2016

Joseph: Compassion

Joseph: Compassion Sermon Notes

Compassion

Genesis 43

Pastor Paul L. Davis 

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s compassion.

         (Feel) Desire to express compassion to others.

         (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

 

Introduction: Betrayal, seduction, intrigue, treachery, disguise, secrets, and spies. Is this a James Bond movie? No, it is the book of Genesis. When we left off last week, nine of Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan, while one brother, Simeon, remained in Egypt as security—security that they will return with their youngest brother Benjamin and prove they are not spies. They have no clue that they met with Joseph. We pick up the story in Genesis 42:35, as they arrive home.

35 As they emptied their sacks, behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. And when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were afraid.

 

Joseph had instructed his servants to fill his brothers’ bags with food, but also to replace the money they brought to pay for the food. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.”

 

Jacob does not understand why or how this is happening, all he knows is that he is now down two sons and may lose his youngest, Benjamin.

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

 

Verse 37 is our first glimpse at why Joseph is using all the intrigue. Reuben has seen what losing a son does to a father, and he is willing to put his two sons up as security so that he would not allow Benjamin to get hurt. What a huge change of heart in Reuben. Benjamin is Jacob’s new favorite—that is very clear in verse 38. Jacob declares that Joseph is dead and Benjamin is the “only one left.” The only one left? There are ten brothers and poor Simeon is in jail! Jacob’s favoritism is showing again. There were only two sons of his beloved Rachel who died in childbirth. If Joseph is gone and Benjamin is gone, there is no one left. Reuben sees the favoritism, but instead of being envious and jealous like he was 20 years ago, he is generous and sacrificial. What a difference 20 years makes.

 

Chapter 43—We Must Go Back

1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?”

Judah is very clear with his father that no one is going back to Egypt without Benjamin; in his mind it would be suicide. Watch closely. What happens next has eternal repercussions. 8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.

Talk about a change of heart! Judah one-ups Reuben! He pledges his own life on behalf of his brother. Essentially Judah is offering his life for Benjamin’s life. At this point bells ought to be going off in your head. Is this a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do on the cross? Judah is offering his father the same thing Jesus offers us: his life. We often talk about how the goal of the Christian life is to be Christlike. Judah was particularly Christlike. The same guy who once thought about killing his brother now willingly offers his life. What does John 15:13 say? Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

 

This decision has eternal repercussions. For centuries Judah will be blessed:

1.          While all 12 brothers become tribes, Judah will be the largest most powerful tribe.

2.          Once the nation divides, the southern kingdom will be called Judah.

3.          People who believe in God in an OT way are called Jews. “Jew” comes from Judah. The religion that refuses to believe in a Jew that gave his life for the world is named after a man who gave his life for his brother.

4.          Judah receives the most lengthy of Jacob’s blessings. He likens Judah to a lion (Gen 49:9), states that all of Judah’s brothers will praise him and bow down to him (Gen 49:8), and reveals that kings will come from Judah (Gen 49:10).[1] Every king of the Jews except for the first one, Saul, will come from Judah’s lineage, including Jesus.

5. In Revelation 5:5, Jesus is called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.”

 

This situation right here is why Joseph has put his brothers through their ordeal. Joseph was testing them. Have they changed? The answer is a resounding yes!

 

Hope. Judah[2] and Reuben[3] have gone from being the worst brothers in history to some of the most sacrificial—they matured, they changed, and that should give you hope. If these two rotten brothers can change, so can you and I. Judah talks Jacob into letting the sons go back to Egypt with Benjamin. They take all the money from last time, plus more, and they also bring other gifts. As they are leaving, Jacob prays this over them, 14“May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

Jacob asks for mercy (ra-ha-miim—mercy or compassion) from “God Almighty” (Hebrew—El Shaddai). This is the first time in the Bible mercy is asked of God. Jacob does not appeal to YHWH or ELOHIM, the two names we have seen over and over in this story. He uses the name God used for himself when he met with Jacob 40 years earlier at Beth-El. Listen to God’s promise that night. Genesis 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai): be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” As Jacob sends his sons back to Egypt, he is trusting in the mercy of El Shaddai, God Almighty, who promised him nations.

 15 So the men took presents, and double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.”

 

Food In Egypt: This would have been quite a meal. Nobles ate well in ancient Egypt—vegetables, meat, and grains at every meal, plus wine and dairy products like butter and cheese. Tombs detail meals of honey-roasted wild gazelle, spit-roasted ducks with pomegranates, and a berry-like fruit called “jujubes” with wild honey cakes for dessert.[4] Joseph’s brothers are brought into the house…

18 …and the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” (Guilty conscience, perhaps?) 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

 

That is not true. Joseph’s servant is lying to keep up the ruse. It is interesting to me that, while his servant will lie, Joseph never does. He hides himself for sure, but he never lies.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there.

 

Joseph’s compassion overcomes him (Hebrew—ra-ha-miimkash-mem-resh). In English we have translated this Hebrew construction as his “compassion grew warm” (ESV). The NLT says he was “overcome with emotion.” The NKJV translates this as “his heart yearned for his brother.” It is surprisingly important that we find out exactly what this phrase means, because this very phrase God uses tells us how he feels about sinners who have walked away from him. The book of Hosea (11:8) uses the same wording when God tells his people that even though they have betrayed him and sinned, he will not destroy them because he is God and his compassion grows warm and tender. This literally could be translated as his “love, mercy and compassion burns within him.”

 

Key Application: When we, as believers, sin and our hearts grow cold towards God, often we put off coming back to him, thinking we have disappointed God and he probably does not want us back. But he does. The emotion Joseph feels in this story—being reunited with his little brother after 20 years of prison and slavery, overcome with emotion to the point that he has to run away to weep—this is how God describes his heart. It grows warm with compassion and mercy. Why would we not come back to a God who feels this way about us?

 

Does God cry? Have you ever asked yourself this? Does the sovereign powerful God of the universe cry? The Bible says he does. In John 11:35, Jesus wept, and we are told before he cried that he was deeply moved in his spirit. The reason we feel anything at all is because we are made in the image of a loving, feeling God. God feels everything we do and more because we are told in Psalm 34:15 that our tears catch his attention. Not only does he feel, but he feels when we feel. How does this scene end?

31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. (Literally it was repulsive—the Hebrews were unshaven, unwashed, unclean—repulsive!) 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

 

Jacob prayed for mercy/compassion (ra-ha-miim) and once again we see how closely Joseph walked with God. He showered his brothers with compassion. No vindictiveness, no paybacks, no hatred, no revenge. Just amazement. And they do not even know with whom they are eating yet. Wait until next week!

 

Application: We are most like God when we show love, mercy, and compassion to those who have mistreated us. We need to let go of the bitterness.

 

Challenge by Choice: Right now, in your own soul, are you bitter? Are there people in your past that you would “go off on” if they were to show up at your door? Our challenge today is personal, internal, and may be the hardest challenge of this series: Let it go. Release the hatred and bitterness. If you have nothing to take care of, pray like Jacob did for someone else.

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 43 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Discuss mercy/compassion. Have someone Google the definition on their phone. Did God show mercy/compassion to Joseph? His brothers?

3.          Have you been hurt by someone in your past? How are you working through it? Do you need to let it go? Why or why not?

4.          Look up 2 Sam 24:14. What does David know about God that would make him want to “fall into his hands” versus falling into the hands of a person?

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Jeremiah K. Garrett, “Judah, Son of Jacob,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Judah had many faults and family sins. He even slept with his own daughter-in-law thinking she was a prostitute. See Gen 38.

[3] Reuben had horrible issues, not the least of which we find in Gen 35:22. Reuben slept with Dan and Naphtali’s mother Bilhah.

[4] http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/eat-like-an-egyptian

Joseph: Making Things Right

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Making Things Right Sermon Notes

Making Things Right

Genesis 42

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of our conscience. (Feel) Desire to clear our conscience. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

 

Introduction: 20 years is a long time; a lot can happen in 20 years. In 20 years you can finish your education, get married and start a family. In 20 years you can build a career or a business—you could even become wealthy and famous. In 20 years you can also go from being a teenage Hebrew sheepherder to one of the most powerful men in the world. That’s what Joseph did. Here’s one thing you can’t do in 20 years: you can’t erase a guilty conscience. Our conscience is an odd thing. It’s like a moral barometer of the soul that senses when we’ve done wrong. We all have one.[1] I like having a conscience; I know mine keeps me out of a lot of trouble. It helps me remember important things, it prompts me when I’m neglecting or hurting key relationships in my life, and it provokes me to make things right with people I have offended.

 

I wonder if Joseph’s brothers liked having a conscience. Maybe they were under the illusion that time would remove their guilt. After all, they hadn’t seen or heard from Joseph since the day they tossed him in the pit, pulled him out again, sold him to the Midianites, and then watched as that caravan dragged him away naked and in chains, a slave on his way to Egypt. 20 years later the brothers assumed he was dead. Slaves didn’t have a long lifespan. With Joseph dead, their secret was safe. Even if their conscience jabbed them from time to time, they were learning to deal with it, to push down the feelings of guilt. Who would ever find out? After all, when you are dead, you are dead. There is nothing you can do, right? But Joseph wasn’t dead—far from it. He was living 300 miles south of them in a lavish palace, as the second most powerful man on the planet. His brother hadn’t a clue, and because there was no such thing as a Bible yet, they did not know several Bible verses that could have helped them: Be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NIV) or Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:7 NIV)

 

Nine years have passed since Joseph rose to power in Egypt. Joseph is 39 years old, and because of his wisdom, the entire world was coming to him for food. Everything has happened exactly as he said it would. Seven good years yielded grain abundantly—so much grain that it could not be measured (Gen 41:49). This morning we enter the story two years into the seven lean years, and times are very tough; the nations around Egypt are starving. In Canaan, where Joseph’s brothers and father Jacob live, the land is devastated. Jacob hears there is food in Egypt. Please turn to Genesis 42:1–5[2].

 

When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” Only two years into the famine, and Jacob is worried that the entire family is in danger of dying. 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. End of verse 6… Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.

 

Remember the dream? Joseph’s first one (Gen 37:6-8) where he is a sheaf of grain and all the other sheaves bow down to him? It’s happening; the brothers are there to buy grain, and they are bowing to him and they don’t even know it! It would have been a miracle if they had recognized Joseph. He was 17 when they sold him; he is now 40 and completely Egyptian. What would Joseph have looked like? We don’t know, but we can take a guess. We know that the richer an Egyptian was, the more makeup he wore. They shaved or plucked all their hair, and loved light skin with no wrinkles. Joseph would have been unrecognizable to his brothers, who would have had full beards, long hair, and dark skin. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”

 

And then Joseph does something strange. He accuses them of being spies, a serious charge that would bring a death sentence. Of course the brothers immediately begin to defend themselves, declaring boldly that they are honest men (42:11). Joseph knows that they are not as honest as they claim to be, so he presses them more. As they continue their defense, verse 13 reveals something. They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”  It is interesting that even after 20 years they still think of themselves as “12 brothers.” It is also clear that they think Joseph is dead. So Joseph hatches a plan. (Remember, as we continue this story, Pharaoh believes that Joseph is the wisest man in the kingdom. I think it would be foolish for us to assume Joseph doesn’t have a plan.) He is going to test his brothers to find out what kind of men they have become. In verse 15 he says to them, “By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you.”

 

And then he throws them in jail for three days to think about it. It is on the third day, when Joseph comes to see them, that we observe a huge turning point in these men’s lives. Skim down to verse 21—the brothers are talking among themselves. Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” After 20 years, as soon as a difficult situation arises, they immediately attribute their difficulties to their guilt for selling and killing Joseph. These are men with a guilty conscience. Reuben reveals why he didn’t want his brothers to kill Joseph in the first place. Since there was no Bible, and the Ten Commandments didn’t yet exist, where would Reuben have come up with the idea that there would be a “reckoning” (interesting word—an accounting word) for Joseph’s blood? He got it from Genesis 9. Turn there for a moment.

 

Because of incredible violence, God has flooded and destroyed the entire earth. Noah has just left the ark and is ready to repopulate the earth with his family. God gives Noah two commands. The first is to be fruitful and multiply (9:1) and the second is found in Genesis 9:5–6. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning (same word Reuben uses): from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. These are the only two laws of God at this time. Reuben and the brothers knew they had violated this law by killing Joseph, and their consciences immediately made the connection that it was “reckoning” time. You know how they were feeling—their consciences were pinging like crazy.

I wonder if this was new or if their consciences had been bothering them for a while. The Bible tells us that we can “sear our conscience.” I Timothy 4:2 talks about this. If we disobey our conscience repeatedly or if we refuse to develop deep-seated convictions around God’s moral law, then our sensitivity to moral issues becomes deadened. They just stop bothering us. This is a dangerous thing that Romans 1 tells us will lead to the darkening of our minds and a whole host of other issues.

 

The goal of the Christian believer is to develop a mature or healthy conscience, which will take two key elements:

1)         The Holy Spirit. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit whose ministry to us includes the “conviction of sin.” (John 16:8)

2)         The Word of God: We need a deeply held love and understanding of the Word of God. The Bible gives us God’s will regarding moral issues; the Holy Spirit then enables us to “welcome, embrace” that truth (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16), so that it transforms us from the inside out!

 

A warning: The New Testament talks about our conscience over 31 times. It is a gift from God and is meant to act like a dashboard warning light to keep us from sin and doing things that might injure ourselves, others, and our relationship with God. If we watch the dashboard and don’t ignore the warning lights, we will flourish spiritually. If we refuse to listen, refuse to study God’s Word, and if we decide to do our own thing our own way, the Bible tells us that God will abandon us and leave us to our own “foolish thinking.” Listen to how God responds to people who sear their conscience. Romans 1:28–32 (NLT) 

 

[God]…abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

 

Are you listening to and growing a healthy conscience? Or is God abandoning you to your foolish thinking and evil actions? Perhaps you are feeling guilty for the first time in a while. Acts 3:19 (NIV) calls us to Repent, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

 

Joseph treated his brothers harshly, but look closely at what happened. Perhaps for the first time in 20 years, his brothers are convicted of their sin. They realized, because they now needed mercy, that they refused to show mercy when Joseph cried for it in deep distress. Turn back to Genesis 42:23. They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept… This whole conversation has happened right in front of Joseph because they didn’t think he could understand them! Can you imagine the emotions running through Joseph? The last time he saw his family, they viciously threw him into a pit and mercilessly sold him like a goat. As he listens to their discussions, he knows they think they killed him. Is it time for revenge? Forgiveness? Restitution? Punishment? Penance? Joseph has the power to do any or all of those, but instead he weeps. Look at the end of verse 24.

 

And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, (here is the tricky part) and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them. 26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

 

Why all of a sudden do the brothers think God is behind this? Joseph, through his actions, has made these men see their weakness, their need for mercy, and that God is up to something. Joseph’s actions have activated their consciences.

 

This morning we all come here in one of two places: either we have been activating and growing our conscience or we have been searing and deadening our conscience. Perk up your ears and listen, church. Imagine a man walking in one direction who suddenly realizes that he is going in the wrong direction. He stops. He turns around. Then he begins walking in the new direction. It is a quick and simple process. He realizes. He stops. He turns. That is a healthy conscience at work. If you are in this spot, thank God and use your conscience to flourish in your walk with Christ. Now imagine a man in a sailboat, the wind at his back, sailing quickly in the wrong direction. Turning around is a hard and difficult process—he must turn into the wind, readjust the sails, and make sure his rudder is deep and true. Some of us are in this boat. In order to change, we need to grow our conscience. It will require some big adjustments to our thinking, and the winds of our past decisions, addictions, and relationships blow against us. If that’s you this morning, you need to do three things:

1)         Pray for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) Right now. Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal your sin to you and help you deal with it properly.

2)         Actively study the Word of God for the purpose of learning right and wrong and wisdom.

3)         Surround yourself with godly people who will help you activate your conscience.

 

Challenge by Choice: Right now, do you have a clear conscience? Is the warning light going off on the dashboard of your soul? Is there a name, an offense that you have in your mind? That’s the Holy Spirit of God. Your challenge is to go today to get this made right. In order for us to flourish, we must have a clear conscience, with an attitude of instant obedience. Don’t allow the warning light to be ignored. 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 42 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s actions functioned as God’s instrument to activate his brothers’ consciences. Are there any appropriate parenting tips here?

3.          Discuss the sailboat illustration. How have you felt “the winds of your past” make it difficult for you to change?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          Have fun with this discussion: if your conscience was a person, who would it be? (Whose voice is in your head?)

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/are-you-willing-to-face-your-past/

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

Joseph: A Long Wait

A Long Wait Sermon Notes

A Long Wait

Genesis 39:21-40:22

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Glimpse the sovereignty of God. (Feel) Feel content that God is in control. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last chapters of the book of Genesis, with the theme of living differently. Each week you have had the opportunity to choose to challenge yourself. This morning you will have new and unique opportunities. Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There are clearly things in this man’s life that God wants us to know. Over the last two weeks, we painfully watched Joseph’s roller coaster life: his father’s favorite son, betrayed by 10 half-brothers, sold into slavery to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Because the LORD was with him, he became the ruler of the entire house until he was unfairly accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That is where we find Joseph—in prison. There are many of us this morning living in painful circumstances over which we have no control, and these circumstances are not going to end soon. In the midst of these circumstances, it is easy to become bitter and angry at God. What I love most about the Bible is that it is straightforward about our pain. Suffering is going to happen and II Timothy 3:12 warns that it is going to happen to people of faith. But instead of running from it, the Bible teaches us ways to use our suffering. James 1:2-4 tells us that suffering grows our faith and produces spiritual endurance. So instead of being surprised by difficulty and suffering (I Peter 4:12), we should prepare ourselves and look for God’s good hand in it. Genesis 40 may be the greatest chapter in the Bible on how to suffer well. Let’s see if we can spot some life lessons.

We will start where we left off last week, in Genesis 39:20. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. The Hebrew word translated prison means “round house.” Don’t imagine this as a big modern prison with lots of cells; it was most likely a round underground room large enough for a few men, with its entrance in the ceiling. Watch how God shows up in verse 21. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. YHWH was with Joseph and he showed him “steadfast love.” The Hebrew word is “hesed,” that is God’s persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. It is at the core of his relationship with man in that he seeks after us with love and forgiveness. It is one of the key descriptors of God in the Old Testament.

 

Turn with me quickly to Exodus 34:6-7. The context is Mount Sinai. The Children of Israel are at the base of the mountain, and this is just after the Golden Calf incident where Moses in anger threw down the two tablets of the Lord’s commands. Moses has gone back up the mountain to meet with God a second time. In the midst of all the sin and rejection of God, the Lord comes down and meets with Moses. As he passes before him, God describes himself. The Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love (hesed) for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. These two verses are one of the clearest descriptions of God that we have in the entire Bible; the best part is that it is God describing himself. These verses answer the question, “God, how would you describe you?” God says, “The best way to describe me is: merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in hesed[1]—persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. The only descriptor that appears twice in these verses is hesed. God wants us to be clear that he is a persistently loving God. This aspect of God is everywhere in the Old Testament. Because of God’s steadfast love:

He is committed and faithful to us. Ho 2:19

He is drawn close to us. Jer. 31:3

He comforts us when we struggle. Ps 119:76

We can look to God for mercy. Ps 51:1

Our prayers are heard. Ps 119:149

We are preserved in times of trouble. Ps 40:11

We receive mercy. Isa 54:8

Believers can expect to know this love during affliction. Ps 42:7, 8

 

The most powerful aspect of Genesis 39:21 is that this is the first time God reveals himself as a God who is lovingly at work in our suffering—preserving us, comforting us, and faithfully hearing our prayers. God loved Joseph …and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Just like in Potiphar’s house, Joseph’s life was different. He was trusted and rose in authority.

 

Genesis 40:1–4

1 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense (literally - sinned) against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard (Potiphar), in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

 

There is something going on here that is tough to spot in English. We have three people in this story: the captain of the guard, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. In the Hebrew, each of these men is described with the same word (captain/chief = “sar”[2]). In other words, these men were equals in Pharaoh’s court. All of them would have been important advisors with Pharaoh’s ear.

 

Genesis 40:5–8

5 And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

 

Notice Joseph’s question. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” This is consistent with Joseph’s witness and another opportunity to teach an Egyptian about YHWH. Think about the incredible closeness and confidence Joseph must have had in his relationship with YHWH to say to these powerful men, “Tell me your dreams and God will interpret them.”

 

Genesis 40:9–22  

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

 

Without hesitation, Joseph gives an interpretation.

12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness (the Hebrew is “hesed” he is asking for faithful kindness) to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

 

Joseph specifically asks the cupbearer for one thing—hesed—the kindness of sharing his story with Pharaoh. Joseph was not asking for a favor, he was calling the cupbearer to be lovingly-faithful to a person who helped him in a time of need. This is the same call that Jesus gives us: love others because we have been loved; forgive others because we have been forgiven!

 

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

 

This is not Joseph’s interpretation, it is God’s—and mercifully, Joseph gives it to him straight.

 

 20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday (probably a celebration of Ra’s rebirth –which was celebrated by giving gifts and releasing prisoners)[3], he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

 

Verse 23 is one of the most painful verses in our journey so far. Yes, brothers throwing one of their own in a pit is painful. Being falsely accused and convicted is painful. But being forgotten in your time of despair? That is uniquely painful. The first four words of Genesis 41 drive home the pain, because the story will not pick up again until after two whole years.

 

Life Lesson #1: God’s hesed (persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy) is how and why we persevere through suffering. We see in this passage and others that it is in times of affliction that God hears our prayers, fulfills his promises, and draws close to us.[4] As we get toward the end of Joseph’s life, we will see clearly how God was committed and faithful to Joseph. His lowest points will be the vehicles God uses to move Joseph to new opportunities and seasons of ministry.

 

Life Lesson #2: Those who suffer well understand that God is with them. When we studied chapter 39 last week, no one was surprised to hear that God was “with Joseph” on his successful rise in Potiphar’s house (39:2-3). But we are told just as emphatically that God was with Joseph while he was in the pit (39:21-23). In chapter 40, no one could have had the confidence Joseph did that God was able to interpret dreams through him apart from an intimate walk with God in that dungeon. God is not far off. The God of the Bible is not aloof. He is close and he hears our prayers. Isaiah 41:17 says When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

 

Life Lesson #3: “Remembering” someone who is suffering is a key role of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, I think we can all relate to the cupbearer forgetting Joseph. At some point all of us have seen suffering, thought we should do something, and then forgotten. Our God never forgets us. Isaiah 49:15 asks a powerful question: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? (The obvious answer is no.) Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Because our God is a God who remembers, we must remember too. The orphan, the widow, those in prison—we have been remembered, so we must remember!

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are again offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with one of six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy.  Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently.

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 40 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 40 from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him hit bottom by being forgotten. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          This is the third time Joseph has been hurt by people he was living with and serving. Why do you think Joseph did not grow bitter or angry?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          Look up the following verses about God “remembering” people. Since you know God cannot forget, what is the Bible telling us that God was doing? (Genesis 8:1; 9:15, 16; 19:29; 30:22; 42:9)

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] R. Laird Harris, “698 חסד,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 305.

[2] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 751–752.

[4] See these passages for details…Ho 2:19; Jer. 31:3; Ps 40:11; Ps 119:76; Ps 51:1; Isa 54:8; Ps 119:149; Ps 42:7,

The Growth Factor: Safeguarding the Church

Safeguarding the Church Sermon Notes

Safeguarding the Church

Titus 1:10-16

Sunday October 9, 2016

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the importance of rebuke. (Feel) To develop an appreciation for those who speak truth to us. (Do) To listen and change.

Introduction: I haven’t talked to him in years, though I still keep tabs on him. What a great guy. I loved doing stuff with him. We were very close, but things changed when I had to say something. He had a problem; it was affecting his wife, his kids, his ability to do anything in ministry, and I could see it. I could see the train of his life headed toward a collision. There was no way the trajectory of his life was not going to end badly. I loved him so I had to say something, right? So I did. And I’ll tell you how that went in a moment. 

We are in a series called “The Growth Factor” from the book of Titus. Who was Titus? Titus was a co-laborer with the apostle Paul, a fellow missionary committed to going into all the world to share Christ. As a part of their work, Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete to establish and grow the churches Paul had planted there. The letter of Titus is Paul’s instructions to Titus on how to do just that. As we study this book, we are finding the key elements essential to spiritual growth both as a church and as individuals.

Last week we closed with verse 9 revealing three tasks of elders or leaders of the church:

1. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Elders are the caretakers of the gospel. We are not to make up our own teaching; we are to faithfully pass down what was taught to us. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul told Timothy how to do this: and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.[1]

2. He must be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. This is both the ability to teach as well as the character to be able to teach.

3. He must be able to rebuke those who contradict it. Our passage this morning focuses in on that last task of church leaders—being able to rebuke people who contradict (or oppose) sound doctrine.

Let’s begin reading in Titus 1:9.

He (a church leader or elder) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Why? 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

 

When I first read this passage, I wondered what in the world was going on in these churches that Paul would use such strong language. Did you catch the end of verse 16? He says of some of Titus’ church people, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work!” The Greek words for detestable, disobedient and unfit are three of the harshest words Paul could have chosen to call someone:

Detestable—Loathsome, disgusting, abhor

Disobedient—The Jews had four words to describe people who rejected God. They called them: ungodly, uncontrolled, deceitful and also used this word “disobedient.[2]

Unfit—Worthless or disqualified

 

Loathsome, disgusting, worthless—this is harsh language, especially coming from the guy who wrote Eph. 5:2, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…” He also wrote I Cor.13:4. Love is patient, love is kind…” Those words don’t sound very kind. He even wrote in I Timothy 1:5 that “…the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart.” Paul’s sharp language is coming from somewhere. Let me give you some background and I think you will understand his tone.

 

A background of controversy: It was the apostle Paul who led Titus to Christ. Titus grew up a Greek who had most likely worshipped Zeus. He had no Jewish blood in him at all, so he would have never read any of the Old Testament. David, Moses, and Noah would have all been unfamiliar to him when he came to Christ. In contrast, most of the early believers in Jesus came from Jewish backgrounds and would have large chunks of the Old Testament memorized, especially the laws. This quickly became a problem because some of the Jewish converts to Christianity who loved the Old Testament law taught that in order to be a Christian you had to believe in Jesus and follow the law. They took things that Jesus said like Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” and they said, “See, Jesus never did away with any of the law, he was just fulfilling it.”

The people who taught this were called “judiazers” because they were not inviting people to faith in Jesus as much as they were converting people to a Christianized Judaism. They would tell people who heard about Jesus that they had to put their faith in Jesus and then get circumcised and start following the Old Testament laws like good Jewish people in order to be acceptable to God. In fact, we know that a group of judiazers in the church at Jerusalem specifically wanted Titus to be circumcised, but in Galatians 2:3 we find that the circumcision did not happen because it would have been a perversion of the gospel. Let me read to you what Paul wrote in Galatians 5:2–4 (NLT).

 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

 

One must either obey the law perfectly (impossible, right?) or place their faith in Christ. The law of the Old Testament had one job, and that was to bring us to Jesus (Gal 3:24-26)—to help us clearly see how flawed and broken we truly are for us to understand how badly we need a Savior.

 

Paul’s command to Titus in our passage this morning is found in verses 10-11. Titus was to silence all the insubordinate people who would pervert the gospel, but not because Paul was a hater! Look at the end of verse 11. Why silence false teachers?  “…they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” That word “upsetting” literally means “to turn over one’s faith;” it can also mean “to overthrow, subvert or destroy.” So let’s piece together what was happening here. Since Paul left Crete, many people took the gospel they received and perverted it in such a way that the faith of entire families was being subverted, destroyed or overthrown. Verse 14 references “Jewish myths;” these false teachers were making up Old Testament stories to sell their viewpoint. Look why they are doing it too—verse 11 says for “shameful gain.” They were teaching this so they could make money which, according to verse 12, would be just like an unregenerate Cretan.

What is Titus to do? Verse 13 is the hub of this entire passage and the core of our growth factor this morning. What is Titus to do? “…rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” The Greek word translated rebuke is “eλέγχω” (el-lang-kho). The word was closely associated with the discipline and education process of parenting. Parents must teach children what is right and what is wrong, but then they must discipline their child when they choose wrong in order for them to choose right. That is the idea behind this word: to rebuke is “to show someone their sin and to summon them to repentance.”[3]

Here is the growth factor #4: growing churches and believers understand the importance of rebuke. This is not a popular concept in our culture. We highly value our privacy and our self-determination. If you were to create a motto for America today it might be, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” But people who desire to grow spiritually understand how important it is to have people who will honestly and lovingly call us on our sin. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”

This is already uncomfortable but is going to go one step further. Look at verse 13 again because Titus is about to rebuke them “sharply.” Again, the word used here comes from the word “to cut.” The idea is a very sharp blade that cuts cleanly and purposefully “with exactness and resolve.”[4] Why? Why sharply? So that “they may be sound in the faith!” People who desire spiritual “soundness” (the word literally means healthy), people who want to be spiritually “healthy,” surround themselves with people who understand the power and helpfulness of rebuke. It is uncomfortable, it can be painful, it is never fun, but it may be the most important part of being in a community of believers.

A personal rebuke: It was 2004. I was the head of Calvary Schools, and a father (with whom I am dear friends to this day) asked to meet with me. After several minutes of small talk, he looked me in the eye and smiled. He then told me multiple things that we had done over the last several months that had improved the culture of the school. He said, “I love you for making that happen.” I smiled and he smiled. Then he turned serious and said, “We’re still broken.” My smile left as he went on, “You are still trying to change kids’ hearts by making better rules. Paul’s rules will never change a kid’s heart, only Jesus will.” I was rebuked. Straight up rebuked. I had become more worried about the behavior of the students than I was about their relationship with Jesus. It was a powerful moment in my life for two reasons. 1. Remember last week when we looked at all the godly qualities listed in Titus 1:5-9? We said when those qualities are present it gives one a platform to speak from. This man had a platform. 2. His rebuke was simple and sharp like a surgeon with a scalpel—he pointed out my failure and called me to change. That was it. No complaining or judgmentalism. It was simple, sharp, and loving.

Let me wrap up by going back to those three words we looked at a few moments ago: detestable, disobedient, and unfit. Just like Cretans, all of our lives are still messy. Every one of us has detestable and disobedient areas in our lives, areas that we may not see, and we all need a Titus. If we are going to be healthy spiritually, if we truly desire to get rid of the detestable disobedience in our lives, we are going to need help! This is the very reason we look for opportunities to break the church down into small groups (community groups, Equipping U, women’s and men’s Bible study, Man2Man etc.)

How did that conversation with my friend go? It went ok. He listened; I was careful but clear. He owned his sin, but not really. It was more like he admitted to it. I wish this was a “happy ending” story, but it isn’t. His spiritual life is not healthy nor is his marriage. His kids are struggling. His church life? Non-existent.

Let me end by asking you these questions: Men, are you developing any relationships with a small group or another guy who will speak truth to you? Ladies, do you have anyone in your life who will really tell you the truth—not what you want to hear? If you are married, have you ever sat down with your spouse and asked them if they see anything in your life that you need to change? Students, you are in the process of making some big life decisions. Are you isolating yourself from or surrounding yourself with wise people who know you well, who will rebuke you when you need it?

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 471.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 474.

[4] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 1169.