6/12/16 - Framed - Joseph

Framed: Joseph                                                                                               Sunday, June 12, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Have you ever felt like justice was working against you, like you were maybe being treated unfair? We see this even in our kids sometimes like, 'It was mine! He took it!' Right? But even as adults, we have this feeling of being treated unfair at times. Maybe you weren't framed, that might be an extravagant word to use, but you were treated unfairly by the powers in your life. You know, maybe this was a teacher or a boss or a judge or maybe even a family member treated you unfairly. Something within us resonates with this desire for justice. The idea of justice. We desire this.

And so today we launch a new life series titled "Framed." This series is going to explore four biblical characters who were framed. And then we're going to ask the question of how they came to understand their circumstances. Because we all find ourselves in places of injustice, right? And to different degrees, of course. But what do we do when we find ourselves in that place? For example, when someone fails to use their turn signal and they cut you off, you have been treated with an injustice. But losing your flippin' mind over it, right, maybe that's not the most healthy way to respond, right? So we're going to talk about this because we all are like, 'That person should be arrested, thrown in prison for ten years, and like I should get money for the emotional trauma of what just happened when he cut me off.' No.

So we gotta talk about this, right? Because we desire justice, and there's actually something very spiritual about our desire for justice. And you see this all over because even though you might say like most of the United States isn't really Christian or really you know media isn't or whatever, we have all these shows that talk about justice. Law & Order. That's been on as long as I've been born! Like, I mean, really? I mean, that thing has been on forever and it's still going, and they have like eight different spinoffs. And then CSI, they have one in every city. There's one, CSI: Hummelstown just got published. No, I mean like, seriously though, like, they're everywhere. These shows just continue to do so well ratings-wise that they just keep launching new ones. And why is that? Why do we like to watch an hour-long drama of a crime committed and then that person brought to justice and all the mess that goes along the way. Something within us desires justice.

There's this podcast that's called "Serial." How many of you guys have heard of the Serial podcast? If you are not a podcaster, you should be, because it's a great one. And it goes through and takes cases and goes through all the different elements of the case from a journalistic standpoint. And you're just sitting here like, your desire for justice is just tapped into as you listen to this podcast. FX just did a series "The People v. O.J. Simpson," and then last night, last night, ABC premiered "OJ: Made in America," which was an ESPN original. And you think about this, like why are we obsessed with a case that happened forever ago? Why are we so obsessed with justice?

In December, Netflix released "Making a Murderer." How many of you guys remember this or are maybe in the middle of watching it? Really? Not that few. Okay, maybe a bunch of you don't want to raise your hands. I'm going to do this again. Everyone close your eyes. Okay? So you don't see their hand go up. How many of you have seen or heard of Making a Murderer? Okay, there we go. That's a little more honest. Thank everyone for closing their eyes. No, I'm just kidding. So anyway, there's this series that releases in December. Thirty-five days after it's released, it had racked up nearly 20 million people that had watched the ten episodes. Think about that. This phenomenon, kind of, this unfamiliar show to most people, became like this explosion of everyone was watching it, everyone was talking about it. And if you're not familiar with the plot, I'll tell you a little bit about it. It explores the trials of Steven Avery who served 18 years after being convicted of sexual assault, then through DNA testing, he is exonerated of that. He's found innocent, and then he sues the state of Wisconsin, and during his trial for the state of Wisconsin, he is found to be charged for murder, and the rest of the, really, most of the episodes are you like trying to discern did he commit the murder or was he framed?

And so, there is this longing within us for justice. It grabs our attention. Why? It's so weird that this would grab our attention. To be concerned about these fake people in Law & Order world that we have to tune in for and watch. Something within us desires to be made new. Let me say that again. Something within us desires to be made new. See, you and I were created in the image of God. It's not a coincidence that you are obsessed with justice. It's not a coincidence that you desire for wrong to be made right. That is the image of God within us. Here's the struggle, though. How do we live that out because we are not God? And sometimes we place ourselves in a position like we are like, 'I do no wrong. I never cut anyone off when I'm driving.' Right? Can I preach for a minute? Like, I'm preaching to myself, by the way. But hopefully you guys are along for the ride and you guys have the same experience.

But the truth is we desire justice because something within us is telling us one day, everything will be made right. All of the wrongs that you see, all of the injustices you see, things are going to be made new. And there is something within us that is longing for that day. And so when we watch an hour-long Law & Order episode, and we come to the end, and we see resolve, ohh, something within us is like, 'Yes! The good guy wins. That's the way it's supposed to be.' And then here's the deal. When we finish "Making a Murderer" and we realize Steven Avery is still in jail or in prison and you come off on the side of like, man, there's a lot of questionable stuff here, you're like torn up about that. Like you can't sleep for a couple nights over this silly little documentary, you might say, right? But the truth is, we desire justice because we are created in the image of God. And so that's why it grips us so tightly, and it's hard to let go.

And here's the deal. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever said, you know, I like the Bible, but it's kind of a boring book. Or maybe like, man, it's just hard to read, it's just boring, I don't get it. Here's the deal. Today, if you leave here saying the Bible is a boring book after we get done with this story, I don't really know what I can help you with. It's a boring book to you, I guess, because today's story is anything but boring.

Here's how it starts. There was a father, his name was Jacob. And this father, he had 12 sons, and his 11th son was Joseph. This was his first son to his wife Rachel, so this son was very important to him. The text even says, "He favored this son," which seems a little bit interesting because I would be very careful to favor one of my children over my others, but he does in this culture. And then he makes him this ornate robe, or as maybe you've heard it called, a coat of many colors. How many of you guys know this story of Joseph, the coat of many colors. And so he makes this coat of many colors to signify that this is his favorite child. {laughs} I would encourage you as parents, don't take a lesson from Jacob on this one. Let that be his own thing. It's not going to go well for you.

So Joseph starts having these dreams, okay? So he's a 17-year-old kid, and he's having these dreams, or we believe he was around 17 years old, and these dreams are where his older brothers bow down to him. Okay, now I'm the oldest in my family, okay? And what happens is Joseph starts having these dreams, and he decides 'I think I should share these with my older brothers. I think I should tell them how one day they're going to bow down to me.' You know what? If one of my younger brothers came up to me and said, 'Justin, last night I dreamed that you're going to bow down to me one day,' I would've said, 'Well, right now, I'm gonna beat you up.'

So the truth is he decides he's going to start telling his brothers and like flaunting in his brothers' faces, 'Hey, look at my cool coat. I'm the favorite, and let me tell you something else, I had a dream last night that you're going to bow down to me one day. Ha ha ha.' And so like this punk, little, adolescent kid and his older, adult brothers are like, 'We are gonna beat him down.' And it eventually gets so bad that the brothers are like, he comes out to them and he's telling them all about the stuff and they're like, 'Let's kill him.' Like they're literally like, 'Let's kill him.' And this isn't a joke anymore, this is like moving to the thought of like we're really gonna kill him.

And then one of the brothers is like, 'Hold on, we don't want the blood on our hands. Let's just leave him in the desert and let the desert do the work that the desert does.' Does that make sense? 'We'll let the desert kill him.' Then, one of the other brothers is like, 'Actually, look at that. That's a caravan. Let's sell him into slavery.' It's pretty interesting when you see the moral resolve of the Old Testament sometimes. You're like, alright, we went from we're going to kill him to let's let the desert kill him, so I guess we'll land on slavery. That sounds like the morally right thing to do here, right? Punk little brother. So they go and they sell him into slavery, they make money off of it, they take his coat, okay? This coat that his father made for him, and they put blood on it, the blood of an animal on it, and they take it to their father, leading their father to believe he was killed by a wild animal. Okay?

Now, you may have family problems, okay? But can we talk about how dysfunctional Jacob's sons are right now? Joseph has just been sold into slavery by his brothers, and they framed an animal. Like, 'It was an animal; it wasn't us.' And of course as you can imagine, Jacob's heart is broken. His son, his beloved son, is lost. And this is where we pick up the story.

Joseph was taken to Egypt by that caravan and then he was sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials. And just so you know, the story of Joseph like takes up like ten chapters of scripture. Ten Genesis chapters of scripture, which are bigger chapters than even normal. So we're going to do our best to fly through this, but I encourage you if you really are like 'I want to fill in some of the blanks and some of the details,' then go read, I think starting at like Genesis 36 to maybe like 50, in that range. Read in there, you're going to read a lot about Jacob and Joseph.

Okay, here we go, so we're going to hit some of the highlights, so we are going to be in scripture quite a bit today. Here's what it says. " The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph 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. 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. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate." Because at this point, if you're a high official, the one way to die is to eat food that someone hands you that's poisoned, okay? But other than that, he opens everything in trust to Joseph. One principle I want to take from this:

PRINCIPLE #1: GOD IS WITH THE HURTING, HOMELESS, AND OPPRESSED

Let me say that again. God is with the hurting, homeless, and oppressed. It must've been such a deep wound for his brothers to turn on him like that. Now he's found himself homeless, but not only homeless, oppressed…a slave. No longer free. Not only has he known freedom, but he has known freedom and privilege in his life. Now he is oppressed, and God is still with him in this place. And we don’t even see this just in this story, this is evident throughout the teachings of Jesus. Jesus spends much of his time with the oppressed of his culture, and so God is with Joseph in his time of need. If you're going to be sold into slavery, it's pretty awful, right? I mean, it's a pretty terrible thing. But to land in Potiphar's house, this high-ranking official, seems like a way better deal than it could've been, right? We can all probably argue it could've ended a lot worse. The next step in the progression could've been quite a bit worse. But he landed in a pretty okay situation. But he did have one problem. We're going to look at the next slide for the one problem he had.

"Joseph was well-built and handsome." {laughter} You can laugh. The text says Joseph was well-built and handsome. Why is this relevant? Well, apparently he was doing Cross Fit on the daily and he was cut up, and let's talk about why this is a problem. Okay, if you don't think there's like soap opera stuff in the Bible, here it is right here. "Joseph was well-built and handsome and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, 'Come to bed with me!'" Right? Oh my goodness! "But 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. No 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?' And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her."

PRINCIPLE #2: GOD DESIRES INTEGRITY

God desires our integrity. Joseph had no control over the temptations that came his way. He certainly had no control over his environment. He was a slave. He was placed in that place, and he couldn't leave. How do we respond with integrity to the things that come our way? This is so important that we are different people, that we enter into situations that are complex with integrity. He could've placed his resentment toward Potiphar, his resentment toward being a slave, his resentment toward not having a homeland anymore, his resentment toward his brothers selling him into slavery into that relationship, but he doesn't. He resists, and the story continues.

"One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 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. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 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. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.' She kept his cloak beside her until the master came home. Then she told him this story: 'That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.' When his master heard the story that his wife told him, saying, 'This is how your slave treated me,' he burned with anger."

PRINCIPLE #3: SOMETIMES OUR INTEGRITY GOES UNSEEN

I think it's important that we recognize this. There are times where we are going to make the right choice, and people around us aren't going to see it. God sees it, though. This is the important thing. God sees it. This is awful for Joseph. I hope we recognize how incredibly awful this is. Death is the obvious punishment here. Okay? To be a servant and to do this, to be accused of this, he's nothing but a slave. Here's what it says he did, though. "Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined."

Sometimes we're wrongly punished. Sometimes we are wrongly punished. Technically, Joseph it should've been way worse for him. But still it's wrongly punished. He's gone from a position of privilege even, that he actually was in charge of quite a bit, seems like he was being taken care of quite well, to now being in prison. Recognizing that prison in this context is not like DirecTV and you know, like, a nice mattress. This is a tough place to be, he's found himself. Look at the opportunity, though. Let's make sure, let's put up that passage again. "Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined." Joseph is in prison. There's no opportunity in prison, he's lucky to be alive, right? No, he is placed in the wing of the prison where the king's prisoners were confined. This becomes very interesting. You start to see God at work weaving together his redemptive plan for Joseph, even in the times where people are trying to work against him.

So how many of you have ever felt like, man, God is just not even working in my life right now. There is no way God is working in my life right now. I have found myself in a prison. There is no way God is working in my life right now. We're going to find that this place, this prison that he's placed in, the wing of the prison he's placed in, is incredibly significant for the destiny of Joseph. Alright, let's continue the story. Let me say this. Sometimes we're wrongly punished but we might be rightly placed. Let me say that again. Sometimes we're wrongly punished but we might be rightly placed. Alright.

PRINCIPLE #4: SOMETIMES WE'RE WRONGLY PUNISHED

"But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him." The Lord was with him again, right? "He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden so the warden put Joseph in charge." Everyone keeps putting Joseph in charge of things, right? "Put him in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care," because he was a man of integrity of course, "because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did."

It doesn't matter where we are if the Lord is with us. The Lord was with Joseph even in prison. God was working things out. Even though you could argue they seemed to be finished, right? At this point, his integrity, his reputation, was lost. You ever felt like that, like your reputation is lost and you're like, 'What could God possibly do with me now? I found myself in a prison. I found myself where everyone I know looks at me a certain way with a certain reputation, and it hurts.' And it hurts to the core of our identity. But it doesn't matter where we are if the Lord is with us.

Turn to the person next to you. I know you guys don't like doing this, we're not really charismatic like this, and just say, "The Lord is with you. The Lord is with you." Do we see our situations this way? Do we see our situations this way? That God is with us, the Lord is with us, even in the valley. Even in the valley, God is with us. You know, Jesus represents God with us. We celebrate this at Christmas, this Emmanuel, God with us. And the scriptures say it this way: "Christ is in us." In us. So the Lord is with you no matter where you find yourself. Doesn't matter where you are. Doesn't matter what's going on. You know, that job, the boss, the kids, the divorce, the addiction, the struggles, the finances, the worry, the stress, the doubt. The Lord is with you. The Lord is with you.

Joseph had seen his brothers sell him into slavery. He knew God could rescue him because God already had. Let me just make a quick note here. Sometimes we don't remember well the ways in which God has rescued us already, when we're in the midst of a prison. We don't remember all the ways God has delivered us. We need perspective sometimes, and then we need patience. And for Joseph, he was ready to serve right there in his context, right in a prison. 'What can I do? How can I help' And he starts serving the warden! I don't know about you, but if I'm in a prison and I'm wrongly there, I'm not about to be like 'How can I help?' Like, right? You're going to be like, 'What is going on? I want my due process!' Not quite in Egypt, but at the same time, you're trying to figure out how do I get out of this, right? You're not trying to actually help, but he does, he begins to help. And then he begins to help in another context. He begins to interpret dreams.

Because remember, this is the king's prison. Certain people have been placed here that are close to the king. He interprets someone's dreams and then that leads to him eventually interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. This is the king. This is the head guy in Egypt. And these dreams tell of this coming famine. So him and Pharaoh and the coming chapters, they get really close because he sees Joseph's integrity, and he sees that he actually is interpreting these dreams, one of the few people of all of the people that he has that are spiritual, that are kind of his diviners, no one can tell him what these dreams mean, and now Joseph is telling him exactly what these dreams mean, and here's what it says.

PRINCIPLE #5: IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE WE ARE IF THE LORD IS WITH US

"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.'" Plot twist! What? Dude was in jail just a minute ago! "Then Pharaoh took his signet ring..." which means, by the way, a signet ring, it had the inscription of the pharaoh on it, he could place it on any contract and it was as good as the signature of Pharaoh. So think about how much he must trust Joseph to put this ring on him. "Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes and fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck..." because Joseph liked hip-hop "...and then he had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command..." Second in command. Second in command to the pharaoh. ..."and men shouted before him, 'Make way!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt."

PRINCIPLE #6: GOD CAN DO MIRACLES

God can do miracles, right? We say this, we read this, but like if you've found yourself in a prison, let's remember that God can do miracles. Joseph had the odds stacked against him multiple times in multiple ways, and somehow his reputation has been restored to the point where he is second in command to the pharaoh. Wow. Second in command. God can do miracles, and here's the thing, last week we talked about Elisha. One of the things Elisha said about God bringing the water is that he said this is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord. This thing that you need that God has, it's an easy thing. Doing a miracle like this in the eyes of the Lord? It's an easy thing.

Now, Joseph is in charge of the grain distribution because Pharaoh has put him in charge of this because he interpreted these dreams. He said, 'Hey, listen up, we're going to have some good years, and then we're going to have some really bad years, so we need to plan in these really good years to make sure we have enough for these really bad years.' And this is Joseph's plan, and so he makes these plans according to his dreams, and he helps to let the country survive and even the surrounding people survive. And so Joseph's overseeing the distribution of grain to insiders and outsiders. Okay?

Guess who comes for grain? His brothers! Yes! His brothers come for grain, but they don't recognize him. So they walk in the room, and they're like, second in command to Pharaoh, let's talk to this guy. He looks really important, oh he's got the ring, oh my goodness. Let's beg for grain because we're going to die if we don't have it.

Now, I'm going to just pause here for a moment. Is the Bible boring? Like this is not a boring story. This is a pretty crazy story, right? Like this is a story that can get you on the edge of your seat. So after a pretty long exchange...his brothers have this kind of long exchange, which we don't have time for today, but you can read it all, it's very interesting, but here's how it goes. "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.'” Now remember, they don't know it's him. "When they had done so, he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.'”

PRINCIPLE #7: AFTER THE PAIN, WE BEGIN TO SEE OUR TRIALS AS MOMENTS THAT SHAPE OUR DESTINY

What? What? After the pain, we begin to see our trials as moments that shape our destiny. Let me say that again. After the pain, we begin to see our trials as moments that shape our destiny. What a crazy perspective for Joseph to have. How could he be this way when he sees his brothers, the ones that sold him into slavery, the ones that wanted to kill him and then went to the moral resolve of we'll just sell him, we'll actually make money off the deal, right? I mean, like, these are the guys that are standing before him and he holds their life in his hands because he has the one thing they need to survive.

His immediate response is don't be distressed, don't be upset about what you did, God needed me here; I've been able to save a lot of people by interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. What a crazy perspective. See, sometimes, we find ourselves feeling pain, and we're like, this is unneeded and unnecessary, God. Why are you putting me through this right now? Sometimes, He's maturing us. There's something he's teaching us in the process because the truth is, you can argue, Joseph had some growing up to do because he didn't have a ton of wisdom going to his brothers and being like, 'Hey, guess what, one day you're going to bow down to me.' You know? He had some maturing to do, and God uses this pain to mature him and then places him in the perfect spot to be used.

So whatever valley you're finding yourself in right now, have you maybe considered the thought that God might actually be shaping your destiny right in that place for something incredibly powerful to happen in your life? But here's the deal, complaining in the valley gets us nowhere. We don't see that on display at all in Joseph's life. Every time he is lowered, every time injustice finds him, we find a heart ready to serve and open to what God might be bringing in this new environment. What a crazy story.

Now, he invites his brothers and his father to come join him, he's going to take care of them. He's got a position of privilege now, so he's takes care of them. Eventually, his father dies. When his father dies, the brothers become very nervous because now here's the question: Was this all an act for Dad? Right? Because that would be the noble thing to do. Was this all an act for Dad, and now Dad's gone, and we are going to be killed. So they thought Joseph was going to kill them, and here's how it happens after they're done mourning the death of their father. Joseph said this to his brothers after they were, you could tell they were distressed talking about this. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph was humbled as a slave, and he was humbled in a prison cell, and here's the thing…that prepared him for him to be humble as a leader in power. Right? Sometimes we need those lessons before we can have the influence or before we can have the story or before we can step in fully to what God wants to use us for. We have to be ready because here's the deal. He could've come in to here power hungry, ready to rule with an iron fist, ready to take it to his brothers, but that's not his heart at all. As we face injustice in our life, however small it might be, how are we going to respond? Are we going to complain and become closed off or do we ask, 'God, what might you be teaching me right now through this?' Or do we see injustice as an opportunity for God to do something extraordinary in our life?

God is at work in your life. I believe that. No matter where you've found yourself, God is at work. And you might say, Justin, my life is a mess. And I might say, yeah, it probably is. No, I'm just kidding. {laughs} But look at Joseph. I mean, I would test you to find a more messed up life than this guy. I mean, you're thinking about the family picnic this summer that you've got to go to and the awkwardness, imagine his family parties after this! Like, they're all now chillin' in Egypt and having like family get-togethers, like that must be interesting dynamics, right?

But the truth is, no matter what level of awful the injustice is, it hurts. It hurts, but God is at work within it. God is redeeming, and may we remain open to that reality. Let's pray.

God, first off, we just want to thank You for being with us. And we thank you especially that You are with the hurting, because there are those who are really hurting. Whether it be decisions they've made that have led to their hurt, whether it be injustices that have been made against them, I pray they would feel your power and your presence in their life, they would be reminded of your grace and forgiveness. Lord, give us integrity. Allow us to be people that desire integrity even when it goes unseen, even when we are wrongly punished, may we look to you. Remind us that complaining isn't going to solve a whole lot. Instead, we trust in You because You can redeem this mess. You can make something good out of our brokenness. Not just our brokenness, but the brokenness of our world because You are making all things new, and we look forward to the day when that is full. When You are complete in making all things new. God, no matter where we are, remind us that You are with us. If we're lonely, remind us that we're not alone. God, You promise that one day there will be no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain, and we look forward to that day of no more injustice. But until then, remind us that we have this desire for justice within us because we are created in Your image. So may we live in that image more and more. May we desire to look more and more like Jesus, the fullness of your image, each and every day. As we look forward to that day, give us hearts and minds for the here and now. In the name of Jesus, amen.