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INTEGRITY UNDER TRIAL

来源: 作者:傅仲书 时间:2010-11-01 点击:

 GEN 37-50 (45:4-5; 50:15-21)

 

Proposition:  METHODS OF RESPONSIBLE LIVING

 

I. Joseph lives responsibly by persevering under trials

Sub-proposition:  Persons under trial

A.  Joseph and his brothers

B.  Cain and Able

C.  David and Absalom

D.  Anybody but me - dodge the conscience

II. Joseph lives responsibly by persevering through temptations

Sub-proposition:  Characteristics of duty

A.  Duty learns to wait on God and operate from faith

B.  Duty doesn't quit

C.  Duty doesn't pass the buck

D.  Duty demands selfless compassion

III. Joseph lives responsibly by forgiving his brothers

Sub-proposition:  Reasons Joseph forgives his brothers

A.  Joseph forgives because his brothers prove to be honest men

B.  Joseph forgives because God has dealt with us with forgiveness

C.  Joseph forgives because vengeance is only God's right

D.  Joseph forgives because God was working through the situations to save people

 

Introduction:

I would like to dedicate this sermon to a professor of mine at Lincoln Christian College, Mr. Ewald, who made an impression on me with the truths I am about to share.  Theodore Rosack is a Princeton PHD, and in the book, "Making of a Counter-Culture", looks at western culture and can only despair.

In comparison and contrast, I want you to look at Joseph; a young man on a quest in a counter-culture.  He has high aspirations and is not content on just getting by.  He had dreams!  He also had the disadvantage of being the favorite son of his father's favorite wife.  I want to bring your attention to three scenes in the life of Joseph.

 

The story of Joseph takes place in Gen. 37: - 50:.  I have limited my text to Gen. 45:4-5 and 50:15-21, although I will bring in action from other parts as well.  The three scenes involve the following:  **Lightly touch on the main points**

As I read from Genesis, see if you can pick up on the contrasts of the lives of those who chose or rejected a life of integrity:  **Read Gen. 45:4-5; 50:15-21**

 

I. A.  The first scene takes place on the plains of Dothan.  The action can be called the

treachery of hate.

 

The life of Joseph seemed very good at first.  He was his father’s favorite son born to his father’s favorite wife.  The 11 brothers were jealous of Joseph especially when his father made him a special coat of many colors.  Then Joseph had dreams that told of his brothers bowing down to him.  That made the brothers mad at Joseph.  The final insult was when Joseph brought back a bad report about how the brothers were taking care of the sheep.

Later, Jacob's sons were grazing their flocks in Shecum and Joseph was sent to see how they were doing.  With difficulty Joseph finds them.  They see him coming from afar and say, "Here comes the dreamer boy.  Let's kill him, and then see what comes of his dreams."  How shall we do it?  The plan with the knife is thwarted by oldest brother Rubin.  So they resort to subtler means, let the Egyptians do it!  It seems like by a miracle, a caravan of Midianites come along.  This was a trade route, but it wasn't that busy.  In fact, by comparison it would make a backstreet hutong seem like an under construction Beijing expressway during rush hour.  The brothers say, Hey, let's sell him and get double profit.  We'll be rid of him and make some money besides.  The brothers knew that slaves did not last long!  Later in history we see the same clever treatment of someone else.  The spears and whips of the Romans got rid of another Father's favorite Son.  But that's another story!

Joseph cries out.  He doesn't want to die.  A young man of 17, being sold into slavery; just think about it!  The brothers take Joseph's coat, after being dipped in animal blood, back to his father and lay it in Jacob's lap.  Jacob sobs, and his heart is broken!  I'll never find words of comfort to salvage this dark hour.

 

I.B.  This recalls another lovely brotherhood of Cain and Abel.  Cain says let us go out into the field.  So the Bible says Cain rose up and killed Abel.  Yahweh says to killer Cain, where is your bother Abel?  Where is Abel?  I don't know, am I my brothers keeper?  God says, “What have you done?”  The voice of Abel’s blood is crying to Me from the ground!

 

 

I.C.  Does this sound familiar?  Remember King David’s sin that led to God promising bloodshed will not depart from his household?  II Sam 18 tells about other scenes and brings these words, O, Absalom, my son, my son, who took the life of Amnon, son of mine.

These examples tell of overt acts of murder, but violence has been used in many different ways.  It can be in the classroom and dormitories, businesses, and sadly in families.  A community of brothers, sons of God, can be destroyed in crude brutality, cold and clean and rational.  They can use hateful humor, brutal psychological exclusion, or neglect.

O, Christ!  O, Jesus Christ, My Son, my dying Son.

 

I.D.  Just get rid of Joseph, if we can just get rid of Joseph.  He fouls our sweet communion.  Two's company, three's a crowd.  The odd man out and Joseph have got to go.  One way or another, my life is tough enough without Joseph.  I've got troubles of my own; I don't need to listen to all of his!  And as Joseph sobs, his brothers begin the insidious and diabolical game of what can be called, dodge the conscience.

They rationalize, they excuse themselves, and he had it coming to him.  He's not our brother, not really, why shouldn't I have done it?  The environment is rough for me; I've had my hard days.  The scary part is when we don't feel guilty anymore; a game of dodge the conscience.  There comes a time when we insulate ourselves to where the conscience which speaks to us, that God given machinery in us that enables us to resist the wrong when that wrong confronts us, is dull and there is no power, no resource available to resist sin.

We are not the sweet and innocent Joseph.  We would like to identify with his beauty, integrity and honor, but we are more like that foul brotherhood.  We who have lied and cheated are never big enough to admit to all our guilt.

Some may try to go around with a pretense of innocence.  I don't see it that way. It looks like another chapter in man's bleak attempt to dodge his own wretchedness.  Jeremiah tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and who can understand it!

 

II.A.  At this point the scene changes.  The brothers are made to stand outside to the east, and the focus falls on Joseph.  Joseph is sold into slavery but God blessed his work.  Joseph is in the court of Potiphar and we learn a lesson in perseverance and in his commitment to integrity.  Not only did he have the disadvantage of being the favorite son of Jacob's favorite wife, he also inherited his mother's beauty.  He rises to the position of second in command of Potiphar, bodyguard of Pharaoh.  He is tempted by Potiphar's wife.  I'm sure you are familiar with the story.  This reminds me of a letter from a girl who was involved in a free love experience.  This girl was trying to justify her experience with the statement:  "Marriage doesn't give one the right to have a sexual relationship, love does."  Suppose that would have been Joseph's philosophy?  Suppose Joseph would have been James Bond instead.  What do you suppose James Bond would have done?  You know!  Joseph would have been blocked out of religious history and the attention would have returned to Hebron!  And why wouldn’t he?  He was far away from sensors, from father and mother's close supervision and their constant watchdogging.  It was a popular style of life in Egypt.  The books of the patriarchs and the pseudepigrapha presents how day after day she attempts to seduce him, exposing herself continuously before him.  Even Samson could resist the first few times, but here is Joseph, day after day after day!  Potiphar has withheld nothing from me, Joseph says, Gen. 39:8-9.  Remember that!  When you are tempted to take liberties, remember that!  Then she snatches hold of his coat and he is forced to shed his coat and rushes out of her presence.  I can just hear him saying, well, there goes another coat.  He couldn't keep a coat.  He was leaving coats all over the Eastern world.  The first one was lost over jealousy, the second one lost over lust.  Both are lost in deception!

Now he is thrown into the King's dungeon.  And here we have the perseverance of faith.  Joseph learns to wait on God to fulfill His purpose for his life.  I think of Kepling’s:

"If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.  If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but make allowance for their doubting too.  If you can see the things you have given your life to broken, and stoop to build them up with worn out tools.  If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run then yours is the earth and everything that's in it!  And which is more, you'll be a man, my son."

 

II.B.  What happened to those dreams?  Beautiful dreams of high aspirations and now he is in the dungeon.  Throughout these passages it says, "And the Lord was with Joseph."  You can imagine Joseph saying, "Lord, it is nice to have you here with me in the dungeon, but just the same I would like you to help me get out."  He could have said, “I quit!”  I'm tired of it.  The odds seem against me.  He could have said it seems like the Lord has left me alone.

There is a poster I've seen.  On it is an American football player with his garb on and he has ripped off his helmet and he has thrown it on the ground.  And as he does so he says, "I quit!"  And on the lower part of the picture is a Roman cross, and below it, it says, I didn't!

 

II.C.  Joseph had a family lineage of lying and deception.  Abraham deceived the Pharaoh, about Sarah.  Laban deceived Jacob into marrying runny-eyed Leah.  Jacob deceived Isaac from his deserved birthright and his mother Rebekah was involved in the same deception.  The brothers deceived Jacob concerning Joseph.  Look at the environment this kid rises out of, but Joseph will not lie!  Victimized by his environment?  Absolutely not!

If you see the movie, “Westside Story” there is a song entitled, "Gee officer Krupkey."  The blame is passed.  The responsibility goes everyplace.  It starts out like this:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, 
You gotta understand, 
It's just our bringin' up-ke 
That gets us out of hand. )

They pass the “buck”, or blame the social worker and they pass the responsibility on to the judge and on to the parents and it goes everyplace.  Except where it ought to be.  Everyone is to blame except the one who did the deed.  That's the question.  The old covenant says the sons shall not bear the iniquities of the fathers.  Neither shall the fathers bear the iniquities of the sons.  We shall bear the penalty for our own sins, nobody else's.  We're on our own.

 

II.D.  Someone says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  You know, Nazareth!  But someone did: Jesus.  It doesn't matter what our upbringing is.  God can work through us!  Duty demands selfless compassion.

Hated by his brothers, trapped and falsely accused by Potiphar's wife.  Forgotten and left alone to die in prison, to rot away the most productive years of his life, but the Lord was with Joseph.  In the end, it is not about us, but about them; those who have not heard about the love of God.  We must persevere so that our lives will testify about God’s holiness and care for them.

 

III.A.  Joseph dreams more dreams in prison & it eventually leads to standing before Pharaoh.  By honoring God and answering Pharaoh’s dreams, he rises out of prison to become the royal food commissioner.  Joseph becomes the second in command.  Now the scene changes to the trial.  During the famine the brothers appear and the wheels of retribution are at work.  The brothers come and, of all things, they bow in obeisance to Prince Joseph.  They don't know who he is but they bow before him in literal fulfillment of that prophetic dream.

And Joseph wondered in his heart, “If they had a chance, would they do it again?”  So Joseph sets up an elaborate plot to test them to see if they would do it again.  The money is planted in the sacks, the brothers return and Simeon is held hostage in hope that his brother Benjamin will come.  The brothers relate what happened to father Jacob.  And it is an almost pathetic scene as we see Jacob's trembling hand as he asks the brothers to go out and get some honey, spices, almonds and pistachio nuts as a gift to somehow stave off the wrath of the Egyptian monarch.  This little pittance of a gift, think about it now.  These guys are going before the highest tribunal of the land, it is like going before the Supreme Court and the Judge says to you, "Alright, the charges against you are embezzlement of government appropriations!"  And you say, "Uh judge, he he, how about a pistachio nut?"  If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be a cause for laughter.  Then Benjamin comes back.  Jacob resigns himself to the possibility and probability of gross unhappiness.  He is sorry anyway.  The divining cup is planted in Benjamin's sack.  They return to face their charges.  The brothers may well think, why stand by Benjamin?  He is just another favorite son.  His mother is not ours. Why risk our families for him.  But they didn't reason this way.  For in all matters of duty, reasoning is dangerous.  And only absolute, immediate obedience to what is right is safe.  The word duty should leap out at you!  I'm afraid that we are losing our sense of duty.  The navy has a little saying that goes, "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die."

 

III.B.  I don't think duty just abandons reason, but duty rises out of faith.  Faith stands over reason, transcended.  You do some things because we aught to.  A guy says “I just don't get anything out of church,” so he doesn't go.  When one has learned how to worship, I don't think the question will ever again be raised.  Our corporate worship mirrors our personal worship.  If you don't get anything out of worship, it may be because you're not putting anything into it.  Where is the sense of duty?

There is a tremendous statement in one of Weatherhead's books.  He is talking about Jesus.  And the scripture says, Jesus went to the synagogue as His custom was; out of duty and desire to worship God His father.  As His custom was He went to the synagogue on Sabbath day.  He could have worshiped much better in the hills.  He could scarcely have profited much from the dry and ponderous sermon of some desecrated Rabbi.  But I sometimes imagine myself there, waiting for the service to begin.  Spiritually hungry, longing for some message from God, some assurance that I'm not left alone.  Then Jesus enters.  I see His quiet, yet radiant face.  I note the serenity of His whole bearing.  He kneels, and then sits.  He is relaxed and happy to be with God's people on God's day.  I find myself wishing He was nearer to me.  Yet His entry made a difference to us all.  The whole spiritual temperature has risen.  A strange sense of quiet joy and well being seems to seep into my heart.  I become sure of God and sure that I am forgiven, loved, understood and accepted.  We can forgive because we have been forgiven.

In duty the brothers return with Benjamin; in duty to their father Jacob, in duty to Benjamin, in duty to their own conscience and to God.  And Judah pleads the case.  I suspect there is no more beautiful, powerful petition in all the Bible as comes from that eloquent plea of Judah.  See Gen. 44:18-34.

 

III.C.  Jacob becomes a foreshadow of that other deliverer, that other savior, that other substitute, the Messiah; the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Martin Luther looked at that plea and said there are prayers that ought to be and I would give anything to pray like Judah did.  The forces of retribution are at work and that deed at Dothan is far away and long forgotten, surely God has forgotten hasn't He?

The world is wide, the race is busy, the other half will never know how I live, here is a place where I can sow some wild oats.  And then we begin to fling away the best that life has in thoughtless dissipation.  We think that time forgets.  The sun rises and sets, the seasons come and go as they did when those 10 men did their evil deed on the plains of Dothan.  We say to ourselves, God has forgotten about it all.  Then on some fine day the door of opportunity opens wide.  He would give anything to be able to enter it, but it must be a man who has kept his body clean by sound and right living.  It must be a man whose mind is well trained and well stored and efficient through years of honest use.  It must be a man whose moral integrity is such that people instinctively trust him, but, to his dismay, this man who sowed his seeds of defeat on the plains of Dothan finds that his fellowmen do not feel that he is quite up to it.  The door of opportunity is shut in his face and another, with finer build, enters in.

Those brothers stand before the patriarch and he says, "I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold, is my father still alive?"  And they are astonished!  And they stand stone faced, looking right into the face of Joseph and can't say a word.  I just came back from Xi’an and saw the Terra Cotta Warriors.  Their faces were like stone.  That’s what the brothers looked like.  And then he says again without an interpreter, in accents painfully familiar to their ears, "I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold."  And it seemed like the universe of retribution came crashing down upon them.  O, I though that had been forgotten long ago.  Be sure your sins will find you out!

We note the next word is the word of forgiveness.  There is only love in that beautiful soul.  There is only compassion and only grace.  Not one ounce of retributive justice.  Not one fragment, not one vestige of vengeance in the soul of Joseph.  Not one fragment of tiny desire to get even.  Only grace!  What is going on in the heart of that young man!  Joseph demonstrates that vengeance is only God's.

 

III.D.  He says, “What you meant for evil, God worked out to be good, and He sent me before you to preserve life.  Now hurry up and go back and get father Jacob.”  It had been a sad day on the plains of Dothan.  O, but it was a sadder day when the brothers stretched that bloody coat across the lap of Jacob and Jacob sobbed and said, “I'll go to my grave sorrowing, for my beloved son is dead.”  And it was Good Friday in the house of Jacob.

And now Jacob is entering the Egyptian court and his eyes go up to Joseph on the throne and he can’t believe it!  Then Joseph steps down off the throne in front of all the Egyptian attendants and all the regality of the empire and embraces this old lowly farmer and they cry together.  And Jacob says, "My son, my son is alive and now I will live and my children will live and we will bless the world with life."  And it's Easter morning in Jacob's house!

 

Conclusion:

We have seen Joseph persevere under trials, dealing with the treachery of hate.  We have seen Joseph persevere through temptations and holding on to his integrity.  Joseph did not quit!  His faith in God provided him with the strength and sense of duty that got him through it all.  But the most beautiful part of Joseph's life is his forgiving attitude.

Are the forces of retribution at work in you?  Is there a root of bitterness in your heart?  You are only hurting yourself and affecting those around you.

Perhaps you are going through a trial or temptation that has you stumped.  What am I to do?  Where is God?  And in a still, small voice, God is saying, "Be still and know that I AM God."  Jesus Christ paid the price for your sins.  He experienced all the trials and temptations that life can throw at us.  Put your faith in Him.  Take His yoke on you and He will give you rest for your soul.  Then He will give us the strength to live in integrity and purity before the holy and living God.

If we have a passion for God then we must have compassion for man.  Jesus said the two greatest commandments are:  1)  to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength  2)  and the second is like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself.

If we let God work in our life, He will work through the situations we are in and bring about good, and God will be glorified.

If you here today and you don't have a personal relationship with God ...

If you are in Christ and feel the need to recommit you life ...

 

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