GENESIS 50:15-21

AUGUST 2, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)


            There is an old Chinese story about a farmer who had a horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

            A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"

            Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off the horse and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

            A couple of weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

            Luck. Did you know that the word "luck" never appears anywhere in the scriptures? Thats rather odd since it was a popular concept in the ancient world. Pagans were always ascribing things to the Fates, those women who sat at their spinning wheel in the heavens and, when their thread broke, so did the lives of some mortals here on earth. Our lives, said Homer, are mere playthings of the gods. It is all a matter of luck, fate, chance.

            Joseph, Jacobs son, Abrahams great-grandson, did not believe in luck, and by the way, Joseph is the fifth essential in our Old Testament Essentials sermon series. Weve looked at creation, the fall, Abraham, Abrahams kids and grandkids, and now we turn to Joseph. Open your bibles to Genesis 50:15 on page 42, and lets take a measure of this man.


            Realizing that their father was dead, Josephs brothers said, What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?


            Not everyone here this morning may know what the brothers had done to him. Unless you went to Sunday School as a child or unless you saw the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about Joseph and his technicolor dream coat, you may not know the story. Joseph had been his father's favorite son. That rankled his brothers, especially given the fact that Joseph threw that favoritism in their faces from time to time, which resulted in his fed-up siblings selling him into slavery.

            The slave traders sold Joseph to an Egyptian, to a man named Potiphar, the head of Pharaoh's security force. Joseph did well, under the circumstances, eventually being placed in charge of Potiphar's entire household, an incredible honor for a slave. But Potiphar's wife tried to seduce the young Joseph, and when he refused her advances, she yelled, Rape!  This could be soap opera stuff, but its not.  Its just the Book of Genesis being the Book of Genesis.

            Joseph ends up in prison, but he quickly lands on his feet gaining the respect of fellow prisoners and guards. Eventually two of the Pharaoh's servants find themselves behind the same bars where they all become friends, a scenario that would eventually lead to Joseph's release.

            To make a long story short, the Pharaoh became aware of Joseph, liked Josephs talent for interpreting dreams, and made him the Prime Minister of Egypt. Not bad for a bratty kid who had been sold into slavery by his brothers!

            Meanwhile back at the ranch, a famine settles on the region and Jacob, Josephs father, tells his sons to go to Egypt to buy some grain. They do and in the process meet Joseph only they do not know it is Joseph. Finally, Joseph reveals his true identity. The brothers are shocked and rightly scared - payback time! But Joseph does not do that. He welcomes them and the family relocates from Canaan to Egypt, where Joseph is highly connected, and they live in peace for a number of years, and then Jacob dies and Josephs brothers fear the worst. They fear that Joseph had been kind to them only because their father was alive, but with the death of their father all bets were off.  Verse 16


            So they approached Joseph saying, Your father gave this instruction before he died, Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.  Now there please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.


            Before we move on, I want to take a vote.  I want you to weigh in on something.  How many of you think their father actually said that and how many think the brothers made this up in order to save their own bacon?  How many of you think Jacob told Joseph via his brothers that Joseph was supposed to forgive the crime? How many think they made this up to save their bacon?  I dont have a clue which it was. Id like to think Jacob actually said this, but one cannot be sure.  Lets continue reading.


            Joseph wept when when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, We are here as your slaves. But Joseph said to them, Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones. In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.


            Two big thoughts from Joseph. First, there is no such thing as luck but there is such a thing called the providence of God.

          Augustine described it this way: when you first consider your life, it looks like nothing but a bunch of chicken tracks in the mud of a barnyard, going this way and that. But through the eyes of faith, we begin to discern pattern, meaning, direction. Providence. As Joseph reminded his brothers … “You meant it to harm me, but God used it for good.

            The word providence comes from two words: the word pro meaning "before," and the word video meaning, "to see." Also, note the word provide in the word providence. The providence of God, then, simply means that God sees every event before it occurs, and provides for that event and makes sure that it fits into Gods plan.

            The Apostle Paul put it this way in his Letter to the Romans (8:28).  He wrote, "We know that all things (that includes even terrible things) work together for good for those who love God and who are called according to God's purpose.

            When James Merritt was a little boy he would watch his mother bake cakes.[1] He said that nobody in the world could make a better chocolate cake than his mother. He also said that not all the ingredients that she put in the cake are all that tasty by themselves. For example, does any one here like to eat flour, just plain flour? Anybody here like to make a meal of baking powder? How about raw eggs? Any of those things by themselves are not all that tasty.

            But she would take those ingredients, mix them together, put them in the oven and out would come the greatest chocolate cake in the world.

            He said, It is not what goes into the bowl that matters, it is what comes out of the oven that counts. Now we are not always going to enjoy the ingredients that God allows into the recipe of our lives, but when God has finished baking it, we will have a "Romans 8:28 cake," and the taste will be unbelievable.

            In light of all this we might want to eliminate wishing people Good luck when we say farewell to them. I think it would be better to simply say "Goodbye" which we may have forgotten is simple shorthand for "God be with you. It's a way of reminding ourselves of God's presence and providence in our lives.  I think Joseph would like that.  If Joseph ever heard us say Good luck, to one another I think Joseph would look at us like we were from another planet. He would say, Theres no such thing as luck, but there is something called the providence of God.  You intended it for harm, but God used it for good.

            So thats big thought number one from Joseph the providence of God. Now for big thought number two from Josephs life A forgiving person is an incredibly attractive person.[2]

            I dont recall where I saw the sign. Wherever it was it read, "To err is human; to forgive is not our policy." For many, even those in Christ, forgiveness does not appear to be "our policy." Our policy is to hold a grudge or break off relations with the offender or seek revenge.

            Probably, it is not our policy to forgive because it is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult thing to do. One woman wrote Ann Landers: "I havent spoken to my brothers wife in seven years. It would take the whole newspaper to tell you the entire story, so Ill just say she did me unbelievable dirt and I have never been able to forgive her."

            I bet it was tough for Joseph to forgive his brothers. Selling him into slavery is not something you get over in a day or two, or even a year or two or even ever. So why did Joseph do it? Did he do it because he was a much bigger person than most of here this morning? Or did he do it because he was much more in touch with God than we happen to be?

            One day Leonardo da Vinci had an argument with a man. He lashed out against the guy with bitter words and threatening gestures. When the argument was over, Leonardo went back to his canvas where he was working on the face of Jesus. He could not make one stroke. At last he realized what the trouble was. He put down his brush and made peace with the man. Then he returned to his studio and calmly resumed his painting.

            What was it again that Jesus said on the cross?  Was it something like Father forgive them?  Forgiveness is the way of Jesus and it is a particularly attractive characteristic.

            Lets stand and sing and prepare to come to the Lords table.  Amen.







[1] From James Merritt message What to Do When You Are Having a Bad Hair Day!

[2] This section adapted from Forgive to Be Forgiven, a sermon by John Brokhoff.