Joseph (Part 1)

A Podcast by Ross Paterson

This is Ross Paterson sharing, and I'd like to go to one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament (Joseph) and share from the word. I'm going to begin with Psalm 105, verses 16 through 22, which is a fantastic description of Joseph, but it it goes a lot deeper than we might think. So let me read it and make some comments.

Follow along and listen to the podcast here:

Contents

PART 1

Joseph's Journey
And Situation

He starts bound in irons; he finishes binding prisoners of his will. What does Joseph's journey mean?

Part 2

Two Schools
of Christianity

Which of them is true? Let's examine the stories of Joseph and other Biblical characters

part 3

What Is God's
Plan for Us?

As human beings, we can't possibly understand the reality and the greatness and the awesomeness and the wonder of our Heavenly Father.

PART 4

God's Call Is Real, 
but Not Effortless

God's power and grace and purposes and destiny are fantastic, but don't confuse effortless success with God's destiny.

PART 5

Conclusion

Endure, if that's your passage for now. Enjoy, if that's your passage for now. But have confidence in God's purposes, and don't stay His hand from fulfilling them in your life.

part 1

Joseph's Journey
and situation

He starts bound in irons; he finishes binding prisoners of his will. What does Joseph's journey mean?
16 Moreover He called for a famine in the land (that's God called for a famine in the land); He destroyed all the provision of bread. 17 He sent a man before them -- Joseph -- who was sold as a slave. 18 They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons. 19 Until the time that His word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. 20 The king sent and released him, the ruler of the people let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler over all his possessions, 22 to bind his princes at his pleasure, and teach his elders wisdom - Psalm 105:16-22
While I'm sharing briefly this month from Singapore, in a friend’s house there's some building work going on outside, so I hope my microphone is sensitive enough not to pick it up. And of course, being Singapore, it's very hot and very beautiful. It's a great city. Now, what I want to do in looking at Joseph, is to expand on the two halves of Psalm 105, the passage I just read.

Verse 16 speaks of a famine of God destroying the provision of bread. Verse 17 says that God's man Joseph was sold as a slave. God sent a man before them in the next period of their history to be in Egypt, but God sold that man as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters. That's not spiritual hurt, though there was that, that’s physical hurt. He was sold as a slave. He was hurt with fetters. He was laid in irons.

There wasn't just an uncomfortable bed that felt like iron, it was actually, as the worst kind of imprisonment, in irons. And then God moves!

"Until the time that his word -- which I take to be Joseph's word, his dreams that he'd earlier proclaimed that had so angered his brothers -- until the time his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him and he became lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom."

So, what you have is something very interesting. He starts bound in irons; he finishes binding prisoners at his will. Now, where am I going to go with this? Let me step back a bit.

PART 2

Two schools of Christianity

Which of them is true? Let's examine the stories of Joseph and other Biblical characters
I feel increasingly there are kind of two schools of Christianity, not just in the West but now more and more in China and in places like that.

One is what I would call the effortless school, let's call them the Effortless Brigade, that God is there to bless us, God is there to cause us to bind princes at will, to rule over the land, etc. In one way or another, God's main intent is to prosper and bless us and so on.

The other school is what I might call the grumpy school. They talk about taking up our cross to follow Jesus, and however you see that, it involves if you like the chains, the prisoner, the laying down our lives, the falling into the ground and dying and so on.

So briefly, there's the grumpies and there's the effortless schools.

Now, most of us, I suspect, are taught in one school or the other. I use the word “effortless” because I picked up a book in Australia recently written by an Asian pastor, a very significant Asian, pastor in which the title was something like God’s Key to Effortless Success.

And then again, you hear of others who go through terrific struggle -- Selwyn Hughes, as I speak at the moment, is just beginning a two-month series in Every Day with Jesus on how to face suffering, how to face adversity.

Now, which is true? The answer is both. The answer is both are true.

The Effortless are true, and the Grumpies are true, and what this passage of Joseph shows is that any one time in our lives, and sometimes simultaneously, both are true. If our Christianity belongs to the Effortless Brigade, and it's all about us prospering and succeeding, I actually believe we'll miss God's purposes.

PART 3

If our life is not effortless, what is god's plan for us?

As human beings, we can't possibly understand the reality and the greatness and the awesomeness and the wonder of our Heavenly Father.
Personally, it's hard for me, not just Joseph but even Paul, to see how on Earth anyone could construe Paul as having a key to effortless success. Read his testimony in prison, in shipwreck, in this, that, and the other, yet, yet triumphing. But if our life, on the other hand, is all disaster and chaos and this, that, and the other, then we're missing the boat. Now I want to look at Joseph from that point of view. Let's go back to Genesis 37, where his life and ministry starts. Genesis 37 begins amazingly. Genesis 37:1.

1 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old

So, though Jacob had, I suppose really, ten other sons at that point (I'm not sure if Benjamin was born, maybe he was), but the story goes: this is the history of Jacob Joseph. This is God's man, God's choice is on him, and it's good for us to just settle in our hearts that God’s choice is on us. If we're walking with the Lord, if our hearts are set for his purposes, whether we currently be in the Effortless Brigade or whether we currently be in the Grumpy Brigade, the Father's hand is on us.

Just, our praying... just now I went for a long prayer walk in the very hot Singapore sun and walked by a reservoir, that there is a very beautiful area, with a very interesting beast that ran out straight in front of me and went into the lake, into the reservoir. But I just meditated as I went on.

As human beings, we can't possibly understand the reality and the greatness and the awesomeness and the wonder of our Heavenly Father. We can get glimpses, we can get small understandings, but until we meet Him face to face, to think of a Father God who is without beginning and without end, even that, to properly get your mind around it, is difficult.

But to look at this beautiful reservoir I’d just been walking by, which is quite a little bit jungle wise, when you walk towards it you can see sometimes. As I came out and saw that beautiful stretch of water with a cool breeze in the hot Singapore sunshine, you see something of Our Father’s order and design. That order and design wants to lay hold of our lives.

PART 4

God's call is real, but it is not effortless

God's power and grace and purposes and destiny are fantastic for every person hearing this, but please don't confuse effortless success with God's destiny.
So just as he says here, the history of Joseph, it wasn't at this point Judah, it wasn't at this point Ephraim or any of the others, it was Joseph... and we need to begin to learn from Joseph's story that the Father has a purpose for us.

But what we're going to look at, not just today but hopefully in the next few months, is this real fact? That though he was God's chosen purpose, and though he had those wonderful dreams -- he dreamt that his brothers would bow down to him; Joseph had a dream, he told it to his brothers and they hated him, and he said, “There we were binding sheaves in the field, then behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

And then again he dreamed another dream, verse 9 Genesis 37, “This time the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” And even his father was a little bit stumbled by this, but his father did put it in his heart and, if you like, study it, think of it.

And our start position needs to be this is the story of God's activity, Ross or John or Mary... He has purposes, He has good purposes for us. If you're on our China team, I can't mention your name because I don't have to mention everybody's name, but God's good hand is on you. God's purposes, God's goodness is there. It may not be entirely effortless, but the Father's purpose is there.

But immediately, Joseph begins -- remember, he's going to bind princes at his will, all of this kind of thing -- immediately, he begins having had the dreams. Everything, as you know, in Chapter 37 goes considerably south, considerably bad. His father, extremely unwisely, in my view, says in verse 14,

“Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.”

Very unwise, because it says above that Joseph brought a bad report concerning his brothers to his father. So, the last thing you really want to do, when Joseph is bringing a bad report, is send him to bring another report. But his father did.

You know, he got lost and a man directs him -- that's interesting, isn't it? With all that’s going to come, God makes sure he gets there. The brothers in verse 19 say, “Look, this dreamer is coming. Let's kill him.” So they throw him in a pit. Reuben wants to rescue him, wants to come back later and rescue him, so they throw him in a pit. And they see the Midianite traders coming in verse 28. They pull Joseph out, and they sell him, and they go back. Astonishing, isn't it really? They go back and tell their father, “Here is his coat. Recognize this, and know that your son is dead.” Which he isn't. How people can lie barefaced like that is hard to know.

Then, in Chapter 38 it gets worse. You get Judah having three sons, and then because the first two are killed, you get the first son's wife dressing up as a prostitute and sleeping with Judah, getting pregnant by him, and he wanting to kill her for adultery and she proving that he had done it, and so on and so on. I mean, pretty sordid society.

Now, the point I want to make this month is a very simple one. God's call is real, but it isn't all plain sailing. God's call is real, but it is not effortless. God's power and grace and purposes and destiny are fantastic for every person hearing this, but please don't confuse effortless success with God's destiny.

Part 5

CONCLUSION

Endure, if that's your passage for now. Enjoy, if that's your passage for now. But have confidence in God's purposes, and don't stay His hand from fulfilling them in your life.
Look at Joseph. Look at Paul. But on the other hand, if you know God has called you, you've had, as it were, dreams like Joseph had, and it just doesn't seem to be working out -- you're in the pit, you're in the prison (we'll look at that next time), you're living in a Judah society that is immoral and hypocritical and self-righteous and the rest of it, or you’re like his sons wife who is neglected and abused and sent home by her father-in-law and so on -- maybe that is your portion at the moment, but please remember both the effortless and the grumpy position are right.

You may be in the grumpy position, but that doesn't stop God's hand. And the lesson -- go back to Psalm 105 verse 14 and following the passage I read -- the lesson is that it isn't over until God has finished His purposes.

So even though it may be hard... I just sense somebody listening - you feel nobody's paying any attention, I just feel so lonely, I just feel so ignored, that I just... “Father, hear me, help me, send some kind of help.”

I want to tell you, in His day, His deliverance will break forth. In his time, in His period. So let's get a biblical position on this kind of thing. It isn't all effortless, sometimes it’s downright awful, but the Father's still there. The Father's preparing us.

You see, in Joseph's case, what Dad was doing was preparing Joseph to have mercy on his brothers when they met face to face. Without that grumpy period, who knows what Joseph would have done?

I think in the way he share the dreams he was an arrogant young man. By the time he was elevated by God to the position where his brothers lives are in his hand, he was a gracious, gentle, and faith-filled man.

Endure, if that's your passage for now. Enjoy, if that's your passage for now. But have confidence in God's purposes, and don't stay His hand from fulfilling them in your life.

Father, help us, we pray, because we so often judge what you ought to do by secular or less than fully biblical perceptions. Help us to understand men like Joseph, men like Paul, others in the New Testament and the Old Testament, and see that Your way is faithful. You are faithful. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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