Category: joseph


the death of Joseph

So Joseph dies (Genesis 50:22-26).  Inevitable really, death comes to us all. 

But when he dies, he seems to be less concerned about the dreams that have been fulfilled than the dreams that have yet to be fulfilled.  He doesn’t talk about stars and sheaves of corn, or his brothers, or fat cows and thin cows and the Pharaoh.  He talks about making sure that when God visits his people and takes them back to Canaan, his bones are taken back there too.

Because Joseph knows that God will be faithful to His promises.  It hasn’t happened in his lifetime, but Joseph can still look forward with faith.

“By faith, Joseph at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones,” Hebrews 11:22.

It’s not that reflection is wrong – it’s a very good thing to do – or that Joseph never looked back on his life to consider what he could learn and praise God for.  I’m sure he did.  It’s that he didn’t live in the past.  Joseph was always looking forward.  Always looking ahead.  Looking to what God was still to do. 

We are encouraged to do the same. 

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let all of us who are mature think this way,” Philippians 3:13-15.

On a personal level, 2009 has been the most difficult year of my life.  No question.  There’s been a lot to learn and I’ve fought hard to keep faithfully believing the promises that God has made to me that haven’t yet been fulfilled.  But I do believe them.  And I know that I cannot live in either the successes or the failures of the past if I’m going to keep believing and walking in them.  The New Year comes at an opportune time for me.  A time to forget what lies behind and begin straining forward to what lies ahead.

I began this series on Joseph because I knew what it was like to be in a pit and see no way out, no way of God fulfilling His promises.  I have learned a lot from Joseph.  And I want to end the series by joining him in looking forward too.  God is faithful and sovereign.  Hallelujah. What an amazing God we serve.

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Bad things happen to good people.  We might wish they didn’t – I wish they didn’t happen to me – but they do.

(One of my daughter’s has pointed out that the sentence I just wrote means that I think I’m a good person.  Mmm.  I might come back to that one.)

But on the whole I think Joseph was a good person.  Not perfect, but good.  And bad things did happen to him.  Some of those things may not have been helped by his own behaviour (particularly when he was young) but that doesn’t mean that he deserved them.  And sometimes he had done nothing wrong at all.  It didn’t stop him ending up in jail though. 

And sometimes they happen because people intend to harm us.  Like Joseph’s brothers intended to harm him.

Which is where we need a really clear theology about God.  Because what we believe about God will certainly shape how we live.  How we respond to people who hurt us.  How we respond when bad things happen.

If God is sovereign then we don’t have to take matters into our own hands.  We don’t have to solve the problem.  We don’t have to get even.  We don’t have to fear the worst.  We just have to learn the lessons that He is teaching us.

Bad things happened to Jesus too.  And he certainly didn’t deserve them.  But he did know that his Father was sovereign and that good would come from them.  And Jesus is our example.

“If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.  He committed no sin neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; but continued entrusting himself to Him who judges justly, ”  1 Peter 2:20-23.

Now that’s the call to make.  When bad things happen; entrust yourself to God.  When you endure suffering for doing good, you are fulfilling your call.  He will deal with you justly.  Just leave it to Him.

a hidden agenda

I remember working in an office a few years ago when the manager decided to start holding a regular team meeting.  It was a new innovation, from a new manager, and we were all rather suspicious about his motives.  Suspicious and maybe a little bit cynical too.  So when at the beginning of the first meeting he started to anxiously shuffle through his pile of papers and explained that, “I’m afraid I can’t find the agenda, ” I smiled and said, “Ah – it’s a hidden agenda.”

People laughed.  Fortunately.  So I got away with it.

But hidden agenda’s are not normally laughing matters.  They corrupt situations and relationships.  They distort motives and they breed mistrust.

Now Joseph’s brothers are masters of the hidden agenda.  They always have been.  Their treatment of Joseph, their deception of Jacob.  And because they work that way they suspect that everyone else does too.  They suspect that Joseph does.  They did when they returned to Egypt with Benjamin (Genesis 43:18) and they do when Jacob dies. 

They suspect that Joseph will turn against them.  “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him,”  (Genesis 50:15).

So they lie to him, pretending that Jacob had required Joseph to forgive them.  An entirely unnecessary lie of course.  Joseph was never going to harm them.  But a lie none the less.

And that’s what hidden agenda’s do.  They create situation’s where it becomes necessary to deceive.  To lie.  To manipulate people and situations.  They’re not good.

So God calls us to live honest, open and transparent lives.  To walk in the light.  To do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  To have no hidden agenda’s.  To be like Joseph.  Not like his brothers.

past, present and future

Do you ever get so caught up in the moment that you forget the bigger picture?  The busyness of the day, winning the argument, just surviving?  It’s easy to do – which is why it’s important to take time out and think about things. 

Then sometimes, whether we plan it or not, the bigger picture comes crashing in.  Jacob’s death has that effect on his remaining family.  He has asked to be buried in the cave at Machpelah, to the East of Mamre, in the land of Canaan (Genesis 49:30).  Buried with Abraham and Sarah, with Isaac and Rebekah and with Leah.  Buried with his ancestors and his wife – a reminder of the past.  But also, a reminder of the promises of the past.  Which are a hope for the future.  The hope that in the future that land will belong to his descendants.

So Joseph makes the arrangements and embalms the body for the journey.  They mourn and they travel.  They bury Jacob in the cave at Machpelah.  And then, “Joseph returned to Egypt,” (Genesis 50:14).

Joseph remembers the past, looks forward to the future and lives in the present.  And for Joseph, the present is in Egypt.  Has he forgotten the promises of the past?  No.  Has he given up on the hope for the future?  No.  Does he think that God has abandoned him in the present?  No.

Now here’s a trick.  God has made promises to you.  Even if you don’t have a direct and personal promise there are plenty of promises for you in the bible.  Good and real promises.  Promises that give you a real hope for the future – a purpose and meaning.  And maybe you haven’t inherited them yet but it doesn’t mean that God won’t deliver on them sometime soon.  He will.  He is faithful.  At the same time, you have to live in the present.

Remember the past.  Hope for the future.  Live in the present.

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come,” Revelation 4:8.

“Jesus is the same yesterday, today and for ever,” Hebrews 13:8.

You see, God lives and works in our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.  He sees the beginning from the end and he asks us to walk in the middle.  In the place of tension between the two.  We have to hold on to the promises God has made, retain faith for their fulfilment and live righteously in the present.  And the present might be a tough place for you at the moment.

It’s not always easy is it?  But it is God’s way.  Be encouraged.

shaping the future

We all do it.  Every moment of every day we do it.  But we don’t often think about it.  At least I don’t.

We all shape the future – our future and other people’s future.  Every decision that we make in some way shapes what will follow.  It’s inevitable.  Cause and effect.

And while we don’t necessarily see what will come of it; God does.  He sees it all. 

So as Jacob blesses his sons he ties in their past with their futures.  He reminds them that the choices they have made in the past will impact their descendants for generations to come.  Reuben loses pre-eminence for having slept with Jacob’s concubine (Genesis 35:22), the descendants of Simeon and Levi will be scattered because of the violence of the brothers at Shechem (Genesis 34), Judah has magnificent promises made to him which are ultimately fulfilled by Jesus.  And Joseph: well, Joseph.  “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring,” Genesis 49:22.

Jacob acknowledges the way that Joseph’s brothers treated him and pronounces great blessing; “beyond the blessings of my parents,” (49:26).  And as it turns out, Ephraim and Judah do indeed become great.

At the same time, this blessing of Joseph acknowledges “the Mighty One of Jacob,” “The Shepherd” and “The Stone of Israel,” (49:24).  Yes: our decisions shape our future and other people’s but we cannot ignore the hand of God in all our circumstances.  The Lord is our shepherd and the rock of our salvation.  His grace makes the way.

So – having come to know Jesus, having been led by the good shepherd, the Mighty One of Israel, having received the grace of God: what are you going to do today?  How will your decisions shape your future and the futures of those around you?

You have some choices to make.  Choose to do good.

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