JOSEPH'S FAITH AND STEWARDSHIP
(45:1-26; 46:26-47:27; 50:15-26)
Key Verse: 50:20
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
In our last Sunday message we learned how Joseph practiced what is commonly referred to as tough love with his brothers to help them to repent. When we repent or when another person repents what should we expect? Forgiveness and God’s blessings. Jesus taught: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Lk 15:7 In these last six chapters of Genesis we will see Joseph’s life is like the life of Jesus Christ. He forgave his brothers’ sins when they repented. He invited them to live with him in his kingdom. Pharaoh promised to give them the best of the land. Today let us be reminded of Jesus’ grace to forgive sins and his grace to give us the best of His kingdom.
Part I. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
At the end of Genesis 44 we find Joseph’s tough love helped Judah to make a complete act of repentance. Judah tells Joseph; “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy…” With this life changing act of repentance chapter 44 ends. What a cliff hanger to end the chapter with! What Joseph will now do is the big question. Will he pay back harm for harm? Slave life for slave life? Look at 45: 2, 3. At the sight of Judah’s repentance he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Then he announced: “I am Joseph! Is my father still living? Joseph’s loud weeping is the first sign he had completely forgiven his brothers for their many wrongs they had carried out against him. Even with this show of sincere forgiveness we find it will take many years for his brothers to completely accept Joseph’s forgiveness. Instead of being relieved by his weeping and his gracious announcement that he was Joseph, they became paralyzed with terror. Why did these brothers become paralyzed with terror? It is because these brothers had always lived by the philosophy if someone wrongs you even in the littlest way then you should retaliate massively. These brothers had never experienced forgiveness or practiced forgiveness. They had only seen and practiced vengeance. It was beyond their comprehension Joseph would actually forgive them. Not withstanding, complete forgiveness is what Joseph was offering them. The important question for all of us is, how could Joseph completely forgive his brothers? First briefly look at what he says to them in 45:4 and 5: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
This is not the only time Joseph would share these words. Seventeen years later Joseph would be having the same exact conversation with his brothers after his father’s death. The brothers were still guilt ridden for all the wrongs and sins they had committed against Joseph. In chapter 50:18 they threw themselves down before him and said; “We are your slaves.” Joseph could have gloated over his brothers pleading for their lives lying at his feet. He did not. Instead this time he gives them even stronger words of reassurance. 50:19-20: He tells them: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” First Joseph reassured his brothers he had completely forgiven them because he is not in the place of God. Joseph was saying he was not going to put himself in God’s place to take vengeance. Deuteronomy 32:35 God writes: “It is mine to avenge, I will repay.” Joseph could forgive because he didn’t try to put himself in God’s place to take vengeance. Taking vengeance is the number one cause of the endless cycle of violence found all over this earth. Joseph had the power and authority of Egypt to repay his brothers for their many wrongs and sins against him. He didn’t because he denied himself and would not allow himself to take God’s place in the matter of vengeance.
Secondly Joseph could forgive his brothers because he believed God was sovereign over his brother’s harmful intentions in his life. 50: 20 he tells them; “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” This is one of the best illustrations of a person’s faith that believes God is sovereign in all events; even those event where people intentionally try to harm us. We see the very clear intentions of harm on his life by his brother were then180 degrees redirected by God. God took intentions of harm and turn them into intentions for good which resulted in the saving of many lives. Romans 8: 28 teaches in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.
Many young missionaries find life is very difficult because of the problem of having little cash, visa problems, and language problems. They must believe just as God used Joseph difficulties for good God will use their difficulties for good and actually use them to help fulfill his plan for their lives.
Joseph didn’t just forgive with his mouth. He forgave with action. Looking back to chapter 45:9-11 he tells his brothers to hurry back to his father and tell him God had made him lord of all Egypt. Then they are to help Jacob and their own families to come back to Egypt to live in Goshen so he could help provide for them during the next five years of famine. He warned them: “Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.” The blessings offered to Joseph’s brothers who repented only become better. In chapter 45:20 Pharaoh directed Joseph to tell his brothers to never mind about their belongings in Canaan because the best of Egypt will be theirs. This is the same offer God gives all people who accept forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ his Son. He tells us to never mind our belongings in this world because he will share with us the best of the Kingdom of God. Our belongings in this world will all perish, spoil and fade away, just as Jacob’s belongings did in Canaan. In 1965 the New York’s World Fair was held in Queens. New York made very attracting and very huge concrete architectural buildings for this fair. Now all these structure are falling apart with rust and age just as all abandoned buildings do. This is not so with treasures God has secured for us in his Kingdom. 1 Peter 1:4 tells us through Jesus Christ he is shielding for us an inheritance in heave that can never perish, spoil or fade.” In regards to physical blessings Pharaoh said: “Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.” God says the same to us as he invites us to his Spiritual Kingdom: “Never mind about your belongings in this world, because the best of My Kingdom will be yours.”
Joseph’s brothers followed his direction. They went back to Canaan and told their father, Joseph was still alive and invited him to come and live in Egypt. In chapter 46:3 God spoke to Jacob in a vision. He told him not to be afraid to go down to Egypt. He reaffirmed his promise to make him a great nation. As long as we go where God wants us to go we never have to be afraid. For Jacob the best day of his life is yet to come. Verse 27 tells us 70 members of Jacob’s family went with him to Egypt. When he arrived in the region of Goshen verse 46:29 reads: “Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” Twenty long years earlier was the last time Jacob had seen his precious son Joseph. Then one day after he sent him out to check on his brothers Joseph vanishes from existence. The only information Jacob was ever given of what might have happened to him was Joseph’s torn and bloodied ornamented robe. Those who have children can imagine how sick with grief they would feel if their child vanished with nothing but bloody violence as possible evidence of what might have happened to them. We can imagine how Jacob at this reunion with Joseph thanked God and praised God. This is a strong encouragement to everyone that we should always persevere to keep our faith in God even in life’s worst trials. God is able to turn the worst of times into the best of times. This is exactly what he did for Jacob when he reunited Jacob and Joseph.
Part II. Joseph’s Stewardship (46-50)
Joseph could become very emotional now that his father’s family is safe and sound under his protection in Egypt. Since he was lord of all of Egypt he could easily give special privileges to his family members. He could appoint one brother to be secretary of defense. Still another he could appoint him to be secretary of state. Is this the kind of special favors Joseph provided for his father’s household? Absolutely not. We find Joseph put none of his family on the Egyptian government payroll. Looking at 46:31-34 we see he gives direction to his brothers that they should tell Pharaoh their occupation of choice is to be shepherds in Goshen. In this way Joseph would help his brothers not to be dependent on Egypt. Instead they would continue to depend on the Lord to bless and increase their flocks. A shepherd was a very detestable job in Egypt. Egyptian Hollywood would shun them. On the other hand it would mean they would not be easily assimilated into the corrupt, idol worshipping Egyptian society. Rather they would continue to keep their identity as God’s Holy promise nation he promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Once Joseph settled his family in Goshen as shepherds, he next focuses his full time to energies stewarding Pharaoh’s wealth and feeding the masses of people who were without food. In our day we think the way to help starving people in time of famine is to send them plane loads and ship loads of free food. This was not the kind of wisdom God gave to Joseph. First 47:14 shows Joseph collected all the money found in Egypt and Canaan in payment for food. Joseph made people who had no food pay for their food. Then look at what he does with all the wealth he collected from selling food to foodless people. He doesn’t use it to write himself a six figure salary. Nor does he use it to buy a summer home along the Mediterranean Sea. Joseph collected every cent and brought it to Pharaoh’s palace. It is no wonder Pharaoh placed Joseph in charge of all Egypt. Last week Bernard Ebbers, former WorldCom Inc CEO was sentenced to 25 long years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars. What is really sad is he is just part of a long line of recent white collar men who have caved into personally greed for their ruin and the financial ruin of many people.
This did not happen to Joseph because when he worked, he worked before God’s eyes not Pharaoh’s eyes. Some people who believe in God feel their faith in God entitles them not to be faithful to their employer. When we study how Joseph stewarded Egypt we see every cent he collected for food, along with all the land he took from the people for food, all of it he brought it directly to Pharaoh. Some may say: “If I was in such a high position I would do the same thing.” We find the faithful stewardship Joseph showed as Prime minister of Egypt had been the same stewardship he practiced as a son to his father, as a slave in a household and a prisoner in prison. Jesus teaches Matthew 25:21 one who can be faithful with a few things can then be entrusted to be put in charge of many things. I worked with this one young man last week whose friend was arrested for robbing a bank. His single mom and he didn’t have much money. He thought this was a justifiable excuse to rob a bank. Now for the rest of his life he has to face the reality no one will trust him with anything. Some may rationalize. “I can take a little money for myself. Then once I get establish I’ll stop skimming off the top.” This is nothing but Satan’s business rational. The Bible’s business formula is to work like Joseph did. Work before God’s eye in all we do. Even if our pay is below minimum wage we must try for Jesus’ glory sake, to work as the most trustworthy, responsible and faithful worker ever to be placed in that position.
Look at 47:20-21: “So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other.” Joseph reduced all the people of Egypt to servitude. He could easily have used people to please his own desires. Instead we find once he reduced them to servitude he then generously rented back to them their land with seed so they could work to plant their own crops. He did this with one stipulation. 47:24: “But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.” The wisdom God gave Joseph to manage the people of Egypt trained them to become a nation of workers instead of a nation of beggars. Joseph helped all the Egyptians to live independently from government welfare checks. Without a doubt of all African nations, Egypt has the most glorious history. This can be contributed in a large part to the work ethic Joseph instilled in the Egyptians during those seven severe years of famine.
Finally Genesis closes out with the account of Joseph’s own death. Look at 50:24-26. Twice in Joseph’s final hours of life he shares with his brothers how God will come to Egypt to give aid to Israel by taking them out of Egypt and bring them back Canaan the land he promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
God used Joseph to bring the people of Israel to a place where they could grow into a nation. It would not be a short stay in human years. They would be there 400 years. Nor would those years be pleasant years. They would be forced to become a nation of slaves without any human rights. During the darkest days of slave life Joseph promise God would come to their aid burned within them as God’s light of hope. As for their harsh slave life, God would use what the Egyptians thought would ruin them to actually mold them into a nation with a common history and a common destiny.
Joseph himself would not be the son of Jacob God would use to bring Jesus Christ into the world. This honor was blessed upon Judah the man Joseph help to lead to repentance. Nevertheless, of all Jacob’s sons, Joseph’s life most foreshadows the life of Jesus Christ. His faith in God’s sovereignty is like Jesus. His participation in God’s redemptive love to bring men to repentance is like Jesus’. Joseph’s life of suffering under the evil intention of men for the purpose of saving lives reminds us of Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross to save us from our sins. Indeed more than anyone else in the Bible, Joseph bears the image of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Now that we have ended our study of Genesis I will not insert my own concluding points about this first book of the Bible. However Jesus’ words about the proper interpretation of scripture can be very useful: He taught in John 5:39: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Our study of Joseph inviting his brothers to Egypt to be saved certainly is the scripture way to testify to Jesus. As Joseph’s brothers went to him to be saved, let us humbly come to Jesus so we can receive from him all we need for life.