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Evil Happens…but God - Genesis 50:15-21

Taught on | Topic: Providence | Keywords: fear, forgiveness, grudge, guilt, projecting, providence, scapegoat, self-preservation, suffering, theology, vengeance

The story of Joseph is one of the Bible’s most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph’s outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph’s brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible’s best but God moments,as forgiveness eclipses failure. Let’s consider Joseph’s brothers as they approach him one last time.

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4/22/2018
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Evil Happens…but God
Genesis 50:15-21
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The story of Joseph is one of the Bible’s most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph’s outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph’s brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible’s best but God moments,as forgiveness eclipses failure. Let’s consider Joseph’s brothers as they approach him one last time.
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...but God

...but God

All of us experience times of desperation, but as James Montgomery Boice said, "If you understand those two words, 'But God,' they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely." In this series, Skip Heitzig explores the "but God" moments of David, Jonah, Moses, and other biblical figures, encouraging us to let the Lord turn our personal periods into pivot points.

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Outline

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  1. Their Baseless Fear (v. 15)

  2. Their Blatant Fabrication (vv. 16-18)

  3. Their Brother’s Forgiveness (vv. 19-21)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: April 22, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Evil Happens…but God"
Text: Genesis 50:15-21

Path

The story of Joseph is one of the Bible's most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph's outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph's life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph's brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible's best but God moments, as forgiveness eclipses failure.
  1. Their Baseless Fear (v. 15)
  2. Their Blatant Fabrication (vv. 16-18)
  3. Their Brother's Forgiveness (vv. 19-21)
Points

Their Baseless Fear
  • If anyone had a reason to sell his life and start over, it was Joseph. His brothers hated him, the Midianites sold him, Potiphar jailed him, and his cellmates forgot about him. But God didn't.
  • Only ten words describe how God made the universe, but one-fourth of Genesis is devoted to Joseph's life. His life is a story of tragedy to triumph, of rags to riches. Joseph went from obscurity to the second most powerful person in Egypt. In short, this is a story of providence. God worked supernaturally, naturally.
  • In verse 15, we see that his brothers feared two things:
    • Joseph's personal emotion ("Joseph will hate us"). The word hate is satam, to bear a grudge.
    • Joseph's possible action ("repay us for all the evil which we did to him")
  • A guilty conscience is a heavy load to bear; it needs no accuser.
  • The brothers were worried Joseph would get rid of them, as they had gotten rid of him all those years ago.
  • Guilt distorts reality; it is like rust on the iron of our conscience.
  • Probe: What are some things you fear in life? Why do you fear them? How can you overcome a baseless fear or grudge?
Their Blatant Fabrication
  • In chapter 49, we find that Jacob was not afraid to call out his sons' sinful behavior in the past as well as predict their future. Jacob knew the disposition of his sons.
  • The brothers used their dead father as a scapegoat, the fall guy in their fabrication. They essentially told Joseph, "Our dad's last dying wish was that you let bygones be bygones." Joseph saw through this. Old habits die slowly. People change, but not that much.
  • As opposed to Joseph's but God living, the brothers lived in but we. Think of their attitude:
    • Joseph told us dreams but we resented him.
    • Joseph came to give us a message from our father, but we despised him.
    • Joseph's coming with his coat, but we will show him and sell him.
    • Joseph is the prime minister and our father is dead, but we will outsmart him.
  • First they sent messengers but then they bowed and offered to be Joseph's slaves.
  • Probe: Have you had someone make up lies about you or spread false rumors? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome? Did you see God's hand involved in any aspect of the remedy?
Their Brother's Forgiveness
  • Joseph was sensitive, wiping away his tears. His weeping wasn't for himself, but for his siblings—he saw their torment and trickiness. But he forgave them. His attitude of compassion arose from his theology, what he believed about God:
    • God is in charge. Our problems often begin when we take God off the throne and try to play Him (see v. 20).
    • God uses bad events to bring about good results. Joseph had a clear understanding that God was at work and trusted Him for the outcome. No matter what people's intentions are, God will bring about His desired end (see v. 20).
    • Read Romans 8:28. The term used for work together in the text is sunergeó, meaning synergism, a cooperation of two or more things. It means the working together of various elements to produce a result greater than the sum.
    • God uses people to help other people (see v. 21). God will use your suffering to help serve other people who are suffering. He "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (2 Corinthians 2:4, NIV).
  • How big is your God? Is He big enough to providentially arrange the events of your life for your good and His glory?
  • Probe: Why can forgiveness be so difficult for some? Share about a situation in which it was difficult for you to forgive. How did God give you the grace to forgive? What were the benefits of doing so?
Practice

Connect Up: Pastor Skip referred to two types of providence: natural (whereby God cooperates with created things to cause them to act in a certain way) and supernatural (a miracle). How are the two similar and different? Though we don't fully understand God's governance and use of both, how have you experienced them in your life? In what events in your life did you see God's hand at work?

Connect In: Using Joseph as an example, what characteristics should the church work hard to mimic and implement? For example: forgiveness, grace, trust, patience, etc. Discuss others you can think of.

Connect Out: How can you use Joseph's story to witness to nonbelievers? What events and scenarios within the story do you think an unbeliever might respond to?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. Joseph had so many bad things happen to him
    2. His brothers hated him, Midianites sold him, Potiphar jailed him, cellmates forgot him, but God promoted him
    3. One-fourth of Genesis—thirteen chapters—is devoted to Joseph
      1. Rags to riches story: Joseph went from total obscurity to the second most powerful person in Egypt
      2. Reveals God's providence: God cooperates with natural law to affect a supernatural result; an extraordinary outcome from ordinary circumstances
      3. Joseph proved no one needs to be held down by past baggage
        1. Dysfunctional family
        2. Jacob had four wives at the same time
        3. Brothers involved in rape, incest, murder, and human trafficking
    4. Genesis 50 is the crescendo and grand finale
      1. Jacob had died and been buried
      2. Brothers were paranoid
  2. Their Baseless Fear (v. 15)
    1. Brothers' guilt is evident
      1. Joseph's brothers got rid of him, sold him to the Midianites, taken to Egypt, etc.
      2. They thought Joseph was dead; they found out he controlled the world economy from Egypt
      3. Joseph had provided for and protected his brothers; they were completely in debt to him, fearing he could rescind his favor and protection
    2. Their father, Jacob was dead
      1. Brothers thought Jacob was a buffer between them and Joseph
      2. They were completely vulnerable
    3. Brothers had two fears
      1. Joseph's personal emotion ("Perhaps Joseph will hate us")
      2. Joseph's possible reaction ("may actually repay us for all the evil")
    4. A guilty conscience is a heavy load to bear
      1. Guilty conscience needs no accuser (see Psalm 38:4)
      2. They were projecting their guilt into the situation
      3. They had been carrying their unresolved guilt for forty years
      4. Guilt filters everything and distorts reality
        1. They thought Joseph hated them—he loved them
        2. They thought he was unforgiving—he forgave them five chapters ago
  3. Their Blatant Fabrication (vv. 16-18)
    1. Jacob's supposed words were very likely fabricated by the brothers
      1. Brothers were so paranoid, they sent messengers ahead of them
      2. No record that Jacob said these things
      3. It was too important a message to deliver via messenger
      4. Jacob would have told Joseph himself; all twelve sons were at Jacob's side when he died (see Genesis 49)
      5. Used their dead father as the fall guy, a scapegoat
        1. Brothers' collective personality was paranoid, opportunistic, deceptive
        2. They had been lavishly treated by Joseph and Pharaoh, protected and provided for all these years, and relocated to avoid famine
        3. They had already confessed to lying all these years
        4. Self-preservation (see Proverbs 29:25)
    2. Joseph always lived from the but God perspective
      1. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers (see Genesis 45:1-13)
      2. "God sent me before you to preserve life…. God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you…and to save your lives" (vv. 5, 7)
    3. Joseph's brothers lived from the but we perspective
      1. "Joseph told us his dreams, but we resent him"
      2. "Joseph brings us a message from dad, but we despise him"
      3. "Here comes Joseph in his coat, but we will show him; we will sell him"
      4. "Now dad is dead and Joseph is prime minister, but we will outsmart him"
      5. This is self-preservation
  4. Their Brother's Forgiveness (vv. 19-21)
    1. Brothers expected anger and vengeance, but Joseph wept
      1. Joseph saw their torment and was sensitive
      2. He saw their fear and extended forgiveness
      3. He comforted them
    2. How does love and forgiveness come from the heart of someone who has been so mistreated? How is that cultivated in a person who has been so hurt?
      1. This was Joseph's theology on pain and suffering:
        1. God is in charge, not me (see v. 19)
  1. Our problems begin when we push God off the throne
  2. Romans 11:34; 13:1; Daniel 4:17
        1. God uses bad events to bring about good results (see v. 20)
          1. Joseph had a clear understanding of God's providence, no matter people's intentions
          2. Joseph knew that his brothers were to be the twelve tribal leaders of Israel; their lives had to be protected
          3. Romans 8:28
          4. Be careful what you call "bad"
        2. God uses people to help other people (see v. 21)
          1. Joseph committed to providing for his brothers and their families
          2. Joseph acknowledged their evil acts, but he saw that God took all those "bad" events and worked them together
      1. Suffering is never wasted
        1. God can help someone else from your time of suffering
        2. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
  1. Closing
    1. How big is your God?
    2. Big enough to take the bad things of your past and weave them together to produce something of value and beauty?
    3. Can you trust Him in maybe the worst point in your life?
    4. Say but God, not but me

Figures referenced: Jonathan Haidt, William Newell, Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Charles Spurgeon, R.A. Torrey

Cross references: Genesis 45:1-13; 49; Daniel 4:17; Psalm 38:4; Proverbs 29:25; Romans 8:28; 11:34; 13:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Greek/Hebrew words: sunergeó

Transcript

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[MUSIC PLAYING]

Would you turn in your Bibles to the first book in that Bible, the book of Genesis, the last chapter of that first book, Genesis 50?

Most all of you know, in fact, some of you have even used this online auction called eBay. I have purchased things over the years. Millions of transactions have taken place where people buy and sell just about anything and everything on eBay. Every now and then, odd things show up for sale. And people have made note of that and lists of all the weird things eBay has sold.

But here's a few standout things. A few years back a grilled sandwich sold on eBay. A grilled sandwich, some of you saw that, with the face of the Virgin Mary. It sold for $28,000 on eBay. Because supposedly, the little sandwich had magical powers and was unaffected by mold for over a decade, that was what they claimed. So somebody dished out $28,000.

Then there was the haunted rubber duck that sold on eBay. And it purportedly had the power to possess children. Now who on earth would ever want to buy that? Right? Or, for that matter, who would ever want to sell it? Who'd want to let that go and get out into the public and do damage? But it's sold on eBay for $107,000.

Then there was the case of a 10-year-old girl from England who tried to sell her grandmother on eBay.

[LAUGHTER]

And the little ad she took out on eBay said, about her grandmother, she is annoying but cuddly. Of course, eBay had to take it down because it breaches regulations for human trafficking. You can't sell people on eBay, even your grandmother.

But perhaps the most bizarre was a decade ago when a man got on eBay and offered his life for sale. The ad ran like this, "My name is Ian Usher and I've had enough of my life. I don't want it anymore. You can have it if you like. Whatever it is, it's all going up for sale in one big auction, everything I have and everything I am. On the day that it's sold and settled, I intend to walk out the front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else. And then get on the train with no idea where I am going or what the future holds for me"

What ended up happening is Ian Usher was selling his life. He sold his home, along with it beat up furniture, along with it an old car, along with it a small motorcycle. He sold all of that for $305,000 and he moved to Australia. What he said is that his wife had left him. Six years into their marriage, she divorced him. And he said that he wanted to remove all reminders of his life with his ex-wife.

Now there's a lot of ways you can deal with rejection. This has got to take the cake. I just want to sell my life. You can have it, all of it. I suppose if there could have been one person in the Bible who would have said that, it would be Joseph, because he had so many bad things happen to him over the course of his life. One bad thing after another.

His brothers hated him. The Midianites sold him. Potiphar jailed him. His cellmates forgot him. But God promoted him. It's an incredible story.

And it's an incredible story on a number of levels. Here's just one of them. Of all 50 chapters in the book of Genesis, all of them together, one fourth of the entire book of Genesis is devoted to Joseph. That in and of itself is amazing given the fact that God uses 10 words to describe the creation of the universe.

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." That's 10 words. Then He gives two chapters to fill in some of the details of those 10 words. But 13 chapters in the book are devoted to Joseph, his tragedies and his triumph. It's an incredible story.

It's a rags to riches story. It's about how the son of an obscure, poor Israelite herdsman goes from total obscurity to become the second most powerful man in Egypt, thus in the world. An incredible story.

And the story introduces us to one of the notable traits of God and that is His providence, God's providence. We say that God is provident. When we talk about God's providence, we're not talking about His miraculous works. A miracle is where God intervenes natural law. But providence is where He cooperates with natural law to effect a supernatural result. In providence, God is manipulating ordinary events to effect an extraordinary outcome.

And besides all that, Joseph proves to us that no matter how bad you had it growing up, no matter how you were mistreated or mishandled or misjudged growing up, you can live well now. Joseph shows that. It's an amazing story.

Now a little quick thumbnail sketch about Joseph's background. His family was messed up, big time. The family of Joseph, with his father Jacob and his 11 brothers, it was, to say the very least, a dysfunctional family, on a high level.

First of all his, dad had four wives, not four in a row, four at the same time. So that's bad. Then his brothers get involved in all sorts of sinful activity, including incest, rape, murder, and-- with Joseph-- human trafficking.

When we get to chapter 50, last chapter in the book, it is the crescendo. It is the high moment. It is after Jacob's death. Their dad has died. They buried him. They're back from the funeral in Canaan. They're back in Egypt.

And now these brothers are really paranoid. Verse 15 of chapter 50 introduces us. "When Joseph's brothers saw that their Father was dead, they said, perhaps, Joseph will hate us and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him. So they sent messengers to Joseph saying, before your father died, he commanded us saying thus you shall say to Joseph-- I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now please forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father. And

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face. And they said, behold, we are your servants. Joseph said to them, do not be afraid. For I am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive.

Now, therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones. And he comforted them and he spoke kindly to them."

This is the finale of the entire Joseph story. All of the tension that begins in chapter 37 and grows and mounts comes to its high point here until finally it is resolved. And through Joseph's forgiveness, it is relieved. So the scene begins in fear, but it ends in forgiveness. And there is one little phase in between.

So we are going to begin and look at the three stages that Joseph's brothers go to to bring resolution. First of all, fear. They are afraid of something. They have a baseless, I would add a baseless, fear.

Verse 15 says, "When Joseph's brothers saw that their Father--" that is Jacob-- "was dead. They said--" now, they're talking among themselves. They have a conversation-- "perhaps Joseph will hate us and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him."

This is their guilt speaking. The whole turn of events with Joseph has been odd to these brothers. They are uneasy with how it has come down. Joseph was sold by them. They captured him, put him in a pit, because they were jealous, sold him to Midianites who dumped him in Egypt. But everybody thinks Joseph is dead. Jacob thinks he's dead or thought he was dead. The brothers thought he was dead.

Come to find out, he's not only dead. He's very much alive. And he's large and in charge. He is, in fact, the second most powerful human being on the planet in charge of the economy that is controlled, at that time, by Egypt.

So on one hand, it's sort of like a fairy tale ending for these boys. They are rescued by Joseph. They are saved from hunger. They are provided for. And they are now protected by him. On the other hand, there is now one person in the world that controls their future and that is their brother whom they sold years ago.

So he's the guy in charge. He can kill them if he wants to. They are in his debt completely. And at any moment, he could rescind his favor and protection. So they're scrambling. They're thinking, well, perhaps dad's life was a buffer. While dad was alive, Joseph isn't going to retaliate because poor, old dad has had enough heartache. He's not going to add to that. He's going to wait till he's dead.

Now he's dead. Funeral's over. We buried him in Canaan. We're back now. Now, the chief impediment to that revenge by our brother is taken away. We are completely vulnerable before our brother Joseph.

Dig a little deeper in verse 15 and you'll notice that these brothers feared two things. First, they feared Joseph's personal emotion. Look at how they put it. "Perhaps Joseph will hate us." The word hate in Hebrew is the word [SPEAKING HEBREW], which means to bear a grudge. It speaks of a growing resentment and bitterness. They are afraid of that. Something has been growing inside the heart of our brother Joseph all this time. So they're afraid of his personal emotion.

Also, notice they're afraid of Joseph's possible action. For they say, and he may actually repay us for all the evil we did to him. The word actually could be better translated fully. And he may fully repay us for all the evil which we did to him. In other words, our brother Joseph has been nursing a grudge all these years and now he's going to give full vent to that hatred and those feelings in his heart.

All I can say at this point is a guilty conscience is an unbearable load. When you carry around with you all the junk and stuff from years past, your failures, what you did, and you carry that, it becomes that guilty conscience. It is a heavy load and sometimes too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:4, the Psalmist said, "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."

And the reason that it's so heavy to bear is that a guilty conscience needs no accuser. Wherever you go, you carry that conscience with you. It is its own accuser. You start filtering every one and every action through the viewpoint, the lens, the filter, of all that guilt. It can crush you. Charles Spurgeon said, "I'd rather bear any affliction than be burdened with a guilty conscience."

So they're viewing Joseph now through that guilt. They're looking at him, and they're listening to him, and they're seeing all of that through their own personality and their own action. They're projecting. You've heard that term before. That people project things on other people. You see, they're worried that Joseph is going to get rid of them because they once tried to get rid of him. So they are seeing Joseph through the lens of their own personality.

And their conversation in verse 15 reveals more about them than it does about Joseph. And whatever you project onto other people tell us more about you than it tells about other people. Shakespeare said, "Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind."

Do you know how many years it's been since they did this to Joseph? 40. Between chapter 37 and chapter 50, four decades have gone by. For 40 years, they have been carrying that load of guilt, unattended to, unresolved until this moment. And that's because guilt distorts your reality. You don't see clearly.

When you're around people, you assume the worst. And you impose the worst possible motives. I wonder why he said that. I know why he said that, because-- you're just, that's you.

And they're wrong. It's not reality. They think Joseph hates them. That's not true. Joseph loves them. They think Joseph wants to kill them. Joseph doesn't want to kill them. Joseph is going to say, I think you guys need to be alive to preserve your life.

They think Joseph is unforgiving and unrelenting. And that's not true. He's forgiven them five chapters ago. They're still carrying the load.

Guilt upon the conscience is like rust upon metal. At first the rust just discolors the metal. But after a while, it starts creeping into it. And eventually, it eats out the very heart and the substance of that metal. It rots it from within. Guilt will do that to the human heart. So they come with this fear, a baseless fear.

The second stage is a fabrication, a blatant fabrication. They're going to say something that their dad supposedly said that is not true. Verse 16, "So they sent messengers to Joseph." Mark that. They're so paranoid they didn't even show up themselves.

They send a team ahead of them. "--messengers to Joseph saying, before your father died, he commanded us, saying, thus you shall say to Joseph I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin for they have done evil to you. Now please forgive the trespass--" listen to how they put it-- "of the servants of the God of your Father." You don't want to hurt God's servants, do you?

"And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face. And they said, behold, we are your servants."

Now, Jacob their dad may, indeed, have actually said these words to them. But there is no record of it. There is no record in all of the scriptures up to this point that Joseph ever actually gave the 11 brothers this message to tell Joseph. And don't you think that a message this important would be told eye to eye, would have been given by Jacob himself?

In fact, if you were to go back one chapter-- not now-- but chapter 49 of Genesis, one of the great chapters of the Bible, all of the boys, all 12 men, are gathered around the deathbed of Jacob. And in that chapter, Jacob gets very direct with all 12 boys. He is unafraid to call out their past sins. He is unafraid to predict their future.

And Jacob, the old man before he died, he knew his boys. He knew the disposition of these 11 and that you can't trust them with a message this important. They had proven to be liars throughout his life. So Jacob, if he really did say this, would have said this privately to Joseph or in the very least publicly when they were all gathered around his deathbed in chapter 49. So I believe this is a lie. It's a fabrication.

Which means, if it is indeed a fabrication, what it means is they're using their dead father as the fall guy. They're using their dead dad as the scapegoat. They're throwing him under the bus, effectively. They're saying, well, you know our dad's last dying wish was that you let bygones be bygones.

So this is their collective personality. This is their group speak. This is who they are.

They have had mercy shown to them. They have been lavishly treated by Joseph up to this point and by Pharaoh of Egypt. They have been relocated from the land of Israel, who was suffering famine, to the land of Goshen, a very lush place in Egypt. They have been given meals. They have been given provisions. They have been given protection. And they have already seen the error of their ways and confessed already to lying all of these years.

But old habits die slow. Or as a friend of mine says, people change, but not that much.

[LAUGHTER]

These boys have changed, but not that much. They still are who they. They're paranoid. They're opportunistic. They want to save their own hides. That's what all this fabrication is about. Because they said so, he's going to kill us. He's going to repay us. So they come up with this lie.

In Proverbs 29:25, the author says, "The fear of man brings a snare. But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." That one proverb contrasts Joseph and his brothers. "The fear of man brings the snare." That's his brothers. "But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." That's Joseph.

It's like these guys lived on two completely different levels. Joseph lives, and always lived, on the "but God" level. He's always looking for God in the picture no matter what happens to him. Not these guys.

I want to so you something. Go back five chapters. Go back to chapter 45. Just for a few moments, I want you to look at the very first time the prime minister of Egypt, Joseph their brother, discloses to them that he is their brother who's not dead, but is alive. It's a fun scene.

Chapter 45:1 "Then Joseph--" his brothers are standing before him-- "then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him. And he cried out, make everyone go out from me. So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud. And the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it."

Now you've got to think his brothers are going what is going on? Who is this guy weeping?

Watch this. "Then Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph. Does my Father still live? But his brothers could not answer him for they were dismayed in his presence." In other words, this was their great uh-oh moment. "I'm Joseph." Uh-oh. Not good.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, verse 4, "Please come near me." Now they're really going u-oh. "So they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt." Uh-oh.

But watch this. Watch it. Look at the different level Joseph lives at. Verse 5, "But now do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life." Wow. "For these two years, the famine has been in the land. And there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So now, it was not you who sent me here, but God. And he has made me father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house and a ruler throughout the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him thus says your son, Joseph, God has made me Lord of all of Egypt. Come down to me. Do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen. And you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children's children, your flocks, and herds and all that you have."

That's his level. That's Joseph's level, the but God level. He always lived on, well, this is bad, but God OK, they sold me as a slave, but God-- OK. Now I'm in jail, but God-- That's how he lived.

Not these 11 brothers, especially the oldest 10. Benjamin, was another story, but they didn't live on that but God level. They lived on the but we level. But we.

For example, Joseph told us his dreams, but we resent him. Joseph has come to give us a message from dad, but we despise him. Here comes little Joseph in his technicolor coat, but we will show him. We will sell him.

Now, years later, standing before the prime minister of Egypt, it's exactly the same. Joseph is the prime minister now. Dad is dead, but we will outsmart him. They come up with this fabrication. Sir Walter Scott once remarked, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when at first we practice to deceive."

And so what do they do? They send messengers first of all. And then after the messengers come, because once the word gets out, now they come. And they get all grovelly before him. They come down. They bow down and say, dude, we'll be your slaves, man. We'll serve you forever.

This is called self-preservation. That's all it is. They want to save their hide.

Satan was accurate when he said to God something true about human nature. He said skin for skin, yea, all that a man has will he give for his life. When it comes down to it, Joseph's going to kill us. Let's come up with this lie and maybe he'll spare us.

So from baseless fear to a blatant fabrication, the third level is the best level. And that is their brother's forgiveness. So there they are. Can you picture them? They're groveling before him. Their heads are downcast. They said, we'll be your servants. We'll be your slaves. And they expect to look up and see a vengeful, fuming ruler who's going to do something bad to them.

They look up and they see the prime minister of Egypt, their brother Joseph, weeping. There are tears in his eyes. Verse 17 "And Joseph wept when they spoke to him."

This is a sensitive guy. He cries a lot. Chapter 45 he was crying before he revealed who he was. He had everybody go and started weeping loudly. Now he's crying again.

But what is crying for? Is he crying for himself? His tears aren't friends for himself. He's not going, man, you guys were really bad to me. He's not holding on to that. He's crying for who?

Them.

Them. He's weeping because he sees their torment. He's weeping because he knows they're scheming. He forgave them long ago. And now he repeats that promise and he quells their fears. Verse 19, "Joseph said to them do not be afraid." Why did he say that? Because they were what?

Afraid.

Afraid. They were afraid. He saw that. He saw their fear. "Do not be afraid. For am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me. But God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive." I'll explain that in a moment. "Now, therefore do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones. And he comforted them and he spoke kindly to them."

Having heard that, here's the question I want to bring. Here's the question. How is it-- how does love, forgiveness, come from the heart of somebody who has been so mistreated like Joseph? How can kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love-- how can that be cultivated in a person who has been hurt, mismanaged, misaligned, lied about, gossiped about for years? How can that be?

The answer is found in his answer. His answer to them, two verses that I just read. And because these two verses, Joseph is giving his theology on pain and suffering. It's all in just too little verses. It's very, very profound. This is what Joseph believes about God. This is what Joseph believes about life, about his life. This is what Joseph believes about pain and suffering all put into two neat little verses.

This is Joseph's theology on suffering. It can be divided into three main points. Number one, God is in charge. God is in charge, not me, not anyone. God is in charge. Because he says "Am I in the place of God?" I'm not in charge. God is in charge, not me, not anyone. Am I in the place of God?

Now some rulers actually think they are in the place of God. Some politicians think they are in the place of God. Some kings and rulers have thought, well, I'm sort of godlike. I'm in the place of God. Now in one sense, they're right.

In one sense they really are in the place of God, because young Daniel said to King Nebuchadnezzar on the throne of Babylon, he said the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, but he gives it to whoever He wills.

And then Paul, in Romans 13, said "Let every soul--" that's you and me, you have a soul-- "let every soul be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God. And the authorities that exist are appointed by God." Remember that with your politicians. And he says about those rulers, "For he is God's minister to you for good."

What Joseph have means when he says am I in the place of God is look, guys. I may be the prime minister, but I'm not God. I'm a servant of God, too. I'm a slave of God, too.

Our problems begin when we forget that God is in charge. Our problems begin when we try to push God off the throne and we want that place. We're going to call the shots. I'm large and in charge.

Paul said this, and he asked the question. I'm going to have you answer it. Paul said, "Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has become his counselor?" Now you answer that. Who has ever become God's counselor? Be honest. Because the true answer is you have and I have.

We've counseled God. Oh, maybe not out loud, but we've thought that. In our prayers we have. Now, God, this is what You ought to do. Or you know, God, You had a window here, You had a chance. If You would have just listened to the way I prayed about this, it would have been perfect. But You didn't do it. You blew Your chance. You've counseled God. You've thought He has made mistakes in one case or another.

When you feel like things are out of control and you kind of want to push God off that seat of His throne and you want to occupy that and call the shots, your problems will mount. Joseph believes God is in charge, not me, not anyone.

Second thing he believes in his theology is that God uses bad events to bring about good results. God uses bad events to bring about good results. In verse 20, he says, "But as for you, you meant this for evil--" I'm not letting you guys off the hook, you had evil intentions-- "you meant this for evil against me. But God meant it for good." What's the good? "In order to bring it about as it is this day to save many people alive."

He has a clear understanding that God is at work, that God is behind the scenes, that I can trust God for the outcome. That's called providence. God works providentially. No matter what the intention of people, whether good or bad, God's going to bring about His own ultimate end.

So Joseph is looking at his brothers realizing I believe God has a plan for you men. And that is you need to survive. It's crucial that you live, not die. Why? Because I understand that God has a plan for a nation He wants to develop. And for Him to enact that plan of the nation, He has to enact that plan on the leaders of that nation. And that's us, boys, the 12 tribes of Israel.

That they were transported from a land where there was no food to Egypt, a place where there was plenty of food. They were given a section of the land, the land of Goshen. So that for the next 400 years they could go from a 70 person family to a nation of 2-3 million. That was God's plan.

Why? Because God wanted a nation on the earth to witness to His glory and eventually bring the Messiah who would be the Savior of the world. Joseph sees the big picture, not all of it, but part of it. That God has a plan to save many people alive so you guys need to be alive because you're going to be the nation that God is going to use to put on the earth. That nation will bring the Messiah.

Joseph simply sees his suffering as part of the plan. So if my suffering means that a nation can be preserved, I'm in.

Now, Joseph's story that we have just read and considered-- Joseph's story-- can be summed up in one verse in the New Testament. You know it well. Romans 8:28. You know that verse?

Yes.

Paul said this, you know it. Paul said, "And we know--" not we think, we hope, we cross our fingers, maybe-- "we know that all things work together--" not some things, not most things, not good things, not just the things that I've pray about-- "all things-- And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are the called according to His purpose." Don't you love that verse? Yes.

It's what RS Torrey called "a soft pillow for a tired heart." And how many times I've laid my heart on that verse for repose. All things. All things. All things. William Newell says "Dark things, bright things, happy things, sad things, sweet things, bitter things, times of prosperity, times of adversity." We know that all things-- what are the next two words? We know that all things work together. Two words, one in Greek [SPEAKING GREEK] is where we get our word synergism or synergy.

And synergism is the interaction and cooperation of two or more things. Synergism means the working together of various elements to produce results that are greater than the sum. So that things by themselves may be bad, but when you put them in combination with other things, the result can be very, very good.

We see this happen in the natural world you can take two substances that are normally harmful, but in right combination, they are beneficial. Example, sodium in its pure form is not good for you. It can hurt you, can kill you. Chlorine, if you sniff chlorine you die.

If you mix sodium and chlorine in the right combination, now you have sodium chloride, that's table salt, yum.

[LAUGHTER]

Two bad things in right combination can be beneficial. So God is able to take all of those poisonous, toxic things in life-- good things, bad things-- and bring divine synergism to it so that the result is good. Which means, you better be very careful what you call bad. Well, why do bad things happen to people? Why did that bad thing happen to me? Be careful. That bad thing may actually be something very good in a very clever disguise.

I'll give you an example from our own lives. We have a good friend, an acquaintance of ours, lives in Florida who recently got in a-- Paul Hackenberry, he got in a motorcycle accident. I saw the pictures of him in the emergency room. Didn't look good. You'd look at them and go that's bad.

But they did X-rays and MRI scans. And you know when you have a head injury you kind of look at not just the head, but the neck, cervical spine, clavicle, upper thoracic. And so they're X-raying him, doing MRIs. And they discover in the upper thorax is a nodule. They just picked it up on the MRI. And they found out that was cancer. But it was in its early stage, so they could treat it and he'd be fine.

And so this accident may have saved his life. Something that is bad has turned out, by God's providence, to become good.

So Joseph believes-- Joseph's theology of pain and suffering is that God is in charge, not me, not anyone else. God uses bad events to bring about good results.

And, finally, God uses people to help other people. That's verse 21, look at it. He says, "Now, therefore, do not be afraid--" now get this-- "I will provide for you--" I. That kid that 40 years ago you put in a pit. I. The kid you resented all your life. Me. That guy that you said I'm selling him to the Midianite. Get rid of him. Kill him.

This guy will provide for you. "I will provide for you and your little ones. And he comforted them and he spoke kindly to them."

See what Joseph is saying is, look, your act was an evil act. What you did was wrong. But if you wouldn't have done that, then I wouldn't have been sold to the Midianites. And if I wasn't sold to the Midianites, then I wouldn't have gone down to Egypt. If I hadn't gone down to Egypt, they wouldn't have thrown me in Potiphar's house. If I wouldn't have been in Potiphar's house, I wouldn't be falsely accused by his wife of something I never did.

And if I was never falsely accused of something I never did, I wouldn't have gone to jail. And if I wouldn't have gone to jail, I never would've met those two guys who had dreams. And I told them what their dream meant. And they forgot about me for a couple of years, but then they remembered. And if that wouldn't have happened, then I wouldn't have been in Pharaoh's house to interpret his dream. And if that wouldn't happen, I wouldn't be the lord of all of Egypt, but I am because God took all of those events and wove them together. And now, boys, I'm here to help and provide for your future.

How's that for gracious love and forgiveness from a heart that has been mistreated year after year? All of that to say that God will use your suffering to help somebody else who suffers. Please don't let your suffering ever go to waste. In the very least, God can use your time of suffering and your lessons to help somebody else who is going to go through that.

That's what Paul says, 2 Corinthians 1. "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given to us. So when we are weighed down--" speaking of we Apostles-- we, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy-- "when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation."

I'm not going to waste this. God's going to use this.

I want to close with a little article I found, a hypothetical situation. This is written by Jonathan Haidt, a New York psychologist, New York City attached to a prominent university. This is what he says. "Imagine that you have a child and for five minutes you are given a script of what will be that child's life. You get an eraser. You can edit. You can take out whatever you want.

You read that your child will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for yours. In high school, your kid will make a great circle of friends and then one of them will die of cancer. After high school, this child will actually get into the college they wanted to attend. While there, there will be a car crash and your child will lose a leg or go through a difficult depression-- and go through a difficult depression. A few years later, your child will get a great job and then lose that job in an economic downturn. Your child will get married, but then go through the grief of a separation."

This is the script of your child's life. And you have five minutes to edit that script. Question, what would you erase? Wouldn't you want to take out all that stuff that would cause them pain?

He continues, "I'm a part of a generation of adults called helicopter parents, because we're constantly trying to swoop into our kids' educational life, relational life, sports life, et cetera, to make sure no one is mistreating them, no one is disappointing them. We want them to experience one unobstructed success after another."

Then he continues, "One Halloween, a mom came to our door to trick or treat. Why didn't she send in her kid? Well, the weather's a little bad, she said. She was driving so he didn't have to walk in the rain. But why not send him to the door? Well, he had fallen asleep in the car, she said. So she didn't want to have to wake him up. I felt like saying, why don't you just eat all this candy and get the stomach ache for him, too. Then he can be completely protected.

If you could wave a magic wand, if you could erase every failure, every setback, suffering, and pain, are you sure it would be a good idea? Would it cause your child to grow up to be a better, stronger, more generous person? Is it possible that in some way people actually need adversity, setbacks, maybe even something like trauma to reach the fullest level of development and growth?"

One question that only you can answer as we close, how big is your God? The God you say you serve, the God you say you love, the God you say you're committed to, how big is that God? Is that God big enough to take the bad things of your past and weave them together with all the things in your life and produce something of great value and great beauty at the end? Is He big enough to do that?

That's the God that we serve. That's the God that gives us those promises. That's the God who did this for Joseph. Is your God that big? Can you trust Him? Right now in perhaps the worst point at your life, and say, Lord, but God-- not but me, but we, but him, but God. Yeah, but--but God. But you don't-- but God.

What level are you going to live at? Their level-- these 11 brothers-- or the level Joseph lived in? But God sent me here to preserve life.

"Father, You are a good God. We confess that. We thank you for it. You know our weakness. You know our humanity. You know our frame. You know how easily we get upset when somebody upsets us. You know how quickly we are to retaliate or cherish thoughts of doing it.

You know how human we are. You know how sinful we are. It's why Jesus came to this earth to pay a price to redeem us to You. And Lord, You, have made a covenant with us not only to forgive us of all of our sins, but also to take every part of our lives, every thing that happens to us, with us, and bring about, effect in the end, your plan and your purpose for our greatest good and for Your highest glory.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lord, some of us are suffering. For some of us, it's legit. We're going through things that, like Joseph, are alienating and very painful, traumatic events physically, emotionally, spiritually. I pray, Lord, that this message will have enabled us to peek behind the curtains just a bit and say, ah, but God is doing something. Don't know what, but I can't wait to find out. In Jesus' name, Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at Calvarynm.church/gift. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/1/2018
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Jesus Died...but God
Skip Heitzig
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4/15/2018
completed
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Haters Hate…but God
1 Samuel 23:14-18
Skip Heitzig
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I want to help you today to view the circumstances of your life correctly; I’d like to clear up your spiritual vision. This week and next, we will examine the lives of two well-known characters in Scripture who were attacked by people close to them, but God changed the outcome. Their evil hatred couldn’t stop the great plans that a good God had set in motion. Today, a five-verse pericope gives rich principles that clear up our vision.
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4/29/2018
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Judgment Is Coming…but God
Genesis 6-8
Skip Heitzig
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The two worst days of the human race are days of destruction. A near total annihilation happened in the distant past and will happen again in the future. Both are directly the result of God’s judgment. Just as certain as the sun will shine tomorrow, judgment is coming eventually—but God has a better alternative. As we examine His past judgment on the earth, we will be able to better understand His future judgment and how we can find purpose in His plans for His world.
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5/6/2018
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We’ve Failed...but God
Nehemiah 9
Skip Heitzig
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Most all of us know that we are not what we should be or could be. Sin has scarred our lives. We are aware of personal failures. The really good news is that we may fail but God forgives. The whole reason for the atoning death of Christ was to provide clemency for transgressions and mercy for our offenses. Nehemiah knew the history of his people, and after gathering them back in the land after the captivity, he prays on their behalf. We learn four vital lessons in this prayer about the human condition and the divine solution.
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5/27/2018
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You Can Run…but God
Jonah 1-2
Skip Heitzig
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I’ll bet you played hide-and-seek as a kid (or as a parent with your kids). After a while, you get really creative in finding places to hide. But can you imagine actually trying to hide from God? This is the story of a prophet of God who found out that you can run but you can’t hide. As Jonah runs from the call of God, God pursues him. In this scene we discover three principles every one of us should remember.
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6/3/2018
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Families Are Dysfunctional...but God
Genesis 31
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the term dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.
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6/24/2018
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Death Is Certain...but God
Psalm 49
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We have all heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quip, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Given death’s sure nature, why is it that most people try to avoid talking about it? And why do most people place all their energy and stock in this life alone? Death is the enemy of us all (see 1 Corinthians 15:26), and it is the assured fate of us all. But God changes this enemy into a friend and provides confidence to face it.
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7/8/2018
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The Future Looks Uncertain...but God
Daniel 2
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Prognosticators and forecasters abound all around us, from weather reporters to psychics. Even the National Geographic Channel hosts programs about aliens who are trying to tell us poor earthlings a thing or two about the future. And everyone seems amazed that someone as distant as Nostradamus could’ve predicted life in our modern culture—or did he? The future is shrouded in mystery for us all but God specializes in knowing and predicting the future. To what end? What is the purpose of God showing us today what will happen tomorrow?
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7/15/2018
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You Were Dead…but God
Ephesians 2:1-10
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This is the tenth and final study in our series ...but God, and today we get most personal. Rather than considering Joseph, David, Nehemiah, Isaac, or Daniel, we focus on our own story. Four simple phrases describe for us the spiritual journey all believers take through this life on our way to heaven. If you are a believer, all four of these things should happen. Unfortunately, too many stop with the first two and never successfully engage the last two. Let’s look at each one and evaluate how our lives can be lived to the full potential.
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.