So, this will be the best four hours of your life. So, I’m not gonna put it up on the screen this morning just because it would take an incredibly long amount of time to click through it all. So, if you brought your Bible, you can just follow along. And go to Chapter 40 of Genesis as we continue our one year study of the great Book. And if you don’t have a Bible, that’s okay. I’ll just read and do a lot of reading today. And you can just listen and follow along. So, I’ll go ahead and pray, and we will just – we’ll get right to work. I need some water.
Father, God, thank you for a good opportunity to get together and to study today. God, as we look at the life of our brother, Joseph. He lived 4,000 years ago. And God, because of that, it sometimes is hard to correlate his life to ours, and his culture to our culture, and his experience to our experience. We ask for wisdom today, God, so that we could do just that, so that our brother wouldn’t seem like his life was remote and distant, but that in fact, it was very much similar to ours, and that the place in which he lived was very similar to our city.
That the things you called him to be and do are the same things that you would call us to be and do. And God, may we learn from his example. May we serve as he served. God, may you honor and bless us as you did him. And may we see a change in people’s lives as he got to see. And so, Holy Spirit, we ask you to come and to live and dwell in each of us, to lead us and to guide us and instruct us and convict us so that when all is said and done, we would be better worshipers of our Jesus Christ. It’s in his name that we pray, amen.
As we get into it today, we’re gonna get into the better part of two chapters of Genesis. And you’re gonna spend some time getting to know a man named Joseph. He predominates in the last 13 – 12 of the last 13 chapters of the Book of Genesis. And my fear is that we’re looking at a guy who lived 4,000 years ago in Egypt, and here we sit 4,000 years later in Seattle. And the question is what does that have to do with us?
So, what I’m gonna try and do for you is to connect Joseph and you, and to connect Egypt and the United States of America so that you see that our circumstances really aren’t that different from his. And then we’ll jump into the text. So, here we sit this morning on planet Earth. I hope you’re enjoying it. It’s a good planet. And we looked in Genesis. It was a gift that God gave us, so I hope you’re enjoying the gift. And if you look at the Earth, the nice planet we got – better than all of our options. Of all the nations on the Earth, the most powerful nation on the Earth is the United States of America. It is the dominant force on the Earth for better or for worse. We lead the world financially, in so far as military is concerned, and such.
If you look at the country, we’re way up in the left-hand corner, and it’s nice cause they leave us alone up there. And we find ourselves up in the corner in the great state of Washington. And if you were to draw a circle around four or five states including our own that are in the Pacific Northwest, we are the city. We’re the premier city. And so much of culture and politics emanates from this city. And this city in many ways sets the pace for the whole region, and in some ways, for the whole country.
They all drink our coffee, buy the books from Amazon.com, use our software, listen to our bands, and hate our politicians. So, that’s how we influence the world from the left coast. And it’s interesting because in the Puget Sound area, there’s about 1.7 million people. Many of them – many of you reside in the city of Seattle proper. And some things about the city are peculiar. And how many of you have woken up and said, “What in the world am I doing here? You know, of all the places on the Earth that I could possibly be, what in the world am I doing here?”
God says in Acts 17 that he determines the times and places in which we live; that God has us all here. And we’re gonna see that in the life of Joseph. God had him in Egypt, a place that I’m sure there were days he woke up and said, “What in the world am I doing here?” Here are some reasons why Seattle is perhaps an awkward place for you to be and a hard place for you to be. First of all, it’s just expensive. It’s crazy expensive. For the second year in a row, Forbes Magazine has recently decided that we are America’s most overpriced city. So, congratulations. You’re number one. You get ripped off worse than anyone else in the United States of America. It’s really expensive to live here.
Like how many of you have tried to buy a home, for example, and found the housing market to be absolutely insane? The market is increasing in most parts of the city at a percent a month. What that means is if you own a $500,000.00 house, every month you own it, you make another $5,000.00, all right. That’s unbelievable. The real estate market is insane. There’s not enough demand. Cost is high. The city’s overpriced. It’s a hard place to live financially.
Some of you are having a hard time getting your feet into the real estate market because it’s so expensive. You go to your realtor. They say, “How much can you prequalify for?” You say, “$300,000.00,” and they chuckle. They say, “Oh, that’s so cute. You can get a nice SUV, and you could live in it.” And that’s all you’ve got, you know. You can’t buy a honey bucket for $300,000.00. You can’t – you know, it’s expensive. The housing market is tight.
It’s also not a family friendly city. Many of you are married or wanting to get married, or are parents, or want to have kids. We have less children per capita under the age of five than any city other than San Francisco. We have more dogs than children. We do. And if you look at all the homes in Seattle, only one in five has anyone living in it under the age of 18. So, if you drive down the street, there’s a house – no kids. There’s a house – no kids. There’s a house – no kids. There’s a house. Ah, there’s probably a kid in there – at least one under the age of 18.
Yet two incomes, working together to continually buy bigger and bigger homes that they don’t live in cause they work 80 hours a week. And the dog lives in like a half a million dollar estate cause he’s the only one who’s there. Everyone else is working to pay for the house that they can’t afford at the job that they hate. And they can’t afford to get married and have kids because the debt to income ratio is so high. And the only winner in our economy is the dog. That’s the dog. The dog’s winning the economic shell game. And I’m wondering if they don’t have meetings while we’re all at work talking about how it’s so funny that we think that we are in charge.
And what also is weird about our city – and for some of you, it’s just peculiar – is that it’s just not Christian. We are the least churched region of the Pacific Northwest in the United States of America. Additionally, there are less Christians in Seattle and Portland than any other cities in the country. This morning in Seattle 7% of people go to a Bible believing, Christian church – 7% – 7%, right? Seven percent? I mean that’s not a time. I mean in Bible believing, I mean Jesus is God. Hell is hot. Forever is a long time. With churches that believe those things – 7%.
I have a friend who’s a – he’s a statistician. And he guesses that it’s about the same in mainland China, which is a communist country. So, that’s not good. Seven percent go to a Christian church this morning. Between 1990 and the year 2000, in that decade that we started this church – we started in 1996 – the fall of 1996. In that decade, 134 new churches were started in Seattle, which sounds great until you realize that it would have taken 456 churches being started just to keep up with population growth.
So, the church – the city is non-Christian, and it’s not making good headway. There’s room for improvement. There is indeed a great need. A lot of churches are more liberal. And the average church in Seattle is between 90 and 100 people, depending upon whose stats you believe. And that’s not a big movement or force.
But the weird thing is that Seattle is not a city that is marked by atheists. Everybody’s spiritual. Everybody believes in God, prayer, angels, life after death. All of it, that’s what people believe. And so it’s very peculiar. The other thing that’s peculiar about our great city is that in spite of its peculiarity, in spite of the fact that it is entirely run by dogs, and despite the fact that it is incredibly expensive, people are moving here like crazy, which is peculiar.
Between the year 1995 and the year 2000, there was a mass migration into the city of creative, educated young people between the ages of 25 and 34. From 1995 to the year 2000, 27,000 people – mainly young, single, educated, arty, cool, chain smoking, play guitar, welcome to Mars Hill people moved to the city of Seattle. How many of you are between the ages of 25 and 34-ish, and you’ve moved here in the last five or ten years? Okay, welcome. You’ve killed our real estate market. What are you doing? Say hi to your dog for us.
That’s Seattle, okay. And how many of you wake up and you’re going, “What am I doing here? This place stinks. It’s not a good place to get married, not a good place to raise kids. You can’t afford to buy a house. It’s not Christian.” You know, you may be the only Christian on your block, in your dorm, in your apartment, in your family, at your place of work. You say, “What am I doing here?”
Now I want to take your life here in the most powerful nation on the Earth and in a non-Christian culture, and I want to show you that the man we’re studying today, Joseph, and his life is really not all that different from yours. And what God would have him to do is the same thing that God would have us to do. Here are the parallels. First of all, Joseph is a young man.
We will look today at his life between the ages of 17 and 30, okay. How many of you are between 17 and 30? Okay, well, almost all of you. That’s Seattle. Everyone with any wisdom left. So, all of us are left here. How many of you are single? You’re not married? Okay, look at that. Over half of this church is single. Most churches our size, 20% of the church is single. Our church – over half of the church is single. Joseph is single, okay. So, he’s young. He’s single. He’s living in the most powerful nation on the Earth in his day. That’s Egypt. We’re living in America – the most powerful nation on the Earth in our day.
He’s living in a non-Christian city that’s very, very spiritual, much like ours. He’s dealing with a culture that’s very affluent, financially successful. Business is booming. People are doing very, very well like ours. He’s far away from his family. And he is a poor guy with a crummy job who’s a nobody. So, there you are. You’re right there in the Bible. That’s where – there you are.
And in Egypt, this nation is so powerful that it was the most powerful nation on the Earth for 1,300 years – more than the Greek and Roman empires combined. And here comes Joseph, the only Christian in the whole country – young guy, virgin, broke, homeless. He’s a slave. He’s away from his mom and dad. He’s off in the big non-Christian sinning. It’s very expensive. It’s very spiritual. It’s not very Christian. The question is what is he gonna do?
And I want you and I to read it, asking, “Okay, God determines the times and places in which we all live?” God put Joseph in Egypt them. God put us in the U.S. and in Seattle today. And Joseph was faithful. What can we learn from his life examples so we can be faithful here today?
So, the story starts in Genesis 40:1. “Some time later,” – some time later is Joseph has been in prison for the previous chapter. He worked for a wealthy man named Potiphar. He was – Joseph’s a good looking guy. Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with him, kept pushing the issue. He kept pushing the issue. He kept saying, “No.” She was married. He loved God. He kept saying no. She falsely accused him of rape, and the husband had him thrown in prison. He’s now a guy wasting away his 20’s – the best years of his life – in jail.
And he’s sitting there for some years. So, “Some time or some years later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.” Okay. The Pharaoh is the ruler. He’s the king. He’s the most important and powerful man in the nation of Egypt. And these are two of his employees. He’s got a staff. One is the baker, and the other is the guy who oversees his wine – the cupbearer. What a job. You bake things or drink wine. That’s a win-win as far as career choices go. That’s a win. I bake baked goods. I drink wine. I could flip a coin and take either job.
You know, the wine guy’s, I think, got the best job. He samples all the king’s wines and then makes sure it’s the best wine. And then he gives it to the king. He’s also the man who tests to make sure that it hasn’t been poisoned though. There’s only one way you know if it’s been poisoned, and usually it’s too late by the time you figured it out. So, he would drink it. If it tasted good and he didn’t die, then the king would get a glass. So, this is a trustworthy man.
And the baker as well – he’s the one who puts food in the mouth of the king. And this guy puts drink in the mouth of the king. So, these are trustworthy men – very affluent jobs; very important jobs. But, “Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined.” So, he gets angry at them, and he throws them in jail. We don’t know why. I don’t know why. Maybe the baker was trying to get him on a low carb diet, as it were – tried to do Atkins or something. And maybe, you know, the wine guy slipped in a three buck chuck from Trader Joe’s, and he’s just – no cookies and cheap wine. You’re going to jail. Somebody’s gotta die. I think that’s what happened.
“The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.” Now Joseph is in prison, and he does such a good job that they put him in charge of the prison. Like I said last week, you know that you have character when you’re in jail and they give you your own keys, all right. You know that you have character, right? Joseph is in jail and he is running the jail. And so now the king – the Pharaoh’s two servants – come in. They’re under Joseph’s leadership. They’re under his jurisdiction. This is God’ providential hand getting Joseph one step away from the king.
“After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men – the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison – had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces so sad today?’ ‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’”
Here’s the issue. These non-Christian men have a dream from God. They’re perplexed because they can’t interpret the dream. They don’t know what it means. God could have just given them the interpretation, but he chose not to because he wanted them to go to Joseph, the Christian, and he wanted Joseph, the Christian, to do it. This is a miraculous supernatural ability that God’s gonna give Joseph. We believe this. We believe that God can work through angels, dreams, miracles. God is a supernatural God. God does whatever God wants. There have only been a few occasions in my life where I’ve had some prophetic dreams that come true. And usually in those dreams, God speaks to me and tells me the future and what’s gonna happen, and so that’s the way it works.
And there’s only been a few occasions where I’ve ever interpreted anybody else’s dream. And I’ll say this. Not all dreams are from God. Some of them are from chili or Taco Bell or, you know. You say, “I had pepperoni pizza, and I saw Jesus.” No, no, you had gas. You just had gas and you were hallucinating. You know, you’ll be fine. Not all dreams are from God, okay. But when you do get a dream from God, it needs to be interpreted so you know what it means unless God would give you the interpretation himself.
I had one occasion where I actually did interpret a guy’s dream. It was the strangest dream. It was at the old building. We had six services, and I was between services. And this guy drove – he came into the church. And he was an Asian guy from Canada. He had his wife and a few kids. They all looked very, very tired. He came up to me. He said, “I really need to meet with you right now.” I said, “Man, I just preached three. I gotta get a bite to eat. I gotta preach three more. I really can’t leave right now.” He said, “No, we just drove all the way from northern Canada. We haven’t slept all night.” Apparently God’s not in Canada. God has to come down.
So, I tell this guy. I’m like, “All right, cool. We’ll do that. Now tell me your story.” So, he tells me his dream. And his wife’s literally falling asleep. His kids are exhausted. They’ve been up all night driving. It was the weirdest thing cause I don’t know how or why. I just told him. “Well, here’s what it means, and here’s what God’s gonna do. And you need to quit working at this church. God’s gonna have you hired at this church. And these people are hard hearted. And God doesn’t want you to serve them anymore because he’s gonna judge them, but he wants to take care of you and your family. So he wants to move you on before he judges.”
And I just talked for about 10, 15 minutes. And he’s like, “How do you know that?” I was like, “I have no idea.” I never met this guy. I don’t know this guy. I don’t know anything about him. And he says, “Well, then that’s the interpretation.” His wife gave me a big hug. She’s crying. She says, “You know, that’s what we needed to hear.” They get in the car and leave. They go back to Canada. I never heard from them again.
And it’s weird because some of you, there’s time when God speaks through you, or reveals something to you, or you interpret a dream. You go, “I don’t know. I don’t understand. But apparently God loves you, and he wanted to say something to you. And apparently he used me in that moment to talk to you.” That’s what Joseph is doing. Joseph says, “You’ve had a dream. It’s from God. You don’t know God, but I do. So, why don’t you tell me the dream? I’ll ask God. He’ll tell me the meaning, and I’ll serve as sort of a mediator and a go between between you and God here. You tell me the dream. I’ll ask him. I’ll tell you the meaning cause only God knows the meaning cause God’s the one who gave the dream.”
The story goes on. “So the chief cupbearer,” – verse 9 – “told Joseph his dream,” – chapter 40, verse 9. “He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him.” Here’s the interpretation.
“‘The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.’”
Here’s what he says. “Three days, it’s the Pharaoh’s birthday. He’s gonna let you out of jail. He’s gonna give you your job back. Everything’s gonna be great. Hey, my name’s Joseph. Don’t forget me. My brothers sold me into slavery. Potiphar’s wife says I raped her. I didn’t. I’ve been sitting in jail for years wasting away. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’ve helped you. You help me. Get me out of jail.”
Okay. Now how many of you, it’s easy to speak the truth when it’s good news. Somebody comes up and says, “I did a terrible thing. Can God ever forgive me?” “Oh, I have good news. He can. I have good news for you. He can forgive you.” Okay. How many of you, it’s really hard to tell the truth though when it’s really bad news? He’s now got bad news to tell. Read the next thing he has to say.
Verse 16, “When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation,” – right? Here’s the baker. “Oh, you go first. You know, you’re the wine guy. You go first. Oh, look. Joseph said nice things to him. Hey, Joseph, since you’re saying nice things, how about you tell me about my dream?” How many people – you know, you know somebody like this? You’re a Christian. You’ve got some non-Christian friends. One non-Christian fried comes to you. You say something nice. Then the other non-Christian friends say, “Hey, tell us something nice too.” You say, “I’ll tell you the truth.”
Now the third day was Pharaoh’s – okay, here it is. No, no, no. “When the chief baker,” – verse 16 – “saw that Joseph had given him a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.’” He’s carrying bread on the top of his head on baskets. “‘In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’ ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head,’” – that’s different than lifting up – “‘and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’” Bummer for you. You’re gonna get slaughtered at a birthday party. Pharaoh’s birthday present is gonna be to murder you and hang you, and birds will eat your flesh. That’s the truth.
Here’s my first question. How are you doing at telling the truth? See, this is one of the hardest parts of Christianity. There are certain parts of the Bible that everybody loves. People come. You say, “You know what? God loves you. God will forgive you. God wants to help you. God wants to be there for you. God wants to be with you forever. God is willing to embrace even the worst among us if we repent and have faith in Jesus. And I have good news.” And people go, “Man, I love that.” You say, “Yeah, but if you don’t, you’re gonna go to hell. It’s hot. It’s forever. It’s awful. You’re an enemy of God. He’ll crush you. You’re a sinner. You’re not a good person.” They say, “Tell me the good stuff; not the bad stuff.”
And that’s what a false prophet does. A false prophet only tells good news; never any bad news. Can you imagine how bad it is for Joseph to tell this guy? Imagine you’re in jail. You’re the only Christian. You’re running the Bible study. A guy comes up to you. “Joseph, does God have anything to say to me?” “Oh, yeah. You’re dead. You’re gonna get hung, and the birds are gonna eat your flesh. Amen, brother.” “What can I do about that?” “Nothing. That’s the way it’s gonna go – three days. Three days, you’re a dead man.”
Okay. Can you imagine the awkwardness in the relationship for the next three days? Joseph walks by, “How you doing?” “Not so good. I’m gonna get hung in a couple of days, and the birds are gonna eat my flesh. Not so good.” Okay. How many of you, you do find telling the truth when it’s good news? You really struggle telling the truth when it’s hard news, bad news.
I dealt with a couple recently. I looked at them both. I said, “Unless you both agree to do what Jesus tells you to do, you’ll be divorced by the end of the year, period. That’s the way it is. Because you’re doing what you want to do. You’re doing what you want to do. You’re both wrong. I need you both to do what God wants you to do. If you don’t do what God wants you to do, you’ll just – you’re gonna ruin your life. That’s the way it is.”
Somebody came up to me not too long ago. They said, “I’m not a Christian. I don’t love God. If I die, what happens?” “You go to hell. You go to hell.” “Really? Real hell?” “Yeah, real hell – the hot, stinky, bad hell.” “Really?” “Yes.” “Well, that stinks.” “Yes, it does stink.” “So, if I don’t love Jesus, if I don’t get rid of my sin, I’ll go to hell?” “Yeah, you’ll go to hell.” “I didn’t want to hear that.” “Well, I love you. I’m not trying to be mean or arrogant. I’m just telling you that’s the way it is, you know.” And the first thing you gotta learn when you’re in a non-Christian place surrounded with non-Christians – everybody wants you to say something nice. You gotta say what’s true.
Now do you think Joseph, at this point, could have had something in the back of his mind like, “I’ve already got enough trouble. I’m in jail in Egypt. I don’t want conflict. I just want to be left alone. I just don’t want to fight. I don’t want to argue. I don’t want people not to like me. We’re in jail. It’s not like I can avoid this guy. We’re in jail. I can’t leave. I can’t get away. I can’t be left alone.”
How many of you right now there are people in your life that you need to tell the truth to, and you just haven’t said it because you know that it’s bad news, and they don’t want to hear it, and you know it’s gonna be a mess? It’s gonna make life harder, worse, uncomfortable. You’re gonna lose a friendship. Some of you have already lost friendships. Somebody comes up and says, “You know, here’s what I’m doing. What do you think?” You say, “I think it’s wrong.” They say, “Oh, well, that’s – it’s just bad news. I don’t want to listen to you.”
Okay. Now the first thing we learn from Joseph. If you are one of the few Christians in a place that’s not filled with Christians, you need to lovingly tell the truth – both the good and the bad news. You just need to tell the truth. I’m gonna keep reading and see what else we learn from his life.
“Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday.” He’s the only guy in the Bible who celebrates his birthday. It doesn’t mean it’s a sin to celebrate your birthday. Just don’t celebrate it like this. “And he gave a feast for all his officials,” – big, huge birthday party. “He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials,” all right. “Lift up your head. Lift up your head. You get your job back. You are dead.” All right, you know you’re foul tempered when you murder someone at your birthday. No cupcakes, and you’re murdering the baker, all right. He’s just made you the cake. “I made you a birthday cake.” “I made you a noose. It’s so nice we trade gifts like that.”
“He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the present of the officials. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”
My second question – do you suffer well? Do you suffer well? Poor – you know, Joseph really, his life at this point could be marked just by the word suffering. His brothers hated him; sold him into slavery. They were gonna kill him. They decided not to; sold him into slavery to some Ishmaelites who took him into this godless nation of Egypt where he was a slave – suffering as a slave; works his way up to have a very powerful position over a man, Potiphar’s house; gets wrongly accused of sexual misconduct; gets thrown into prison unjustly without a trial. And how long will Joseph be in prison?
About 13 years, if you do all the math through Genesis – 13 years. And he’s gonna miss the best years of his life – his 20’s. Your 20’s are good. Take it from a guy who was on the other side. The 20’s are good. You can eat carbohydrates. You can take your shirt off at the beach, you know. The 20’s are good. The 20’s are good. You have hair. It’s all the same color, and it’s on your head; not coming out of your ears. The 20’s are good. The 30’s, things go funky. By the 40’s, it’s over. I mean you’re just – oh, I can tell you. I’m almost at – I’m 34 – working on 35. And every day I look in the mirror. It’s like, oh, boy. This is not going so well.
You know, you’re in your 20’s, and he’s a good looking guy. This is where he could be out seeing ladies, getting married, making money. He could be, you know, doing Gap ads. He’s a good looking guy. And here’s what he says. He tells the cupbearer, “I helped you. You help me. I told you the dream’s interpretation. When you get out, tell the Pharaoh I’m innocent. I didn’t do anything. Get me a lawyer. Get me a public defender. You know, call the media. Get me out of here.”
The guy gets out; totally forgets him. “Oh, it’s so great to have my job back.” Never thinks of Joseph again. Meanwhile, Joseph is in prison suffering, but he suffers well, doesn’t he? See, some of you right now, you’re suffering. And your physical health – not good. Your finances – not good. Your relationships are strained. Somebody’s sinned against you. It’s a mess. It’s not good. You’re suffering. There is real suffering, and suffering is usually the result of sin. Somebody sinned against you. They hurt you. They raped you. They beat you. They molested you. They stole from you. They lied to you. They gossiped about you. And it’s really made life hard, and you’re suffering.
And what I love about Joseph, he suffers well. Now nobody wants to suffer. And nobody wants to suffer well. There’s no minor in college for suffering. People lining up like, “Oh, I want to be good at it, and I want to study. I want to get straight A’s in suffering so I can be a pro.” Nobody wants that. Suffering is what is put upon you. It’s never what you put upon yourself. Nobody wants hardship. Nobody wants suffering.
But here’s the truth. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that the rest of your life goes without difficulty or strife or hardship. Part of the Christian life is suffering, just like the Lord Jesus who suffered though he committed no sin. He was sinned against. Joseph suffers well. And here’s what we’re getting so far. Speak truthfully, and suffer well. Speak truthfully. Suffer well. And one of the reasons he’s forced to suffer is because he did tell the truth. Potiphar’s wife looks at him, says, “Let’s go to bed.” He said, “No, I love God, and you’re married, and that’s wrong.” That’s the truth. And she said, “Well, then, you go to jail.” He’s suffering because he told the truth.
You know, I’ve got a buddy who’s a pastor that got fired from a church because someone was stealing money, and they asked him, “Is someone stealing money?” He said, “Yeah, they’re stealing the money.” They said, “You’re fired.” He suffers. Did he do anything? No, he told the truth. Sometimes when you do tell the truth, you will suffer for it. But it’s better to suffer for the truth than to be seemingly blessed – you’re not really blessed – because of a lie.
He could have lied. He could have made his whole life a lie. He could have told this married woman, “Well, I’ll cut you a deal. You and I sleep together. I’ll sleep in the nice bed. And I’ll eat the good food. And I’ll have the fat job. And I’ll have sex with a troubled wife. And you don’t tell anybody. I won’t tell anybody. We’ll just keep it a little secret between you and me. We’ll live a life that is a lie.” Instead, he said, “No, I’m gonna tell the truth. The truth is I love God, and you’re married, and that’s wrong.”
Some of you will suffer because of the truth. Some of you will be at a job, and the boss will come in and say, “You know, I need you to lie about this and cover me.” Say, “I can’t lie. That’s wrong. I love God, and that’s wrong.” Someone in a relationship will say, “I need you to lie for me. I need you to cover me. I need you to say it like it’s not, but I need you to say it like it is. I need you to just once just lie.” Say, “No, I tell the truth. I tell the truth. I don’t lie. I’m sorry. I love you, but I just don’t lie.” I say, “Well, then you’re gonna suffer. I’m not gonna be your friend, or this is gonna hurt you too.”
You know, sometimes the hardest thing is to tell the truth when it incriminates us. “Did you steal?” “Yeah, I stole.” “Did you lie?” “Yeah, I lied.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I’m telling you the truth.” “Why in the world would you do that?” “Because I’m a Christian. I love God. That’s wrong. It’s wrong when I do it too.” Okay, he tells the truth, and he’s willing to suffer well for it. Keep reading the story. Forty-one, verse 1, “Two full years had passed.” Here he sits in jail for another two years. The cupbearer, he’s out having a great time.
“Pharaoh had a dream.” Here’s his dream. “He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt,” – like supermodels – “came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt,” – like the supermodels – “ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.”
“In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.’” “You’ll never guess what. I know this guy who interprets dreams. I told him I would help him – my bad.” “‘Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.’”
Okay. Here’s the third question. Do you wait patiently? Do you wait patiently? You know, again, this is a guy who spends 13 years of his life wasting away as a slave in a prison. He waits patiently. The end of his teens go by – gone. His 20’s go by – gone. He’s getting up to 30, waiting patiently; not cursing God; not angry; not bitter; not shaking his finger. God, I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’ve served you. I’ve obeyed you. I’ve done what you told me to do, and look where it’s gotten me. None of that. Joseph is tremendously convicted for all of us. We wait patiently – 13 years.
You know, some of you are saying, “I’m single. I want to be married. I’m married. We want to have kids. I’m working a dead end job. I want a break. My health is not good. I want my health restored. I’m living in squalor. I want a decent place. I feel like I have loved God. I feel like I have served God. It’s not that I’m without sin, but my life is not good, and I don’t know why God wouldn’t make it better.” Joseph doesn’t have those kinds of conversations, at least that we are aware of. He just waits patiently year after year after year after year.
And in the meantime, he’s not lazy. He does everything he can to get free. He works hard to where he’s running the jail. He tells the cupbearer, “When you get out, help me. Get me out of here.” It is not some fatalism. It is not like some of us who say, “Well, I’m not gonna do anything. I’m just gonna wait for God to provide.” If you need a job, apply and interview and beat the street. And if you want to get married, walk with God and put yourself in the way of good people that you might be able to get to know. If your health is not good, obey your doctor. You know, watch your weight. Watch what you eat. Exercise. Take your vitamins. Do what you’re told to do. Do everything you can do so that your life is good.
But if your life goes bad, wait patiently. Just wait patiently. And I know I’m not supposed to say this because we are a culture that is marked by impatience, all right. We cuss at the microwave cause the popcorn isn’t popping fast enough, right, right? We’re driving 60, laying on the horn cause the jackelope in front of us is not going 95 like he’s supposed to. What’s wrong with that guy? You know, we are not a patient culture at all. We are a people who want to get rich now, get skinny now. Eat right now.
You know, that’s why now even digital cable is so fast, you know, but it’s so weird because I am yelling at the digital cable cause it’s not fast enough, turning channels. And I record the programs cause I’m in such a hurry, I can’t watch the commercials. And they have three different speeds of fast forward, and it’s never fast enough, right? I mean it’s not just me. I’m like – my wife’s like, “What are you doing?” I said, “There’s three speeds on the fast forward.” She’s like, “Really?” I was like, “Yeah, they need a fifth gear. This needs to be like my jeep with six gears. It’s only three. This is like an old three on the tree. We need six.”
And this is the culture we live in. So to say wait patiently, people say, “I did. I waited patiently for ten minutes. I did.” Well, that’s not that patient, you know. I mean it’s not that patient. There’s two people in front of us at the ATM line, and we’re just spinning like tops, you know. We’ll drive to another bank. You know, we’re not patient people. Joseph – patient guy. Patience is fruit of the spirit. It is evidence of God’s work in your life – patience, patience. Joseph learns patience. He waits patiently. And now comes his shot. Pharaoh has a dream. He can’t interpret it. He brings in all the magicians and Oprah. Everybody gets a shot at the dream. Nobody knows what it means. Nobody knows.
How many of you, you know that the world we live in is very spiritual? There’s people that interpret dreams still. They’ll tell you your astrology. They’ll read your hand. They’ll predict your future. You know, and they’re very spiritual. They have spiritual power and insight. That’s these guys. These are professional spiritual consultants. But here’s the problem. They don’t know God. You can be spiritual and not know God. For some of you, that might be mind bending.
In the physical world, there are people that are trustworthy and people that are dangerous. In the spiritual world, there are spirits – angels – that are trustworthy. And there are spirits – spirit beings – that are dangerous. And just cause you’re spiritual, that means you’re involved in the spirit realm, that doesn’t mean you’re connected to God cause in the spirit realm is also Satan and demons. And you can have magic power, insight, but it may not necessarily be from God. You can have counterfeit signs, healing, wonders, miracles, Paul says, that comes from Satan. To deceive people into thinking that being spiritual is good enough.
At Mars Hill, we’re not about being spiritual. We’re about Jesus. That’s what we’re about. We want you to know God. And we love you. We don’t want you just to be spiritual. Say, “Well, I pray. And I see auras. And I have supernatural experiences. And I have dreams. And I have good karma.” No, do you know Jesus cause spirituality is just another word for demonism. And so all these guys, they’re demonically inspired with their power come in, and they can’t interpret the dream. Why? Because they don’t know God, and the dream came from God. And God will only reveal the meaning of the dream to one of his people; not to one of these guys.
And since Joseph is the only Christian in the whole country, they decide they’re gonna bring in Joseph. Where’s Joseph? Maybe he can help. He waited patiently. Had he denied God, he abandoned his faith? Had he cursed God out? Had he said, “That’s it. I’m not a Christian anymore. This just stinks. It’s not working.” He never would have got that opportunity. Because he waited patiently, finally God gave him an opportunity to serve. And he’s gonna make the most of it. That’s where we pick it up. Verse 14, chapter 41.
“So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.” Here’s Joseph. This guy hasn’t had a bath in a long time. This guy has not shaved in a long time. This guy has not had a haircut or wore decent clothes in a long time. He’s in a Egyptian jail. He stinks. He looks terrible. He’s not that good looking guy. He looks awful. He’s gaunt, crazy man looking beard, freakish looking hair. Bugs in his hair and his beard. He’s sleeping on the floor. He’s just dirty and filthy, just wearing rags. But now he’s gonna go meet the king, so they shave him up, give him a haircut, right. They clean him up, put new clothes on him. Now he looks like that handsome young man that he was before he went to jail. They bring him in to meet the king.
“Pharaoh said to Joseph,” – verse 15 – “‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’” I love his line. “I cannot do it.” “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’” This is that humility. Joseph comes before Pharaoh. Pharaoh says, “Can you help me?” Joseph says, “I can’t, but God can, so let’s ask him.” See, that’s the truth. Somebody comes to you and says, “I’ve made a mess of my life. Can you help me?” “You know what? God can. You really need God.” “And I’ve sinned grievously. I’ve made a wreck.” “You know what? You really need God.”
Now he’s taking a great risk here cause Pharaoh could look at him and say, “Oh, so you’re no help to me? Then go back to jail, or I’ll cut your head off too.” How would it be if the president of the United States called you, and you’re standing there on the other side of the desk. And he says, “I need your help.” You look at him. You say, “I can’t do a thing for you.” How many of you have the humility to say that? At that point, we just talk fast and make something up. “Well, the super high fadufinator that I have.” You know, we’re just making stuff up, you know. Making up words, concepts, just look confident, speak fast, use big words. It would probably fool him too, you know. It’s like he’ll go for it. I love him. Don’t send me an email.
But you know what I’m talking about. And I love this fact that he gets before Pharaoh, and he – here’s what he – Pharaoh says, “My issue is a dream.” And Joseph says, “No, here’s your issue – God.” Well, that’s a godly man. So you don’t know? The issue’s not this. The issue’s this. You don’t know God. I do. So maybe you tell me the dream, and I’ll ask God. And maybe God will tell me the answer. But if I get an answer, it’s from God.
At this point, who does Pharaoh think he is? God. Okay. This is conflict, all right. This is Bill Gates calls you into his office, says, “I need your help.” You say, “You know what you need? You need somebody smart – not like you.” He’s like, “Hey, nobody says that around here. I am smart.” You know, Pharaoh, “What you need is a God.” Pharaoh says, “I am a god.” I’m god, but apparently not a very good one – kind of an impotent God. It says God on his business card, but he has to ask a slave for help. That’s not a very good God.
Just so you know, if you pick a God and he needs your help, get another one, right? You got the wrong God, right? If your God says, “I can’t do anything without you. I can’t save anybody without you. I can’t heal anybody without you. I can’t do a thing without you. My hands are totally tied.” Huh? We’re all in trouble because that God is junior varsity – can’t do anything. Pharaoh is a junior varsity God. Everybody worships him as God. He walks down the street. Everybody bows down. “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.” Here’s what Joseph says. “You need a new God. You need the real God. Only he can help you.”
See, cause in Egypt, the way it worked. The Pharaoh is kind of – he’s the go between between the world of the gods – there were people who believed there were multiple gods – and the world of men. And Pharaoh was like a god man who connected the two. Joseph comes to him, and he says, “You know what? You’re just a guy. I know I’m a slave, but I’ll tell you the truth – a thing that nobody’s ever gonna tell you. You’re not that big of a deal. I know your nations rule the world. And I know it’s gonna stand for 1,300 years as the most prolific empire in the history of the world, but you don’t know God. You’re rich, powerful, famous, spiritual. You don’t know God. But God is willing to help you because he’s a good God, and he loves you. And he’s willing to help.”
I love this about Joseph. It goes on. How will Pharaoh respond to this? Verse 17, chapter 41. “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph,” – he just tells him the story – “‘In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up. In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.’”
Pharaoh’s humbled. He’s humbled by God. That’s my next question. My next question is do you serve the real God? You know what? That was a nation of millions of people. They all had a God – Pharaoh. And when they really needed him most, that God was absolutely insufficient, okay. And that’s the truth. If you have the wrong religion; if you have the wrong God; if you have the wrong spirituality, it works until you need it. Then it doesn’t work because when you really need God, the false god’s not that big can’t help you.
Like when you die, if you have the wrong God, that God does nothing for you then. If you’ve sinned grievously and you need forgiveness and help, look, there’s no God but Jesus that can do a thing for you. When you need God, if you have the wrong God, then you are in dire circumstances. That’s why in our city it’s just so popular to say, “Be spiritual. Be spiritual. Be spiritual.” No, that’s not enough when you need it. When you really need God; if you don’t have the right God; if you don’t have the real God; if you don’t have Jesus – let me just be plain. Jesus – if you don’t have Jesus, you’re in trouble. You have the wrong God.
You might be like Pharaoh saying, “Yeah, but I’m rich. And I’m powerful. And I’m successful. And I’m smart. And everyone looks up to me. Life is going very, very well.” There will be a day, if there not already is a day, that you really need the real God. And if you have the wrong God, you’re in real trouble. Pharaoh recognizes this. He says, “I’m god. I can’t interpret a dream.” He tells Joseph the dream, knowing that Joseph will ask the real God. And what Pharaoh is doing here is he’s learning to trust, humbly listen to the real God. He’s not a Christian, but he needs God.
“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh,” – verse 25 – “‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same.’” Here it is. “‘God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.’” Isn’t that interesting? Here’s what he is saying. “Pharaoh, God’s in control of everything, including your country. And here’s what he’s gonna do whether you like it or not. This is the way it’s gonna go. So, you either need to submit to God or suffer.” “‘The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.’”
“‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.’” He says, “You know what, Pharaoh? God loves you, even though you don’t love him. And God loves your people, even though they don’t love him. And God is telling you what is coming in the future so that you and your people can be spared because God loves you.” Okay, you see the kindness of God here – the kindness of God. God loves the world, and here he’s gonna serve this nation of Egypt filled with demonism and false gods and false religion. And what is God gonna do? God’s gonna lovingly serve these people because God is good, friends, even when people are bad.
“‘Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.’”
Our next question. When you succeed, do you do so humbly? Joseph, at this point, could have become very arrogant. “Oh, so Pharaoh, you need me? Oh, so Pharaoh, you can’t do a thing without me? So, what’s in it for me, Pharaoh? How much do I get paid? What kind of job am I gonna get?” He doesn’t negotiate. He doesn’t barter. This is the first time in his life that he’s actually got something to barter with. Up until this point, he’s been a slave. He’s been a prisoner. He’s got nothing to bargain with. Now he’s got something to bargain with. “The most powerful man in the world needs me, and I’m the only one that can help him. Boy, you could really get something for that, couldn’t you?”
If this was a business deal, you are really in a great position. Joseph doesn’t say anything about Joseph. He doesn’t say anything about his suffering. He doesn’t say anything about his injustice. He doesn’t say anything about the fact that he’s hungry, skinny, in prison, lost his 20’s, nothing. Twice he says, “You know what, Pharaoh? This is about you and God.” Finally get five minutes to talk to the Pharaoh, Joseph is thinking, “I’m gonna talk to him about God, not Joseph. I want Pharaoh to know about God.”
He says, “Pharaoh, here’s what God’s gonna do. There’s seven years of fat and plenty.” Business is gonna boom. Crops are gonna explode. Everybody’s gonna be fat and happy. It’s gonna be a great time. And then suddenly seven years of famine. The crops won’t grow. The rain won’t come. Everybody’s gonna be starving. It’s gonna be hard times. God wants you to know that he is gonna have history roll out in this way. God is not like you. He knows the future – determines the future. You can’t even figure it out, let alone predetermine it.
How many of you, when you succeed, you succeed humbly? His last word in this statement if, “God, God.” He says God twice. “God.” You know what? When you do get your break, friend; when you finish your degree; you get your job; you get your raise; you get your house; you get your spouse; you get your kids; you get your fame; you get your glory; you get your shot, make sure that you’re humble. God opposes the proud. He gives grace to the humble, Peter says. Jesus says, “The last get made first.” There’s a humility in Joseph. Joseph just simply says, “Pharaoh, God is a good God. You should listen to him. It’ll save a lot of people.” Nothing.
At this point, the Pharaoh could send Joseph to jail. At this point, he could kill him. At this point, Joseph has no security or guarantee of anything. He’s just entrusted himself to God humbly. For some of you, the hardest thing in your life won’t be the suffering. It’ll be the success. You’ll be okay walking with God when you need him, but when things go well, sometimes that’s the hard part. Joseph walks with God when times are good and when times are bad, when he is suffering and when he is succeeding. How will the king respond? To this point, he hasn’t done so well with people in authority. Potiphar threw him in jail.
Verse 33, “‘And now let Pharaoh,’” – here’s what he tell him – he’s gonna lay out a management plan. This seems weird for a Hebrew slave. He interprets the dream, and then he lays a strategic, organizational plan, all right. Joseph comes off like middle management, which he’s pretty insightful for a guy who was a shepherd, right? Not a lot of guys who are farmers know how to run nations, but Joseph has a plan.
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine that is coming.’”
My last question. Do we serve faithfully? At this point, friends, could Joseph truly – could he just be angry at the Egyptians? Has he had one good day in Egypt? You’re our slave. Now you’ll be our prisoner. You don’t own any clothes. You’re wearing rags. You’re sleeping on the floor. You’re eating bad food. Your reputation is destroyed. You’ll never see your family again. There’s not a system of justice. You don’t even get a trial in this country, okay. Is it possible that Joseph could have gotten better and said, “You know what? God says they’re all gonna starve, good. They’re non-Christians. They’re godless. They’re perverts. They’re filled with demons. They’re evil. They have slaves. They abuse me in prison. The Pharaoh didn’t even offer me a meal. And he wants me to save his life.”
Had Joseph been a selfish man, he wouldn’t have served. But he serves faithfully. He tells the Pharaoh, “You need a strategic plan for storing grain in the largest urban centers. You need faithful men to oversee that. All the grain needs to be under your jurisdiction. And then when the hard times comes, you can strategically release food in proportion to the seven year famine so that all of your people can eat. Pharaoh, you’ve never done a thing for me. Let me do something for you. Your people have been terrible to me. Let me be good to your people.”
Okay. What is Joseph thinking about, Mars Hill? Here’s what he’s thinking. Millions of people, including the Pharaoh, need to know who God is. That’s what Joseph cares about. That’s what he cares about. When you go to work, you go to school, you go to your neighborhood, you ask this question. How in the world can I lovingly, truthfully, through the words that I speak that are true, through the suffering that I endure with integrity, through the patience that I demonstrate, through hard times, through the life that I live openly, how can I communicate that God is a loving and gracious God who cares about these people and wants to help? That’s all he does. That’s all he does, and lays down a plan to save millions of lives.
At this point, Joseph may be headed back to prison for the rest of his life. No wife, no kids, no house, no food, no clothes. I mean this could be the last shave he ever gets. And it’s profoundly convicting to look at the life of Joseph. He’s so humble, and he’s emptied himself of all of his rights. It’s a little picture of Jesus, who, you know, he was God, and he was equal to God. Philippians says that he set aside his rights, and he emptied himself of all of his rights, and he humbled himself to service.
So, how will it work for Joseph? Verse 37, “The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.” They all said, “That’s a great plan right there.” They’re trusting God. They’re not Christians. They’re trusting God. They’re trusting God’s servant. “So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’” Mars Hill, that is the verse. The whole story – this whole narrative – that is the verse. Pharaoh, with all of his officials and leaders, looks at Joseph, the humble, poor, single, flat broke guy who doesn’t even own clothes. He’s wearing borrowed clothes. He’s been sleeping on the floor for 13 years. He looks at Joseph and he says, “He’s the only guy in the whole country who’s got the Holy Spirit.” That’s it.
Isn’t that amazing? Joseph has the one thing that the Pharaoh can’t get. The Pharaoh’s got sex, money, fame, power, riches, glory, education, possessions. What he doesn’t have is the Spirit of God because the Spirit of God is given as a gift of grace. The Holy Spirit lives in whomever he wants to live in. God takes up residence in whomever he choses. Pharaoh can’t buy the Holy Spirit. He can’t control the Holy Spirit. He can’t command the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is free to live in whomever he pleases, and to do whatever he wants. And Pharaoh, he’s – you gotta remember he is God, he thinks. His people think he is God. He’s just met the real God, and he looks at Joseph and he says, “That guy right there, there’s nobody like him, including me. There’s nobody that has the Spirit of God.”
Friends, I would just beg you that you would value the Spirit of God in you more than anything else in your life. I know there’s people that are rich and powerful and famous and sexy and cool and known, but you have the living God who is willing to be with you and in you and through you and for you. And if God is your highest possession; if God is your deepest treasure, then the truth is that you are rich even when you’re poor. And like Joseph, he’s a poor man, but he’s rich, and he has that which Pharaoh cannot obtain because he doesn’t know God – doesn’t love God.
Pharaoh looks at him and says, “God lives in that man in a way that he lives in no one else in the whole country.” “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you,’” – since God seems to only talk to you. He didn’t say a thing to us. “‘There is no one so discerning and wise as you.’” God has taken this simple, humble shepherd boy and made him the most wise, discerning, knowing man on the Earth. See, Pharaoh, Pharaoh spent his whole life going to school, being educated, being trained. I mean he was raised from birth to be the Pharaoh. All Joseph had was the Holy Spirit. And the Pharaoh looked at him and said, “I can’t match that.”
Friends, if you will pray to God; if you will walk with God; if you will get to know God; if you will obey God; if you will follow God, you will be discerning and wise like no one else on the Earth. It doesn’t mean that education is bad. It doesn’t mean that experience and opportunity is bad, but it does mean that nothing prepares us for life as well as the Spirit of God.
“‘You shall be in charge of my palace,’” – you get to rule the world – “‘and all my people are to submit to your orders.’” You went from a slave to a man that now rules millions. “‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’” Here’s what he says. “You can do anything you want, but I’m still in charge.” That’s a classic non-Christian right there. “You’re a great guy. I rule the world. You rule the world. I get the credit. How’s that for the deal? You make everything good, and I’ll be in the parades. How’s that for a deal?” Joseph’s gonna take the deal.
Here’s what Joseph didn’t have, Mars Hill. Did he have his family there to support him? No. Did he have a Christian friend to talk to, pray with, Bible study with – accountability partner? No. He’s the only Christian in the whole country. Did he have a Bible to read? No, the Bible hadn’t been written yet. Did he have a church to go to? No, no church, and he’s in jail. How does he make it? How does he suffer for 13 years? How does he live patiently, humbly? How does he serve people? How does he do good and not evil? How does he bless and not curse? He doesn’t have a Bible; doesn’t have a family; doesn’t have a church; doesn’t have a Christian friend for accountability. What he does have is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Friends, this is one of the great gifts of the Christian life. When you repent of your sin, and you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, who lived and died and rose to forgive you of sin and connect you to God. See, the people thought that Pharaoh could connect them to God. He can’t. Jesus can, but not Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s not a god man. Jesus is the only God man. Pharaoh is a false Christ. He’s an antichrist. And the world is filled with many versions today. He’s just a guy. Everybody else is just a buy. Jesus is God who became a man. And Jesus will love you; forgive you; take away your sin. He’s like Joseph. He humbly serves. He patiently endures. He’s a giver, not a taker.
And if you know Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in every Christian just like the Holy Spirit took up residence in Joseph. It convicts us of sin and leads us and guides us and matures us and gifts us. And we can grieve him. And we can quench him. And we can resist him. We can make our life hard, or we could submit to him as Joseph did, and we can trust him even when we don’t understand because through this 13 year course of his life, God never spoke to Joseph, friends.
Some of you think, “I just wish God would speak to me and tell me what he’s doing.” He probably won’t, but if he’s given you the Holy Spirit, all you need to do is obey the Holy Spirit, follow his lead, and when he convicts you of sin, repent. When he gives you to serve, serve by that gift. When he empowers you to love, love. When he enables you to forgive, forgive. Don’t grieve. Don’t quench. Don’t resist the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. And you may not ever hear from God, and you may not know anything of what he’s doing, but in the end, he will work out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He will take Genesis 50:20, “Even what is meant for evil and the saving of many lives.”
Joseph is going to be the man who is used of God to save the lives of millions of people. Let me close with this. How many of you would love to see Seattle change? Would you love it? I mean I would love it. I love the city. It’s frustrating. Okay. Now what Joseph could have done when he came before the Pharaoh is he could have came before the Pharaoh with a list saying, “I don’t like the traffic. The housing market sucks. I don’t like the tax base. That’s for sure. You know, I don’t like all the environmental laws. It’s hard to do business here. I don’t feel like we have family values. There’s a lot of perversion. I’m not happy about the strip clubs.”
I mean he could have came with a long list of things to complain about – all of which we would agree with – all of which are indeed valid. Instead, he made one issue the issue, and that is you people need to know God cause once you get to know God, these things sort of figure themselves out, right? Family, faith, friends, sex, money – you know what everything comes down to? People do or they don’t know God. They are filled or not filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s what it really comes down to. And Joseph wisely sticks to the issue, okay.
I’m not saying that there’s never a time as a church or as Christians that we fight for issues. I’m not saying, but I am saying if we’re gonna pick a hill to die on, that is, everyone needs God. The Holy Spirit lives in us. We need to come humbly seeking to serve and bless and help so that they will learn something about God. And who knows? Maybe they’ll meet God. And who knows? Maybe the Holy Spirit will live in them. And who knows? Maybe the whole world will change? Who knows?
You know, there’s something in each of us that just wants to fight and win rather than suffer and serve. I’m that same way. I’m a guy. I love to fight, but we need to bless. We need to bless the city. We need to bless the nation. When you go to work, you gotta go there saying, “How can I serve? How can I bless?” When you go to your house, your apartment, your condo, you say, “How can I serve? How can I bless? How can I possibly bring the love of God as Jesus Christ has humbly, lovingly, patiently served me? How can I come here and bring a little bit of Jesus with me and lovingly, humbly serve? Tell the truth. Yes. Suffer when needed. Yes. Endure patiently. Yes. But make the issue about God so people will know and love God.
And I’ll tell you what. Egypt embraces Joseph. Isn’t that shocking? So many Christians have this doom mentality, that everybody hates us, and they’re all out to get us. And the end of the world is coming, and everyone is against us. It may look like that sometimes, but it’s amazing when you humbly, lovingly serve and tell the truth, how a whole city or a nation could embrace you because they know that you love them and you’re trying to help, even if you disagree with them and they know it.
I’ll give you two examples in closing. I remember the Seattle Times a few years ago did a big special on our church – like a 12 page feature. And I got to know the writers, and they were very, very, very nice – very nice. I enjoyed them very, very much. And they – we were talking about the religious coverage, and they said, “Well, do you have any thoughts on religion coverage?” because my background is in journalism. I said, “Yeah, I do.” So, I sent them a proposal. I said, “Here’s my thoughts on religion coverage.” So they say, “Well, would you come and talk to all the editors and the chief editor, and would you be willing to talk to us about religious coverage?”
Okay, I come in, lay it all out. And they say, “Would you be willing to write?” “Yeah. Can I say Jesus?” “Yeah.” “Yeah, I want to write. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I’ll write.” They said, “We don’t want you to get mean and nasty and vile. Just tell stories about Jesus.” Okay, fine. You know, fine. So, we’ll tell stories about – I’m cool with that. I’m like, “Okay, so the Seattle Times isn’t the antichrist. Actually, if you go in and say, ‘I’ll help,’ they’ll say, ‘Okay.’” “Oh, you mean like Christians could have been writing here for a long time saying Jesus?” “Yeah.” “Oh, and we don’t need to burn the place down? Maybe we should like go in and say hi.”
You know, and the other one was Pastor Jamie here – I mean we first met Pastor Jamie, he was a 19 year old kid, smoking a lot of pot, sent out here from Montana cause his parents didn’t know what to do with him. He gets saved. We baptize him. He gets married; becomes a deacon. Now he’s your executive pastor, and he goes to the Chamber of Commerce meetings locally. And he walks in. He says, “Hey, how can I help? How can I serve? I love the city too. We’re here cause we love the city, not cause we hate it. We’re here to serve it. How can we serve?” They said, “Do you want to be president of the Chamber of Commerce?” “Yeah, okay.”
You know, and I guess my admonition is I don’t want us to be the people who leave here all angry and mad and violent and ready to declare war. I want us to leave here saying, “You know what? I’m filled with the Spirit of God, and Jesus has served me. I’m coming to serve you. And I’ll tell you the truth. There’s one God. You may not know him. Hell’s hot. Forever’s a long time. I’m gonna tell you the truth, but we’re here because we love you and we love the city. And we’re willing to do good, even if you don’t become a Christian because there’s millions who ate food who didn’t accept Jesus. I’m just here to do good.”
We need to be that kind of church. We need to be those kind of people. Saying, “You know what? The humble, loving God has served me. I come in the name of the humble, loving God, the Lord Jesus Christ, to serve you. And my hope is that you would love Jesus. And even if you don’t, I’m still gonna love and serve you because men like Joseph do. They love and serve everybody. And some people come to love God, and some people don’t, and that’s between them and God.
I want us to be that kind of people. It’s humbling to read Joseph, but if you want to change the world, humbly serve. Faithfully endure. Patiently wait. Truthfully speak. God honors that. I’ll pray. We’ll take communion, sing, worship. I want you to examine your life. If there’s anything in your life that is incongruent with how God would have you to live – maybe you’re not suffering well. Maybe you’re not serving well. Maybe you’re not working well at your job. Maybe you’re worshiping another God. Maybe you’re just spiritual. Maybe you’re not telling the truth. Confess that to the Lord Jesus. He’ll forgive you; embrace you. Have him be your God. Have him send the Holy Spirit in you to lead you and guide you, and to make good out of your life.
Lord Jesus, thanks for a chance to study Scripture together today. And, Jesus, I thank you for the great story of our brother, Joseph. God, we thank you that you were the same yesterday, today, and forever. God, I thank you that his relationship with you is just like our relationship with you; that by grace we might know you; that by the power of the Holy Spirit we might obey you. And that if we do, it’s good for us, and it’s good for everyone else too because life is better.
Jesus, I pray for our friends here that they wouldn’t just be spiritual, but they would be Christians; that they wouldn’t be just like the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, but that they would be like Joseph; that they would have more than spirituality that fails at the most needed times. But instead they would know you, the living God. Jesus, I thank you that you are even better than Joseph. You have humbly served us. You have patiently waited – even for three days in a tomb before your resurrection. You have suffered great injustice. You have loved and blessed us all. You have been good.
And so, Lord Jesus, may you fill us with your Spirit and Holy Spirit as our great God. May you lead us and guide us and comfort us and convict us, and allow us to leave here to go into our families, and into our schools, and into our jobs, and into our communities, and into our neighborhoods, not seeking to declare war, but to bless; to speak the truth, but to serve the common good out of love for everyone. And, Jesus, as Joseph saved millions of lives, may we see –