To begin this morning, I’m going to do a quick recap of the story so far, as today we have come to a significant turning point for Joseph.
Looking at Joseph’s life up to now, the main theme has been one of suffering, affliction, and injustice.
After receiving a dream from God that he would rise above his brothers, his brothers plotted to kill him, but they changed their minds and decided to sell him as a slave instead.
He was bought as a slave by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of the king of Egypt.
In Potiphar’s house, Joseph earned great favour and was entrusted almost everything in the household.
All was well until, as we heard last week in Andrew’s sermon, Potiphar’s wife attempted to get Joseph to lie with her, but Joseph refused. As a result, he experienced a huge injustice and was thrown into prison, adding more suffering to what he had already experienced.
In prison Joseph is joined by the cupbearer and baker for the king of Egypt, the Pharoh. The cupbearer and the baker both have dreams which Joseph, with God’s help, is able to interpret.
The cupbearer is released from prison and Joseph asks him to remember him. But the cupbearer does not remember him for two more years!
Joseph was forgotten until Pharaoh, the king of Egypt has a dream that no one could interpret. After enlisting a number of people who are unsuccessful in interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph.
Joseph explains to the Pharaoh what the dream means – that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.
Importantly, Joseph offers his interpretation as God’s plan for Egypt. This plan is to prepare for the famine by storing up the grain during the seven years of plenty.
This is the turning point for Joseph. Pharaoh likes the plan that Joseph lays out and sees the wisdom in it. As a result, Joseph is given the position of second in command of all of Egypt and is tasked with enacting God’s plan.
This where we will pick up our story today.
So, after years of suffering, being displaced and imprisoned, Joseph is now second in command to the Pharaoh and been elevated to the top of society – and it all happens rather quickly in this story. His life has become fruitful.
Most people who get to high positions like the position Joseph was in would have got there due to their family’s status, or education or longer-term achievements.
Joseph had none of these things. He’d been a slave and a prisoner in this foreign land.
I suppose his new position could have gone to his head especially after all he had been through after being sold, falsely accused, and forgotten, his life had been a picture of bad things happening to a good person. He could have let the memory of his past suffering lead to bitterness that stopped him moving forward.
But Joseph remained focused on God and trusted God with his life. He gave glory to God for the things that had been revealed to him and for his new position. He knew that the fruit that God had put in him was starting to come to fruition.
Its easy for us to see God at work in Josephs story as we stand back and see how the pieces fit together. To see how through the suffering and injustice, God plan was producing fruit in Joseph.
I wonder if you have ever stopped and looked back over your life to see how the pieces fit together.
I’ve found this particularly helpful in my faith journey.
When you lay out all that has happened to you in your life, the good times and the times of suffering, you can often see how they work together for good and produce fruitfulness.
I remember a long period in my career where the next promotion just kept passing me by, others who hadn’t been there so long were promoted over me.
It was a struggle, and I was tempted to become bitter. But I trusted God and knew he was using that time to grow my faith and prepare fruit in my life. It gave me time to look after my young family and to deal with a period of ill health.
When the promotion finally did come it was at the right time for my family and I had developed resilience and an appreciation for others that made me a much better leader than if I had been promoted earlier.
God had ripened the fruit in me at the right time
Back to Josephs story.
Before the year of famine came, Joseph had two sons and the translation of the names he gives them are helpful to us today.
His first son was named Manasseh which means forgetting.
We heard in our reading that Joseph chose this name because God had helped him forget all the hardship he had been through.
He recognised that God was bringing about good, despite the troubles he had endured.
This was not about forgetting everything that had happened to him, it was about forgetting the feelings of bitterness and hurt caused by years of injustice and suffering so that he could move forward and bear fruit.
Often, we might cling to the feelings of past difficulties, keeping previous suffering at the forefront of our hearts and minds, but to move forward, we often need to leave the feelings of hurt from the past in the past.
Joseph named his second son Ephraim which means fruitfulness, because God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction.
Joseph gives his sons these powerful names so that he would remember the fruit that the Lord had brought about through his troubles and affliction.
This was not only a powerful reminder for Joseph, but, for the generations to come.
I want to quickly look at today’s NT reading (Matt 13:1-9, 18-23) where are given the parable of the Sower.
This reading speaks of seeds that will bear much fruit.
We are the seeds. Each one of us here. Each one of us has the potential to bear much fruit in our lives.
To do good, to help others, to share the Good News of Jesus and to bring about his Kingdom on earth.
But the parable also makes it clear that sometimes we will find ourselves in a rocky place or surrounded by weeds that choke us or eaten by birds (not literally!).
The world we live in means we often have to go through a patchy and discouraging process first. But God has placed within each of us abundant fruit.
Often, we, just as Joseph experienced, have to go through opposition, setbacks and delays.
God allows difficulty in our lives at times, these difficulties can expose our true character and can strengthen our resolve in order to develop fruit in our lives.
So where does this leave us all today.
There is hope in this morning’s readings. Hope that we are all part of God’s greater plan to help us be fruitful in our lives.
Some of us might be in the midst of a setback or suffering or facing opposition. Our seed has landed in a rocky place.
Know that God is with you and will be using that situation to help you bear fruit for the right time and right place. It might take a while, but God has a plan for you.
Some of us might have passed through a time of setback or suffering or opposition but are not feeling fruitful at all. Maybe you are struggling to move forward.
Like Joseph maybe it’s time to forget the past hurt, put aside bitterness, in order to move forward. Particularly if an area in the past has left us immobilized, unwilling, or afraid to move forward.
Maybe today we could pray for help to lay down that hurt or bitterness.
And finally, some of us may recognise that we are in a particularly fruitful time in our lives. We have come through a time of suffering, and all is good.
As it was with Joseph in our story today. It might be time to think about how our current fruitful situation could be used to help or support others. To join in God’s greater plan for the world.
I pray that God helps each of us, whatever situation we may find ourselves in, to be fruitful in all he calls us to be.