The Story of Joseph the Dreamer

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Date: 
Sunday, December 7, 2003 - 11:00am
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Recently,
I received an e-mail from a sixty year-old man who was about to undergo a
heart transplant. 
That's
major surgery. 
A number of us
at Valley View have been praying for him because he's the brother of Rose
Brewer who's been part of our church community since the very beginning. In the e-mail he writes ...

Dear
Praying Friends,

"I have to thank you, once again, for your incredibly strong support in
every way. 
Your sincere concern
and faithfulness in prayer keep me going day after day as I wait for a heart
transplant. 
Overall, my
condition is stable, with some days better than others. I am still at the top of the waiting list and am getting more eager
to have the surgery over with. 
I
know the recovery will not be a picnic, but I can't begin recovering until
I receive the heart."

"All
of this is in God's hands and his hands are more sure and steady than
those of any thoracic surgeon. 
Because
of your prayers, Judy and I are not worried, even though I am eager and even
restless to get through the surgery."

"Each
time I send an update I wonder if this will be my last before the
transplant. 
In case this is, I
need to say, that no matter what the outcome, God is completely wise, good,
strong, and faithful. 
Even if I
have a rough time with the recovery, or even if I do not survive, God is
love. 
His ways are not our ways
and his overall purposes are not always discernable."

"I
know (both cognitively and experientially) with absolute confidence,
however, that he is always working all things, including disappointment and
even death, for the good of those who love him.  His timing and his ways are beyond understanding, but they always
come from his loving hand. 
He
is always shaping and preparing us for better things."

"Thank
you again for your friendship, kindness and prayers. I wish for each of you an ever-increasing experience of God's
moment-by-moment presence that translates into practical dimensions of
living and serving. 
May
abundant peace and joy be with you and those closest to you, Bob."

When
I first read that tears came to my eyes. I was moved. 
I was
inspired by this man's faith and his confidence that no matter what
happens to us in life, God is love. 
God
is good. 
God is with us. 
That's
what Bob believes with all his heart. 
Do
you believe that? 
Can you
honestly say that about your life right now? That no matter what's going on, God is love. 
God is good. 
God
is with you. 
It's true. But it takes faith to believe it.

We
all need examples like that in our lives. We all need people who inspire us to greater levels of faith and
confidence in God. 
And there
are people like that all around us. 
Some
are found in hospital rooms waiting for transplants like Bob. And others are found in the pages of the Bible, like Joe, the man
whose life we're going to look at this morning.

If
you have a Bible turn with me to Genesis 37 as we continue our series
through the first book of the Bible called
Foundations of our Faith.

 Today and next week we're going to look at the life of a man named
Joseph. 
It's going to take us
two weeks because more is written about Joseph's life than about anyone or
anything else in the book of Genesis, including creation, Adam and Eve, Noah
and the universal flood, you name it. 
None of it gets the publicity that this man gets. And we'll see why as we read his story. But first, a short review.

Remember
the patriarchs, the fathers of our faith, are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We've looked at each one of their stories. They all lived about 2,000 years before Christ and their collective
story covers about 345 years. 
These
three men along with Joseph all have a plaque on the wall in God's Hall of
Fame found in Hebrews 11. 
These
were great men of faith. 
They
had lots of faults to be sure, but they all knew how to trust God. And faith is what God rewards.

Joseph
is one of the twelve sons of Jacob. 
Towards
the end of his life God changed Jacob's name to Israel, which means, "he
struggles with God." 
That's
where the nation of Israel came from. 
And
the twelve tribes that made up that ancient nation came from the twelve sons
of Jacob, one of which was Joseph.

Now
you might think that Joe was just a number, number eleven out of twelve
boys. 
But he wasn't. 
Joseph wasn't just any kid. He didn't get lost in the shuffle of a big family. He was the favored child. 
The
sun rose and set on Joseph and that caused some major problems in that
family as it does in any family where there is a favored child.

Our
story opens with Joseph living in the town of Hebron in the land of Israel
with his family. 
He's about
17 years old and one day he's out tending the flock with his brothers when
something happens that will change his life forever.

Look
at Genesis 37:2,
This
is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the
flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his
father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Joseph
is in the fields with his brothers Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher, when he
sees them do something they shouldn't and decides to tell his dad about
it. 
Not a very good idea,
especially for a little brother who's already viewed as the favorite son.

Look
at verse 3,
Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other
sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly
ornamented robe for him.


4
When
his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they
hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph's
in a tough spot. 
That's what
favoritism does. 
It puts kids
in a tough spot. 
Not only does
his dad love him more than his other sons, but he advertises it by giving
Joe a beautiful robe that sets him apart from the rest, a coat of many
colors. 
Maybe some of you can
relate to being a favorite son or favorite daughter or having one in your
family and you know the jealousy and conflict that it creates. 
It wasn't easy for Joseph or for his brothers to grow up
with that.

But
Jacob was just repeating the same dysfunctional parenting style that raised
him. 
Remember, he was the
favorite son of his mother, Rebekah, and Esau, his twin brother, was the
favorite son of his father, Isaac. 
This
family tree of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a case study in family dynamics
and how the mistakes of parents get passed down to their children and their
children's children, generation after generation after generation. "Your just like your mother, your just like your father," we say. It's true. 
It happens
all the time. 
It's how
toeholds become footholds that become strongholds for the evil one.

But
thank God they can be broken. 
The
cycle doesn't have to repeat itself. 
Family strongholds can be torn down. 
I love what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4,
For
though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

I
don't have to make the same mistakes my parents made and my kids don't
have to make the same mistakes I make. Your parents were divorced? 
You
don't have to get divorced. 
Your
dad was an alcoholic? 
You
don't have to be an alcoholic. 
Your
mom had an eating disorder? 
You
don't have to have an eating disorder. Strongholds can be broken down by
prayer and by obedience to the Word of God. Each one of us can make a fresh start if we allow God to gently
expose the blind spots that we have, bring them out into the light, so that
he can deal with them and set us free. That's the power of the gospel in our lives.

Then
Joseph has a dream. 
Look at
verse 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."

To
make matters worse, Joseph has this dream that he's better than his eleven
brothers and tells them about it! 
Not
smart, Joey!

Verse
8,
His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you
actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream
and what he had said.


9
Then
he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said,
"I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were
bowing down to me."
10
When
he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said,
"What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers
actually come and bow down to the ground before you?"
11
His
brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph
has a second dream about his superiority, but this time it's not only over
his brothers it's also over his mom and dad. And now not only do his brothers want to take him out, but even Jacob
finds it offensive. 
Yet he
files it away to see what God will do with his favorite son's life.

All
of us need dreams. 
Dreams are
what keep us going in life. 
Bob
has the dream that a heart transplant will give him a normal life. It's a wonderful dream and I hope it comes true. Some of us dream about getting a snow day, or graduating from high
school or college or getting married or having children or owning a new car
or having a nice house or taking a vacation. My six year-old daughter, Avery, is dreaming of Santa Claus coming
down the chimney on Christmas!

I
have dreams and I hope you do too. 
I
have dreams for myself. 
I
shared one with you last week. 
I
dream about finishing my life well. 
Running
the second half of the race better than the first half in my relationship
with Christ.

I
have dreams for my marriage and for my kids. I have dreams for this church. 
I
dream that we would make a difference in the Philadelphia region and in the
world beyond for Jesus Christ.

I
have dreams for many of you. 
I
dream of some of you coming to know Christ personally and for others of you
to know him more intimately. 
I
dream of some of you being healed physically, spiritually, emotionally. 
I dream of struggling couples being reconciled to each other
and enjoying life again. 
I
dream of wayward children coming back to the Lord. I dream of some who are addicted being set free from bondage so that
you can live productive lives. 
I
have lots of dreams. 
But
they're my dreams and I don't know if they'll come true.

But
I have other dreams that I'm convinced will come true, because they're
God's dreams for me. 
They're
the dreams that get me out of bed in the morning and keep me going when
I'm tired and fatigued and discouraged.

One
of those dreams is found in Revelation 21:1-5,
Then
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2I
saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I
heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is
with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God
himself will be with them and be their God.
4He
will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or
mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5He
who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he
said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

I
really believe that's true and the dream of that coming kingdom keeps me
going when nothing else well. 
There's
another dream related to that kingdom that I think about often. 
It comes from a story that Jesus told in Matthew 25. After telling a parable about investing our lives from him he says to
those who respond in Matthew 25:21,
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of
many things. 
Come and share
your master's happiness.

"Well
done, good and faithful servant," are words I long to hear, words I dream
about hearing and I know many of you do too. Live your life focused on the dreams God has for you.

Joseph
had a dream. 
It was a God given
dream. 
But he made the mistake
of telling his brothers. 
And so
his dream combined with the favoritism in the family created a lethal mix
that led to a chain reaction of explosions that blew Joseph's life apart.

Look
at Genesis 37:12,Now his brothers had gone to graze their
father's flocks near Shechem,
13and
Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks
near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them." "Very well," he
replied.
14So he said to him,
"Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and
bring word back to me." Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

Jacob
sends Joseph about 30 miles north to find out how his brothers and the
flocks are doing. 
The last time
Jacob did that, Joseph came back with a bad report. That didn't earn him any points with his brothers and now he's
had these two dreams that have only fanned the flames of their anger.

Look
what happens in verse 17,So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they (his
brothers) saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted
to kill him. 19"Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each
other. 20"Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of
these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll
see what comes of his dreams." 21When Reuben heard this, he
tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he
said. 22"Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern
here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to
rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23So when
Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe-the richly
ornamented robe he was wearing-24and they took him and threw
him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

The
brothers plan to murder Joseph, but Reuben, the oldest, talks them out of
it. 
So they strip him of his
robe, throw him into a black hole, sit down, and have lunch. Do you think they hate this guy?

Verse
25,
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan
of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices,
balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26Judah
said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover
up his blood? 27Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not
lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and
blood." His brothers agreed. 28So when the Midianite merchants
came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for
twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

While
they're eating lunch a caravan comes by and Judah has the bright idea to
make some money off of Joseph. 
So
they sell him into slavery for twenty shekels of silver, which was the price
for a handicapped slave in that day.

Look
at verse 29,
When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was
not there, he tore his clothes. 30He went back to his brothers
and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?" 31Then
they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the
blood. 32They took the ornamented robe back to their father and
said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's
robe." 33He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe!
Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to
pieces." 34Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and
mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and daughters came
to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in
mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for
him. 36Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar,
one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.

Joseph's
charmed life falls completely apart. 
He's
thrown into a pit. 
Sold into
slavery. 
Taken out of the
Promised Land and down into Egypt where he's sold again to a government
official named Potiphar. 
Meanwhile,
his brothers take his beautiful coat, the symbol
of their jealousy, smear it with blood, and tell their dad, "Joseph is
dead! 
He's gone!"

And
once again, Jacob, the deceiver, is deceived. What goes around comes around again. And for the rest of his life he will mourn Joseph's death. 
And again we see a family pattern repeating itself. First favoritism and now deception are both strongholds in this
family. 
And what makes
deception so evil is that it destroys trust and trust destroys
relationships.

That's
why as parents, one of the best gifts we can give our children is the gift
of honesty. 
Teaching it to
them, yes, but more importantly living an honest life before them. 
That's why authenticity is at the heart of any kind of
community whether it's community in a marriage, in a family, in a
friendship, or in a church. 
The
first sin that God punished in the very first church was a sin of deception
and dishonesty. 
Why? Because it destroys relationships like nothing else can.

So
where's God this whole time? 
Has
he checked out on this dysfunctional family? What about the dream he'd given Joseph that he'd be a ruler one
day? 
Will that ever come true
or has his dream turned into a nightmare?

Turn
to Genesis 39:1,
Now
Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of
Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the
Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2The LORD was with Joseph
and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3When
his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success
in everything he did, 4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became
his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted
to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in
charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the
household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on
everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6So
he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did
not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

God
hadn't checked out on Joseph at all. 
The Lord was with Joseph. 
The
Lord gave Joseph success in everything he did. The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had.

God
was with Joe during all these rough times, abused by his brothers, abandoned
by his family, sold into slavery, deported to a foreign country. 
That's pretty tough stuff for a seventeen year-old boy. But God was with him, just like he is with us when life stinks. 
He will never leave us or forsake us,

Hebrews 13:5 says. 

What
is it you're going through right now? What is your Egypt? 
Your
job? 
Your marriage? 
Your health? 
Where
are you that you don't want to be? 
Where
do you feel abused or abandoned or like a slave? What dream of yours has turned into a nightmare? God is with you just like he was with Joseph. He really is. 
And if you
hang on tight, with white knuckled faith to that truth, God will bless you
like he blessed Joseph, once again.

See
our real success as believers is not determined by our blessings in Israel,
but by our faithfulness in Egypt. 
Those
times in our lives when we're in a place we don't want to be, doing what
we don't what to be doing. 
Yet
knowing that God has us there for a purpose.

But
things may get worse before they get better. They did for Joseph. 
Look
at verse 6,
Now Joseph was well-built and
handsome,
7and after a while his
master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!"
8But
he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not
concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has
entrusted to my care.
9No one is
greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me
except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked
thing and sin against God?" 
10And
though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her
or even be with her.

Joseph
is a handsome dude and Potiphar's gorgeous wife comes on to him. Day after day after day she seduces him. But he says, "No way! 
I'm
not going to do it!" 
Here's
a guy who has every reason to have sex with this woman. He's single. 
He's
away from his family. 
He's
away from home. 
Nobody's
going to know. 
Nobody's going
to care. 
He's a slave. 
He's not a leader. 
Why
not? 
What's the big deal?

The
big deal for Joseph is that he would sin against his master and he would sin
against God. 
He feels
accountable to his earthly and his heavenly boss. You want to know why this guy is so great? He fears God. 
And
because he does he has character. 
Someone
has said, "Character is who we are when no one else is looking." If he does this wicked thing he knows it will offend his God. So God takes the pressure off, right? No. 
Not yet anyway.

Look
at verse 11,
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and
none of the household servants was inside.

12
She
caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his
cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

By
the way, that's still the best way to deal with sexual temptation. Run! 
Don't reason with
it. 
Don't recite verses to
it. 
Run from it! Get away from it in whatever form it comes at you.

Verse
13,
When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out
of the house,

14
she
called her household servants. "Look," she said to them, "this Hebrew
has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with
me, but I screamed.
15
When
he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the
house."
16
She
kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.
17
Then she told him this story: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came
to me to make sport of me.
18
But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran
out of the house."
19
When
his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your
slave treated me," he burned with anger.

Joseph
does everything he can to stay sexually pure and gets rewarded, right? No. 
Instead, he gets
framed. 
Potiphar's wife
cries, "Rape!" and he's arrested and thrown into prison. Potiphar burns with anger, probably not at Joseph, but at his wife
for seducing him. 
He has to do
something so he throws his most trusted slave in jail. But if he really believed her story he would have killed Joseph on
the spot and never been questioned.

Verse
20,
Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the
king's prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison,


21
the
LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes
of the prison warden.
22
So
the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was
made responsible for all that was done there.
23
The
warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD
was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Can
you believe this? 
Can you
believe a loving God would allow this to happen? He sure does. 
And Joseph
will spend two years in prison? 
Can
it get any worse? 
He's so far
down he has to look up to see bottom.

Yet
I'm amazed at the attitude of this teenage boy. Not once does he curse God. 
Not
once does he abandon his faith. 
Instead,
he hangs with the Lord and the Lord hangs with him and gives him success in
whatever he does.

Are
wondering if God has checked out on you? Disappeared out of your life because things have gotten so bad? 
Take heart. 
He
hasn't. 
It may get worse,
before it gets better. 
But if
you keep your faith it will get better. And next week we'll see how better it gets for Joseph as we finish
his story.

Meanwhile,
what happened to our friend Bob who was willing to trust God even if he
didn't survive the heart surgery? 
This
week I received another e-mail from him.

Dear
Praying Friends,

"I
was not planning to write an update for some time, since you all have so
much going on in your lives and so many others need prayer. I feel a bit awkward about all the attention I've been receiving. But I really felt I should write for several reasons."

"First
of all I need to publicly give praise to God for the test results of the
past two days. 
The biopsy
showed no signs of rejection. 
It
was a huge relief to Judy and me to get the results. In addition, the blood work showed all is well. Overall, my doctor and his team are jubilant at how well I am
doing."

"Please
pray that I might be able to sleep better. Since the surgery I have slept terribly. 
I am relieved when morning comes. 
The bed has become my enemy. The doctor said this is a side effect of the medium-sized pharmacy I
swallow each day."

"All
in all, my recovery is going very well. Judy and I are deeply grateful. I am filled with deep joy in God and in thinking of you as I move
through each day. 
One of my
friends now calls me "Bob Newheart" (some of you younger ones may need
to ask an older person who Bob Newhart is). Thank you once again for your prayers. It has now been 16 days. 
Give
God the glory always! 
Bob."