April 19, 2015 Genesis 41
Series: Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families
Today’s Message: “God’s Design: Bringing You Down to Raise You Up Much Higher: For His Glory, for Your Gain, and for the Gospel.”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Introduction: When we hear of a rags to riches story, it usually hooks our heart, right?
Think of Cinderella or Aladdin; Think of Rocky Balboa, My Fair Lady, or Slumdog Millionaire.
We love to hear stories of people who were on the bottom who given the opportunity to rise to the top! Maybe you wish you were such a person?
One of the most amazing rags to riches stories is that of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.
Joseph was hated by his brothers, thought dead by his father, and for 13 years, Joseph was a slave in a foreign country; he was falsely accused as a rapist, and left to rot in jail, a forgotten prisoner.
And then one day he is called into the presence of perhaps the most powerful man in the world; and in a matter of minutes, Joseph’s prison rags are exchanged for fine linen; his iron shackles are removed and replaced by gold chains, and he is exalted as the second in command of the mightiest empire in the world, at age 30. Amazing!
We read in Genesis 41:39-43 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
How was that possible? Why would the King of Egypt entrust the future survival of his country to a foreigner, a prisoner, whom he had just met that day? Wouldn’t Pharaoh wonder about appointing a man, a foreigner at that, who was a criminal, in prison, to be second in command over the whole country, when he just met the man? The story seems too amazing!
Or look at Joseph’s story from the perspective of his clothing:
In Gen 37, Joseph had been stripped of his fancy coat, and he was sent off into slavery.
In Gen. 39, Potiphar’s wife had held on to his cloak, and Joseph was sent to prison.
But here in Gen. 41, the pattern is reversed: Joseph is given a new set of rich clothes, and he is sent off to rule the entire country, under Pharaoh! What an amazing transformation! What an incredible reversal of fortunes! In one day, Joseph went from his prison cell to Pharaoh’s court, from rags to riches!
What’s going on here? Well, what’s happening here is that we are seeing the pattern that God so often uses, namely, that God’s Design is to Bring You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel. Think of a “J curve”, where you go down, before going up much higher on the other side.
Let me ask you: Where else do we see this pattern, this design, in Scripture?
Moses; David; we see it with a number of women: Tamar; Hannah; Ruth; Mary… and more.
We see it with Daniel: from a teenager in a foreign country, and later given the death sentence, to being elevated to a very high position in the empire.
We see it with the Apostle Peter: a simple fisherman who often speaks and acts before thinking, he denies Jesus, his closest friends three times, before Christ forgives and restores him, transforming Peter into a solid rock evangelist and defender of the Gospel!
And of course we see it with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, went from riches to rags and then back to greater riches. He left the glory of Heaven to become a man, and then suffered the wrath that we deserved on a cruel and accursed cross, only to be raised by His Father and exalted to a place of higher glory and acclaim, so that we would be raised up in Him as well.
So I submit to you that God’s Design is to Bring You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel. It’s God’s “J Curve” for your life.
Here’s the question for you: Do you see this pattern, this design, in your life?
Do you feel like you in the pits? Do you feel like you are in a prison, perhaps a mental or emotional prison, either of your own making, or because of unjust suffering? Are you going through most days feeling like you are wearing filthy rags, the “rags” of feeling unworthy, of false guilt, or perhaps of unconfessed real and secret guilt? Do those rags make you feel like you can’t get close to God, and they won’t allow you to let others get close to you/
If so, then you need to prayerfully ponder God’s design. You need to put your hope in God’s pattern of Bringing You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel.
You see, God doesn’t bring people from rags to riches in order to simply bless them, although that’s often included. He does this so that all will see that it is God and God alone who has worked this out, so He gets the honor and exaltation, and the whole world will stand in awe of this great and glorious God! And this is especially true at the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
So let’s see how this rags to riches transformation happened to Joseph. Gen 41 clearly tells us that the Lord was orchestrating all the details. This was not some brilliant stroke of luck that fell upon Joseph. This was not some benevolent twist of fate that happened to propel Joseph from prison to the palace. No. This was the sovereign and gracious hand of God!
God’s Design is to Bring You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel… and He alone can do it!
First, Joseph trusted in God’s power to work through him.
The narrative shows Joseph’s complete confidence in God and in God’s ability to work through him: v. 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Note that Joseph did not have to present himself in any puffed up way; he didn’t try to sell himself to the king of the land. He simply and humbly pointed Pharaoh to God’s power.
Then we see more of Joseph’s faith in God in v. 32 “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” This affirmation is from someone, who until that very morning, had no indication that God was bringing to pass the very two dreams He had given to Joseph, 13 years ago! That is the grace of God at work.
Application: You don’t have to perform for people or put on a mask. You simply need to trust God to work through you. You don’t have to make sure people know of your accomplishments or your educational degrees. God loves to work through humble, broken, and trusting people.
Second, Joseph trusted in God’s power to protect him.
Joseph’s honest interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams was a very bold step, trusting in God’s protection. Why so? Because in Egyptian thinking, Pharaoh himself was the embodiment of a god. His divine power was supposed to ensure prosperity for Egypt. (Of course, Egypt’s fortunes rose and fell largely based on what the Nile River did.)
Iain Duguid comments: “Joseph not only exposed Pharaoh’s inability to interpret his dreams, to control the future, and to provide for his people, but also he repeatedly pointed Pharaoh to God as the one who truly has the power to do all those things. It was God who had revealed this to Pharaoh [v. 25] and God who has shown him what he was about to do [v. 28]”
Application: You don’t have to fear people or be overly concerned with what they think of you. God will protect you as you speak the truth about God and the Gospel in a gracious way.
Third, Joseph trusted in God’s power to redeem his past.
Would you like God to redeem your past? In verses 50-52 we get to see Joseph’s own understanding and feelings: 50 “Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
“Manasseh” sounds like the Hebrew for “Making to forget,” so what Joseph did by naming his son Manasseh was to reshape the significance of the past by putting it in the context of what God was doing in his life right now. His son’s name became a permanent testimony to God’s power to redeem the past. So while Joseph could never fully forget the hurts and abuses of his past, by God’s grace he would now remember those things through the lens of God’s presence with him in his pain, and God’s faithfulness in ultimately bringing him through that suffering into prosperity.
The Lord had “restored the years that the locust had eaten” (Joel 2:25) How does He do that? We have a clue in the name he gives his second son, Ephraim, which sounds like the Hebrew for “Making fruitful.” You see, God didn’t take Joseph out of the land of his afflictions, but He made him fruitful in that land. He will do the same with us, where we are. Remember God’s “J Curve” for our life.
So as Joseph wrestled with the demons and pains of his past, he thought about what God was doing in his life, and the names he gives to his sons reflect his faith in God’s power to redeem his past. Both names affirm that God was doing something in Joseph’s life: God made him forget and God made him fruitful.
Application: God uses everything He puts in our path to shape us and work out His glorious purposes. God’s Design is to Bring You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel.
And God did raise Joseph much higher than he had ever been before, even as Jacob’s favorite son. For Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name, new status and authority, and a new wife. His prison garb was replaced by fine vestments, suitable for the court. The family that Joseph lost in Canaan was replaced by his new wife and two sons. The false accusations against him that had led to public humiliation in Potiphar’s house were now replaced by proclamations of public acclaim! He went from powerlessness in prison to being the second most powerful person in the land. God’s dreams for him were finally coming true. It had taken a long time, and a number of hard setbacks, but God had indeed been faithful to His promise… as He always is!
Fourth, Joseph trusted in God’s power to redeem the future
We will see in the following chapters how the Lord works in Joseph’s immediate future, but for now, let’s see how God will redeem the distant future.
Joseph’s faith in God’s power is worth imitating, but his life is much more than an example. For Joseph was a shadow and a forerunner of a much greater Deliverer to come.
Joseph points us to Jesus Christ here. Jesus would suffer, be abused, and be rejected, but then God would raise him up to a place of global acclaim and praise. And only those who come to Him and bow down to Him can find life and blessing, while those who refuse to come will perish of spiritual hunger.
Think of this: When this global famine hit, those people who would come and bow down to Joseph, in his role as savior of the world, would be fed and be blessed and would live. But if anyone refused to bow down before Joseph, what would happen? They would die of hunger!
In a similar way, all that you need to do to be saved is to come to Jesus as a helpless and hungry beggar, and bow down before Him. But if you refuse to bow down to Him, you will starve and die, of your own stubbornness!
“Jesus will never forget the profound sufferings at the hands of His brothers, but neither will He forget the fruit born of that suffering: a new redeemed family of people from every nation.
God made that terrible affliction bear incredible fruit, and those indelible scars now speak permanently of indelible grace.” (- Iain Duguid)
Just as Joseph’s exaltation led to the nations being blessed through him, so too Jesus’ exaltation leads to blessing for all nations in the gospel.
Kidner: “What Joseph was to the people of his day, this and more would Jesus Christ be to the world.”
God’s Design is to Bring You Down, in order to Raise You Up – Much Higher – for His Glory, for your Gain, and for the Gospel.