Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Genesis 41-45 - From Prison to the Palace

Genesis 41 – Exaltation

Pharaoh had 2 strange dreams.  In the first, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows.  In the second, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones.  He could find no one to interpret them.  Then the finally the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh that he could interpret dreams.  Joseph was brought to Pharaoh and as he stood before him, Joseph refused to take any glory for himself.  He resisted temptation and gave the glory to God.  He said, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Gen 41:16.  Pharaoh realized his dreams were from God as God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning.  For 7 years there would be a good harvest in Egypt, but afterwards for another 7 years there would be famine.  God revealed to Joseph what Pharaoh should do.  Joseph advised Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests so it would be available during the famine.  “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.’” Gen. 41:39.  Pharaoh was impressed by Joseph so he was made governor over all of Egypt and in charge of the food. 

Principle:  God can be trusted for perfectly timed turning points for our good and His glory.

Do you give God the glory for your talents, abilities and success?
How often do you ask God for His wisdom and discernment?
Are you prepared for upcoming hardships in your life?

Does God speak to people in dreams today?  Yes, but today God speaks to us usually through His Word, the Bible.  In those days they didn’t have the Bible so it was very common for God to speak to people through dreams.

Genesis 42-44 – Examination

There were 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine just as God had told Joseph.  All the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in the entire world. 

Jacob learned that there was food in Egypt so he sent 10 of his sons to Egypt to buy food leaving the youngest, Benjamin at home.  When they arrived they bowed down before the Joseph who was governor of Egypt.  This was the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams as a youth.  Remember 20 years ago Joseph told them his dreams about everyone bowing down to him.  His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us?  Will you actually rule us?”Gen. 37:8.  

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him.  They gave Joseph all kinds of details about themselves and their families.  Joseph was in complete authority and could have done anything with them that he wanted.  He put them through a series of probably hoping they would think about how it felt for Joseph. God does this to us sometimes.  He lets us think about what we have done.  He wants us to realize that we have sinned so we will not do it again.  It gives us time to ask for forgiveness.  After 3 days they realized they were being punished for what they had done to Joseph many years ago.  “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.” Gen. 42:21.  Guilt makes us afraid and uncomfortable.  Unresolved sin comes back to haunt us.  They acknowledged their actions as sin and Joseph saw this and wept.  His brothers didn’t deserve anything.  When we sin we don’t deserve anything, but God gives us grace. 

Joseph was testing again them wanting to know how they felt about Benjamin and if they would treat him as they had Joseph in his youth.  He wanted to know, if they had changed.  He knew his father loved Benjamin and I am sure he was anxious to see his brother. 

Joseph lets his brothers go back for Benjamin.  Joseph not only sent with them food, but put their money back in their sacks so the food didn’t cost them anything.  He bound his brother Simeon in front of them and kept him in prison to insure they would return.  This probably showed them they too are bound by their sin against Joseph.  The only way to get Simeon back was for them to confess their sin to their father.  Sin binds us, too stealing our joy.  We need to confess it to our heavenly Father.  He already knows about it anyway. 

Even 20 years later the sin against Joseph is still fresh on their minds.  His brothers returned home and told everything to their father, Jacob.  They didn’t lie to him as they had done in their youth.  They respected him.  Jacob finds money in their sacks and fears that Simeon will be killed.  As time went by they needed to buy more food.  Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go back with them as Joseph had instructed.  Reuben pleaded to take Benjamin back or they would not receive any food offering his 2 sons’ lives, if he doesn’t return with both Simeon and Benjamin.  But Jacob said no.

Have you sinned against someone as much as 20 years ago?
Do you ever asked them for forgiveness?

The food finally ran out and Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go back to Egypt with him and that he would be responsible for his safety.  Jacob feared he would not see Benjamin again, but agreed saying, “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Gen. 43:14.  This showed that Jacob surrendered to God’s will.  He sent his sons back to Egypt.  Jacob sent gifts and doubled the money. 

When Joseph saw Benjamin he was deeply moved and wept in private.  Then Joseph celebrates with a feast.  There is also joy and celebration in heaven when someone falls away from the Lord and then returns.  Maybe you have left him, but He has never left you.  All you have to do is come to the Father and ask His forgiveness.  Joseph still did not tell them who he was.  He wanted to test them further.  In the past they had been jealous and cruel.  Joseph needed to know if their attitudes had changed.

Before his brothers left for home Joseph instructs the steward to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. With this test Joseph gave his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave.  Maybe they were now jealous of Benjamin.  This would tell Joseph if they had truly changed.  The next morning when they are leaving they are accused of stealing Joseph’s cup.  Of course it was found in Benjamin’s sack.  Judah tells Joseph that they are his slaves and that God had caught them.  He was referring to their sin committed against Joseph as a youth knowing they would have to pay.  Joseph pretends he doesn’t know what they are talking about and lets them go except for Benjamin.

Judah pleads for Benjamin’s life telling Joseph the whole story of what they had done.  Judah showed love and concern for the grief it would cause his father if he lost Benjamin.  He laid his heart before Joseph.  He volunteered to take Benjamin’s place and serve as a slave in Egypt.  What an amazing change!  He showed great humility and real repentance.

Principle:  God uses daily life challenges to test our character and turn our focus to Him. 

What do your daily challenges show you about you?
Is there someone you need to forgive?
You may think you have already forgiven them, but have you truly forgiven?
Will you be able the repay the evil with good?  That is the true forgiveness.

Genesis 45 – Reconciliation

Then Joseph could not control his emotions any longer.  He had to reveal himself to them.  He said, “I am Joseph!  Is my father still living?’  But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.  Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘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.  For two years now there has been famine in the land and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.’” Gen. 45:3-7.  They were probably expecting prison or even death, instead they heard of God’s sovereign plan to protect them.  If God had not placed Joseph in charge of the food in Egypt, the people of Israel would die in the famine.  Joseph told them to take Benjamin and to tell their father the whole story.  He threw his arms around them.   They kissed and wept with joy.  He sends them on their way with food and gifts.

Sin separates us from God.  Apart from Jesus Christ we face condemnation.  God says to come close to me and be reconciled.

Joseph gave them a tough love, but God was with Joseph and clothe him in holy love.  God hates sin, but loves the sinner.  Joseph wanted them to recognize their sins and repent, because that’s what God wanted.  Joseph teaches us what real love is.  Real love is not self-centered, but a redemptive love.

Joseph created many problems for his brothers.  He was really not planning on punishing his brothers.  He was testing them and wanted to see his father and wanted his father to return with them. 

When Jacob heard all that had happened and that Joseph was alive, he was revived.  He said he would go and see Joseph before he dies.

Principle:  God invites repentant sinners to come close to Him for eternal abundant life.

Is there someone that you need to show love and forgiveness to?
What can you do to make that happen?
Are you willing to trust God’s when your life seems to be going in the wrong direction?

Joseph wanted his brothers to come close to him and Jesus wants us to come close to Him.  Is Jesus saying that to you now?
Has God convicted you of sin?
Are you too uncomfortable hearing from Him or are you too busy?  God says hurry and not to delay.

Jesus’ humiliation is compared with Joseph’s:
Christ – sold for money, accused falsely, betrayed, suffered, felt shame, made Himself nothing, had the nature of a servant, humble, loving, compassionate, unselfish, obedient to God, had the title of Savior, gave God the credit, God exalted Him to the highest place, every knee will bow to Him. 
Joseph – sold for money, accused falsely, betrayed, suffered, felt shame, rejected by his own, was a servant, humble, loving, compassionate, unselfish, obedient to God, gave God the credit, he was put in a high place, every knee bowed to him.

There are many lessons for us from these chapters.  Here are just a few:
God tests us.
God rescues us.
God works in our lives to restore individuals.
God is always sovereign even if it seems He has forgotten you.
God is never unfaithful.
God’s promises are true in His timing, not ours.
We are not responsible of others’ behavior.
We are responsible for our own behavior and attitudes
God’s grace is sufficient.
When others wrong us, we should not hold a grudge. 
God will do the judging.
It’s never too late to change when we have made wrong decisions.
God will always forgive us, if we repent.
God hates sin, but loves the sinner.
Always give the glory to God.
Forgiveness brings reconciliation.
Joseph is being like Jesus is to us.  Jesus tests us as Joseph tested his brothers.  Based on what we do in this life, Jesus will reward us.
Real love is not self-centered.

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