Why did that happen to me? Why now? Why me?
Do those questions sound familiar? I have struggled with them too. Just like you,
Someone, in the Bible, might have also struggled with the same questions. His name is Joseph and you read about him in the book of Genesis.
An overview of the book of Genesis
For you to get a better grasp of his story and how he handled what he went through, it is helpful to look at the entire book of Genesis.
I’ve talked about that in my previous posts. But, here is kind of an overview of the book leading to the last chapter, which is our focus in this post.
- Genesis describes the life you and I were meant to have.
- Genesis describes how we lost that life and how we can get it back.
- Genesis describes the values we ought to have in life.
The book of Genesis ends with what God had told Abraham He would do. Read Genesis 15: 13-16.
What we read in Genesis 15 is what will begin to happen following the death of the children of Jacob. Remember that Jacob represents the second generation after Abraham.
Back to Genesis 15: 16, “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation.”
In other words, that means two generations after Jacob. And, all this happens after the death of Joseph, who was so instrumental in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15.
The end of Genesis, with Jacob’s death, represents an introduction to what God told Abraham in Genesis 15.
But, we will not look at that today. It will be a study for another time.
In our text today though, there are three characters.
First, Jacob, who’s Abraham’s grandson. Second, there are Jacob’s sons and their families. Third, there is Joseph, another son of Jacob.
The story is about Jacob’s death, which took place in Egypt.
But, how did Jacob end up in Egypt?
You can read all about it on your own in previous chapters in the book of Genesis. When you do so, I will encourage you to start with chapter 37.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob. He had the gift of dreaming and interpreting dreams.
When he was a teenager (17 years old, see Genesis 37: 2), he had a few dreams. The Bible has a record of two.
The first dream was that his family members were in the field and binding sheaves. Then, his sheaf arose and stood upright. But everyone else’s sheaf in the family gatherers around and bows to Joseph’s sheaf (Genesis 37: 7-8).
His dream will not go well with his brothers. They are not happy because to them it is as if Joseph will reign over them or rule over them (Genesis 37: 8). For that reason, they will hate him.
Another dream, Joseph has, is about the sun, the moon and eleven stars (Genesis 37: 9-10). In this dream, the sun, moon and eleven stars bow before him. That did not please, not only his brothers but his father too. Jacob wonders if he and Joseph’s mother will come to bow to the ground before him (Genesis 37: 10).
These two dreams, recorded in Genesis 37, will make Joseph’s brothers jealous of him. Their jealousy did not start with the dreams. It began with the feeling that Jacob loved Joseph more than them (Genesis 37: 3).
What made the situation worse is that Jacob made Joseph a robe of many colors. That did not please Joseph’s brothers at all.
Because of jealousy, Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Midianite traders (Genesis 37: 27). These traders ended up selling Joseph to the Egyptians. There in Egypt, Joseph works for Potiphar.
As Joseph settles in Egypt, he will be falsely accused of something he never did. He then ends up in prison.
While in prison, Joseph made his way up to becoming one of the leaders. His gifts of dreaming and interpretation of dreams will help him so much.
After helping two of the prisoners, one of them will remember him later. And, this will happen when Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two strange dreams. None of the magicians or wise people could help him with the meaning of his dreams.
So, Pharaoh will ask for Joseph who was in prison. The meaning of the dreams Pharaoh had was about the upcoming famine that would strike the world.
God wanted to spare the people by preparing for this future natural disaster. After sharing all this, Pharaoh would elect Joseph to be the one to help the Egyptians prepare for that.
Joseph, as a result, has become the second most powerful in Egypt after Pharaoh.
The natural disaster, which is coming, will also affect the land where Jacob and his family were.
Everyone in this area, with the knowledge that there was food in Egypt, would want to go there.
It is how Joseph’s brothers will also come to look for food in Egypt. What they did not know is that the person in charge of the sale is Joseph.
Joseph recognizes them and will eventually reveal himself to them. Later on, Jacob and the rest of the family will come to live in Egypt.
Our Scripture today is about the last days and death of Jacob. At this point, the Israelites were doing well in Egypt because Joseph was in leadership. He was the second most influential person in this country after Pharaoh.
Jacob, who was the glue of the entire family, dies. Now, Joseph’s brothers fear that with the death of their Jacob, Joseph may turn against them. So, they design a plan. After the burial of their father, Jacob, they request to meet with Joseph. Their meeting is what Genesis 50, our today’s text, describes.
Joseph’s understanding of Life’s events
Our focus is Joseph’s response: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me. But, God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50: 19).
Three things come out of Genesis 50: 19, which can make things work for your good. These also are not only words from Joseph, but values he believed in and had embodied throughout his life.
Step One: Do not fear
This is a choice you make in your mind. When you choose not to fear anything or anyone, the next thing is that you need to practice it in real life.
When facing tough times, look at them as opportunities for you to practice your new attitude, not to fear.
In the Bible, phrases such as “do not hear” and “do not be afraid” are very much used. People talk about the use of the phrase or a similar one to be 365 times in the Bible.
And, 365 represent the number of days in a year. In other words, every day is a reminder that you do not have to fear.
Here’s what I think fear can do to you:
- Fear is a sign of lack of trust in God.
- Fear kills hope. It makes you focus on the now. Nothing else.
- Fear also kills strength you need to move forward. It paralyzes your mind, soul, and creativity.
- Fear kills the joy of life. It keeps the pain, hurt, and all negative feelings in front of you.
Step Two: Do not take God’s place
God wants to be God in your life, and all the time!
Fear replaces God with your self, pain, scary situation, or anything and anyone else. It makes you give in to whatever you’re facing in life. Your fearful experience becomes the focus and center of your daily living.
The greatest commandment is “to love God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind.” This commandment comes out of what’s known as the Shema.
Fear takes our eyes away from God. It moves us away from the cross of Jesus Christ.
We look for an easy way in life. I could also call this “convenience.”
We live in a culture that promotes easy, fast and convenient aspects of living. What our culture offers us is often contradictory to what the Bible offers. It is contrary to what God can give us.
For example, Joseph could have used easy and convenient ways to avoid going to prison. But, even after being falsely accused of something he never did, he chose his integrity. Sometimes, convenience means giving up on our integrity or values.
Or, Joseph could have used his talents and interpretations gifts to earn money in prison. That could have eventually helped him get out of prison sooner than later.
But, he had to wait for a few years even after helping two people with their dreams. These two used to work for Pharaoh. They had connections with the most powerful man in Egypt and around the world at that time.
When these two got out, one faced the death penalty. The other went back to serving Pharaoh.
Not that this man, to whom Joseph asked to remember him, never did it. Things changed only in God’s timing. And, it would be when God showed Pharaoh two dreams that none of the wise men and magicians could interpret.
Then, the prisoner, now serving Pharaoh remembers Joseph. He says to Pharaoh that in prison there was a young man with a spiritual gift of interpretation. He did it for him; this man believes that Joseph can also do it for Pharaoh.
Step Three: Focus on God’s purpose
God’s purpose is to keep as many people as possible alive! That’s according to Genesis 50, but which also applies to the rest of the Bible. Jesus came to give us eternal life. That’s the purpose of his death and resurrection.
God’s plan to give us life, abundant life, has been on from the very beginning of human existence following Adam and Eve’s sin. God worked this plan from one generation to the next until when Jesus came to die for our redemption.
Now, God wants to do the same for those who have no eternal life. And, God wants to use you. That’s why I referred to God as a generational God in one of my previous posts.
Our God wants His grace and redemption through Jesus Christ to reach as many people as possible.
Joseph grounded his entire life on God’s purpose: keeping as many people as possible alive! In other words, he knew his mission.
How about us? What’s our mission as Christians? What’s your personal mission in life? We each need a personal mission statement.
Next is, “Do you fulfill your mission in life?” And, “How do you hold yourself accountable to your mission?
Bringing it together
Understanding God’s purpose helps you see things as they should be according to God’s plan. Even those bad memories are turned into what makes you more instrumental for God’s plan to be fulfilled. As a result, you become fearless. You learn to let God be God in your life. Lastly, God’s purpose helps you focus on what’s most important in God’s eyes: bringing as many people as possible back to life.