Every person can see the providence of God in the actions taken to bring Joseph and his brothers to this place.
God Glorified in Weakness, Bits and Pieces, June 1990, p. 23-4 It was 1818 in France, and Louis, a boy of 9, was sitting in his father’s workshop. The father was a harness-maker and the boy loved to watch his father work the leather. "Someday Father," said Louis, "I want to be a harness-maker, just like you." "Why not start now?" said the father. He took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. "Now, my son," he said, "take the hole-puncher and a hammer and follow this design, but be careful that you don’t hit your hand." excited, the boy began to work, but when he hit the hole-puncher, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He lost the sight of that eye immediately. Later, sight in the other eye failed. Louis was now totally blind. A few years later, Louis was sitting in the family garden when a friend handed him a pinecone. As he ran his sensitive fingers over the cone, an idea came to him. He became enthusiastic and began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that the blind could feel and interpret what was written. Thus, Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind--all because of an accident!
Isn’t it amazing how God can take something that seems so tragic and turn it into something wonderful? God did the same kind of work in the life of Joseph. Look at the actions God took.
Action I. Prepare
A. When you get ready to paint a room it can be great fun to grab that brush or the roller and start to put paint on the wall. The thing that is not fun is the preparations that need to take place before you start to paint. You might need to take some things off of the wall. You will probably want to wash the walls so you have a good clean surface for the paint to adhere to. Covering things that you don’t want painted is also a part of the process. Repairing bad spots in the wall can be a part of it. If you are making a drastic change in color you might need to put on a primer coat. Once you do get ready to paint it is necessary to do the trim work. You need to paint around windows and doorways. You will have to paint in the corners and carefully get the edges where one painted surface will meet another surface. This is all necessary to get a good coat of paint. It is preparation.
B. In v. 5 Joseph says to his brothers, “God sent me ahead of you.” Joseph is talking to the group of guys who sold him into slavery. Since he had been with them, he had spent time as a slave. He was thrown into prison for at least two years. Now he was serving as Pharaoh’s second in command. I can see in his life some place for seeds of bitterness to be growing. His brothers had a pretty good job of making his life miserable. Joseph does not see it this way. Instead, Joseph recognizes that God had actually sent him ahead of his brothers.
C. This could be seen like the sending of a missionary. When someone is called to the mission field they are sent to a place where they can use the resources provided for them to deliver the message of Jesus Christ. In this instance Joseph was sent ahead of his brothers to get the place ready for them. In doing this he was not blaming his brothers for the ugly years he had spent in Egypt. Instead he was focused on how God had been able to use him.
D. In Genesis 37 Joseph had dreams that made it appear that he would one day be superior to his brothers and his parents. At that time there was a lot of jealousy among the brothers towards Joseph, which lead them to take the actions they took. Now Joseph and his brothers realize this is the fulfillment of those dreams. He has been sent ahead of his father and his brothers. This whole episode was in God’s hands. It would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of men, but it was God who had been at work.
E. Joseph was able to see something very hard that had happened in his life as something that was working out for good. God was at work through this entire situation. It was not something that Joseph had to manufacture. He did not need to put a good spin on it. He simply needed to be sensitive to what God was doing. When Joseph sees his brothers he remembers his dreams and he realizes this was something God was doing. It was not the fault of his brothers. This was God’s work.
F. I am wondering what God might be doing in our lives that we could be missing out on because we are not sensitive. Joseph could have let his bitterness take control and made his brothers suffer. Instead he was able to see through to what God was doing. Look for what God is doing in your life and around you. It might mean that you need to look beyond some bitterness. You might need to get over some hurts. Look for where God is working.
Action II. Preserve
A. When I was about 10 years old my cousin was killed in an accident. I remember watching his father grieve at the funeral. It seemed very strange to me at the time, but one of his biggest concerns was who would carry on his family name. That family had a son and a daughter. They were farmers. He wanted the family name to stay on the front of that barn. He wanted to preserve the family name.
B. Joseph recognizes that this is why God had allowed him to go through the things he went through. In v. 7 Joseph tells his brothers, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Years earlier Pharaoh had been warned in a dream that Egypt would face seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. It was the famine that had brought Joseph’s brother to Egypt to look for food. They came to Joseph because he was the only one who had been able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams for him, and he had a plan to save the country.
C. If Joseph had not come to Egypt and had not been promoted to the position that he was, his family might have died. Joseph had wisely stockpiled the grain from the abundant years so that there would be food for the famine years. Now that his family was coming to Egypt he would be able to share this abundance with them. He recognizes that God has some pretty big plans and he is a part of them.
D. This was probably something that was important for Joseph and his father, but in the big picture it holds even more significance. It is from this family that we find David, the future king of Israel. It is from this same family that Jesus comes from. They could be seen as the founders of the nation of Israel. It was important for the family to be preserved for the sake of the family. It is important for you and me that this family was preserved. No doubt if things had not worked out God would have had another plan, but he did not need to. It was God’s plan, and his plans do not fail.
E. It can be very difficult knowing what we should be preserving. Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven and not treasures on earth. Yet we become emotionally attached to things. They are just things; they really don’t have any eternal value. Yet it is very easy to cling to those things. I would challenge you to seek God’s desires and try to learn from him the things he wants and desire to preserve those things rather than the things that have no eternal value.
Action III. Lord
A. Just a few weeks ago our denomination elected a new bishop. It was unique to me, because this was not someone I had thought of as bishop material and also because he is someone who became a pastor in the denomination about the same time that I did. I wonder if Phil Whipple ever thought that he would become the bishop of our denomination. I wonder if he ever expected to get a call from the nominating committee asking him to consider running for the office of bishop. I would guess that these are things that probably had not really occurred to him long ago. Maybe in the last year or so he had a sense that this might be where he was headed, but I doubt he had those kinds of aspiration ten or twenty years ago.
B. I relay this story because I suspect that Joseph did not ever imagine that he would someday become the second most powerful man in Egypt. As I read the account it seems to happen very quickly. He is summoned to interpret a dream, he offers some ideas on how to use the interpretation of the dream and then he is made second in command over all of Egypt. In v. 9 this is the message he wants his brothers to take to his father. If there were steps a person should take to achieve this kind of recognition and position, Joseph skipped over all of them. In one days time he went from being a prisoner to being Pharaoh’s right hand man. This is certainly not something a person would be able to do. God had brought all of the right circumstances together to make sure that Joseph achieved this position.
C. Joseph was placed in this position because of what I talked about in the last point. He was there to preserve his family. A family that would be the foundation for Jesus Christ. Joseph was able to offer the best of the land of Egypt to his family because of the connections he had with Pharaoh. It is also the fulfillment of the dreams Joseph had early on. Those are the dreams where he became greater than his brothers and his parents. He actually became the leader in Egypt and saved his family.
D. I don’t think it was until Joseph saw his brothers that he realized what God was up to. He remembered the dreams and as he quizzed his brothers and learned about what had happened in their lives he realized that God had placed him in this position in order to save his family. The emotion of Joseph was probably due to seeing his brothers again, but also the realization of what god had been doing. How great it would be to look back and see what God had done. It was also the realization that God had used him. How humbling that must have been.
E. Joseph was placed in a position of prominence because this was where God had him headed. Joseph came to a place of prominence after he had gone through some pretty crummy times. The crummy times did not mean that God was not with him. It was not as if something happened that God did not anticipate. He was brought to the place God wanted him, so he could become the man he wanted him to be.
F. Consider the fact that God has done the same for you and me. He has brought us to the place he wants us. He has placed some crummy times in our path. These are things that have been used to get us to where he wants us.
Joseph went through some really miserable times. I doubt that many people would be able to go through what he went through and be able to look at God. Joseph saw that God had brought him to that place. The other action that Joseph took was the ability to forgive his brothers. He could see that he was able to help his family even though he had suffered greatly because of what his brothers had done.
We need to keep these two things in our lives as well. We need to know that no matter where we are, God is with us. Even in the ugliest place God is with us.
We cannot claim these promises if we have never accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. He needs to have first place in our life before we can claim his constant presence and before we can experience real forgiveness.