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The Message of The Bible - Part Four
by Dave Miller In our last lesson, we had worked our way though much of Genesis to the life of a man by the name of Joseph. He was seventeen years old when we are first introduced to him, only a teenager. We pointed out how his father had sent him out in search of his brothers and how, when he had finally encountered them, they made plans to kill him. But the oldest brother, Reuben, interceded and urged them not to do that. They had said, "Behold, here comes the dreamer", referring to dreams that he had had about them. "Letís kill him and then weíll see what becomes of his dreams". But the oldest brother, Reuben, interceded on behalf of his little brother and said, "Fellows, letís not kill our own flesh and blood." He made this proposal: "Instead, letís put him into a pit", a dry well, a cistern, the idea being that he would die of natural causes and they wouldnít be responsible for shedding his blood directly. But the Bible informs us that when Reuben made that proposal, what he actually intended to do was slip around later and rescue his little brother and return him safely to his father.
That sounded good to the brothers so they agreed to that. When Joseph arrived in their midst, with very cruel and rough hands they stripped off of him the coat of many colors, that multi-colored tunic that his father had given him, and they put him into a pit. Then they sat down to eat a meal. The Bible informs us that as they were eating, off in the distance they saw a caravan coming from the north. It was a trade caravan that dealt in various articles of trade. As it was approaching, one of the brothers spoke up and said, "Why donít we just sell Joseph? That way we will be rid of him, but we will also make some money." That sounded good to the brothers and so when the caravan arrived they made the transaction.
They pulled Joseph up out of that pit, and instead of listening to the pleas of their little brother, they callously sold him into slavery. Off the caravan went further toward the south toward Egypt. During this period of time Reuben was out of pocket. The Bible doesnít tell us where he went momentarily, but when he returned and went over to the pit and saw that his brother was gone, he figured out what had happened. He tore his clothes, typical of oriental manifestations of grief. Then he said, "The boy is gone, and where, where shall I go."
The brothers then decided that what they needed to do was to concoct this story to tell their father that the child had been eaten by wild animals. In fact, they took the coat that they had stripped off of him, tore it, put animal blood on it and presented it to their father, asking him to make the identification. Sure enough, he said he knew that this was Josephís tunic. He went into a period of mourning that lasted weeks and weeks. It nearly cost Jacob his life, because he was so distraught and in such a state of grief over the loss of this very favorite son of his. His children gathered around him to try to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.
In the meantime, the Bible informs us that Joseph was taken by that caravan down into Egypt. When he arrived he was placed on the auction block and was sold to the highest bidder. The person who purchased him was a man by the name of Potiphar, who is identified as an officer in Pharaohís court.
The term that is translated in the King James Version officer is, as a matter of fact, the normal Hebrew word for eunuch. A eunuch is a person who has been physically rendered sexually inactive. Now this may seem a bit strange to the modern mind. It was very common in antiquity for individuals who aspired to high political position or a position of great prestige, especially when this position brought the person into close contact with the royal family, to be physically rendered sexually inactive. Therefore, they became eunuchs. In Acts chapter eight, we are introduced to the Ethiopian eunuch who was a treasurer under a queen. So it was very common in ancient times for people who aspired to high positions, even after they had been married and had a family, to be treated in this manner.
That is the term that is used to refer to Potiphar because of his close contact to Pharaoh. When we understand that about him, his wifeís behavior makes more sense. The Bible describes Joseph as being a very handsome teenager. Here was Potipharís wife who, on a number of occasions, made sexual advances toward him. Joseph, even though he had been ripped from his homeland and placed under subservience in the home of Potiphar, so conducted himself that Potiphar gained great confidence in him and elevated him to the post of being the estate steward.
We are informed that on one of those occasions when Potipharís wife made advances toward him, he refused her again with this statement in Genesis 39:9, "How could I commit this great wickedness and sin against God?" Notice, that tells us that Joseph was maintaining his psychological, his emotional, and his spiritual stamina because he was linked into God. He had lost his home; heíd lost his father; and heíd lost his family. Here he is in a foreign culture, and yet what is holding him together are his spiritual convictions, his relationship with God. He has an opportunity to be with a woman sexually and yet, unlike probably most men, he refuses because he has a right relationship with God and he depends on God for his moral compass and his direction in life. What a tremendous example for people living today.
The Bible proceeds to explain to us that she continued to make these advances toward him. On one occasion she caught him indoors alone. All of the other estate workers were outdoors. She made advances toward him. Once again he resisted her. In fact, he turned to run from her, to get away from her and to go outside. I suppose that angered her. She had been rejected once too often. She reached out and grabbed hold of a portion of his clothing, apparently the outer cloak, the outer garment. She pulled on it and he just allowed it to come off as she pulled on it and he ran on outdoors. The Bible says that evening when her husband came home, out of her anger and resentment toward Josephís unwillingness to submit to her, she concocted this story and told her husband that Joseph had made advances toward her, perhaps even implying rape. Her husband believed her. Consequently, he had Joseph consigned to prison.
Isnít that incredible? A young man simply trying to obey God, live a pure life, is falsely accused and put into prison. Amid the conditions within the prison system, instead of becoming sour and negative about life, the Bible indicates once again he manifested his integrity and his character and so conducted himself that the prison warden placed Joseph over other prisoners. This brought him into contact with a special classification of prisoners, those who had previously been in the employ of Pharaoh, but because of insults or infractions had been consigned to prison.
One morning he came into the presence of some of these men. We call them the butler and the baker. They are sitting there looking very depressed, "Woe is me. Iím in prison. Look how life has been hard on me." But Joseph was quite the opposite. He manifested a Christian attitude, thousands of years before Christianity came into existence, by being concerned about the people around him. He observes that these men are looking sad and gloomy. So that morning he approaches them and says, "Fellas, why are you looking so sad?" The butler spoke up, the cup bearer. This would have been the individual in antiquity who would have been responsible for screening the liquids that would have been drunk by the monarch, by Pharaoh, a poison tester or taster. So he speaks up whenever Joseph asks them why they are so gloomy and he says, "Why, Iíve had a dream thatís causing me a loss of sleep and great concern." Joseph being the evangelistic, God-oriented person that he was even in prison, said to this cup bearer, this butler, "You know there is a God. There is a God, and this God of the universe knows about these things, dreams and visions, and as a matter of fact, He has given me the ability to interpret dreams."
We are informed that the butler communicated the details of that dream. Joseph then responded to him by saying. "This dream means that within three days you are going to be reinstated to your courtly capacity." Then Joseph said, "When that day comes will you please remember me here in prison. I havenít done anything to deserve to be put here. I was put here unjustly." As heís communicating with this cup bearer, the baker is sitting over there listening. He says, "You know, I have had a dream too." He relates the details of that dream, and sadly enough, Joseph has to inform him that his dream means that within three days he would suffer execution.
The Bible says those three days transpired and, sure enough, the baker was executed and the butler, the cup bearer, was reinstated to his courtly capacity in Pharaohís court. The Bible informs us that he promptly forgot about Joseph. Joseph sat in prison an additional two years, two full years. Here is a young man who is trying to live a godly life. He has had one bad thing happen to him after another. Virtually all of them have been unfair or unwarranted. He did not provoke these circumstances. His brothers were jealous of him. They wanted to kill him. They put him in a pit, and then sold him into slavery. Heís placed in the home of a man who has essentially enslaved him. Then he is falsely accused and then put in prison. How many people do you know today that go through adversity and hardship in life? Perhaps you and me. Whenever that happens, we are bewildered. "Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?" Iíve known some people who went so far as to say, "Whereís God? Why did God do this?"
Weíve had severe weather recently in which tornadoes have destroyed homes. Weíve had young people shooting weapons and killing innocent children. On and on life goes with all its adversity and circumstances. Some of it seems to be purposeless. Others that are obviously evil people inflicting sinful acts against other people. Where is God in all of that? Of course, the Bible answer to that is that God is where He has always been. God is where He was when His own Son was taken and mistreated and killed by wicked people. He has created an environment, the earthly environment, in which people are making decisions and exercising free will. God wants them to love Him and obey Him. But many times people choose to disobey God and to violate His will. Thatís not Godís will. But God is not going to just intervene and stop everyone from sinning. He created an environment in which people are permitted to make their choices, essentially to choose where they want to spend eternity. Itís incredible that the providence of God is such that even while people are exercising their free will, making evil choices, God is able to override that and accomplish His ultimate objectives. Thatís actually what He is doing in Josephís life, although Joseph didnít know that at the time. Here he is in a prison where heís been mistreated and he has to stay there an additional two years!
I suppose that he still would have been sitting there except one day Pharaoh, himself, had dreams. He began to summon out of his empire all of those individuals who claim to be able to deal in such matters, the magical arts. Even in the United States, we have fortune tellers, palm readers, astrologers. Who would have ever thought this possible in the United States of America? We are a nation supposedly enlightened, not only by technological progress, but by spiritual insight. We supposedly have been a "Christian" nation all these years. Who would ever have thought we would have the Psychic Hot Line? That people would actually call and spend several dollars per minute to listen to a man or woman at the other end of the line whom, I assure you, does not know you from Adam. They are con-men and con-women. Theyíre counterfeits. Theyíre fakes. They are making up stuff about a personís future.
The Bible is clear on this subject. It uses a number of terms from the Old Testament to the New Testament to describe those who dabble in such matters. Words like enchanter, diviner, soothsayer, sorcerer, witchcraft, mediums and astrology. Thereís a variety of terms, but the Bible always treats that entire area the same way. It makes two points consistently. Number one: itís fake, itís counterfeit, it is not real. There is not anything about the alignment of the stars in the universe and your birthday that will inform anyone about your future love life or your financial future. Thatís simply not the case. The Bible consistently makes that point. Secondly: the Bible also teaches that all people who dabble in such matters incur the wrath of God. One of the terms is used in Revelations 21:8, where a listing of activities are given, with the final statement, "All who involve themselves in these things will spend their eternity in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." Thatís how God feels about it. Because God has given us everything we need to successfully negotiate life. He has given us the word of God. What II Peter 1:3 calls "all things that pertain to life and godliness." Or II Timothy 3:16 that says, "All scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for instruction, correction..." We have all of the information we need to live life safely and successfully in order to be with God in eternity. To resort to alternatives, like psychic readings or palm reading or fortune telling is a challenge to the one true approach to life, and God takes it personally. He sees that as a lack of faith, a lack of trust, a lack of love. If we love and trust and believe God, then we wonít need these things. We wonít resort to these things. We will instead pour over the word of God, trust God, place ourselves under His will, and seek to follow Him. He assures us, in passages like Romans chapter 8, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" In fact, Romans 8 says that God will work things out for our good. Therefore, if we will love Him and are called according to His purpose, then life will be successful even though we will go through adversity. But I Corinthians 10:13 says we wonít go through so much that we canít bear it.
So, here is Joseph. Heís been in prison no telling how many years and, before that, enslaved. Pharaoh has these dreams and he begins to summon all these individuals out of his empire. They canít help him. They canít tell him what this dream means. Then the cup bearer, the butler who had been reinstated two years earlier in Pharaohís court, says, "Oh, I have been remiss. There was a fellow in prison a couple of years ago who interpreted my dream and the bakerís dream and both of those dreams came true." Pharaoh said to him, "You go retrieve Joseph from prison. You get him out here." So they went to the prison system to retrieve Joseph. To show you something of prison conditions in those days, they had to give him a shave, clean him up, and put new clothes on him. When they did so, they brought him out of this prison. By the way, the prisons then were what we would call dungeons--harsh, cold, rugged conditions--not anything like the prison systems of our day with color TVís and air conditioning.
So they brought him out of prison and they stood him before this great Egyptian monarch. Pharaoh said, "I understand that you can help me." Joseph, so true to what weíve already seen about his personality and his approach to life said, "There is a God". The Egyptians believed in many gods. But Joseph made clear to that Egyptian monarch that there is a single God. He is the God of the universe who is able to truly deal in such matters as dreams. Joseph then proceeded to explain to Pharaoh that he had a two-part dream, one involving fat and lean cows and one involving heads of grain that were bountiful and others that were very thin. He said here are two parts but they are really saying the same thing. The reason itís done twice is because God wants you to know this is certain, itís from God. This is for real and is going to happen.
He said now hereís what this dream means. For the next seven years, Egypt is going to experience unparalleled agricultural prosperity. Itís going to be bountiful. The ground is going to produce sumptuously. But at the end of that seven year period of productivity, there will be a seven year period of famine and deprivation. It will be so severe that those who lived during the first seven years of agricultural prosperity will forget all about that, because the seven period of hardship and famine will be great indeed. Joseph said now what you should do, Pharaoh, is appoint someone who will mobilize the nation during the first seven years to stock pile all the agricultural surplus in order to prepare the nation, the empire, for those seven years of lean famine. Pharaoh said, "Well, who would be a better man for that job than this one in whom the spirit of God resides?" He took this foreigner, this Hebrew, who had been a slave and then a prison convict, and elevated him to essentially the top political post of the Egyptian empire. We would call him the Prime Minister or the Governor of Egypt. Pharaoh said, "You will be second to me only in matters directly related to the throne. I am not relinquishing the throne, but I am putting you in charge of the empire. You are to mobilize this entire nation to accomplish these purposes." He placed upon Joseph a gold chain around his neck and dressed him in royal robes. Pharaoh took off of his own hand the royal signet ring. Thatís the ring that would be used to authenticate documents, send them forth with all the authority of the throne behind them, governmental decrees. He took that ring off of his own hand and placed it on Josephís hand. He placed Joseph in the second chariot. Thatís the one that is just behind Pharaoh himself. Not bad for this young man who has been through so much.
At this point in our story, Joseph is thirty years old. He left home as a teenager. Heís been through heartache and trauma. Life has left its scars on him. If you donít think so, notice what happens during the seven year period of plenty. He meets and marries an Egyptian girl. They have two children born to that union, two boys. The first child he names Manasseh. Do you know Manasseh means one who causes to forget. Why would you call your child, your first born son, forgetting? The text indicates that he named his son that because God was allowing him now, at this point in his life, to begin to forget the hardship that he had been through, and to forget his fatherís house. That tells me that this young man had been haunted all these years by memories of Dad and home. It traumatized him to be dragged away from his home and that haunted him and bothered him. But now he had reached a point in life where he is able to begin to forget some of this torment and toil and suffering as well as memories of home. So much so that he names his first born son Forgetting. They have a second boy that he names Ephraim, which means productive or fruitful. He says "Godís allowing me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction". Isnít that interesting? Here he is high up in the Egyptian government, can have anything he wants, but he calls it the land of his affliction. Joseph had been knocked around by the hard knocks of life. He had been scarred emotionally. Yet he had stayed faithful to God.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve