Tuesday, August 2, 2011

JOSEPH #1: THE HIDDENNESS OF GOD

**My favorite Old Testament hero is Joseph. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City preached a 4-part series in 2003 entitled “The Gospel According to Joseph.” Today and tomorrow, I will share the valuable lessons that Keller drew from the life of Joseph. You can purchase the series as an mp3 from the Redeemer website (http://bit.ly/nL6lnU). If you want to develop true PERSEVERANCE in life, you need to study JOSEPH.**

 Marocco #7 - Peter Voerman

“So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.” 
~Genesis 37: 28

If you read my blog regularly, you probably sense an underlying reliance on Jesus Christ. My blog is all about intentional living and the greatest and most intentional choice that one can ever make is to surrender his/her life to Christ.

I am not a proponent of the “prosperity” gospel. When I hear a preacher talking about what God will do for us if we just pray or tithe or serve, it makes me shudder. Maybe God will do these things…or maybe He won’t. That is not for me to decide.

The Gospel is about surrendering our life, our will, our everything to Christ. We don’t do this for what God will do for us…we do this because of what God has ALREADY done for us. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we should have died. It is finished – we have nothing to do to prove our love to God but accept his Son. Period. Any other preaching is not Biblical.

I’ve always been hesitant to overtly talk about Christ in my blog posts because I know that it will turn some people off. And while my blog will never be solely focused on my Walk, at times I feel compelled to share the difference that Christ has made in my own life. Most importantly, I’m recording my thoughts for my future self and my future kids. 

Today’s text: Genesis 37: 2-13; 23-34 

If you read the text, you realize that Joseph’s family was a mess.

Joseph had become the idol of Jacob’s life. Jacob adored Joseph because he was born to Jacob late in life and Joseph’s mother was Rachel, who Jacob adored. Jacob was so blatant in his preference for Joseph that he provided Joseph with a special “coat” as a demonstration of his love.

Joseph had his own issues as well. He was insensitive and becoming arrogant as he shared his dreams with his family. In that society, the young always bowed to their elders. Joseph’s dreams were in stark contrast to this. Joseph did not appear to be discerning in sharing the dreams God had given him. There was much hidden brokenness in this family.

When Jacob sent Joseph to visit the brothers, many events happened to arrange the circumstances in exactly the way that God designed them. Joseph, who would eventually become the prince of Egypt, was violently thrown into a well and then sold to the Midianites.

Did you notice that God is not even mentioned in this passage? He was arranging - every single detail of Joseph’s life had to happen just the way it did in order for God’s will to occur.

There are a couple of important lessons from this text. 
  1. God’s wise, redeeming love is completely compatible with terrible things in my life (v. 23, 24). 
  2. Nobody ever learned about their faults by being told. We have to learn it. 
  3. Joseph had to be lost to be saved. 
When I am struggling with my circumstances, my first instinct is to ask God, “Why?” As Keller states, “We don’t need God’s answers as much as we need to know that He is with us and the Cross gives us this.”
The Bible does not mention Joseph’s thoughts throughout this process with his brothers and being sold. If I were Joseph, my thought process would probably go something along these lines: “God, you really don’t need my brothers to sell me into slavery. I get it now! I'll stop being so arrogant and just leave it to you. After all, you’ve already shown me the future that you have for me in my dreams. Why don’t we just skip this part of the story and let me ascend to my destiny?”

The point of Joseph’s story is that he was not ready for God’s calling yet. He needed to be sifted and sorted and made into the man that God needed to lead Egypt. This was not something that Joseph could do on his own – it took circumstances in his life to prepare him.

There is a lesson in Joseph’s life for all of us. Oftentimes, we want answers to our circumstances. Sometimes I just wish God would tell me why certain things are happening. I can’t speak for God, but I think many times He is simply preparing us for our future purpose.

God has such a different perspective and vision for our life that we may never understand our circumstances. Keller compares what it would be like for God to explain his purpose to us with us trying to explain to a three year-old what all they will have to do to be accepted into college one day. And as difficult as that conversation would be, it is a weak comparison. The omnipotent God sees everything that was and everything that will be. We cannot “see” as God sees.

Keller provided a final lesson from this passage for us all to remember as we walk through life: 

Know and not know what God is doing (know He is working, but don’t try to figure out what He’s doing) 

The point of Joseph’s story is this: 

God’s silence is not absence. 
Tomorrow, we will look at the temptation that Joseph faced once in Egypt. 
QUESTION: How do you handle trying circumstances in your life?


3 comments:

arnyslight said...

"God’s silence is not absence."

I means, He is about to do something awesome!!!!

I love that you said Joseph had to be lost to be saved...

that is a great way to look at our problems man...

That we are in them because God wants to show us something incredable!!!

Nice post Jason

TNeal said...

Good timely thoughts on a familiar subject. God is working (which I know but always need a reminder)toward the general good in and through me--the blessed-to-be-a-blessing mindset. And His timing is impeccable. As I slog through a writing career, I know that I've lots to learn. Thanks again for the reminder that God worked for decades in Joseph's life before Joseph "arrived."

Jason said...

Arny - the hard part for me is keeping that future focus. I just want something tangible. But, the heros of the Bible do inspire me. Sometimes we think they had it easy. That's why I love Joseph's story so much. It gives me hope for my life. Thanks for commenting.

Tom - I like the thought that God is always working and arranging also. I just wish I didn't have this inner drive to "figure" out God. This life is definitely a walk of faith. Thanks for the comment.