Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lessons from the Life of Joseph

Pastor Brad will be back Tuesday evening, so Chuck greeted us and led the service today. Our guest speaker was Pastor David Eaton, a chaplain and Covenant pastor who has been with us before and becoming a friend of the New Life Covenant family.

1) Gwen shared II Peter 3:18 with us as an intro to her theme about Sunday School. We're called to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." GROW as an acronym means
God's Word

2) Cheryl B. noted that our community of believers sent 28 kids to camp this year, a real achievement and a life changing experience for many.

While Darlene played Worthy of Worship, Chuck read Psalm 29, which in itself is rich, but especially enhanced against the backdrop of Darlene's accompaniment. After a time of worship, Chuck and Gwen sang a duet during the offering.

Our Scripture reading was from Romans 9:1-5. After a time of prayer, Gwen took the pulpit to minister in song, sharing with us The Solid Rock.

David Eaton then stepped up to deliver the message.

Lessons from the Life of Joseph

Pastor Eaton shared how much he enjoys the stories from the Old Testament, and that today he would be bringing us way back to one of its earliest books, the Book of Genesis. He then challenged us with a series of questions beginning with, "Do you believe God is good? Do you believe God is good in every situation?"

Our response is often filtered through our own experience and we often re-phrase this. "Is God good for me?" We also ask other questions like, "How could you let this happen to me?"

How do we handle it when life treats us unfairly? The variety of ways we can be wounded are innumerable. Terrible things can happen to people. How do we deal with it? Pastor Eaton noted that, "It's all about grace."

At this point he interjected the conclusion of his sermon, Genesis 50:20, noting that it's all about perspective. Joseph, speaking to his brothers, said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

The story of Joseph is a familiar one. He was the "golden boy" of the Jacob's twelve sons. The first ten were born three of Jacob's wives while his favorite wife remained barren. Eventually she gave him two sons, Joseph the first. And Jacob was elated. Joseph got special treatment, not the least of which was the coat of many colors his father bestowed upon him. All this caused a jealousy to fester between he and his brothers. This is the background for today's sermon, and the rest of the story.

Grace Unknown

In Genesis 37 Joseph tells his brothers about a dream he had.

5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

This and a subsequent dream caused the brothers' jealousy and rage shoot through the roof. Some of the brothers were so angry they actually wanted to kill him, but Reuben prevailed and instead they sold him into slavery, faking his death so that their father believed he'd been eaten by a wild animal.

God's hand was on Joseph, and while in the service of Potiphar, a land owner in Egypt, good things happened for Potiphar and Joseph's value increased. Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife took a hankering for Joseph. When he refused her advances, she told her husband he was putting the moves on her, attempted to violate her, and Joseph was unjustly sent to prison.

But even in prison it was apparent that God was with him, and as time crept forward, Joseph eventually was able to assist in the interpretation of the king's dream. This giftedness led to his ultimate release, after the longest time, to become 2nd in command in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the brothers may have been free of Joseph's dreamings, but they were in no way free of the guilt over what they had done to him. As "luck" would have it, a drought forced Jacob to send his sons to Egypt for food in a time of need.

In Genesis 42 the brothers show up in Egypt to get food for Canaan and it is Joseph to whom they must apply for assistance. Though he recognizes them immediately, they do not recognize him. And since he has been talking with them through an imterpreter, they do not realize he can understand them when they lament over their guilt from their behavior years earlier.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

They had done wrong and they knew it, but they did not have the power in themselves to fix it.

Grace Extended

In Genesis 45 Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers and extends his grace to them. The revelation must have been an incredible moment, as they undoubtedly never expected to see Joseph again. Though they deserved harsh justice, they received from their brother mercy.

So it is with us. God loves us. Regardless of our checkered past, His grace is extended to all.

Grace Received

Perhaps the most incredible insight from today's message comes from this passage in Genesis 50:15...

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”

It's 17 years later and even though Joseph had forgiven them long ago, they still lived in fear of him. When Jacob died, the brothers connived a plan to make sure they would be safe. They did not understand that Joseph had extended mercy and it was not based on anything but love for them.

The brothers had presumed that Joseph was being kind to them out of deference for Jacob. Jacob was a safety net. Once the net was gone, their old fears returned. Now, they believed, Joseph would do what he's always wanted to do. They still did not understand the extent of his grace and unconditional mercy.

So it is with God, who loves us and desires that we accept -- fully -- His unconditional mercy.

Pastor Eaton said that throughout his life experience, especially in chaplaincy, he has encountered people who believe in God but still do not believe and receive his grace. I you are one of these, in that space between believing and receiving, the time to settle it is now.

Top right: David and Shawnee Eaton

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