Genesis 38: The Story of Judah and Tamar
(Additional scripture: I John 1: 5-2:1)
Verse1 tells us at that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. At that time refers to the time after they had sold Joseph into slavery ( Judahs idea) and deceived their father into believing Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Why do you think Judah moved away from his father and brothers?
Jacob in his grief was inconsolable and I believe living in the presence of his fathers grief for which Judah was responsible so nagged his conscience he could not stand to stay there any longer. But moving away and doing some of the things Judah did as we will see in this story did nothing to relieve him of his guilt. The worlds solution to sin is not recognizing it as sin and turning from it but rather covering it with a variety of deceitful lies.They attack the word of God and God Himself and say these commandments and laws are not applicable in todays society and culture. They create their own laws that excuse their sinful behavior and label the laws of God as antiquated and old fashioned. They seek to make their sinfulness acceptable and Gods truth irrelevant. But the Word of God says they are without excuse.
His sin was ever before him- his guilty conscience followed him wherever he went. There may have been periods where he was distracted for a time- but then events would bring back the problem.
There are some important themes running through this unsavory story. One is of course, Gods grace. Lets face it, at this point in the story, we would not be willing to forgive Judah and his brothers for what they have done. But God is rich in His mercy, His compassions fail not so He demonstrated His love for us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Thats why the Bible is a story of hope for sinful mankind.
But also we see why it was important for God to move the budding nation of Israel to Egypt where they would be despised by the Egyptian people. This would protect them from intermarrying and over the next 400 years God would grow them into a nation of over 2 million people. This is why God has allowed the favored son of Israel, Joseph to become a slave who will one day rule Egypt and save them all from a great famine.
Left in Canaan at this time- intermarrying would continue until the patriarchal line would become polluted as we see Judah, the very one from which the Messiah would come marry a Canaanite woman.
Judah in his guilt attempts to rid himself of the guilt not by confessing his sin- but by moving away. He moves away from the reminders of his guilt- his saddened father and his co-conspirators, his brothers. He moves down to Adullam and becomes friends with a man named Hirah. He not only moves into the world- he becomes friends with the world.
The world- the unbelieving world and society does not hate sin- they hate guilt that is associated with sin. They hate being told by a Holy God they do not meet His standards and their self righteousness is as filthy rags. Like Cain the unbeliever is angry that God will not accept them on their terms. And the creation wants to tell its Creator what they will do and not do.
Judah knows of the covenant of his father , and Isaac and Abraham. He knows of the importance of their offspring.
You see Judah wanted to make a new start- but until he takes care of old sin- and gets a new heart there will be no new start..
So Judah moves. He moves into the world and makes friends with the world. Hirah, an unbelieving heathen becomes not only his friend but advisor. Hirah evidently introduces him to a young woman, a Canaanite, the daughter of a man named Shua.
Judah evidently marries quickly without much thought to the covenant promise and completely disregarding what he knows Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had clearly demonstrated not to marry a Canaanite woman.
Seeking to salve his guilty conscience, Judah marries and starts a new life. He and his pagan wife soon have three sons. Er, Onan, and Shelah.
In verse 6, Judah secures a wife for his oldest son, Er. Her name is Tamar.
In verse 7, we are told Er was wicked in the Lords sight and the Lord slew him- put him to death. God sometimes deals with wickedness with death. The flood in the day of Noah was Gods response to a wicked people whose hearts were evil all the time, and God also put to death the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are not told what wicked Er did that caused God to put him to death. But rest assured God has the right to do anything and He always does what is right. He has told us- the wages of sin is death.
Then Judah tells Ers brother Onan to lie with his brothers wife, marry her and produce offspring for his brother. This custom was called a levirate marriage. The survival of a line was very important to these ancient people. Therefore their laws called for the surviving brother to do this in order to perpetuate his brothers name.
Onan proved to be selfish- not wanting to produce offspring that would inherit the inheritance of the older brother- he selfishly satisfied himself sexually with Tamar but practiced a crude form of contraception so she would not become pregnant.
Again in verse 10, we see God deal with Onans wickedness and put him to death.
Judah is now faced with only having one son left. He tells Tamar, twice widowed now, to go home to her fathers house. Judah tells her when Shelah, the youngest son was old enough he would marry Tamar and give her an heir.. Tamar goes and waits and waits
While Tamar goes to live with her father as a widow and wait for Shelah, we are told what Judah is thinking. He is thinking Shelah may die too like his brothers. It appears that Judah believes Tamar is the one at fault and causing these deaths.
In verse 12, we are told after a long time, Judahs wife dies. So evidently Shelah is now of marriageable age- but it is evident Judah is not going to give him to Tamar as a husband.
Enter Hirah, the unbelieving buddy of Judah. Finding Judah recovering from his grief, Hirah seems to be the catalyst for the trip to Timnah.
We can imagine, Hirah showing up to console his friend Judah in his grief. Hirah says lets go up to the sheep-shearing convention at Timnah. We will see all our old buddies, take in a few shows, have a few drinks and some fun. It is just what you need to get you out of this pit it will do you a world of good. The world always has diversions to offer : a drink, some entertainment, a pill, sex, something to take our mind off of ones problems.
Judah has by this time become accustomed to choosing the worlds way to deal with his problems, his guilt and his grief.
In the meanwhile, verse 13-14 tells us Tamar having heard of the death of Judahs wife, and his planned trip to Timnah comes up with a plan of her own. She has by now figured out- the promised marriage to Shelah is never going to occur.
Once again we see the principle of sowing and reaping: Tamar takes off her widows clothes and disguises herself with the veil and dress of a prostitute.
What follows is hardly the type of action one would expect of the man selected by God to be the line through which the Messiah would come. Surely we would not have selected Judah- we would have more than likely chosen Joseph. And certainly not Tamar- but there it is in black and white in Gods word not only this story but also found in the genealogy listed in Matthew 1.
Interestingly you will find in this human lineage of the Lord Jesus, four women: Tamar, a Canaanite, Rahab, a Canaanite and a harlot, Ruth, a Moabite, and Bathsheba, an adulteress. For truly God is able to work all things together for good and Gods intention always was to bless all nations through the descendants of Abraham.
As we look at Gods choices rather than clucking our tongues and shaking our heads at the sins of Judah and Tamar, the Lord Jesus tells us to be careful how we judge others- for in the same way we will be judged by God.
Tamar must have known something of her father-in-laws character or else she would not have come up with a plan to lure him into sexual sin.
Judah sees her and wants her. Believing her to be a prostitute he bargains with her for the price. He offers a young goat as a price- to be sent to her later.
Tamar responds like a hard-headed business woman accustomed to dealing with men in such situations. She must have a pledge.
What would you have?, responds Judah. Give me your seal and its cord( bracelet) and your staff which also carried his insignia. These three items represent Judahs person, possessions and position. He risks all for a moment of lust. ( AA story).
Afterwards Judah sends a young goat as payment for her services. His accomplice? None other than good ole Hirah. Hirah takes the goat back to pay the prostitute but cannot find her.
Judah is upset- not because of his sin but because he feared his reputation might be ruined and he would become a laughingstockembarrassed about the whole sordid affair.
But be sure your sin will find you out three months later, Judah receives word his daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution and is now pregnant as a result.
Judah, the hypocrite is incensed and demands justice. He wants her brought out and burned to death.
As she is being brought out, she sends a message to Judah and says I am pregnant by the man who owns these- Judahs seal, cord and staff.
Examine these to see if you recognize whose seal, cord and staff these are.
These are almost the identical words Judah and his brothers said when they brought Josephs blood-stained, torn robe to their father and said: Examine this robe to see if you recognize whose robe this is.
I am reminded of the story of Nathans confrontation of one of Judahs descendants, King David.
Nathan, aware of Davids sin with Bathsheba and his involvement in Uriahs death- confronts him with a story of a rich man who had exceeding flocks but instead took the poor mans pet lamb and killed it for a visitor to eat. David in his anger said he would find this man and take his lifeput him to death.
Nathan then told King David you are that man.
Two hypocrites who showed no mercy were revealed for who they were-self-righteous hypocrites. David recognized his sin as did Judah.
Judah admits she, Tamar, is more righteous than he.
God had taken away two of Judahs sons- but now He gives him back two sons, twin boys named Zerah and Perez. Perez will the one through whom the royal line will proceed. (Matthew 1)
And now you know the rest of the story. A story that reveals not only the sovereignty of God, the Holiness of God, the Grace of God and the mercy of God- but shows us something else about ourselves.
When we look at Judah and judge him guilty and deserving of death are we not like David in his response to the story Nathan told him.
And finally do we not realize- thou are that man!
Like Judah and David we would often judge others of their sins- only to realize later that only those who are without sin are qualified to judge and can first cast stones. None of us are without sin- for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
We demand justice be done but justice is the shield of the innocent and the sword to the guilty. What we really want is mercy when our sins are found out.
What we can also observe in the book of Genesis is this is the story of man- frail, sinful man who try as he might can never live a life in his or her own strength that will be acceptable to a Holy God. Our characters are flawed for we are born with sinful natures.
In these biographies of these ancient patriarchs we see that their character had to be changed.
The recognition of our own sin , instead of always looking at others sins, is the beginning of our transformation. In this first step we realize we are powerless over sin. Gods Word is unlike any other word. It is alive and powerful and like a sharp two-edged sword it divides soul and spirit joint and marrows. It cuts away the cancer of sin that causes our sickness of character. Our diseased hearts become like stone- and we need a heart transplant.
The only way to receive a heart transplant is from someone who dies and is willing to have their heart taken to be given to another. I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you, I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of new flesh. (Ezekiel 36)
We did not have to worry about a perfect match
for we had the perfect donor- the Lord Jesus.
Judah has to face up to his sin.
Judah has to come to realize- he cannot make a new start without a new heart.
Why did I read those verses from I John 1 & 2?
It contains not only some of the greatest truths regarding our power to resist sin but also the defense available to us when we sin.
I do not know what excuses or deceptions or rationalizations Judah used to not confess his sin. Perhaps Judahs defense was- if it was not for me his brothers would have killed Joseph. My actions were taken to save Josephs life. We know he blamed Tamar for the death of his two sons. Nor can I imagine what David must have told himself to escape the guilt of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.
But the stories in Genesis from the very beginning show that man and woman will use a defense of blaming circumstances or others or even God for their actions.
The Word of God tells us here(I John 1&2) if we sin( and we will sin) there is a perfect defense and a perfect defender. He is our Advocate before the Father, the Judge. He is our attorney or lawyer. His title, Our Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
Now you realize by now that a Sovereign God will allow you to do as you please- He will not violate your free will. If you want to defend yourself- you can. But everyone knows a lawyer who defends himself in court has a fool for a client.
And what will your defense be? It was not my fault Lord, the woman You gave me did this unto me.(Adams defense) Eve said it was the serpent. Everyone blamed someone else. Or we might use the excuse- it was the pressure of the circumstances. But whatever defense you use- whatever loophole you are looking for to justify your sins- the Bible tells us you are without excuse. You deceive yourself. The truth is not in you.
Do you know what is the sad thing about this? The Lord Jesuss blood cannot cleanse us from our excuses. The Word of God could not be clearer- the blood of Christ cleanses us of all our sins. Confess your sins- agree with God it is sin. He can cleanse us.
Do you see in these verses that we have power over sin? Do you know the secret of this power? It is fellowship with God the Father and His Son. If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with the Lord and one another. Walking in the light is the secret to fellowship and fellowship is the secret and source to power over sin.
What cuts off fellowship? Sin.
What must we do to restore it- confess and appeal to our Advocate.
The unbeliever will not walk in the light- he/she prefers darkness. Calls darkness light and light darkness.
The carnal Christian has cut himself or herself off from the light by neglecting the Word of God and fellowship with believers.
We cut ourselves off when we excuse our sin- blame it on our circumstances- call it by another name- human frailty, weakness, a bad habit, etc. Excuses and rationalizing. Saying we have no sin- thus making God a liar.
Have you seen like David and Judah you art that man? Have you confessed your sin- for without a new heart, a cleansed heart- there is no new start.
Genesis 39: Joseph in Egypt
In the last chapter we saw what happened to Judah when he was not in fellowship with the Lord. Recognizing that fellowship with the True and Living God is the secret and source to power over sin and temptation we see that Judah was finally forced to see how far he had wandered from the True and Living God. Refusing to confess his sin , Judah had adopted the worlds way of dealing with sin- by rationalizing his actions, excuses and blaming others, until like David confronted by Nathan, realized he was at fault., he was that man. But one of the themes of Genesis and the Bible is how to make new beginnings after you fail.
In contrast, we see the story of Joseph who evidently walked in the light as the Lord is in the light and experienced fellowship with the Lord. Over and over we will read the phrase and the Lord was with Joseph.. It was this fellowship with the True and Living God that was the secret and source of power over sin and temptation in the life of Joseph.
When Joseph arrived in Egypt at the age of 17 it must have been a source of amazement in spite of his fears and not knowing what would become of his life.
Egypt was mostly a country of small villages and peasants who worked the land and raised the grain and vegetables. The Egyptians were in many ways an advanced civilization using a system of irrigation from the Nile River and its annual flooding to provide an ample supply of water for both the crops and cattle. There were major cities, two of the most prominent were Hieropolis and Memphis. Hieropolis was where the sun god, Ra was worshiped and Memphis was devoted to Apis the sacred bull.
There was a caste system in which shepherds were at the bottom of this system and considered despicable by most Egyptians. A perfect place for the small family of Israel to be left alone and develop into a nation of two million in the land of Goshen. Religious superstition flourished with over 2000 gods and goddesses including the Pharaoh himself. There was great interest in the life after death where they believed the god Osiris would judge their deeds. The pyramids and embalming were all a part of Egypts fascination with life after death.
The Egyptians were great builders. They built many great buildings and the pyramids of which some are still here today. Some of the pyramids contained stones weighing as much as 15 tons. When Josephs great-grandfather, Abraham, went down to Egypt the Great Pyramid was already 1000 years old. The Egyptians had horses and chariots, understood and practiced the art of war; developed medicines, embalming and developed a sophisticated calendar with 365 and 1/4th days.
As the story of Genesis continues our focus will now be on Joseph. A young man who had a dream that must now wonder if his dream was a nightmare. Verse36 of Genesis 37 tells us Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharoahs officials, the captain of the guard.
Verse 1 of Chapter 39 tells us Potiphar has taken Joseph down to Egypt.
Verse 2 tells us the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and lived in the house of his master.
In verse 3 we see the results of the fellowship of Joseph with the True and Living God.- his master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and Potiphar recognized it was Josephs God that gave him success in everything he did. Matthew 6:33 comes to mind as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tells us the secret to successful living. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything you need will be added. There it is again- this principle of fellowship with the True and Living God.
God tells us in the book of Jeremiah of His plans for us. Plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give you hope and a future. But this promise is conditional. First you must call on the Lord and come and pray to Him. You must seek Him with all your heart- no half-hearted efforts will work. These are all a description of fellowship with the True and Living God.
So there are actions to be taken on our part. We are to pursue holiness. We must choose to walk in the light as He is in the light. There are two ways- the narrow way, which few enter and the broad way which many enter. The narrow way leads to eternal life and the abundant life, the broad way leads to destruction.
One can figure out some things about Joseph- everywhere he went, he did his very best. Finding himself a slave in foreign land, Joseph decided he would be the best slave Potiphar ever had. Potiphar noticed because you do not get to be the captain of the palace guard without being a shrewd judge of men.
Consider the following that the traits of Joseph and you will see the traits of a good employee and even a good manager.
Joseph was loyal. Very important and very noticeable trait.
Joseph could be trusted.
Joseph worked well with other people.
Joseph was creative; always looking for a better way to do things (Potiphar, prison &pharoah).
He was always willing to do more than asked, willing to take on more responsibility.
Because of his loyalty, he was always looking for ways to advance his masters cause.
He evidently educated himself and was always learning and improving.
Consider how Joseph faced these adverse circumstances, how long they lasted and seemingly how unfair the whole situation was and we marvel at his ability to have a positive attitude. How did he do this? There is only one answer the Lord was with him.
Potiphar recognizing what a resource he has in Joseph and quickly turns over everything he has to Joseph.
Verse 6 gives us a description of this young Jewish man: he was well-built and handsome. I have always maintained, Joseph got his mothers good looks and his daddys work habits and head for business.
Mrs. Potiphar has noticed this young handsome man and once again we see the enemy uses the power and lure of sexual sin to tempt another man. Mrs. Potiphar propositions Joseph and he refuses. He is a young virile man in a strange country, a slave who is in a position that depends on the favor of his master. She continues to pursue and Joseph continues to resist, refuses her advances and runs when all else fails.
Joseph refuses on two grounds.
One is his loyalty to his master, Captain Potiphar.
The other is his loyalty to his God. How can I do such and wicked thing against God.?
Our sin can be against others and affect others- but our sins are first and foremost against God.
Lets consider Josephs precarious situation. Mrs. Potiphar was his mistress. A person of authority to whom Joseph was to obey. If he gave into her requests- his situation would more than likely improve. However to refuse her request would put him in a peril, as we will see.
Joseph seems to have made his mind up beforehand how he would handle this situation and what he would say based on who he was. We must consider what situations we will face and how we will respond to them beforehand, rather than in the heat of the moment. Young people will all face the same temptations at some time in their life.They must either decide beforehand I will not do certain things before the situation arises or else face making a decision when the pressure is greatest. These situations include; drinking alcohol, smoking, sex before marriage, drugs, cheating on a test, stealing and lying. Convenience often replaces conviction in the moment of decision unless the decisions have been made beforehand.
If you walk in the light in the presence of His power- there is no gray area. Everything is black and white. You see we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. When you walk in the light in the fellowship of the God the Father- He is the Father of Light in whom there is no shadow or turning.
Listen to Pauls instructions: ( Ephesians 5) For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth and find out what pleases the Lord.( Joseph knew what pleased the Lord and what did not please Him, didnt he?) Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything is exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: Wake O Sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.
When Gods Spirit came and restored life in our spirit- He also reestablished the standards of absolute values and made moral judgments possible. This is exactly why Joseph was able to have power over sin and temptation. I was powerless over sin and could not stay sober when I walked in the darkness. But the Light of the World came into my life in September of 1977 and He began to direct my path. His word became a light upon my path and a lamp unto my feet.
The compromised, conformed- by the- world, carnal Christian walks in the gray areas.
The Christian who walks in the light as He is in the light enjoys the fellowship and presence and power of Almighty God. There are no gray areas when you walk in fellowship with God.
God wants to teach each of us- just like He did Joseph how to respond to these situations. The Bible is our textbook, the Holy Spirit our teacher and life our classroom. We will have pop tests, and major exams. We will pass some, fail others and have to repeat the lessons until we learn.
When you and I became Christians we needed to know what to do next.
What are the steps we take?
Where do we find the instruction?
What actions should we be taking?
We need this at every phase of our Christian Life.
This is why God has given us spiritual gifts and made us interdependent on one another and dependent on God.
This is why God has given us teachers and pastors that we might grow up and be mature Christians. Every parent wants their child to grow up
and so does our Heavenly Father.
In Josephs situation, he kept refusing and Mrs. Potiphar kept on pursuing. This went on day after day we are told- is this not the way sin is? The enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Our Lord Jesus told us we must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation.
On this fateful day, the mistress of the house caught Joseph by his garment and said come lie with me. Joseph took off once again- but this time Mrs. Potiphar held onto his garment. All of a sudden a plot, a diabolic plot was hatched. She screamed and the household servants came running to see what was the matterholding his garment the woman lies to the servants that Joseph has attacked her.
I think probably the servants knew what was going on- but they would not dispute their mistress.
When Captain Potiphar comes home she tells her lie again and Joseph falsely accused is placed immediately in the prison where the kings enemies were kept. This was probably the most secure prison-more than likely a dungeon filled with all types of vile men and ruthless jailers.
But once again, God in telling this story of Joseph reassures usHe is with Joseph. Joseph and Almighty God are walking in fellowship. And God lets Joseph know He is with him as Joseph finds favor with the jailer. Soon Joseph is running the prison.
Joseph seemed to have developed the philosophy and attitude of learn to bloom where you are planted.
But what is different about Joseph is his relationship with God affects his relationship with others. We would call it visible Christianity in todays terminology.
When we walk in the light- this is the picture of fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus and with one another.
It is what Jesus described in John 15 as the abiding life.
We know that God is love.
We know that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as your self.
Do you see in the book of Genesis that Adam broke the first commandment when he took the forbidden fruit that Eve gave him? He was placing his love and concern for Eve before his love for God. And then one chapter later Cain kills his brother Abel and breaks the second commandment.
You cannot hate your brother and walk in the light- that is enjoy fellowship with the Lord.
Joseph would not lie with Mrs. Potiphar for two reasons:
He loved his God with all his heart, mind soul and strength.
And Joseph loved his master, Captain Potiphar and would not do this thing against His God and his employer/owner.
Jesus came to show us how to love this way and He told us to love one another as I have loved you. He was our example; He was and is our light who reveals, who measures and who energizes.
Joseph found favor with men because his love for God and others was visible in his actions, deeds, attitude and words.
Remember what John wrote in I John.. These things we write to you that your joy might be full.
Walking in the light is the picture of fellowship with God and others.
This fellowship is the source and secret to resisting sin and temptation.
Sin breaks this fellowship.
You see Joseph exhibited a visible kind of Christianity that truly was from his fellowship with the True and Living God.
It was joy which is often described in this way. J O Y Jesus first others second and yourself last.
JOY that is full.
Genesis 40 -41: HE knows the way I take.
Joseph had a can-do spirit- but he also had a cannot spirit. . When it came to sin against his employer/owner, Potiphar and sin against God- Joseph said I cannot do such a wicked thing.
Do you have a can do spirit? A spirit that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Have you decided beforehand- there are things you cannot do? Do you prepare daily to resist temptation and sin? You and I know they will be lurking there sometimes catching us unaware- that is why we must walk in the light, abide in Him- and have a conscious awareness of God at all times.
When we last saw Joseph in chapter 39, Joseph had found favor with the jailer and was now in charge of the prison. Once again we hear the familiar and comforting phrase- the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
I suspect you are thinking- it must be nice to have the Lord paving the way for your success- but clearly this is what the Lord wants to do for each of us.
What we see in this story of Joseph is a man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. In Jeremiah 17, the Lord tells us: Cursed is the one who trusts in man who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; and he will not see prosperity when it comes. This statement tells us much of a man who trusts in men and their own strength. Their hearts will be turned away from the Lord. They will not recognize true wealth when they see it and their lives will be barren.
The Lord goes on to explain the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots in the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has not worries in year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Psalms 1 tells us similar truths: blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of the sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers. This man of God finds his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. The result is a fruitful life. And whatever he does prospers.
Surely Joseph was tempted in this part of his life when it seemed the dream he held onto- and believed was from God was becoming harder to believe due to his circumstances.
How the devil must have come to Joseph often in the dark night of his imprisonment. How he must have gone over the events and wondered why was this happening- was this dream only his imagination- had he interpreted it wrongly? Satan loves to attack with the fiery darts of doubtwhich must be quenched with the shield of faith.
Here in the prison this dungeon of doubt, an innocent man falsely charged- Joseph would learn of: faith, hope and charity-love.
Perhaps staying busy was one of Josephs way of keeping his mind off his circumstances. But it must have been often at night- as we all have experienced- the doubts crept in. The enemy must have brought the questions to Josephs mind as the years dragged by- how will this work out? Why was my hard work and honesty not rewarded instead of being falsely imprisoned? It has to be Joseph kept reminding himself of the dream and the God who gave him the dream. Surely Joseph must have said something like I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him. Joseph believed this prison experience, his being sold as a slave, the false accusations were in some way a part of Gods plan to fulfill his dream. We must realize as Joseph came to realize that faith is strengthened by testing- by adversity. I wonder if Martin Luther Kings famous speech- I Have A Dream did not find its basis in this story of Joseph. Adversity is to our faith what exercise is to our muscles. And God knew just how much Joseph needed and He knows how much you and I need and can stand.
Do you know the two ingredients the Bible tells us are necessary to inherit the promises?
Hebrews 6:12 says-
it is through faith and patience we inherit the promises.
Now how do we learn patience? Romans 5 tells us through tribulations we learn patience. Uh-oh, youre thinking- I dont want bad stuff to happen to me and mine.
But it also through these experiences, these tribulations that Joseph came to experience the love of God. As the love of God showed Joseph kindness and continued to give Joseph favor with those he encountered on his journey to the throne.
I believe Joseph was so overcome by the Love of God that he was able to see that he could curse the darkness because of his circumstances or he could light a candle. The candle which would shine brightly in such a dark place was the love of God shed abroad in Josephs heart. This love worked its way out of Josephs heart into his actions, attitude and words as Joseph displayed this love for others given to him by God.As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. Joseph served others- and he did it out of love.
In serving others and caring for others with genuine concern for their well being- God in his providence brought two men into Josephs care- the cup bearer and the baker.
Noticing their sadness and dejection and depression- Joseph inquired what was wrong. In prison environment- Joseph not only had the position of trustee which carried the responsibility of caring for prisonersJoseph had come to have a ministry in the prison.It was a ministry of love and truth.
His genuine love and concern allowed him to gain the confidence of the prisoners. Since we know from the details of this story as it leads into chapter 41- we know after Joseph interprets the dreams he will spend two more years in prison. Since he was 30 years old when released- we know at this time Joseph is 28 years old. He has spent the last 11 years as either a household slave or a prisoner. Most believe he was in Potiphars house fro 2- 3 years. Which means his time in prison was up to 10 years.
Now Joseph learns the lesson of hope and where true hope comes from. It is a difficult lesson but Joseph learns hope deferred makes one heartsick.
Joseph interprets the two dreams the cup bearer and baker had experienced that puzzled them both.
The reason I said Joseph had not only a responsible position of authority in the prison but also had a ministry is contained in Josephs reply to the two prisoners regarding their dreams.
Joseph says do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams
Josephs statement shows that in his caring for the prisoners- in his love for them and his God- Joseph never missed an opportunity to witness and tell others about the True and Living God.
You might imagine some of the prisoners would have been skeptical of Josephs God in a land where there were over 2000 gods. They must have said or thought- if Josephs God is so great why doesnt He get Joseph out of here. Imagine what they thought when Joseph not only walked out a free man- but became the second most powerful man in the whole land- if not the world at that time.
Josephs interpretation of the two dreams turns out to be completely accurate. The cup bearer who will be set free and restored to his previous position is asked by Joseph to remember him to the Pharaoh.
We are told cupbearer did not remember Joseph- he forgot him. We will see God more than likely caused him to forget Joseph to teach Joseph a lesson. But it will also be God who reminds him of Joseph at the right time. God is never late and has promised if we will not grow weary in well-doing in due time we will reap.
I know God is never late— but sometimes it seems like He has missed some good opportunities to be early!
Joseph learned to hope no longer in a man. Hope thou in God, for I shall praise Him for the help of His countenance. ( Psalm 42)
So we see that Joseph through the years of adversity has been taught the lesson of faith, hope and love. Which Paul tells us in I Cor. 13- the greatest of these is love.
Once again we see love triumph for love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast nor is it proud. It is not rude nor self seeking, easily angered or bent on revenge. This love which God was developing in Joseph and wants to develop in us is a love that does not delight in evil but always rejoices in truth. It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Do you not see this love is being developed and exhibited in Josephs life?
In fact to continue in Pauls words in this great chapter- can you see that perhaps Joseph when he spoke of his dreams of ruling over his family to his brothers that he might have spoken as a child? And now God has prepared Joseph to put away childish things.
God is love. God has communicated His love to us at Calvary. God has commanded us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and being and to love one another as ourselves.
I am now moving us into a continuation of the story of dreams that is completed in chapter 41.
This chapter tells us by the time the Pharaoh has his dreams two years have passed since the cupbearer was set free and forgot about Joseph.
But God has not forgotten about Joseph.
God has not forgotten about you and me either. Psalms 139 tells me God knows and is familiar with all my ways.
He created me and knit me together in my mothers womb over 64 years ago.
All my days were written in His book before the first one ever came to be.
But let me tell you something that will take your breath away— this God, creator of the Universe- loves me unconditionally and His thoughts His precious thoughts toward you and me outnumber the grains of sand! He cares for you and me like no one else ever has.
On the day that you and I got savedthere was rejoicing in heaven- there was rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
And you need to know that Gods plans for you and me are just as important to Him as the plans He had for Joseph.
Thus we see the Pharaoh has two dreams one night. Dreams that were sent by God all in His perfect timing. The two dreams were similar: 7 sleek, fat cows grazing among the reeds devoured, eaten up by 7 gaunt, ugly cows.
The second dream was about seven healthy heads of grain or wheat growing on a single stalk. Then seven other heads of grain thin and scorched by the east wind spring up. These seven thin heads of grain swallow up the seven full heads.
The Pharaoh awoke and was troubled by his dreams.
Calling for his magicians and wise men- the Pharaoh told them his dreams and demanded an interpretation but they could not .
Now the cupbearer who had forgotten Joseph is reminded of Joseph.
The Pharaoh sends for Joseph.
First he must be shaved, cleaned and given a new set of clothing suitable for an appearance before the Pharaoh.
Once again Joseph gets a change of clothing. What is God saying to us abut this clothing?
He once wore the multi-colored robe of favoritism and perhaps pride that the very sight of this robe angered his brothers. Its torn blood spattered remains were a symbol of pain and suffering for his father, Jacob.
He was then given the simple clothes of a servant a house slave.
But in time probably was given a better garment as head of Potiphars house that turned out to be the evidence used against him to convict him falsely of sexual assault.
He would then wear the clothes of a prisoner for the next 10 years.
What a humbling experience as we look at Josephs journey just by his wardrobe.
But God gives grace to the humble.
Joseph is ready. Gods perfect timing is all falling into place.
And now he is washed, shaved and given robes for a court appearance before the Pharaoh that would become the robes of a ruler.
One day you and I will appear before the King of Kings and we will be appropriately dressed in suitable clothing for we will be clothed in Christs Righteousness. Having had our prison clothes which were filthy, sin stained garments taken away and been supplied with the garments of righteousness for suitable apparel. On September 16, 1977 I took off those old sin-stained garment and put on the new white robes of His Righteousness.
Now have you learned like Joseph did- the lessons of faith, hope and charity?
Here is the moment- after 13 long years.
Joseph stands before the Pharaoh.
The Pharaoh tells Joseph- I have had a dream no one can interpret. I have heard it said you can interpret it.
Josephs reply must have created a silence in the courtroom of the king so you could hear a pin drop. The cupbearer must have shut his eyes and wondered why did I open my mouth. Perhaps Potiphar is standing there looking at his former servant and slave thinking this could be bad
Josephs reply is : I cannot do it
( maybe there was a dramatic pause) but God will give the Pharaoh the answer he desires.
Do you see the lesson of humility that Joseph has learned. He will not take credit for anything all honor and glory is due to the True and Living God. Joseph who has been faithful in little will now be given a lot. He is about to tell the Pharaoh what must be done for the next 14 years. He, Joseph, who just minutes before was a prisoner in the Pharaohs own prison system.
But do you see the Holy boldness, that Joseph has? He has just put the True and Living God on the throne above the Pharaoh.
Joseph then interprets the dream that foretells us Gods plan to send 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine.
Remember all of this is part of Gods plan to remove Jacob and his clan out of Canaan to Egypt to grow them into a nation unpolluted by intermarrying with the Canaanites.
Joseph, then as Gods consultant, advises the Pharaoh to find a wise and discerning man and put in charge of the land of Egypt. Appoint a board of commissioners over the land to take 20% of the harvest during the 7 years of plenty and store it for the 7 years of famine.
The plan seemed good to the Pharaoh and of course his yes menall agreed.
Listen to what the Pharaoh then says and does:
Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?
Then the Pharaoh said to Joseph: Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You will be second in command, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only I the Pharaoh will be greater than you.
I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
Can you imagine what Potiphar had to tell Ms. Potiphar at dinner that night?
Can you see Joseph returning to the prison to pick up some of his belongings and say good-bye to the warden and the prisoners? Can you hearing them cheering Joseph?
The story of Joseph will continue— but on that day Joseph began to realize the dream a dream that he refused to give up onbecause it was Gods plan for his life. And Joseph came to believe that everything that happened was for a reason and for the fulfillment of the dream that God had given him.
God has a task for you and me that to Him is just as important as His plan for Joseph.
You see at sometime during this odyssey Joseph came to realize that to try and manipulate the circumstances and make them work out for good is not our responsibility but Gods . Our responsibility is to trust and obey.
Job 23: Oh that I might find God, that I might come to His seat. I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn the words which He would answer and understand what He would say to me. Behold I go forward and He is not there. I go backward and perceive Him not. He acts upon the left and I behold Him not- He turns right and I see Him not.
BUT HE KNOWS THE WAY I TAKE. WHEN HE HAS TRIED ME, I SHALL COME FORTH AS GOLD.Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14