This morning we’re beginning our summer series of sermons on the old testament character, Joseph. Let’s pray as we begin.
Dear Lord, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your eyes, our rock and our redeemer. Amen
If you’ve ever seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ then you’ll have a fairly good picture of some of Joseph’s life. For a complete and accurate record, we need to read through the book of Genesis from Joseph’s birth in chapter 30, to his death in chapter 50. The Old Testament has a bit of a reputation for being irrelevant, replaced by the New Testament, and even a bit boring. But as we’ll see, the account of Joseph’s life is anything but boring; by any standards it’s a gripping tail of intrigue and adventure, betrayal, love and reconciliation worthy of any best-selling novel. But more than that, it’s an amazing narrative of God’s love and God’s blessing on his people as his sovereignty prevails and as he continually brings good out of evil.
But to set Joseph’s story in context, we need to go back further, to Genesis chapter 12, and to Joseph’s great grandfather Abraham. Abraham, or Abram as he was called at the time, was descended from Noah, who in turn was descended from Adam. In Genesis chapter 12, God blessed Abram in the most extraordinary way by giving him this commission. In chapter 12 verses 1 to 3 we read:
‘The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
“I will make you in to a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”’
Imagine how Abram might have felt. Imagine how we might feel in the same circumstances. Not only is Abram being asked to uproot from the land of Haran where he’s lived all his life and move to the land of Canaan. God is also telling him that he will be the father of a great Nation, even though Abram’s wife Sarai is barren and they have no children. But Abram did as God said. He relocated to Canaan, and despite a few set-backs along the way, Abram believed the Lord, and we read in chapter 15 that this was credited to him as righteousness. Through faith in God, Abram was made right in God’s eyes. And these promises that God made to Abram are what’s known as the first covenant.
Abram’s wife Sarai, or Sarah as she became known, did ultimately gave birth to a son, named Isaac. At the age of 40, Isaac married Rebekah, and when Isaac was 60, Rebekah gave birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first born, and we’re told in Genesis chapter 25 that he grew up to be a skillful hunter who loved the open country. Jacob on the other hand was a quiet man who preferred to stay at home and do the cooking. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. As the first-born son, Esau should have inherited his father’s blessing. But as a result of a good deal of scheming and deception by Rebekah and Jacob, Esau gave up his birth right to his twin brother, and ultimately forfeited his father Isaac’s blessing, also to Jacob.
So it was that Jacob continued the family line, marrying sisters Leah and Rachel. Leah bore him 6 sons, including Levi, who became the father of the Old Testament Priests, and Judah, from whom Jesus is descended. He also had illegitimate relationships with two maid servants, who bore him 4 more sons. Finally, God blessed Rachel with two sons, Benjamin the youngest, and Joseph. The family settled in Canaan, and the nation of Israel was born, with Jacob as its founding father, and his 12 sons as heads of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Heroism and cowardice, self-sacrifice and selfish ambition, strength and frailty, faithfulness and infidelity, good and evil; these are all human strengths and weaknesses that we recognise around us today, and which we see on display throughout this narrative. Sin entered the world in Genesis chapter 3, and ever since, good and evil have run in parallel. But God always prevails. And if we think back to that covenant promise that God made to Abraham, to establish him as father of a great nation and to bless him, we can see how God is bringing this about.
Our reading this morning from Genesis chapter 37 picks-up at this point, and although God has consistently brought good out of evil so far, there’s trouble brewing in Jacob’s family. Joseph it seems has emerged as Jacob’s favorite son, and his father has honored him above all his brothers by giving him a richly ornamented robe, that amazing technicolor dreamcoat. Not only that, but Joseph also seems to have been blessed with the ability to dream prophetic dreams, and to interpret them in a way that makes him superior to his parents and all his brothers. In the words of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s song;
“Joseph’s coat annoyed his brothers, But what made them mad, Was the things that Joseph told them Of the dreams he often had.”
Whilst Jacob was able to reflect on Joseph’s dreams and ponder them rationally, his brothers were fueled with hatred and jealousy towards him. We’ll see next week what that led to. Again though, as we saw when tracing the foundation of Israel as a Nation, we can start to see that God is at work, paving the way for events that will shape the course of Israel’s development as a Nation, and as God’s chosen people.
As a child I was brought up in a Christian family, attended Sunday School regularly, and then the Youth Group somewhat less regularly, until by the time I went to University I’d dropped out of church related activities altogether. If you’d asked me about my faith at that stage, I would probably have said that I was a Christian, but I didn’t really know what that meant, and I was happy to end the conversation there. Then through a series of friends, meetings, books and experiences, I found myself in the last week of my final term in a University Christian Union meeting where for the first time I saw God’s guiding hand on history.
God showed me that although the Bible was written over the course of many centuries by many different people, it is entirely consistent from start to finish. And he led me to realise that this was only possible because he had inspired it, and because he was sovereign over the history that it describes. This was a real ‘wow’ moment.
We’ve seen this morning how God was faithful to his promise to Abraham and guided the establishment of Israel as a great nation despite human attempts to divert him. And we’ve seen how God has chosen Joseph as a future leader who will continue to bring about God’s purposes.
But to understand where this is all leading, we need to look briefly at our Gospel reading. It’s here, at the baptism of Christ and the beginning of his ministry on earth, that we begin to understand how God’s purposes are ultimately fulfilled. We can start to see that the original covenant, that God made with Abraham, foreshadows, or points towards, a new covenant that God makes with all people everywhere. He promises that he will establish a new kingdom on earth, with Jesus Christ as King, and that all who enter it will be blessed by Him.
At Jesus’ baptism, God said of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Abraham trusted in God, and although he got things wrong sometimes, God credited it to him as righteousness. It’s through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can enter God’s Kingdom here on earth, be forgiven for what we get wrong, and be made right with God under the new covenant. And we receive God’s blessing confident that he is a God who always fulfills his promises, a God who brings good out of evil, and a God who we can trust with our lives.
Let’s pray as we close.
Loving heavenly father, we thank you for your inspired word the Bible and for the truths that it contains. As we look this summer at the life of Joseph, help us to be excited by the way that you work in and through your people to bring about your good purposes, and inspire us to play our part in your story. In Jesus name,
Fiona's talk notes - St George
Make a Timeline - which includes
Creation, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses…
Heroes in the OT and so many more names, each one known by God….
And all these names, who were they? Heroes? …but were they heroes,? as you will see from the story of Joseph, they were just human beings like us. - great at some things - like interpreting dreams but also full of sin - jealousy, murderous threats, lying and arrogance to name just a few in our Joseph story. Often having moments when they are on the run from God or others, and then as they draw close to God, God draws close to them - a real reminder that OUR GOD IS A GOD OF ENCOUNTER
Going to begin a Summer series of the life of Joseph
Where does Joseph fit into God’s story?
‘In the beginning - In the beginning there wasn’t anything at all. Nothing! so God set to work, he spoke. I’d like some light and there was light. God made the heavens and the earth and that included calling Adam and Eve, calling to them as if He was calling his very good friends…..
God looked at all that he had made and said, ‘this is good.’
but in the same garden this is also where sin and death entered -
Noah - world is getting very messy
Abraham - Called by Name - when God is beginning to show the start of his rescue plan as he shows Abraham that HE IS A GOD OF PROMISE. We can call it God’s covenant - he makes a covenant with Abraham that he will be the Father of a great nation and also promises him land - Canaan - which will be the special place that will be given to him and his family - REMEMBER THIS FOR LATER ON IN OUR JOSEPH STORY
‘The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you in to a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”’
Imagine how Abraham feels about this when Abram’s wife Sarai is barren and they have no children. But Abram had faith these promises that God made to Abram are what’s known as the first covenant. / promise.
We begin to see God’s people - like Abraham running with perseverance the race that is set before him, looking to God…..
Time passes - Abraham has a son Issac, who marries Rebekah who has 2 sons Jacob and Esau
Esau was the first born, and we’re told in Genesis chapter 25 that he grew up to be a skillful hunter who loved the open country. Jacob on the other hand was a quiet man who preferred to stay at home and do the cooking. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. As the first-born son, Esau should have inherited his father’s blessing. But as a result of a good deal of scheming and deception by Rebekah and Jacob, Esau gave up his birth right to his twin brother, and ultimately forfeited his father Isaac’s blessing to Jacob.
After quite literally wrestling with God, Jacob - known by name, encounters GOD and runs with perseverance the race that is set before him, looking to God…..
So it was that Jacob continued the family line, marrying sisters Leah and Rachel. Jacob has 12 sons,
Joseph and Benjamin, Being the youngest, born to Rachel, Jacob’s second wife. The family settled in Canaan, (the land promised to God’s people) and the nation of Israel was born, with Jacob as its founding father, and his 12 sons as heads of the 12 tribes of Israel.
What could possibly go wrong? - God’s people are in the right place, flourishing …but as you will see it does go wrong but even then God is at work….
- giving dreams to Joseph and preparing to rescue his chosen people when famine hits the land of Canaan. Despite evil threats and schemes, God will prevail, the GOD OF ENCOUNTER will not ABANDON HIS PEOPLE - working through that which was meant for evil to good purposes…….
And the HUMANS IN our story - they are called by NAME- and at times we will see that they ran with perseverance the race that is set before him, looking to God….. ( especially Jesus, who had his name spoken to him in our gospel reading today at his BAPTISM
Joseph is in a long line of others who will go after him….
Moses, Jesus, Peter, Paul…..and all are known by name, they had encounters with God and these humans….well they ran with perseverance the race that is set before him, looking to Jesus …..
And then there is us? - do we know that we are called by name….. I wonder what is the race that God is asking us to run…..and when are running it, do we look to Jesus?
Q I wonder what are you thinking right now? - not me, I’m not known…not me I have not encountered God ….or did I miss it?……what am being asked to run? Do I always look to Jesus for His help?
On a coloured squares -
Write your name on it and then maybe a dream, a race , a calling , a hope that you would like to see happen - maybe you are going to be a part of it or maybe not….
in your family,
In your community, amongst your neighbours
In the wider world….
Paul was in God’s story and this is what he wrote in one of his letters:-
‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus’. Hebrews 12:1-2