One of my earliest memories of television are the comedy films of Laurel and Hardy. Do you remember their most famous catchphrase? Ollie would accuse Stan, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” A saying which seems strangely appropriate for Joseph son of Jacob as his problems piled up and his life went from bad to worse to disastrous!
Joseph was rejected by his brothers. They first planned to murder him but then sold Joseph into slavery instead.
37: 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 23. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe- the richly ornamented robe he was wearing- 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. … 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. 28 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.
We saw last week WHY Joseph’s brothers hated him so much. Joseph was his father’s favourite, a spoiled brat, arrogant and proud.
37: 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”
It was Joseph’s prophetic dreams that really got him into trouble. Joseph could have blamed God for giving him those dreams – but he didn’t. Joseph could have blamed God for the ways his brothers had treated him – but he didn’t!!! Maybe his experiences humbled him and taught him some valuable lessons and even brought Joseph closer to God? In Egypt he was sold into slavery. There he stayed close to God – and God blessed him! Surprisingly, we read that Joseph didn’t blame God for his exile. Joseph wasn’t angry or bitter. Perhaps he was just grateful to be alive! Whatever his motives, we do know that Joseph chose to put his trust in God.
Whatever may happen to any of us, Psalm 37:1-6 commands us to trust in God
1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 ¶ Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Joseph DID put his trust in God. And this is what happened to him:-
39:2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.
But, as often happens in life, that success brought its problems – and its temptations
6 …. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7. and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
A difficult offer to turn down. But this time Joseph behaved as a man of God should always do! He stuck to his principles
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No-one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
Joseph held out against temptation day after day – but where did it get him???
17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” 19. When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
Kidnapped. Sold into slavery. Then thrown into prison for something he hadn’t even done!! Proud and arrogant as he had been with his glorious coat of many colours, even Joseph didn’t deserve to be treated like that!
But then it’s not unusual for men of God to suffer unjustly. Think of all the great heroes of faith who shared Joseph’s experiences of imprisonment – Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the apostles Peter, Paul and Silas, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself of course.
How would Joseph react to this imprisonment??? Would he say “It’s not fair?” “I don’t deserve this”? Again Joseph could have blamed God. After all, if he had abandoned his principles and just committed adultery with his master’s wife he wouldn’t be in prison at all!
But Joseph DIDN’T blame God for his sufferings, for the false accusation, for the imprisonment. He continues to trust God, even from behind bars! Joseph stayed close to God and God honoured that. God stayed close to him!
20…. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder.
Joseph stayed close to God. I wonder, how well do WE cope with suffering, disappointment, discouragement? Do we curl up and give up? Do we get angry with God? Do we ever BLAME God when life isn’t working out as we would like it to?
Of course Joseph could have just sunk into depression like the prophet Elijah did after the contest with priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. It’s so easy to get discouraged and depressed. There’s an old hymn we occasionally sing – “Count your blessings, name them one by one”. Some Christians would rather sing “Count your troubles”. Here is a satirical version of that hymn. “Count your troubles.”
“When you are discouraged, feel that all is lost; Say the prize you’re seeking is not worth the cost;
Think about your troubles, count them o’er and o’er; Every time you count them, there will be one more.
If there be clear sunshine, think how soon ’til rain; Should it be midsummer, winter comes again;
Every glorious sunset ends in dark, dark night; Youth gives way to cheerless age; there’s nothing right.
If you see a promise fits you to a “T”, Though you hunger for it, cry, “This not for me!”
You must bear your burdens, sink beneath the load, For your way to Heaven is a dreary road.
Count your many problems, name them one by one; Think that victory never, never will be won;
Cite your many troubles, count them o’er and o’er, All your disappointments and vexations soar.”
How do we deal with our troubles – do we moan and complain? Do we blame God???
Saint Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) “Flee a thousand leagues from saying, “I was in the right. It was not right for me to suffer this. They had no right to treat me so.” God deliver us from all such rights.”
Following God DOESN’T guarantee us an easy life!!! Remember the apostles.
If we believe the ancient traditions:-
St. Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia.
St. Mark expired at Alexandria, after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
St. Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in the classic land of Greece.
St. John was put into a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterwards banished to Patmos.
St. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward.
St. James the Greater was beheaded at Jerusalem.
St. James the Less was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club.
St. Philip was hanged up against a pillar at Heiropolis in Phrygia.
St. Bartholomew was flayed alive.
St. Andrew was bound to a cross, where he preached to his persecutors until he died.
St. Thomas was run through the body with a lance at Coromandel in the East Indies.
St. Jude was shot to death with arrows.
St. Matthias was first stoned, and then beheaded.
St. Barnabas of the Gentiles was stoned to death by the Jews at Salonica.
St. Paul after various tortures and persecutions, was at length beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero
21 Paul and Barnabas preached the good news in (Derbe) and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Sometimes we NEED the sufferings and the opposition to bring us close to God again. Sometimes life is a mess. What we do with the mess is what is important.
Joni Eareckson Tada “When life is rosy, we may slide by with knowing about Jesus, with imitating him and quoting him and speaking of him. But only in the fellowship of suffering will we KNOW Jesus. We identify with him at the point of his deepest humiliation. The cross, symbol of his greatest suffering, becomes our personal touch-point with the Lord of the universe.”
Sometimes God’s purpose is to USE our sufferings for His glory.
Joni Eareckson Tada “God is a Master Artist. And there are aspects of your life and character—good, quality things—he wants others to notice. So without using blatant tricks or obvious gimmicks, God brings the cool, dark contrast of suffering into your life. That contrast, laid up against the golden character of Christ within you, will draw attention . . . to him. Light against darkness. Beauty against affliction. Joy against sorrow. A sweet, patient spirit against pain and disappointment—major contrasts that have a way of attracting notice. You are the canvas on which he paints glorious truths, sharing beauty, and inspiring others. So that people might see him. “
We need to see our sufferings in an eternal context:-
Martin Luther (16c) “When I consider my crosses, tribulations, and temptations, I shame myself almost to death, thinking what are they in comparison to the sufferings of my blessed Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Paul in Romans 8:18-24
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious
freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the
Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved.
The whole of creation straining just to see the sons of God come into their inheritance.
Well at least for Joseph there was a happy ending – God honoured Joseph even in his imprisonment.
20…. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into! Are we facing suffering or disappointment or discouragement? Are we ever tempted to curl up and give up? Are we angry with God? Are we BLAMING God because life isn’t working out as we wanted it to or expected it to? Remember – the sufferings we have to go through as Christians in comfortable Chelmsford are so small compared to the sufferings our brothers and sisters in so many other places around the world have to suffer even today!!
Through all the fine messes he ended up in, Joseph discovered that if the Lord was with him, it would work out in the end. And that is true for us. Even if our journey through this world may be filled with danger and sadness and pain, as long as God is with us and we stay close to God, our future in glory is safe in God’s hands.
Psa 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act!