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Series Intro: The pages of our Bibles are filled with the stories of hundreds of men and women. Nearly every story contains one common thread. Whether the character is a king or a peasant, a prophet or a general, a fisherman or a preacher; nearly every person mentioned in the Bible has his or her dark side revealed.
Noah got drunk. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all lied to save their own hides. Moses committed murder. David was guilty of adultery. Solomon was an idolater. Peter cursed and lied. John the Baptist doubted Jesus. The list could go on and on. The pages of the Bible are filled with the sins of the people mentioned on its pages.
The verses we have read today introduce us to a man named Joseph. He was the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob. His name means “Jehovah has added”. He lived 110 years and there is not a single sin attributed to this man. He endured trials and afflictions that most of cannot even imagine and nowhere does the Bible even hint that his faith in God waivered. He never seemed to get his eyes of the Lord.
Whether he was in the place of favor in his father’s house or languishing in a prison, he was the same man. Hardship did not harden his heart. Riches and power did not corrupt him. He was the same man regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself. Joseph was truly a unique man!
Perhaps this is why the Holy Spirit gives Joseph so much space in the book of Genesis. He receives the same number of chapters as Abraham: fourteen. Yet, there are 25 percent more verses dedicated to Joseph’s life. He was a great man of God. While Joseph receives much attention in the Old Testament, he is mentioned only four times in the New Testament, John 4:5; Acts 7:9-14; Heb. 11:21-22; Rev. 7:8. We are left to learn about Joseph from the record given to us in the book of Genesis.
Another characteristic that marks Joseph’s life is the number of areas where he pictures the Lord Jesus Christ. As you study his life you encounter over one hundred particular points where Joseph is a type of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we will point out some of those along the way.
Besides being a godly man and a type of Jesus, the study of Joseph’s life is valuable because he stands as a model of what every believer should strive to be. He never wavered. He never fell. He never complained. He never compromised. He never lost his power with God. He stood his ground for the glory of God in man terrible situations. His life demonstrates the triumph of faith.
Beyond all that, one of the greatest aspects of Joseph’s life is how clearly the hand of God can be seen in it. The providence of God is on display throughout the narrative of Joseph’s life. In every event in the life of Joseph, God was busy fulfilling Rom. 8:28.
I would like for us to spend the next several Sunday evenings with a man named Joseph. I would like to take Gen. 50:20 as my text for this series. That verse says, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” I would also like to borrow my title for this series from that verse.
I would like to take the life of Joseph and preach around the theme “God Meant It For Good”. I hope to show you how God can take every circumstance in life, whether we see it as good or evil, and use it to make us stronger in our walk with Him. I want you to understand that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God working behind the scenes of your life to bring you to the place of Christian maturity.
With that in mind, let’s look in on the early years of this man named Joseph and learn the great truth that God Meant It For Good.
GOLD FROM AN UNLIKELY MINE
Intro: We hear a lot in our day about dysfunctional homes. I realize that many homes are in turmoil today. Divorces, sins of all kinds, absentee parents, among other evils, have left the home in tatters. In many cases it seems that little children growing up today do not stand a chance.
We are told that we are a product of our environment. We are told that our background shapes our lives to such a degree that how we were raised will determine how we will live. To a certain degree we are all products of our upbringing. We bring with us certain traits, habits and characteristics from the homes in which we were raised. Thankfully, that is not true in every case!
Joseph blows that theory out of the water! Before Joseph was thrown into a pit; before he served as a slave in Potipher’s house; before he languished in prison; and before he stood before Pharaoh as Prime Minister of Egypt, Joseph spent his formative years in a home marked by sin, sadness, strife and struggles. Yet, Joseph became a great man of God and was used of the Lord in tremendous ways.
Today, I want to examine the early years of Joseph’s life. I want to talk about those formative years that could have formed a boy into an evil man. Instead, I want you to see that God overcame Joseph’s family, his upbringing and all the negative influences he faced.
Looking at Joseph’s family and at his early years, most people would have concluded that Joseph didn’t stand a chance. After all, most of his brothers didn’t turn out too well. God, in His providence and by His power, was able to overcome all the negatives in Joseph’s life.
I want you to see how God dug Gold From An Unlikely Mine. Let me share some simple observations with you today as I preach on the thought Gold From An Unlikely Mine.
I. THE MIRACLE OF JOSEPH’S BIRTH
A. The Testimony Of His Birth – Joseph was born into a family embroiled in the midst of controversy. His father Jacob fell in love with his cousin, a girl named Rachel, and agreed to work for her father Laban, who was also Jacob’s uncle, for seven years, Gen. 29:18. The deal was struck and after seven years, the wedding day arrived. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Leah was the oldest, but Rachel was, by far, the most attractive. On the evening of the wedding, Uncle Laban tricked the trickster and sent his eldest daughter Leah to Jacob’s tent instead of Rachel, Gen. 29:23. Jacob spends his wedding night with Leah, and in the morning discovers the trick, Gen 29:25. Jacob confronts Laban who agrees to let Jacob have Rachel in exchange for seven more years of work, Gen. 29:27-28. He didn’t have to wait seven years to marry Rachel. He had to wait one week, Gen. 29:27-30.
So, within a week, Jacob has two young wives. These two wives are sisters. Jacob clearly loves Rachel more than he does Leah, Gen. 29:30. This sets the stage for jealousy, bitterness and anger.
It isn’t long before Leah gets pregnant, not once, but four times. She gives Jacob four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, one after the other, Gen. 29:32-35. Rachel comes unglued! The worse thing that could happen to a woman in that day was to be childless. She takes matters into her own hands and gives Jacob her handmaid Bilhah to have children in her place Gen. 30:1-4. Bilhah has two sons, Dan and Naphtali, Gen. 30:5-8. Leah sees this and knows that she isn’t having children so she gives her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob to have children for her, Gen. 30:9. Zilpah has two sons, Gad and Asher, Gen. 30:10-13. After a time, Leah has three more children by Jacob, Issachar, Zebulon and a daughter named Dinah, Gen. 30:17-21. Are you confused yet?
Now Jacob has ten sons and a daughter, but his beloved wife Rachel is still barren. However, God in His providence hears Rachel’s pleas for a son and Joseph is born, Gen. 30:22-24. Joseph’s birth is a testimony in itself because God opened a barren womb to bring him into the world. He was born because of divine intervention!
(Ill. By the way, you are here because God, in His sovereignty, decided to send you to this world. Your birth was not an accident; it was the will of God! That is a testimony in itself!)
B. The Triumph Of His Birth – Surely Jacob was proud of all his sons. Surely he was pleased with his little daughter Dinah. But, still something was missing! As he watched the woman he loved suffer because she could not have children, it must have broken his heart. But, God heard their prayers! God opened Rachel’s womb and Joseph was born! The birth of little Joseph brought about a time of rejoicing and great happiness in Jacob’s home.
(Ill. That is how the birth of a baby affects every home. Those cute, wrinkled dictators are born and they dominate the home. But, they bring with them such joy and satisfaction. Thank God for the privilege of seeing children come into the world!)
C. The Timing Of His Birth – Joseph was the eleventh son born to Jacob. Reuben was Jacob’s first born. Form all outward appearances; Joseph entered this life at a disadvantage. It did not appear that there was much hope for his future in the family. He would always be the low man on the totem pole, being bossed around and picked on by the others. The timing of his birth could not have been worse, from a human perspective. But, as we will see, God knew what He was doing, and like cream, Joseph rose to the top of that family.
(Ill. You might look at your own life today and feel like everything is against you. Don’t count the Lord out! He has a plan for you, and He will implement and execute that plan, no matter how things may appear.)
II. THE MAZE OF
A. The Problem Areas Of His Childhood – Joseph’s upbringing was not an easy one. In fact, his early years were like a minefield. It is amazing that anyone could survive the pain and turmoil of those years with their sanity, their integrity and their emotions intact. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the events that marked young Joseph’s life.
· We have already talked about the problems in the home. One man with children by four women, living under the same roof, is a recipe for trouble! Add to this the fact that Jacob obviously loved Rachel more than the other women and you have trouble enough to go around, Gen. 30.
· At a young age Joseph and his family make a hasty departure from his grandfather Laban’s house. They flee away under the cover of darkness, Gen. 31:17-21, because Jacob has cleaned out his father-in-law through deception.
· Imagine the fear as your grandfather chases the family, overtakes the family and has hard words with your father, Gen. 31:22-35. Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods. Jacob denies this, but it turns out that Rachel had taken them. She lies to her father to cover up her theft.
· Jacob and Laban make a covenant to stay away from one another. Laban departs and Joseph never sees his grandfather again, Gen. 31:36-55. (Ill. Gen. 31:49 is not a prayer of blessing; it is a threat of violence!)
· As you travel word comes that your father’s brother Esau is coming out with many men to meet the family. Jacob is afraid of Esau because of the way he treated Esau some twenty years earlier. He divides his flocks into three parts to be used as a bribe to soften the heart of Esau, Gen. 32:1-23.
· Joseph’s older sister Dinah is raped by Shechem. Two of his brothers, Simeon and Levi trick the men of the city and eventually kill them all, Gen. 34:1-31.
· Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse dies, Gen. 35:8. Jacob does nothing to make things right.
· Rachel, Joseph’s mother dies while giving birth to his little brother Benjamin, Gen. 35:16-20.
· Reuben, the oldest brother, commits incest with his father’s concubine Bilhah, Gen. 35:21-22. Jacob knows about it but does nothing, as usual.
· Joseph’s other grandfather Isaac dies and is buried, Gen. 35:27-29.
· Joseph’s older brothers were all wicked, self-centered men.
· Jacob was a passive father who allowed his children to do as they pleased with no correction.
· Jacob was also guilty of favoritism. He loved Joseph more than the rest of his sons, Gen. 37:3.
· Joseph lost his beloved mother at a young age.
· Joseph was uprooted and moved as a young age.
· Joseph was surrounded rape, murder, incest, treachery, intrigue, idolatry, jealousy, death and hatred. This was a very negative and hostile environment in which to raise a child.
(Ill. Many people in this room can look back at your own upbringing and see many problems with how you were brought up. Some of you were brought up in violent homes. Others were raised with drinking, drugs and hellish living. Some may have been physically or sexually abused.
Hearing what Joseph faced may have dredged up bad memories of your own past. Let me encourage you to place your past in the hands of a sovereign Lord. Trust Him for the grace to live with the memories and for the strength to avoid making the same mistakes.)
(Ill. Where did all this dysfunction come from? It all started when Abraham asked Sarai to lie about their relationship, Gen. 12:10-20. The foundation for future turmoil was laid when Sarai gave her maid Hagar to Abraham to be his concubine, Gen. 16:1-16. The problems in that family, and in every other family, are passed down from generation to generation.
Looking at the problems that existed in this home, we should have a desire to avoid some of their mistakes. Just for the record, here is how to build a dysfunctional home:
· Be less than truthful with one another.
· Be jealous of other family members.
· Demonstrate favoritism to your children.
· Try to help God accomplish His will in your home.
· Practice deception so you can get your way.
· Operate outside of the will of God.
· Live a life of anger, manipulation and control.
· Sin is always the root cause of dysfunction in the home!)
B. The Positive Areas Of His Childhood – Not everything was negative in Joseph’s background. There were a few positive moments along the way. Let me share a few that may have had a hand in shaping the life of this special young man.
· One night Jacob sent his family ahead and he stayed behind to pray about his upcoming meeting with Esau. Jacob had an encounter with God that night that changed his life forever, Gen. 32:24-32. When he catches back up with his family, he is limping on his leg and he tells them that he has a new name. He will no longer be called “Jacob”, which means “Trickster, Deceiver, Heal-grabber”. His new name will be “Israel”, which means “Prince with God”. Jacob has a new name, a new walk and a new life. He would never live like a trickster again! Surely the change in his father was something young Joseph never forgot.
· God calls Jacob to come back to Bethel. Jacob demands that they do away with their false gods. He calls his family together to worship God alone. While they are there, Jacob builds an altar, worships the Lord, and gives the testimony of how he first met the Lord, Gen. 35:1-4. Surely young Joseph never forgot the lessons he learned and the testimonies he heard at Bethel.
· Gen. 35:5 tells us that as this family journeyed they enjoyed divine protection. They were surrounded by warlike tribes, but they were not attacked. This must have made an impression on Joseph.
(Ill. As I said, most of us can find flaws in our upbringing, if we look close enough. Yet, most of us can look back and see times when God revealed His hand in our lives, even at a young age. I can remember prayers, church services, godly people, etc, that left a mark on my life. Thank God for those times when the Lord moved, in spite of the darkness and the sin, and revealed His presence and His providential protection.
You can never underestimate the importance of the positive influences on a child’s life. In Joseph’s case, the positive influences seem to have had far more impact that the negative ones. I think the same can be said about your life and mine as well.)
III. THE MESSAGE FROM
A. There Is A Message Of Hope – If the early years of Joseph’s life teach us anything, they teach us that your childhood does not have to ruin you. On the same note, your past should never be allowed to define you! Just because you came up rough doesn’t mean you have to live that way now. Just because you were raised around harsh words and violent tempers does not mean that you have to use the same words and display the same temper! You can overcome you past by the help of God!
To look at how you act and say, “Well, that’s just how I was raised”, is a copout! People say, “Well, my mother was ill-natured and that’s how I am too.” No, it’s how you choose to be! Others say, “My parents were negative and so am I. I can’t help it!” No, it’s how you choose to be. Some say, “A bad temper runs in my family and I guess I come by it naturally.” No, it’s how you choose to be!
To blame your actions on people in your past is nothing more than a smokescreen for a heart that refuses to repent of sin and be changed by the power of God! God would change you if you would let Him! He would take the shackles of your past off of you forever, if you would allow Him to. Your past should never be allowed to define who you are today!
(Ill. What if people like Peter, Paul, King David and King Josiah had adopted the attitude of people in our day? They all had pain and problems in their past, but they overcame them all by the help of the Lord and rose above that which could have held them down.)
B. There Is A Message Of Home – If we can take anything away from the home of Joseph it is the truth that our own homes should be sanctuaries of godliness. Every mother and father in this room should fall down before the Lord and ask for His help to make your hope a godly home. It should be a place where Jesus rules; where His praises are heard; where He is Lord and where He is honored at all times.
Our homes must be places where our children can hear the Gospel and see it lives out. Our homes must be places where the Bible is read, honored and lived. Our homes should be places of worship, where Jesus is lifted up. Our homes should be places where the voice of the Holy Spirit is able to speak to hearts and lead us in the right paths. Whether you have children or not, you ought to pray to that end today! Every home that makes up this church should stand as a shining light for other homes in the church and in the world.
C. There Is A Message Of Help – As I consider the problems that plagued the early years of Joseph, there is a great blessing that I can take away with me today. I can rejoice that God was able to take the ore of this young man’s life; refine it and shape it into pure gold for His glory! That is a blessing to me!
Looking at Joseph from the outside, and considering all of his problems and the dysfunction of his hone, it would have been easy to conclude that he would amount to nothing! But, God took this life and shaped him into one of the greatest men of the Bible. That is the power of grace! That is the power of God!
(Ill. It gives me hope as a parent. I know I made my mistakes raising my children. It is a comfort to know that God can overcome my foolishness and use my children in spite of me.
It gives me hope as a Pastor. I see children growing up today with the deck stacked against them. It is a comfort to know that God can work in their lives in spite of their problems. He can save them and use them.
It gives me hope as a person as well. When I think of my own past and the baggage I carry to this day, I am encouraged when I understand that God can use me in spite of what I am, where I have been and what I have seen and done. I hope it gives you hope as well.)
Conc: When God went looking for an Apostle to the Gentiles, He didn’t look inside the church. God went to the most unlikely mine imaginable and dug out some ore that no one would have chosen. When God was finished refining and shaping that ore it became the gold called Paul.
When God went to choose a new king for Israel, God didn’t look in Saul’s palace. God went to the most a mine called Bethlehem and dung out some very unlikely ore. When God was finished refining and shaping that ore, He had David, “a man after God’s Own heart”.
When God sought a man to lead His people out of Egypt, He didn’t choose the likely candidates. He went to an unlikely mine and dug out the ore of a washed up, eighty-year-old fugitive who was keeping his father-in-law’s sheep. When God finished refining and shaping that ore, He had a Moses.
The Bible, and the church, is filled with stories just like those. God can take us in spite of what the world and the past has tried to do to us and He can take our unlikely ore and shape it into valuable gold that He can use for His glory. Praise His name!
· If you have never trusted Jesus and He is dealing with your heart, you need to come to Him and be saved.
· If He has spoken to you about the life you are living, you need to come and get your ore into His hands.
· If there are issues in your past that need to be reconciled, bring them now.
· If you want to come and pray about your home, come now.
· If you are ready to stop making excuses for your bad behavior and you are ready to become what the Lord can make you, you come now.
· This altar is open and God stands ready to help you with the burdens you bring to Him.