Sermon Sunday 21 September @ 9.00am – Position, Purpose and Persecution
Readings: Genesis 39:1-23; Matthew 5: 11-12
What a strange week. Elections in Fiji and New Zealand, an exciting referendum in Scotland. As I wrote this I had no idea what the outcome of any of these was!
One has to say – about the New Zealand election – that it’s been a very messy time indeed. Even ruthless. But having said that, the Bible is no different.
In the Narrative Lectionary which we began year one a couple of weeks ago, the bible passages take a broad sweep over the history of God’s people. And there are messy things – bad decisions – terrible behaviour – war conflict and violence through the pages of Scripture. (We skip Genesis 38 for example). And fortuitously we landed up with Joseph today. I mean in the lectionary! It’s a pretty messy story indeed.
Fratricide planned but averted by a solo voice (Rueben – Genesis 37:21-22) – meaning that instead of being murdered, Joseph is sold. Yes – they sell their own brother – lie to their dad – and this guy with his snazzy coat is dragged off to Egypt. So it goes. God does not abandon him however.
Gen 39:3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did,
Gen 39:4 Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
Gen 39:5 From 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.
Of course there is a horrible twist – an attempted seduction – but Joseph says NO. And he ends up back in jail. What we don’t know is that he could have been executed for the alleged rape. But Potiphar sends him to a better jail – one where the members of Pharaoh’s court were.
Gen 39:20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
And of course the story goes on:
But while Joseph was there in the prison, Gen 39:21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden.
Gen 39:22 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.
Gen 39:23 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.
Apart from this continued blessing on his life – he encounters the cup bearer and the baker! And yes – the dreams are interpreted and his fortunes change – or do they? Perhaps it’s as simple as this – that he is exactly where he is meant to be. He is meant to be a blessing wherever he is. Is this not the ongoing story of the people of Abraham?
Do you remember Genesis 12?
Gen 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
Gen 12:2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
Gen 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
WHAT ABOUT US?
- Wherever we are – we should review our perceptions about whether we are in a comfortable place or a difficult place. Perhaps we need to see things in terms of our positioning – as a blessing to the nations – as the ongoing descendants of Abraham. As a blessing to the people in our communities – who represent many nations of the world
- Whoever is elected to Parliament – whatever happens in the political and social scene – and in the crazy events of the world – we should be thankful and trusting in God’s purpose. Like Joseph – whatever happens – we trust God and ask him to use us as an example of faithfulness and trustworthiness. We remain steadfast. We talk about our faith and apply it to each situation. And we say NO when we need to – whatever the cost.
The New Testament verses today re-enforce this: Mat 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Joseph is sold as a slave and becomes unjustly jailed. The number of biblical figures who are falsely imprisoned is remarkable (apart from Joseph): Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and Silas come immediately to mind.
Where Joseph is – he exemplifies faith. What about us? How do we shape up?
As for Joseph – eventually his people end up in Egypt. A better option than starving. The saga continues down the track – as the political fortunes and powers change:
Exo 1:6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,
Exo 1:7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.
Exo 1:8 Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
They become enslaved. But God has a plan to redeem them! He has a plan and a man for the job!
And he wants us to be part of that great plan to be a blessing to all. I think perhaps we focus too much on ourselves and our perceived needs.Our focus needs to be on our positioning, God’s purpose, and the reality of persecution along the way.
Earlier in the service we watched this song from the movie “Joseph, Prince of Dreams” – have a look:
In the words of the song – “You know better than I! = I’ve let go the need to know why – for you know better than I! Faith has made it easy to see the best thing I can do is put my trust in you! For you know better than I. I’ll take what answers you supply!”