Cycle Breaker, Table Maker (Genesis 37-45)

#5 in 66 in 52, A Yearlong Journey Through Scripture. January 29, 2023. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor

The Big Idea: Joseph, the last major character to be introduced in Genesis, was part of a family with a long history of dysfunction, deceitfulness, rejection and resentment. Maybe you are, too. How did Joseph break the cycle?

Good morning! Today we are going to have our last sermon in this series from Genesis. You can go ahead and turn to Genesis 37, but know that we are going to be covering all the way to the end of the book this morning. If you are caught up with our Bible reading plan, we finished Genesis today! Good job! Two down, sixty four to go!

If you aren’t caught up, or are going at a different pace, that’s ok. There is nothing magical about finishing the Bible in a year. The point is you are reading it. And when you do finish, you will have done what only 11% of Americans have done. So just keep at it!

It’s been fun to hear all the comments from you guys as we’ve hit this part of the reading plan. I’ve heard people say, “Man… Abraham’s family was a dumpster fire! It’s like the Jerry Springer show on steroids! One of our church members got to chapter 38, the story of Judah sleeping with his daughter in law because he thought she was a prostitute, and it almost made him mad. He came up to me on Wednesday night and said, “What is that story even doing in the Bible?”

That’s a good question. But that’s just one story in four generations of dysfunction, distrust, deceitfulness, and double-dealing. There’s resentment, rejection, and sibling rivalry. And then you remember that God chose this family to be His chosen people. And you’re thinking, couldn’t God have chosen a normal family? These guys are like the Addams family. Only, they’re the Abrahamic Family [snap snap].

Listen: when we wonder why God didn’t choose a normal family to bless and make a great nation, God’s answer is, “Normal family? What is that?” There are no normal families. We’ve all got more problems than a math book.

But in the last quarter of Genesis, we are introduced to a guy named Joseph. And somehow, Joseph is able to break the cycle of dysfunction that has pretty much dominated his family for about two hundred years now.

This morning, we are going to look at how Joseph was able to break the cycle. And hopefully you will realize that if God can bless this crazy family, He can bless yours as well.

Let’s pray, and then we’ll dive in.

There are several points in Joseph’s story where we get some clues as to how he was able to rise above all the rivalry and pettiness that had defined his family up to this point. And the first one is this:

1. He was secure in his father’s love (Genesis 37:3; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5)

Let’s look at Genesis 37:3 together.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.[a] But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because he was born to Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. Long story, but Jacob had four wives—two of them sisters, both of them his cousins—remember, Jerry Springer—and Joseph was the first of two sons born to Rachel late in life. and this is why he’s the favorite.

And Jacob gives Joseph a special robe. We don’t know if this is actually a coat of many colors—the Hebrew is pretty obscure here. So some translations say that, others say a long robe, or a long sleeved robe, or a richly ornamented robe. It probably wasn’t an amazing technicolor dreamcoat, though. The point is, Joseph got one, and his brothers didn’t. So if they hated him before, they REALLY hated him now.

Now parents, if you don’t remember anything else from this morning, remember this: don’t play favorites with your kids. It will mess them up. Remember that Jacob himself had grown up knowing he wasn’t his own father’s favorite, and now he turns around and does the same thing to all his other sons.

Not long ago, researchers from wanted to see what kind of role fathers played in their children’s success and self regard as adults. They studied over 600 pairs of twins, and they found that affection from their fathers—not discipline, not permissiveness, not generosity, not a work ethic—affection– was most related to their self-esteem as an adult. And if one twin perceived that they received more affection, guess what? They typically had more self-regard, more confidence, and a better outlook on life than their sibling.[1]

Now, if you have more than one child, it’s ok for one of them to think he’s your favorite, as long as all his siblings think they are your favorite too.

Joseph knew he had his father’s favor. He had the robe to prove it.

One of the things I’m trying to do with this series is train you to pay attention to details in the Old Testament that point to Jesus. Remember our definition of “type” from last week—an OT person, thing or event that foreshadows a person, thing or event in the New Testament. So think about this: Joseph in the Old Testament knew he was his father’s beloved son before he was kidnapped by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites, and driven into the desert on the way to Egypt. 

In the New Testament, Jesus went down into the water of baptism. He heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” And then He was driven into the desert.

And knowing he had his father’s approval would sustain both Joseph and Jesus for every trial that would follow. Dads, the most important thing you can tell your children, other than the gospel itself, is that you love them. That you approve of them. That you delight in them. When your kids know they have your approval, they are able to face whatever the world throws at them.

Notice the very next thing that happened to Jesus. For the next forty days and nights, he was tempted by the devil.

And what is the next thing that happens to Joseph? He faces temptation.

Genesis 38 interrupts Joseph’s story to tell about the twins born to Judah and his daughter in law Tamar—again, the Jerry Springer show (we’ll get back to this), but Joseph’s story picks up again in Genesis 39.

It’s now a few years later, and Joseph is a servant in the house of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. Verse 3 says,

His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight (there’s that approval factor again!)

Potiphar puts Joseph in charge of all that he had, and verse 5 says, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 

Verse 6: Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused

Stop right there and consider how epic this is. Joseph refused the offer of sex with someone he wasn’t married to.

His great grandfather Abraham didn’t do that. Back in Genesis 16, Abraham’s wife saw she wasn’t having children and said to him, sleep with my servant Hagar. Maybe God will fulfill his promise to you through her. Abraham said, “ok,” and off they went.

His father Jacob didn’t do that. Joseph had a truckload of half brothers because his mother said, My sister’s having all these babies, and I’m not having any, so sleep with my servant and have babies with her. Jacob said, “ok,” and off they went.

His brother Judah didn’t do that. One chapter before this, Judah’s daughter in law disguised herself as a prostitute, and he slept with her.

In four generations, there’s no record of anyone in Joseph’s family saying no to adultery.

Until Joseph. Joseph broke the cycle of yielding to temptation. Verse 8:

Joseph refused, and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge…  he has not kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 

2. Joseph withstood  temptation because he knew that his master hadn’t withheld anything from him. Listen, temptation almost always comes when we believe God isn’t giving us something we think we deserve. From Eve to Jesus, to us today, Satan’s had the same playbook:

  • Eve, Did God really say you can’t eat from any tree in the Garden?
  • Jesus, I can’t believe God has left you in this desert for forty days and forty nights without food! If you are really the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
  • Husband, don’t you think God wants you to be happy? And if you aren’t happy in this marriage, then let’s find someone else who will make you happy.

But Joseph knew his earthly father loved him. And he knew his heavenly father was with him. And even after he had been sold as a slave by his own brothers, he was able to say, “My master hasn’t withheld anything from me, except his wife… How could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

Listen: 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that we are not going to face any temptation that hasn’t already been faced by God’s people from the beginning of time. And God is faithful. He won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. But with every temptation he will provide the way of escape.

And here is the way of escape: Know that your heavenly father loves you. You are his child. He delights in you. He has dressed you in a robe of righteousness that shines like a coat of many colors. He has lifted you up out of the pit and brought you into His household, so can serve a gracious and kind master.

And he is not holding out on you. James 1:16  says, “don’t be deceived. Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the father of lights. 

Psalm 84:11—no good thing does He withhold from him whose walk is blameless.

You can withstand any temptation when you remember those two things. God delights in me. God doesn’t hold back from me.

Number 3, Joseph forgave his brothers’ offenses (Genesis 50:16-19)

Now, Time’s not going to allow us to cover everything that happens next, and many of you are already familiar with the rest of the story. Joseph is put in prison. He’s released from prison when Pharaoh has a dream he can’t understand. Joseph interprets the dream and tells Pharaoh there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and that he should prepare by storing up as much grain as he can during the seven years of plenty so it will sustain the people during the seven years of famine. And Pharoah says, “Great, you’re in charge.

The famine isn’t just in Egypt. Genesis 41:57 says, “All the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph.” This is partial fulfillment of what God said to Abraham way back in Genesis 11, that through his offspring all nations of the world would be blessed.

So in Genesis 42, we see that the famine is also in Canaan, where Joseph’s father and all his brothers still live. So Jacob sends all of his sons except for Benjamin to Egypt to buy grain. Verse 6 says that Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before Joseph with their faces to the ground. And Joseph recognized them right away. But it seems like he can’t resist giving his brothers a hard time. He accuses them of being spies. He tells them that the only way to convince him they aren’t lying is to come back with their youngest brother. And he took one of the brothers, Simeon, and kept him in prison until they came back.

And I want you to notice the first thing they say, on their way back to canaan, the brothers stop for the night. And when they open up the sacks of grain they have just bought, they find the silver they bought it with back in their sacks.

And I want you to notice what they say. The first thing that comes to mind when they are trying to figure out why all this is happening to them is what they did to their brother 20 or 30 years ago. They say,

21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 

Isn’t that amazing—that after decades they are still thinking about what they did to Joseph. I wonder if this is the first time they feel shame or remorse. We don’t know, the text doesn’t say. But I get the feeling that this has been gnawing at them for years now. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have connected the two so quickly. Maybe for the first time, there is genuine confession.

Reuben the oldest brother, takes them one step further. Not just confessing what they did, but taking responsibility for it:

22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.”

What they don’t realize is that Joseph, the one they had wronged, is understanding every word. He hears the cry of their heart. He hears the brokenness, the confession, the repentance. He hears them taking responsibility for their actions. And verse 23 says he turned away and wept. In that moment, I think Joseph forgave his brothers. And then he gives orders to replace each man’s money in his sack.

They confessed. They repented. They took responsibility. And he repaid what they owed him.

They come back home and they tell their father everything that had happened to them. A few months later, they have to go back to Egypt. And this time, they take Benjamin with them.

And here’s the best part. When they get back to Egypt, Joseph prepares a table for his brothers. Chapter 43 says he sat before them, and said them down in birth order. He fed them from his own table, it says in verse 43.

Then he sends them away again. Once again, he returns their money to them. He puts his own silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Then, in one last test, he sends out his soldiers to bring the brothers back to him, accusing them of stealing the cup. He says in 44:17 that whichever brother stole the cup will be punished.

And in chapter 44, verse 33 Judah offers himself as a substitute for his brother.   

Two thousand years later, Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, will offer himself as a substitute for all of us. He who committed no sin will die on the cross for your sins.

In chapter 45, Joseph can stand it no longer. He sends everyone else out of the room and he turns to his brothers and says, I am Joseph, your brother.

After repentance, after the brothers confessed their  sins and took responsibility for them, Joseph revealed himself to them.

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Joseph tells them that this was God’s plan. That what they had intended for evil, God made good.

And the story ends with this beautiful picture of reconciliation.

14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

Beloved, when we confess our sins, when we repent and take responsibility for our actions, Jesus brings us to the table, and he reveals himself to us.

[invitation and Communion]

Communion: Before, During, and After the Table

  1. Repentance (Genesis 42:21)
  2. Responsibility (Genesis 42:22)
  3. Revelation (Genesis 45:3)
  4. Reconciliation (Genesis 45:14-15)
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