeated and like you are facing circumstances so terrible you’ll never recover? Financial issues, marital issues, issues parenting your kids, issues at work, how about sickness, or the death of a loved one or any one of the other million terrible things a person can experience living on this earth? Anybody walk in here this morning with one of those rain clouds hanging over your head? Maybe we should spend some time drawing conclusions about that...
Remember this is a story about land, seed, and covenant.
The plot twist is that this isn’t Joseph’s story. This isn’t Jacob’s story. And the real plot twist is this isn’t even Judah’s story. No… In fact, this isn’t even about Judah’s great, great, great, great, Grandson Salmon who married a prostitute named Rahab…you know the Rahab who helped the spies over the wall of Jericho. It’s not about their Son Boaz either. You know the amazing story of redemption we read in the book of Ruth about Boaz and Ruth? Its not even about their great grandson David who would become king over Israel or his son Solomon who would build the temple. It isn’t even about any of the other kings.
This story isn’t just about a promised seed…this story is about the promised seed…the lion of the tribe of Judah known as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus from the tribe of Judah would not just offer himself in slavery so that his brothers could go free but would actually give himself in death so that strangers, enemies, and sinners can go free. It was Judah’s substitutionary act that would open the door of grace, forgiveness, and salvation in a beautiful picture that would ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus’ death on a cross.
In fact, just as it was God’s plan all along for Joseph and the brothers, it was His plan in Genesis 3:15 and even before that Jesus would bring salvation as the promised seed that would crush the head of sin and death and destruction.
This is the story behind the story. Joseph’s story is a great picture of what is to come but it is just that… a picture. That story has zero power to transform your heart and life. What that story points to, however, has real power that can really change you.
You want to forgive the way that Joseph forgave? You don’t do that by emulating Joseph’s example…you have no power to do that. You forgive the way Joseph forgave as you experience the true forgiveness that only Jesus can offer and let that change your heart. When you are so taken by the forgiveness that Jesus has granted you, it will overflow in a type of forgiveness that you can never muster in your own strength.
You want to set healthy boundaries with those you love most? Jesus says if you don’t hate your own father, mother, brother, and sister…even your own life in comparison to the love you have for Him, you cannot be His disciple. You want healthy boundaries…let Jesus take his proper place in your life through the Gospel and watch as the rest of your relationships begin to fall into their proper place. The results will be greater than any self-help book or modern psychological approach to can give you in approaching your closest relationships.
That’s just two from that previous list but I could go on an on and on. This story is meant to draw our eyes to Jesus. Here’s the big conclusion though and then we are done.
Every single one of the people in the promised line of Jesus were failures. Every single one of them. From Abraham to Jacob to Judah to David…they were all failures. Imagine watching the super inspiring heroes montage only for them to get beaten by the bad guy at the end. Like, how would you have felt if you watched Rocky 4 where Rocky faces off against the Russian and you watch the super inspiring montage where Rocky is like running in the frozen tundra, sawing the logs in half (inspirational music is blaring in the background), he’s lifting the weights in the barn…and Stalone was like ripped in that movie. And then at the end of the training montage, he steps into the ring and gets knocked out within five seconds of the opening bell. Boom! Credits roll. Rocky 5, Rocky recovers from brain damage. How ya’ll feeling about that movie?
That’s it though isn’t? That’s the entire story of the Old Testament. We get build up after buildup thinking maybe this is the snake crushing seed of the woman just to watch the plot twist with each one of them and we end up finding out they are actually from that other seed…the bad line. There seems to be no hope and then comes Jesus.
Just like a good montage, that is supposed to draw us into the story. All of those little montages are meant to make us identify with the characters. We aren’t good enough. We can never conjure the strength to be forgiving enough, loving, able to rise above our circumstances, set healthy boundaries, or resist temptation. All of those stories are meant to make us look outside of ourselves for salvation, grace, and forgiveness to the one who laid down his life so that we could go free.
And so today, I can’t offer you a moralistic platitude from this story that is strong enough or compelling enough to change your story. I can only point your eyes to the thing this story is meant to point our eyes towards…the only thing that can truly give freedom, forgiveness, and victory in life…Jesus.
And so I don’t know where you came in here at…give Gospel to the saved (it still transforms) and the lost (it can change your story).
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