Joseph: From Hatred to Honor – Believing in God’s Goodness Despite Circumstances

20131030_132139What did I do to deserve this?

If I told you about a poor fellow who was hated by his siblings, taken captive and forced to work as a slave, falsely accused and thrown into prison, helped restore another prisoner but was forgotten by the man he helped, you might ask what he did to deserve such treatment.

When disaster, tragedy or illness strikes in our own lives we are often quick to ask, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “This isn’t fair!”

Quite a few of our church family have had unusual hardships lately.  We are all prone to ask, “Why?” or “Why me?” when we are faced with very hard circumstances.

God is magnified and self diminished

Yet the truth for believers is God has a purpose in all that goes on in our lives. Every single thing. And the fact is we may never know why.  God ordains everything for our good and His glory.  This process of sanctification, or changing to become more like Christ, may bring difficulties to the end that God is magnified in our lives and self is diminished.

The next few posts will deal with biblical characters who endured what we consider to be unfair treatment.  We have the advantage of seeing the results in their lives from going through the painful things they encountered.  My prayer is that as we might see the end as well as the beginning and that we would choose to trust God and rest in Him even in the middle of our most difficult experiences.

The story of Joseph is found in Genesis 39 – 50.  I encourage you to read those few chapters.  Things went from bad to worse to, “Can things get any worse than this?”  But we can lose sight of the fact that God was at work in Joseph’s life the entire time.

Joseph got on his brother’s nerves

Joseph was a well-loved son of Jacob, but Joseph got on his older brothers’ nerves.  He told his father the wrong things they were doing when they were all away from home.  God brought dreams to Joseph showing that he would rule over his brothers one day and Joseph shared all the details with his brothers. Joseph’s older brothers soon began to hate the very sight of him.

Sold into slavery

Jacob sent Joseph to check up on the brothers.  They saw him and his brightly-colored coat coming toward their camp.  Their hatred boiled up and they plotted to kill Joseph, throwing him into a pit while they worked out the details. When a caravan of traders passed by they changed their minds and sold him into slavery.

Falsely accused

Joseph worked as a slave in the home of a prominent Egyptian named Potiphar.  God blessed Potiphar’s business because of Joseph.  But Potiphar’s wife tried repeatedly to seduce Joseph to be immoral with her.  As she grabbed at him, Joseph pulled away, but his coat remained in her hands.  She was angry that this lowly servant would refuse her so used the coat to make false accusations against Joseph to her husband.

Forgotten, then finally remembered

So Joseph was thrown into prison, but God gave him favor in the sight of the warden.  Two fellow prisoners, servants in Pharaoh’s household, had dreams that God allowed Joseph to interpret.  When Pharaoh’s cupbearer was restored to his position he forgot all about the help that Joseph gave him until two years later when Pharaoh dreamed troubling dreams.  Joseph was called for and God allowed him to correctly interpret the dream.

Elevated

Suddenly Joseph was elevated to second in the land and was the most powerful person in Egypt behind Pharaoh.  God gave him Countryside 9-10-11 (6)wisdom to save up during the years of plenty and portion out food to the Egyptians during the years of drought.

Recognizing his brothers

Jacob heard there was grain for sale in Egypt and sent his sons to buy some.  Joseph recognized his brothers right away, but they had no idea this powerful leader was their long-lost younger brother.  Joseph put them through several tests over a period of time to see what kind of men they were.

Revealed

Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers as Joseph and the brothers were afraid.  This was the brother they had hated and sold into slavery.  Now he is a very powerful person and his dreams had been accurate.  This powerful man could make them pay for their hatred and evil deeds.

God meant it for good

But Joseph by now understood the bigger picture.  In Genesis 50:20 he tells his brothers “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  The hatred of his brothers had begun a chain of events to put Joseph in a place of honor.

Do we believe in God’s goodness?

We need to remember this when our family or employers or friends bitterly oppose us and it seems so unfair to us.  We usually cannot immediately understand God’s greater purpose in difficult events. Sometimes we never understand God’s purpose.  We need to remember Romans 8:28-29.  All things do work together for good for believers, even when we can’t see how that is true.  It’s God’s promise.  Do we believe Him?

Discouragement Worksheet

This worksheet augments the lesson on Discouragement recently presented to the pastors’ wives at the National Church Planters’ Conference in Mentor Ohio, sponsored by ARCH Ministries.  These sessions were adapted from my ladies’ Sunday School series on Biblical Womanhood created for Meadowlands Baptist Church of Edmonton.

Causes of Discouragement – Worksheet

 

Following are biblical examples of people who faced discouragement.  We will see the biblical response of encouragement in the next lesson.

D – Disagreements and conflicts – Discouragement in RELATIONSHIPS

  • David and King Saul – 1 Samuel 18
    • Saul was David’s father-in-law
    • The throne was removed from Saul and promised to David
    • Saul tried to kill David
  • Barnabas and Paul – Acts 15
    • Barnabas was an encourager
    • Barnabas and Paul disagreed about ministry
    • Barnabas and Paul parted ways and conducted separate ministries

I –Issues with finances and possessions – Discouragement in PROVISION

  • Job lost all of his possessions – Job 1
    • Job was a very wealthy man
    • God took away all of his assets
    • Job’s wife told him to curse God and die
  • Widow and the cruse of oil – 1 Kings 17
    • Because of the famine the widow had almost nothing
    • Her creditors threatened to sell her sons into slavery to collect their money
    • Elijah’s commands to her required great faith on her part

S – Spiritual Warfare – Discouragement in SPIRITUAL WARFARE

  • Elijah and the 450 false prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18 – 19
    • Elijah thought he stood alone fighting against idolatry
    • There was a showdown on Mt Carmel
    • Jezebel sent her servants to find and kill Elijah
  • Jeremiah prophesies to an unbelieving Israel – Jeremiah 20, 32, 37, 38
    • Jeremiah warned the people of judgment
    • Jeremiah was imprisoned, persecuted, and thrown into a wel
  • Vision in Daniel 10
    • Daniel fasted and prayed 21 days waiting for the Lord
    • The angel fought with Satan for those 21 days until Michael came and helped him

C – Circumstances – Discouragement in our CIRCUMSTANCES

  • Children of Israel as they wandered through the desert  Numbers 21:4
    • The Jews (likely a million or so people) wandered in the desert for 40 years
    • Their disbelief caused those over 20 to be kept out of the Promised Land (Numbers 14)
  • David at Ziklag – I Samuel 30
    • The city was burned and the women and children taken captive
    • Some of David’s men wanted to kill him
  • Isaac and Rebekah and the wives of Esau –Genesis 26: 34 – 35
    • Esau did things his own way
    • Esau married Canaanite wives in spite of God’s commands
  • Naomi – Ruth 1 -2
    • Naomi and her family had to leave Israel because of famine
    • Naomi’s husband and two sons died in Moab
    • Naomi the widow returned to Israel with her foreign daughter-in-law
  • King Asa and the 1 million Ethiopians – 2 Chronicles 14:10-12
    • The Ethiopian army greatly outnumbered the Israeli army
    • Victory was humanly impossible

O – Our Sin / Sinful Responses – Discouragement due to our CHOICES

  • Jonah – Jonah 1 -4
    • Jonah ran away from God
    • Jonah’s disobedience caused others to be in danger
    • Jonah did not like it when God granted forgiveness to Nineveh
  • Samson – Judges 14 -16 (entire book of Judges describes the cycle of the Judges)
    • Samson did God’s work in his own way
    • Samson’s disobedience cost him his ministry and ultimately his life
  • Israel making a golden calf at Mount Sinai – Exodus 32
    • The people would not wait for Moses to return
    • They made idols to worship God their own way

U – Unfulfilled Expectations – Discouragement of DISAPPOINTED EXPECTATIONS

  • Disciples after Christ was crucified – Matthew 26:56; John 20:19
    • The disciples thought Christ’s kingdom would be in their lifetime
    • They were dismayed when Christ was crucified like a common criminal
  • Abraham  and the promise of an heir – Genesis 15; 16: 1-2
    • Abraham was promised an heir when he was 90
    • Sarah and Abraham had a hard time waiting and believing so they “helped” God

R – Response to emotional pain – Discouraging WORDS and EMOTIONS

  • Hannah – 1 Samuel 1
    • Peninnah taunted Hannah and mocked her childlessness
    • Hannah was in distress of soul
  • The Children of Israel and the report from 10 of the 12 spies – Numbers 13; Numbers 32:9; Deuteronomy 1:28
    • The spies did not believe God
    • Their words influenced the others

A – Answers to Prayer are Delayed –Discouragement of UNANSWERED PRAYER

  • King Jehoram, Elisha, and the siege of Samaria – 2 Kings 6 and 7
    • The siege had lasted a long time so that some people had resorted to cannibalism
    • The king blamed Elisha and wanted to kill him
  • The Shunamite’s son who died 2 Kings 4
    • Because the Shunamite ministered to Elisha and his servant, God gave her a son
    • Her son died unexpectedly of a fever
    • She ran to Elisha for help

G – Grieving God – Discouragement of our SPIRITUAL FAILURES

  • David – Bathsheba  2 Samuel 12:9; Psalm 51:4  David ignored his kingly responsibilities.
    • David committed sin with Bathsheba, then had her husband killed
    • Nathan the prophet confronted David
  • Lot – Living in Sodom  2 Peter 2:7
    • Lot chose the best land
    • Lot’s righteous soul was vexed daily from living in such an ungodly place

E – Employment conflict – Discouragement in our RESPONSIBILITES

  • Moses judging the Children of Israel (Exodus 18: 13-23)
    • Moses settled conflicts from morning to evening every day
    • He was worn out from his work
  • Rebuilding the temple (Ezra 4)
    • A remnant of people returned to rebuild the temple
    • Neighboring peoples tried to stop them with discouraging words and threats
  • Jacob’s wages – Genesis 28 -30
    • Laban changed Jacob’s wages multiple times
    • Laban regularly tried to cheat Jacob
  • Joseph and Potiphar’s wife – Genesis 39
    • Joseph was sold into slavery
    • His master’s wife tried to seduce him
    • Joseph was wrongfully imprisoned and then forgotten
  • Queen Esther and Haman – Esther 4
    • Esther was made queen to Ahasuerus
    • Haman wanted to kill all Jews out of spite
    • Esther had to be willing to forfeit her life to speak for her people

D – Disease, Illness, Pain, Physical Causes – Discouraging PHYSICAL PROBLEMS

  • Job – Job 2:4-8
    • Satan was allowed to take Job’s health
    • Job’s friends gave unhelpful advice
  • Paul – 1 Corinthians 12:2-8
    • Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”
    • God would not remove it