Sunday, April 13

Faithfulness in circumstances we don't understand

At Quest, we are continuing our series about the relationship between God and people, and what God intends for that relationship to look like. This week we explored the story of Joseph. It’s a long story, and to really get a feel for what we can learn from it, we looked at 4 chapters – Genesis 37 and 39-41.

This is a story that covers at least years and probably decades. Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. He works his way to being in charge of Potiphar’s household. But then Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of trying to rape her, and he is thrown into prison. Joseph then works his way to being made responsible for everything in the prison. While he is there, Pharaoh throws his cupbearer and baker into prison. They have dreams that Joseph, by the power of God, is able to interpret. These interpretations come true, but cupbearer doesn’t remember Joseph, so he remains in jail. After two more years, Pharaoh has dreams, and the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph. Joseph, again through the power of God, is able to interpret Pharoah’s dreams as a warning that there are going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of extreme famine. Because God made the meanings of the dreams known through Joseph, Pharoah puts Joseph in charge of the land of Egypt, making Joseph the second most powerful person in the country. There is a lot going on in this story. Here is some of what we talked about:

· Joseph’s faithfulness is incredible. His brothers throw him in a cistern and talk about killing him before deciding to only sell him into slavery. He responds by working so hard for his new master that the man puts him in charge of the entire household. His master’s wife falsely accuses him of rape and has him thrown into jail. Joseph responds by working so hard with the prison warden that he was made responsible over everything that happened in the jail. He interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, only to be forgotten for two years. Yet after all of this, he still has enough of a relationship with God to seek and receive God’s interpretations of Pharaoh’s dreams. It would have been very easy for Joseph to give up on God and even give up on life. Joseph spent his life doing the right things, only to be punished for them. Many people would ask what kind of God would let him continue to suffer that way. In spite of all of that, Joseph continued to do what was right and continued to have a relationship with God.

· In Mark 12:28, Jesus is asked what the most important commandment is. Jesus answers by saying to love God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. We see Joseph live out these commands, particularly in his interactions with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:8-20). When Joseph is approached by Potiphar’s wife, he turns her down by saying that Potiphar has withheld nothing from him except her. He asks how he could do such a wicked thing and sin against God. This response demonstrates both of Jesus’ most important commandments. Clearly Joseph recognizes that it would be a sin to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. He refuses to commit the sin, showing his love for God. But the fact that it would be a sin against God isn’t the only reason he doesn’t do it. His explanation also shows that Joseph cares about Potiphar. To take advantage of Potiphar in that way would be wicked and would permanently damage his relationship with Potiphar. Joseph isn’t going to do that. He puts his concern for Potiphar ahead of his concern for his own wellbeing. This is a great demonstration of loving your neighbor as yourself.

· Sometimes it takes a very long time to understand why God allows things to happen the way that they do. Romans 8:28 tells us that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” There are lots of times in life that we face circumstances that are not good, and that we can’t see how they could possibly work for good. Joseph was sold into slavery, then falsely accused and thrown into prison. He faced years of trials and troubles when he didn’t really do anything wrong. God clearly had a plan, and needed Joseph to be in that position so that he could be used to help Pharaoh and be in a position to provide for Jacob’s family. By the end of the story we can see how God was working through the whole thing. But I bet it didn’t feel that way to Joseph while he was living it. He must have spent years wondering why these things were happening to him. We can see the same thing operating in our lives. Sometimes it takes a very long time to see how God is going to use struggles and troubles in our lives to “work for the good of those who love him.” Like Joseph, it is important for us to remember to continue to be faithful, because God will be faithful. We may not see how, but God will work. Just like Joseph never guessed that God would his situation to make him the second most powerful person in Egypt, we have no idea how God is going to use the situations that we live through.

Those are the highlights of our discussion about Joseph from the time he was sold into slavery until he became the second most important person in Egypt. Next week we will talk about his encounters with his brothers and the rest of his family.

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