Can We Find a Man Like This?

A few years ago, my wife and her sisters spent an evening out on the town. Oh, from what I can tell, there is nothing like being with your sisters! There was the getting dressed up; taking pictures; going out to eat; taking pictures and then taking in the sight and the sounds of the theater. Oh, but not that theater with popcorn and hot pretzels and nachos. No; the theatre with the grand marquee outlined in the brightest of lights; the foyer with the high ceiling; the stage with the ornate aesthetics; and the rows and rows of seats. Oh, and the box seats for kings and queens and presidents.

The lights dimmed. The chatter of the audience grew soft. Someone uttered with an eager smile, “It is about to start!” The curtain rose and the play began. One act and one scene followed another until the curtain closed, the lights brightened and the chatter grew. The audience stood from their seats and the aisles began to fill. Lisa then exclaimed, “This is so good!” Another sister agreed. “I know, it is so good!” And yet another sister agreed. “Yeah, it is good, but that sure was a weird ending.” It was intermission. She did not know that the ending was yet to come!

This is the intermission. Intermission is not a time to stand and stretch. Intermission is not a time for chatter. It is not a time to fill the aisles. Intermission is a pause. It is a time to pause and take a deep breath.

After Two Whole Years

Genesis 41 begins, “After two whole years.” Does that not seem really specific? The Hebrew reads, word-for-word, “It came to pass at the end of two years full.” The word full is the same word as day in Genesis 1. So, this is like saying, “After two years of days…” This is either seven hundred thirty days or seven hundred thirty-one days if there was a leap year. It is just really specific. And it is because it is referring to something.

The verse prior is Genesis 40:23. “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” So, it could be that Genesis 41 begins with two whole years of Joseph being forgotten. He is in prison. He made a friend and asked that friend to remember him. And the friend forgot him for two whole years. And it seems likely, for in Genesis 41:9 the chief cupbearer remembers Joseph after two whole years. But why does he remember?

The two whole years is not directly referring to the cupbearer forgetting Joseph. Look at the next few words of verse one. “After two whole years, Pharaoh.” So, these two whole years have to do with Pharaoh. Now remember, the word whole or full is the Hebrew word for day. Listen then to Genesis 40:20. “On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday…” This is very specific. I                t has been two whole years since Pharaoh’s birthday. This means that Genesis 41 is Pharaoh’s birthday!

And there is a contrast. Two years ago, Pharaoh threw a party for his birthday. And this is a shocker; Pharaoh was happy on his birthday. He laid out a feast for all his servants! It was a day of rejoicing and celebration. There were gifts to open and cards to read and birthday cake – white cake with white buttercream frosting from Giant Eagle – and Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. Two years later, it was Pharaoh’s birthday. There was the party and the feast and the presents and cards and the birthday cake and ice cream. But Pharaoh was despondent. “In the morning his spirit was troubled” (Genesis 41:8). This word troubled is used in Psalm 77:4. This helps in getting a sense of what Pharaoh was feeling. “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.”

Pharaoh was anxious; so anxious that he could not even close his eyes. I wonder why? May I suggest it was because he did not want to fall asleep? He was so anxious that he could not string words together to form a sentence. He was tired. And he did not want to go back to sleep because he might…

After Two Whole Years, Pharaoh Dreamed

Pharaoh dreamed (41:1). After two whole years, on his birthday, Pharaoh dreamed. And he did not dream one dream, but two dreams. The first dream woke him up, but although kind of gruesome he was able and wanted to go back to sleep (41:4-5). And he dreamed a second dream. It was the combination of the dreams that held his eyelids open, muffled his speech and troubled his spirit.

Pharaoh was there in his own dream. He was standing by the Nile River, the longest river in the world and most important to Egypt. It sustained them and it was revered. The Egyptians treated the river as itself a god. And there were seven cows, standing in the river, perhaps cooling off and just having a good time eating. These were plump and good looking cows. But then arose seven thin and ugly cows who ate up the good looking, healthy cows! Pharaoh awoke, gathered himself, took a drink of water, relieved that it was just a dream, a bad dream. And then he dreamed again (41:1-4). Behold! This is the third of six times that this word of astonishment is used to describe these dreams (cf. 41:2; 3; 5; 6; 7; 17). Behold! There were seven good and plump ears of grain growing on one stalk. And behold! Seven hideous ears of grain sprouted up and devoured the seven good and plump ears of grain. And now Pharaoh awoke, wide eyed, refusing to go back to sleep and troubled. The birthday party was spoiled.

Joseph Remembered

Remember, the Egyptians viewed dreams as gifts from the gods. The dreams were meant to be paid attention to, for your life would be affected by them. But these gifts were mysterious and the gods left no interpretation. Hence, Pharaoh gathered all the magicians with the dream dictionaries and all the wise men with all their wisdom, but no one could figure out these dreams (41:8). Probably the most that could be figured out is that the number seven must be important and maybe the cows meant that we should all eat more chicken.

The cupbearer speaks up. “I remember!” The cupbearer recounts to Pharaoh that two years ago and three days before the birthday party he and the baker – remember the baker, he was put to death – dreamed two dreams on the same night. They too, had no idea what the dreams meant. They too, were troubled because no one was available to interpret nor could interpret except this one prisoner. It just so happened that this prisoner was assigned to attend to these two men. And Joseph nailed the interpretation (41:9-13). Joseph is remembered.

Pharaoh is the most powerful man in the world. He is thought of as a god. But he is reduced to a man in need; a man who needs the help of a forgotten prisoner: Joseph. And remember, this is two whole years later. And remember, Joseph was forgotten. God has a better plan. God has a better purpose. And God has a better timing. With God, all things are always better.

Can we remember that Joseph too, one night had two dreams? Can we remember that there was no mystery to those two dreams? Can we remember that Joseph immediately knew the interpretation, as did his brothers and his dad? Can we remember that Joseph was then seventeen years old?

Joseph Plucked from the Pit

Pharaoh orders that Joseph be plucked from the pit; a.k.a, prison. He is given a clean shave and clean clothes and brought before Pharaoh. Pharaoh gets to the point. He had two dreams. No one can interpret them. It has been said that when Joseph hears a dream he can interpret it (41:14-15). I wonder how the cupbearer was feeling at this point.

Now listen to Joseph’s response. In Hebrew it is a one word answer. “It is not in me.” The cupbearer could not get out of the room fast enough. But there is more to Joseph’s response. “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (41:16). Now here is the short of it: Pharaoh gets what he was looking for. The dreams are different, but the same. There will come seven years of plenty, seven years of prosperity. But then will come seven years of recession and depression that will wipe out the seven previous years. It is a famine. It will be so bad that the seven great years will be forgotten. There will be no evidence that those seven years ever existed (41:26-31). It is quite a warning.

But it is the big idea that demands our attention. Notice that Joseph first says that “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” This is very similar to the previous chapter when Joseph told the cupbearer and baker that interpretations belong to God (40:8). Listen though to the big idea. It is given in Genesis 41:25 and then again in Genesis 41:28. “God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” This is what needs to be gotten, not the prosperity and not the famine. It is all about what God has done. It is all about what God is doing. It is all about what God is about to do. And here is the interesting part; when Joseph dreamed his two dreams there was no mention of God either by Jacob or Joseph’s brothers or Joseph. The difference lies in that it has been thirteen years since Joseph dreamed his two dreams which were different, but the same (cf. 37:2 and 41:46). And something is different about Joseph. From the pit to the prison to the palace, thirteen years, Joseph has been shaped not by his circumstances, but by God through his circumstances. It is like 1 Peter 1:6-7. “Joseph had become a radically God-centered man.”[1]

Can We Find A Man Like This?

The intermission is coming. It is verse forty-one. On Pharaoh’s birthday, Joseph’s fortune changes. The most powerful man in the world grips Joseph’s shoulders and says, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” The curtain closes. And we pause to take a deep breath.

The big idea is what God is about to do. Then there is a big question. It is asked by Pharaoh. “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” What gave Pharaoh the sense that in Joseph was the Spirit of God? Yes, Joseph shared that the dream revealed what God is about to do, but that is not all. Joseph also shared what Pharaoh needed to do. Appoint a man! Joseph did not think he was this man, but a man was needed to oversee the plenty and plan for the empty. For Pharaoh, Joseph was this man (41:31-39). Why?

There are two parts to Genesis 41:1-41. It all centers around God’s revelation. The two dreams are God’s revelation. We have God’s revelation. It is called the Bible and there are sixty-six books revealing to us what God has done, what God is doing and what God will do. And with the revelation of Genesis 41, Joseph was a preacher. Here is what God is going to do (41:1-30). I am going to say with much trembling that this was not enough. It is not enough to expound and point to what God is going to do. It is needed, but not enough. Joseph then pointed to what needed to be done (41:31-36). So, the two parts are what God is going to do and what we need to do. And we need to pause and take a deep breath. Can we find a man like this? Can we find men like this?

This is the hardest sermon I have ever preached. I have had to pause. Do we have a man like this? I had to answer it. Do we have a man who each week opens God’s Word to us, points us to God and then leads us to what we need to do? And I thought, what does it take to be this kind of man? It takes time. For Joseph it took thirteen years. It takes time in God’s fatherly hand to humble and to shape and to season a man to be God’s servant who is radically God-centered.

This is all to say that we need a vision. A vision to grab onto and a vision that leads us to action. Where do we get that vision? Monday while mowing for three hours, I asked God for a vision. I told him that I thought we needed a vision. He did not answer me. He did not answer me on Monday. He answered Tuesday. And his answer began like this, “After two whole years.”

So, what is God going to do and what do we need to do? How do we get this clear vision? It begins with His Word. We have it and need it like our lives depend on it. But this all reminded me of the book of Acts which begins with what God is going to do, the revelation (Acts 1:6-11). But then the rest of the book is what needed to be done, the response. And in that response, we first see those who got the vision praying together. We then see them devoted to teaching and fellowship and communion and to prayer. We see them loving the lost world. And we see the gospel growing and the gospel bearing fruit, people getting saved, the world turned upside down and radically God-centered people asking for more boldness (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:7; 4:29).

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 481.

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When Disappointments Loom Large

Where is the best place to serve God? Is it my home? Is it my neighborhood? Is it my workplace? Is it my group of friends? Is it my golf league; my rec center; my gym? Is it my church? Or is it some far away land? The answer, of course, is…yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

But is it prison? And not just prison, but in prison. Is the best place to serve God in prison? And not just in prison, but in prison…twenty-four hours a day, seven days week, week after week, month after month, year after year. Is this the best place to serve God? And not just in prison twenty-four hours a day, seven days week, week after week, month after month, year after year, but with other prisoners…twenty-four hours a day, seven days week, week after week, month after month, year after year. Is this the best place to serve God? The answer, of course, is…

Wherever He Sets You Down

I am just wondering. I am just wondering if I really believe it. I have been thinking about it for two years. It changed my thinking. It changed my perspective and I have held on to it ever since. It is John 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” Pause there. There is much more to the verse, but this is the part that opened my eyes. Notice the words chose (choose) and appointed. The two words go together, and one reason is that Jesus uses the word and to connect the two words. Jesus first says, “You did not choose me.” The word choose is used in the sense of picking up. So, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “You did not pick me up.” And then he gives that hinge on which great truths swing. “But I chose you.” The word chose is used in the sense of picking up. So, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “You did not pick me up, but I picked you up.” Now watch how this then fits with the word appointed. It means to set down. “You did not pick me up, but I picked you up and set you down.” And we want to ask, where? Where does he set you and me and down? It is wherever. He sets you down wherever, this is really important, according to his purpose. Notice the rest of this sentence. He sets us down that we should go, and we must ask, where are we to go? It is wherever. We are to go wherever he sets us down and bear fruit, long-lasting fruit. The best place then to serve God is wherever he has set you down.

But do I really believe it? Do I really believe it when a disappointment happens? Disappointments are those unexpected and unpleasant happenings that mess up how I think things should be going.

Not unlike Genesis 37 or Genesis 39 or Genesis 41 to come, Genesis 40 is about Joseph. Joseph is in prison. Then comes a disappointment followed by another disappointment.

And so here comes the big idea of Genesis 40. The best place to serve God is wherever he has set you down. But what do I do when it no longer feels like the best place? And what about the places that sure do not look like the best places, like prison? Then what do I do whether it does not look like the best place nor feel like the best place and a disappointment comes? What about when a disappointment becomes disappointments and those disappointments just loom large over all else? What do I do?

Remember Joseph

Remember Joseph. His testimony begins with two dreams. He was seventeen years old. And what do we know about two dreams? This is not, what are the two dreams about? The two dreams are about Joseph and his family. What do we know about two dreams? Listen to Joseph. “And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32). Meaning, God is at work and God is in control and God will do it. This is all very important.

Joseph is then tattered, battered and thrown into a pit left for dead. Until at just the right time a caravan of human traffickers come his way. His brothers, his own flesh and blood, sell Joseph into slavery. Sold into slavery, Joseph is sold again to a man named Potiphar. And who is Potiphar? He is an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian. Joseph is placed in Potiphar’s house and things go well for him. He does all things well and with diligence and integrity and care. So much so, God blesses Potiphar and his house because of Joseph and for Joseph’s sake.

But then Joseph is put in prison. Why? It is because he refused to sin. Listen as a reminder to Genesis 39:9. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And who put him in prison? It was his master Potiphar. And things go well for Joseph in prison. He is pretty much in charge and succeeding, although staying, in prison. We need this reminder. Oh, and the Lord, Yahweh is with him. Catch that, the Lord, Yahweh is with him…in prison (cf. 39:21; 23).

A Servant to Prisoners

But then one day comes. This is not too profound, but true for all of us. One day will come. Two officials, two high officials of Pharaoh, quality control men are put in prison. Their names are cupbearer and baker. Why are these two men in prison? They “committed an offense [sin] against their lord the king of Egypt” (Genesis 40:1). Notice the parallel to Joseph. He refused to commit an offense, a sin, against the Lord the King of all kings. He was put in prison.

Genesis 40:3-4 are really interesting. Pharaoh puts the cupbearer and the baker in custody of the captain of the guard. This captain of the guard just so happens to oversee the prison where Joseph is confined. And what does the captain of the guard do? The captain of the guard appoints Joseph to these two men. Who is the captain of the guard? His name is Potiphar. Who is really at work here? Who is really in control here? in prison? And who is keeping the big picture in view?

The word attended (v. 4) is critical. It means to serve. Joseph was called upon, and it is not like he had a choice, to serve these two prisoners. What is going through Joseph’s mind? He is a prisoner! But for a while the best of a bad situation was being enjoyed by Joseph. As a prisoner, he was running the whole place and now is brought low, humbled. He is now a servant to prisoners. And what does he do? He serves.

Two Prisoners, Two Dreams, One Night

And it just so happens that these two prisoners dream a dream, that is two dreams, on the same night. The cupbearer is in his own dream and the baker is in his own dream and the number three is in both dreams. When morning dawns Joseph rises to his duty and serves. And the two men he serves are awake, but miserable. They look sick! “Why are your faces downcast today?” Listen to their reasoning. It is about the dreams, but not so much about the dreams. “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them” (40:5-8b).

In Egypt, dreams were a big deal. A whole economy was built around dreams. Books were written, jobs were created to interpret dreams. Dreams were seen as gifts from the gods, but mysterious. And these men have each had a dream, “a gift from the gods,” full of mystery but surely meaning something for them. And no one can tell them what each dream means! It just so happens that Joseph has experience with dreams. It is interesting that when Joseph had his two dreams he knew the interpretation immediately, as did his brothers and his dad. But here in Egypt, interpreters are needed. So here is Joseph in prison serving two men with two dreams. Listen to what he does. He draws their attention to the Most High God, for all interpretations belong to Him. “Please tell them to me.” Joseph puts on display his faith in God.

And then Joseph gives the meanings. The cupbearer in three days will be released from prison and restored to his high position. This is good and great news not just for the cupbearer, but for Joseph too. He just helped a man who was sick to his stomach about his future. And Joseph pleads, “Only remember me.” He asks that when the cupbearer is before Pharaoh again and in his good graces again, bring up Joseph’s name. He has been falsely accused and is in prison, another “pit” (40:9-15).

But the baker. In three days he too will be released from prison and into a high position (40:16-19). His death! Three men are now counting down the days and only two men are happy about it!

The interpretation of each dream was true. Why? Because it was fixed by God and God shortly brought it about. But what about Joseph? This is the worst part. “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (40:23).

When Disappointments Loom Large

When do you think Joseph realized that the cupbearer forgot about Joseph? Genesis 41 will tell us that two years go by before the cupbearer will remember Joseph. Two years is seven hundred thirty days. Except if there was a leap year, then it is seven hundred thirty-one days. After how many days did Joseph realize he was forgotten? And not by the cupbearer, but after how many days would it take to think that God has forgotten? This is when disappointments loom large.

It will be thirteen years before Joseph is released from slavery and from prison and has his two dreams realized, dreams fixed by God and dreams God will shortly bring about. From Joseph’s perspective, three days seems short, not thirteen years. But in thirteen years, each place Joseph had been was the best place to serve God. How? How is that even possible, in prison too? God is at work. God is in control. God will do it. This is called providence. It is the almighty and everywhere present power of God where by God’s hand, no matter what and no matter where, he still upholds heaven and earth and even you.[1] There is nothing called chance. Three days or thirteen years, nothing is called chance. It cannot be called chance when whether in the pit, in prison or in the palace God has never left you and by his fatherly hand has sustained you. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).

So, how do I get through it? Because it is real. John 15:16 is real. But Joseph is real. The pit and the prison and the disappointments are all real. How do I get through it? Right where you are…preach; pray and plug away. God has a better plan. God has a better purpose. And God has a better timing. And wait. Get frustrated (for a little bit). Get perplexed (for a little bit). And get patience because with God all things are better.

[1] Reworked from The Westminster Shorter Catechism

A Servant of Prisoners

A servant of prisoners. Think on those four words for a minute or so.

 

Are you finished thinking?

The closing section of Genesis is fourteen chapters long – this is Genesis 37 through Genesis 50. It is surprisingly titled The Generations of Jacob. It is surprising because Jacob has very little to do with it. It is more surprising to learn that Jacob has thirteen kids and these fourteen chapters have very little to do with them. These closing chapters are about Joseph (Genesis 37, Genesis 39 through Genesis 50) and Judah (just Genesis 38).

In Genesis 40 we find Joseph in prison. He has been there not as a guest but as a prisoner! He has been there for quite some time. But in Genesis 39 we learn that he quickly gained favor in the eyes of the warden. He is more than an ideal prisoner, he is an extraordinary prisoner! The whole prison is put in his charge. Joseph is a prisoner in charge. He has made the warden’s job so easy, so much so that he loves being the warden!

But there is Genesis 40. And in Genesis 40, the prison population grows by two – a cupbearer and a baker, but no candlestick maker are placed there. And Joseph is not in charge. Instead, he is placed in their charge! Joseph is assigned to attend to them. In other words, Joseph is given as a servant to prisoners. Can you imagine this? A servant of prisoners.

But here is the kicker. Joseph serves well. Joseph thus far is continually humbled, from the pit to the prison which he calls another pit. And throughout it all he serves well.

A servant of prisoners. It made me think of the saying, “the best place to serve God is where he sets you down.” Leading to Genesis 40, four times in Genesis 39 we are told that the Lord, Yahweh, was with Joseph. So, Joseph was a servant of prisoners and he served well. Does it have anything to do with the glorious truth that the best place to serve God is wherever he sets you down? By the way, to the prisoners Joseph served, he directed their very thoughts to the most high God.

But the Lord was with Him

These are the generations of Jacob. And the generations of Jacob start with Jacob because he is the dad. But then there is Reuben the first born. And Simeon the second born. And Levi the third born. And Judah the fourth born. And Dan the fifth born. And Naphtali the sixth born. And Gad the seventh born. And Asher the eighth born. And Issachar the ninth born. And Zebulun the tenth born. And Dinah the only daughter. Then Joseph the eleventh born. And Benjamin the twelfth born. These are the generations of Jacob.

But the word these does not refer to Jacob and his thirteen kids. No, instead the word these refers to the ending of Genesis, all fourteen chapters. These fourteen chapters are primarily about two of Jacob’s thirteen kids. Is this sounding familiar? Is this sounding like something you have heard before? It should and it is because Genesis 39 sounds like Genesis 38.

Asking Rather Big Questions

The final fourteen chapters of Genesis are about two of Jacob’s sons; Joseph and Judah. One of these fourteen chapters is about Judah – Genesis 38. This leaves thirteen remaining chapters about Joseph beginning with Genesis 37 and picking up again with Genesis 39. But sandwiched in between is Genesis 38. And we have asked a rather big question. What does Judah have to do with Joseph? The answer is astounding: a lot. But that was Genesis 38 and this is Genesis 39. And so we are asking another rather big question: What does Joseph have to do with Judah? The answer is astounding: a lot.

Now watch this; listen to how Genesis 39 begins. “Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” The struggle for me all week, each day, was this verse. What is its point? It is because it sounds so much like Genesis 37:36. “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.” So notice, there is Genesis 37:36 and then Genesis 38 and then Genesis 39:1 which sounds so much like Genesis 37:36. Why is that? Genesis 38 is about Judah and Judah is responsible for Joseph being brought down to Egypt (cf. Genesis 37:26-27). This, in part, answered the rather big question, what does Judah have to do with Joseph?

But what does Joseph have to do with Judah? Joseph and Judah are brothers; sons of Jacob. Genesis 38 is about Judah and Tamar or a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. Genesis 39 is about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife or a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. This has led to another rather big question: What if Genesis 38 and Genesis 39 have something to do with the very same thing?

And He Had No Concern About Anything

Genesis 39 may be divided in two parts. Part one is Joseph in the house (Genesis 39:1-18). Part 2 is Joseph in the prison (Genesis 39:19-23). And, again, there is something so similar! Whether in the house or in the prison Joseph found favor (Genesis 39:4; 21). In the house he found favor in the sight of Potiphar. In the prison he found favor in the sight of the warden. And in both parts the end result was that neither Potiphar nor the warden had a concern about anything! But why?

We must keep something in mind; whether it was in the house or in the prison neither place was the ideal or desired place to be! Why was Joseph in the house? It was because he was sold into slavery and therefore a slave. Why was Joseph in prison? He was falsely accused and arrested and placed into prison and therefore a prisoner. So keep in mind, part of Genesis 39 is what to do when we find ourselves in less than ideal places in life. And this happens or will happen or has happened to each one of us. We each have moments or seasons in our lives that are less than ideal. So what are we to do? Do not turn to Facebook or to Twitter or to… Listen carefully. Whether in the house or in the prison, Joseph opened his mouth just one time (Genesis 39:8-9). It was thirty-five words, but it was all he ever said.

But what really has captured my attention is that both Potiphar and the warden had no concerns about anything and it was not until Joseph showed up. Both Potiphar and the warden placed all their concerns into the hands of Joseph. Why? Genesis 39:6 makes me laugh. Potiphar so trusted Joseph that day after day his number one question was, what is for dinner? What was it about Joseph?

All Eyes on Joseph

Sight is rather important to this chapter. “His master saw that the Lord was with him.” “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (39:3; 21). But there is Potiphar’s wife and she too saw Joseph. Listen to verse six. This is all so important. Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar. Joseph found favor in the eyes of the prison warden. And let me say this, that whether in the house or in the prison, no matter the circumstance, Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And listen to Genesis 39:5. “From the time that he made him overseer,” in other words, Joseph got a promotion but the circumstance was still less than ideal, “in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house.” Pause there. Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And God blessed…not Joseph, but the Egyptian and the Egyptian’s house. We can rightly assume the same thing about the prison. Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And God blessed…not Joseph, but the prison and the keeper of the prison. Just think on that for a while. It was less than an ideal circumstance, the circumstance does not change for Joseph, but God blessed everyone around Joseph “for Joseph’s sake.”

But there was Potiphar’s wife and Joseph caught her eye. Joseph was handsome and perhaps beyond handsome. Both he and his mother Rachel are the only people in Genesis called beautiful such as this (cf. 29:17). And after a time, Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me’” (39:7). Just listen to verse eight. “But he refused.” Notice the word refused. It has the connotation to reject something because it was distasteful and not only that, but Joseph maintained this kind of refusal. It is not that he found Potiphar’s wife distasteful. It was the sin. This was another man’s wife. How do we know that this was sin or that Joseph thought it sin and distasteful? Listen to part of his maintained refusal. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9b). There is the rather biggest question of all. Joseph’s refusal is thirty-five words long; the only record of Joseph opening his mouth in the entire chapter. And he calls sin for what it is: sin.

Why did Joseph maintain this refusal? Listen to verse ten. “And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” This temptation, this proposal was daily. Where was Joseph to turn? He was stuck. But day after day he just said no, and if not to her directly, it was to himself. See 1 Corinthians 10:13-14.

Joseph Then Runs Like the Wind

But one day it was not just another day. It felt like another day. It felt like another day in a less than ideal circumstance until temptation had its hands around Joseph’s collar, literally. Potiphar’s wife could not take it anymore and she caught him by his garment. The word caught can mean to seize or to seize by violence. And she spoke. “Lie with me.” Notice what Joseph does. There is no verbal refusal. Instead, Joseph runs like the wind and her grip was so tight on him, Joseph’s garment was ripped right from him (39:12).

‘Flee’ is a strong word. The Bible does not tell you to amble, meander, lope, or trot from your sin. It tells you to flee. Fleeing involves effort. It involves straining. It involves speed. You flee when you need to find and experience safety from a threat—a threat like a bear. You flee when it is too dangerous to remain where you are, when standing still would put you in mortal peril.[1] So, I am wondering, how do I flee from sin?

This, Genesis 39, is a particular sin, a sexual sin. But the Bible also tells us that each of us struggles with sin (Colossians 3:5). Each of us struggle with certain sins. Let’s call these certain sins the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). Regardless, we are called to fight sin. So, I am wondering, how do I fight sin?

Joseph will be falsely accused. Potiphar’s wife had Joseph’s garment in his hand. She cries out for help and declares that she was the victim, that she was sexually assaulted by that “Hebrew” (39:14, 17). Her husband’s anger was kindled. He rightly could have put Joseph to death, instead he put him in prison. So, why did he not put Joseph to death, a non-Egyptian? Did he have some doubts?

But this all sounds so similar to Genesis 38. Genesis 38 is about a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. And the heart of it was sin, a sexual sin. Judah said yes to the temptation. And when we say yes to temptation, yes to sin there remains the offer of grace and mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:9). So, Genesis 38 helps us in what to do after we have said yes to sin. Genesis 39 though tells us to fight and flee from sin. Even in fighting and fleeing from sin, Joseph will still end up in a less than ideal circumstance. But regardless, it is better to fight and flee. So, how do I fight and flee from sin?

But the Lord was with Joseph

Four times in this chapter; twice when Joseph was in the house and twice when Joseph was in the prison; we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. The third time is my favorite though. “But the Lord was with Joseph.” Buts “are small hinges on which great truth swings. Always ponder when you are given a hinge.” How do I fight and flee from sin? Think back to Joseph’s refusal of Potiphar’s wife. “By giving the proposition its right name of wickedness he made truth his ally, and by relating all to God he rooted his loyalty to his master deep enough to hold.”[2] Joseph made truth his ally and related all to God. So, again, how do I fight and flee from sin?

Œ God’s Word. See 2 Peter 1:3-4; 9-11.

 God’s People. See Hebrews 3:13-14.

Ž God Himself. This is so incredible. Four times we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. And each time the divine name Lord is in all capital letters – YHWH. Now get ready. Listen to Matthew 1:21. This the Christmas message. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So, how do I fight and flee from sin? It is not without knowing Jesus! The name Jesus literally means “YHWH saves,” or “YHWH is salvation.” And what does Jesus do? He saves his people from their sins. And who was with Joseph in the house and in the prison? But there is more. Four times we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. Listen to Matthew 1:23. This is the Christmas message. Speaking of Jesus, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” And what does Immanuel mean? “God with us.” Who is Jesus? He is YHWH, the Lord who is with me! So, who do I fight and flee from sin? It is not without Jesus! Be reminded of Matthew 28:20. For those who know Jesus, “Behold, I am with you always, to the very end.” (cf. John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 14-16).

[1] https://www.challies.com/articles/run-run-away/

[2] Derek Kidner, Genesis, page 201.

These Two are the Generations of Jacob

These are the generations of Jacob. And the generations of Jacob start with Jacob because he is the dad. But then there is Reuben, the first born. And Simeon the second born. And Levi the third born. And Judah the fourth born. And Dan the fifth born. And Naphtali the sixth born. And Gad the seventh born. And Asher the eighth born. And Issachar the ninth born. And Zebulun the tenth born. And Dinah the only daughter. Then Joseph the eleventh born. And Benjamin the twelfth born. These are the generations of Jacob.

But the word these does not refer to Jacob and his thirteen kids. No, instead the word these refers to the ending of Genesis, all fourteen chapters. These fourteen chapters are primarily about two of Jacob’s thirteen kids. Genesis 37 and Genesis 39 and Genesis 40 and 41 and 42 and 43 and 44 and 45 and 46 and 47 and 48 and 49 and 50 are about the son Jacob loved more: Joseph. This leaves one chapter for one other son – Genesis 38.

Genesis 38 is not about Jacob’s first born. He was a disappointment (35:22). Genesis 38 is not about Jacob’s second born. He was a disappointment (34:30). Genesis 38 is not about Jacob’s third born. He was a disappointment (34:30). Genesis 38 is about Jacob’s fourth born. He was a…

So, What Does Judah Have to do With Joseph?

Genesis 38:1-30 is about Judah. And I am wondering, what does one have to do with the other? These are the generations of Jacob – thirteen chapters dedicated to Joseph and one chapter dedicated to Judah. So, what does Judah have to do Joseph? Yes, the two are brothers, but this feels so out of place. Genesis 37 gives so much attention to Joseph. He dreamed two dreams. His brothers hated him. His brothers sought to kill him. His brothers grabbed him, tossed him around, ripping from him his multi-colored robe and threw him into a deep pit. Then each sat down to eat a sandwich. His brothers sold him into slavery. Finally, the brothers led their dad to believe that Joseph was dead. Genesis 39 will then give so much attention again to Joseph, as will the remaining the chapters that follow. There is just this chapter, Genesis 38, all about Judah. So, what does Judah have to do with Joseph?

The answer, I think, is profound: a lot. Judah and this chapter have a lot to do with Joseph. Genesis 38 may be divided in two parts. Part one is about Judah and Tamar (38:1-11). Part two is about Tamar and Judah (38:12-30). And here then is a brief connection to Joseph and Genesis 39: Tamar is another man’s wife. So, essentially the two parts of Genesis 38 are about Judah and another man’s wife. Genesis 39 is about Joseph and another man’s wife.

But there is more. Listen to Genesis 38:1. “It happened at that time.” Pause there and notice the word time. Time seems to have some importance to Genesis 38. There is Genesis 38:12. “In the course of time.” And Genesis 38:24. “About three months later.” And Genesis 38:27. “When the time of her labor came.” In other words, Genesis 38 seems to unfold over quite a bit of time, perhaps close to twenty years. But it begins with what happened at that time. Another way of saying this would be, “It happened at that moment.” What happened at that moment?

Listen to the rest of Genesis 38:1. “It happened at that moment that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.” So, what happened at that moment? Notice the word turned aside. It means to stretch. Judah left his brothers, this is what happened, and stretched toward his buddy named Hirah. But here is the picture: Judah turned away from his brothers and turned toward his friend. This was what happened at that moment. And what was that moment? Joseph.

Joseph had been thrown into a pit and his brothers were content to leave him for dead, so content that they had lunch together right outside the pit. But one of the brothers had an idea to sell Joseph to some traders passing by. This brother saw a profit to be made, twenty shekels of silver. And the deed was then done. Joseph was sold into slavery, carted off to Egypt. And the brothers were left with heavier pockets and a tattered multi-colored robe. The robe was taken and dipped in goat’s blood and sent to their father. When he held it and looked at it and gripped it, he wept and mourned, refusing to be comforted by his sons. And who was one of those sons? Judah. Listen to the last thing recorded about Jacob. “Thus his father wept for him [Joseph]” (Genesis 37:35). The word wept means to wail, to weep loudly. At that moment, Judah turned away from his brothers and turned toward his friend. What does Judah have to do with Joseph? It was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph into slavery (cf. 37:26).

One Son, Two Sons, Three Sons

And when Judah met up with his buddy he met a woman. She was a Canaanite woman. Remember, Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman. Isaac and Rebekah did not want their sons to marry Canaanite women. But their grandson met a Canaanite woman. And note this; we do not know her name! The most we know is that Judah took her and made her his wife (38:2). Judah and his unnamed wife had three sons: Er the first born who Judah named; Onan and then Shelah both of whom the text says the mother named (38:3-4).

The day came that Er was ready to get married, so Judah took a wife for Er (38:6). And she had a name: Tamar. Now listen closely to verse seven. “But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.” What was so wicked that the Lord put this man to death? Then comes verse eight. Judah turns to his second born and tells him to perform the duty of a brother-in-law. In this culture, the duty of the next brother was to marry the widowed sister-in-law and have children for the deceased brother. It was all to perpetuate the name of the deceased brother. But there was a catch. This child would legally be considered the son of the deceased brother and more importantly the heir. This means it would cost the second brother something; it would cost him part of his inheritance.

So, Onan took Tamar to be his wife and “the Lord put him to death also” (38:10). Onan was more than willing to take Tamar to be his wife and he was more than willing to treat her as his wife and do the things that only a husband and a wife do. But he was not willing to give up his inheritance. To put it politely, he instituted his own form of birth control. And since he lived for his desires, which the Bible says was “wicked in the sight of the Lord,” the Lord put him to death also. Here we are told what the Lord found wicked about Onan. I want to suggest that Er’s wickedness had something to do with how he, too, treated his wife. If the letters of the name Er are switched (re) it becomes the Hebrew word for wicked or evil. Interesting. But the name Er comes from the Hebrew word ur which can have the meaning to be jealous, hate or revenge.

This leaves the third son Shelah who it just so happened was not ready to married. He had some growing up to do or so Judah told his daughter-in-law. Shelah was to take Tamar as his wife one day, but not today. But Judah had another motive. He did not want to ever give Shelah to Tamar because he thought Tamar was cursed. Every man she married died! And Shelah was his last son, the last to continue the family line. So, Judah sent Tamar away in widow clothing to her dad’s house (38:11).

As Time Goes By

As time goes by, Judah’s unnamed wife died! And what does Judah do next? He met up with his buddy Hirah (38:12). It was sheep-shearing time which was also festival time. It would be like our summer fairs. This was a big deal to shear your sheep. The whole town got together, the men, and looked forward to prosperity and harvest and would celebrate and drink together. So, it could be that as Genesis 38:12 picks up, Judah and his buddy began the festivities with some drinking.

Tamar hears of it, that it was sheep-shearing time and that Judah had gone out to the celebration. So, she goes into action and why? She has put it all together. Judah has deliberately forgotten about her. He sent her to her dad’s house to forget about her. She was promised to Shelah. She was promised a family and Judah had no intention of fulfilling his duty. Gee, I wonder where his son Onan learned this practice.

And Tamar dresses like a prostitute. This was no ordinary prostitute. She was covered head to toe. Her identity was unknown. She was an unnamed prostitute. Often the men who went off to this celebration would visit a prostitute, but not just any prostitute. No, these men would visit prostitutes who were covered from head to toe. They were called cult prostitutes or religious prostitutes. They served at the temple of the local false god or gods. And at sheep shearing time these prostitutes were used for good luck, to attain the favor of false gods for a good harvest and good fortune.

As Judah made his way to the festival he came across this certain prostitute and solicits her. Tamar had this all figured out. Judah promises a goat as payment, but will have to send it later. Tamar does not budge. She wants a pledge that she will get this goat. So, Judah gives her his signet (a seal with his signature) and its cord and his staff. These are all identity markers.

And the short of the story is that Judah and Tamar sleep together. Tamar leaves before her identity can be found out, but not without those identity markers. Oh, she is now pregnant (38:19).

She is More Righteous Than I

Judah was a man of his word. He sent the goat with his friend so as to retrieve his pledge. But the prostitute is nowhere to be found. The friend asks around the town and the townsmen claim that this town has had no such prostitute (38:21). Uh-oh.

The friend returns to Judah with the goat and the news. The two agree to keep the story between the two of them. Three months pass and it is discovered that Tamar is pregnant. But by whom? It was not by Shelah her promised husband! Perhaps, it is thought, she has been living as a prostitute. So, Judah declares, legally, that she be put to death…by fire. But Tamar planned for this. And she presents the identity markers so as to make known the father of her child. It was Judah (38:24-25)! Listen though to what Judah says and does. He stops the whole thing for “she is more righteous than I.” It is not that she is innocent, but of the two, she is less guilty than Judah. He bears the greater guilt. He did not fulfill his promise and if not for him seeking to gratify his own desires, she would never have been pregnant. And what Judah meant for evil, God turned for good.

These Two are the Generations of Jacob

Tamar gave birth to twins: Perez and Zerah. Tamar is one of five women who are mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:3). And from her son Perez will come a shepherd boy who would be king: David. And from David would come the good shepherd and King of kings: Jesus the Christ. Yes, this was sinful. Judah and Tamar did a sinful thing. Judah misled her and was therefore responsible for her. But out of their wickedness God brought victory in the person of Jesus. He paid the penalty for their sin.

But there is more. There is Judah. He changed in this moment. He confessed and turned from his sin – she is more righteous than I! He will be a different kind of man (cf. 44:18-34). And his son Shelah eventually had a family of his own and guess what he named his son? Er (cf. 1 Chronicles 4:21). I wonder who Shelah married?

1. Men can have a profound impact on the next generation. Did you notice that Er and Onan and Judah all treated Tamar in a similar fashion? Where did the first two boys pick this up?

2. Men can have a profound impact on this generation. How? Call it as it is. “She is more righteous than I.” There was a third son to hear this and see this. In this moment we see Judah confess, say the same thing God says about immorality, sin. May I suggest that what is most needed right now is revival; personal and immediate revival. “It is the constant experience of any simplest Christian who ‘walks in the light,’ but I saw that walking in the light means an altogether new sensitiveness to sin, a calling things by their proper name of sin, such as pride, hardness, doubt, fear, self-pity, which are often passed over as merely human reaction. It means a readiness to ‘break’ and confess at the feet of Him who was broken for us, for the Blood does not cleanse excuses, but always cleanses sin, confessed as sin; then revival is the daily experience of a soul full of Jesus and running over.”[1]

[1] introduction to The Calvary Road, page 8, by Roy Hession

We’ll See What Will Become of His Dreams

It is estimated that $15.3 billion will have been spent on this very day – about $3 billion on sporting events; $2 billion on clothing and another $2 billion on gift cards. Other than peace and quiet, there are only two things that really matter on this very day: a blueberry pie and a strawberry rhubarb pie. Yes, one pie would be more than enough, but two pies would be better. And it is all because today is Father’s Day.

Genesis 37 begins with a title. “These are the generations of Jacob.” And it is not just the title of Genesis 37, but also of Genesis 38 and Genesis 39 and Genesis 40 and…it is the title to the ending of Genesis! And surprisingly, the ending of Genesis – Genesis 37 through Genesis 50 – seems to have very little to do with Jacob. In fact, thirteen chapters all seem to center upon one of Jacob’s twelve sons: Joseph. Yet, there is one chapter that then seems to have nothing to do with Joseph. It, Genesis 38, too centers upon just one of Jacob’s twelve sons: Judah.

But. Not all is as it seems. Genesis 37:12-36 is about dad.

He Kept the Saying in Mind

His name is Jacob. Now, listen to how Genesis 37:12 begins. “Now.” Pause there. This is a key word to the rest of the passage. The word now (and) is a connecting word. Some translations begin instead with the word “Then.” But regardless, verse twelve is being connected to the previous passage. In the previous passage, Joseph, the second youngest of twelve brothers, had a dream. And then he had another dream. So, mark this down, he had two dreams.

The two dreams are different, but also the same. In each, Joseph is lifted up to a position of authority and his brothers and his parents are bowing down to him. But as significant is that Joseph had this dream twice. Each time he had the dream he shared it; first with his brothers and then the second time with his brothers and his dad. Is there anything important about having the same dream twice? Yes.

In Genesis 41, someone else dreams the same dream twice. This time the dreamer, who is not Joseph, and all who hear the dream are very confused as to what it means. But there is Joseph. He is called to explain the meaning. But just listen to this; he first explains the meaning of dreaming the same dream twice. “And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32).

And so it is with the dreams Joseph dreamed twice. The thing is fixed by God and God will shortly bring it about. This is important to verse eleven. “And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.” Really important to Genesis 37:12-36 is dad. He kept the saying in mind.

Pointing to Something Bigger and Better

Joseph has been described as a type of Christ. What does that mean? It means that the life of Joseph foreshadows or points to something bigger and better. Keep in mind that this closing section of Genesis is connected to God’s promise in Genesis 3:15; his promise that there will be victory. And this promise keeps unfolding and building to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is all very exciting. And the life of Joseph is seen in this unfolding and building toward the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise in Jesus.

There is much of this pointing just here in Genesis 37. First, Joseph was sent by his father (37:13; cf. John 3:16). We will see a little bit more about this in a moment. But for now, see it as a pointer. Second, Joseph was despised and rejected by his brothers (37:4; 8; 11; cf. Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11). Thirdly, Joseph was plotted against (37:18; cf. John 11:45-53). Then Joseph was wished dead (37:18; cf. John 11:53). Joseph was stripped of his robe and left naked (37:23; cf. Matthew 27:28). Finally, Joseph was sold and the payment was silver (37:28; cf. Matthew 26:15).

And then there is dad. He kept the saying in mind. On the first Christmas evening, shepherds went to Bethlehem to “see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Keep in mind that Joseph’s dreams were something God was making known. And so the shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger. Then the shepherds made known to this family the saying that had been told them concerning this newborn child. Now listen to what Mary did. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:15-19). The word treasured means to keep; to keep safe or to guard.

Now back to Genesis 37:11 and dad. He kept the saying in mind. This verse literally reads, “but his father observed the saying.” What is dad observing and keeping?  Notice the word saying (matter). What is the saying? It is the dream! It is the dream for which Jacob rebuked Joseph. Jacob did not treat the dream as some ordinary dream. Is it not interesting that here it is called the saying? It means the sum of what was said. And what did dad do with it? The word kept or observed means to watch for; to wait for; to guard. What may this indicate about Jacob and Joseph and these dreams?

Joseph is Sent to Shechem

Notice that verse eleven calls the brothers jealous or envious. Envious is the better word. Jealousy is when you want what someone else has. Envy is different. Envy is when you want what someone else has and you do not want them to have it! And the brothers are envious of Joseph. The very next verse says that the brothers were out taking care of their father’s flock near…Shechem. What is so important about Shechem?

Two things to know or remember about Shechem. Joseph’s brothers killed all the males of Shechem (Genesis 34:25). And when we read Genesis 37:12, these envious brothers are back near Shechem. Their dad knows this and I am sure has not forgotten about Shechem. And so he sends Joseph to go all by himself to check on his brothers near Shechem. Perhaps he is very concerned for the safety of his boys. But none of this sounds good. But there is more. The rest of Genesis 37 will take place near Shechem (in Dothan about fourteen miles north, cf. 37:17). Joseph will be tattered and thrown into a pit near Shechem. He will be sold into slavery near Shechem. But listen to this. This real story of Joseph is what gets the people of Israel to Egypt. This fulfills God’s promise to Abraham made in Genesis 15:13-16. The book of Exodus is when the people of Israel get out of Egypt to make their way back home to the Promised Land. The book of Joshua is about the people of Israel in the Promised Land, again fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham made in Genesis 15:13-16. But listen to how the book of Joshua ends. “As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph” (Joshua 24:32). Is that not incredible? Why would Joseph want to be buried in this awful, no good place? It is a reminder of God’s hidden hand in the awful, no good moments in our lives.

And when dad, under God’s watchful eye and the guidance of his omnipotent hand, sends Joseph to Shechem, he is keeping the saying in mind. But listen to Joseph. Joseph who clings to the thing fixed by God (the dream), when told by his father to go to Shechem he says, “I am ready” (37:13).

We’ll See What Will Become of His Dreams

A major element in this part of Genesis 37 are those two dreams Joseph dreamed. As Joseph heads out near Shechem he begins to wander. And he is wandering because his brothers are nowhere near Shechem! Catch this; as he wanders he just so happens to run into a stranger. The stranger takes the initiative, this is curious, and asks “What are you seeking?” To which Joseph responds that he is seeking his brothers. It just so happens that the stranger knows exactly where to locate Joseph’s brothers. He heard them say that they were going to Dothan. Dothan is mentioned one other time in the Old Testament. It is where Elisha prayed for deliverance from the surrounding enemy (2 Kings 6:13-18).

The brothers see Joseph coming. How? He is so far away, how do the brothers know it is Joseph? The moment they see him, the begin to plan how to do away with Joseph. They will kill him and throw him in a pit and will report that a fierce animal devoured him. Why do they want to kill Joseph? Remember they are envious of him because of those two dreams. Listen to what they say at the end of verse twenty. “We will see what will become of his dreams.”

This is the big question. What will become of Joseph’s dreams? The brothers are the first to ask it. Then Reuben comes to the rescue. This is the third time in Genesis in which a brother has sought to kill a brother (cf. Cain and Abel; Esau and Jacob). Reuben the oldest, knows that it is a mighty thing to have on your hands the blood of your brother. Perhaps he knows the account of Cain and Abel. He also has a hidden motive. His idea is just to throw Joseph in a pit. Then when no one is looking, he will come and rescue Joseph and deliver him safely from disaster (37:18-22). Why? Could it be to look like a hero in the sight of his dad? (cf. 35:22).

So the remaining brothers grabbed Joseph and stripped him of his robe. Ah, now we know how they knew it was Joseph who was coming near them! He was wearing that robe of many colors! They stripped him and took him and threw him in the pit. Then they sat down to eat. Interestingly, the words of Joseph are not recorded. He opened not his mouth. Now later in Genesis 42:21, the brothers will admit that while he was in the pit they saw the “distress of his soul.” But could it be that as Joseph lay tattered and naked in that pit, he may be wondering, “What will become of those dreams?” This looks like the end.

It appeared that although the brothers will not shed the blood of their brother, they are perfectly content with leaving him in that pit to die…until his brother Judah has an idea. There is a profit to be made. He sees slave traders coming. Joseph is sold by his brothers to Ishmaelites who are also Midianites. The slave traders are heading to Egypt and there will sell Joseph to a man named Potiphar. And, again, not a word from Joseph (37:25-28; 36).

What Will Become of His Dreams?

Again, the central question is, what will become of his dreams? Reuben had apparently gone away and then come back to his rescuing. It is here that he discovers that Joseph is gone and “he tore his clothes” (37:29). This is the same reaction of Jacob when he sees Joseph’s bloodied robe. Let’s jump there. The brothers present Joseph’s bloodied robe to Jacob. He assumes a fierce animal without doubt tore him to pieces. Now listen to verse thirty-four. “Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.” Why is Jacob mourning? In reading verse thirty-five, we read that he refuses to be comforted and will mourn until the day of his own death. Why?

Yes, the son he loved more than any other is apparently dead. He is gone. But there is something more. Remember, this is all about dad. It begins with dad waiting for; watching for; guarding the saying of those dreams, something fixed by God, something shortly God will bring to pass. And his son is now gone. We are watching a dad shaken to the core. Yes, his son is gone, but his faith in God is being tried. His faith is being put through the fire and it may surround this great question, “God, what in the world are you doing? Where are you in all of this? What of your promises, your faithfulness?” Let’s call it a painful disruption in a dad’s walk with God.

We should not romanticize persecution or affliction. They are evils. However, throughout biblical and church history, we find a consistent pattern: “glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46) tend to grow best when adversity, often in the forms of persecution and affliction, is part of the church’s life. Persecution and affliction provide the gracious and sanctifying opportunities for Christians to experience the love of Christ in very personal ways, as we extend it to and receive it from one another — the opportunities to demonstrate the gospel visibly to a watching world. The gospel becomes more real to us the more we feel our need of it.[1]

So, what should a dad do when all seems lost and dark and discouraging, asking, “God, what is going on? Why, O God, why?” There is only one thing I know to say and do and hope to do: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/gods-unexpected-answer-to-our-prayers-for-revival