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Joseph’s gut-wrenching circumstances and Godly decisions amid them in Genesis 39 are incredibly valuable examples that all of us can apply to our lives.

Whenever we go through hard times and want a bit of comfort — thinking deeply about what Joseph lived through is a good idea to get a sense that someone else endured incredibly difficult things so we don’t feel as alone. Imagine being hated by your own siblings so much they want to kill you, then being betrayed by them, and then sold into slavery and taken to a foreign land. Everything you had and everyone you knew is gone, probably forever. You don’t know anything about where you’ve ended up. You’re completely alone — and no one is coming to your rescue. Your life, practically speaking, is over. That’s what happened to Joseph. And taking some time to fathom the waves of sadness and grief he must have gone through very likely will put our own troubles in perspective.

But what made the big difference here is that the Lord was with Joseph.

And the same God who was with Joseph in his awful circumstances, the same God who showered grace upon him, the same God who gave him favor in bad times … is our God, too!

Indeed, while Joseph was betrayed, sold into slavery, and taken to a foreign land — the man who bought him was Potiphar, the Egyptian captain of the guard. Only God could have orchestrated that. And wouldn’t you know that Joseph excelled while serving Potiphar, who saw that the Lord was with Joseph and eventually placed him in charge of entire household — which God blessed for Joseph’s sake.

Joseph also had a part to play in God’s grand story: he positioned himself to be in the very best place to receive the shower of grace the Lord wanted to pour down upon him. And as Pastor Scott reemphasized this past Sunday, we also have to be “positioned” under God’s grace shower to experience it; we can’t be camped out in the living room escaping watching TV.

And what five principles did Joseph follow amid his difficult circumstances that we can value and incorporate into our own lives?

First, we must integrate our faith into our daily lives. When we do, as Psalm 1 says, we will be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Just like Joseph.

Second, we must share with others the grace God has given to us — it’s one of the ways we’ll end up advancing in life. “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)

Third, we mustn’t get sucked in by sin. This is huge. Sin — especially sexual sin — is always out there ready to overtake us, and we must commit ourselves to avoid it. Partaking in it hinders our ability to receive and pass on grace to others.

Joseph knew this very well. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph reply is amazing: “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 is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

But this wasn’t just a one-time proposition; Potiphar’s wife was after Joseph on a daily basis. And one day it got so bad that when she grabbed for his garments, they came off — as Joseph fled! That’s commitment to God and the righteousness he calls us to. And it certainly reflects Scripture’s command to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Now here’s the kicker: Joseph did the right thing by fleeing from Potiphar’s wife — but bad things happened to him anyway. She lied and told Potiphar that Joseph tried to have sexual relations with her — and had Joseph’s garments to “prove” it — and with that, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison.

Which brings us to principle number 4: God’s sovereignty overcomes our darkest moments.

This had to be a huge blow to Joseph. Just when things were looking up in Potiphar’s house, and he was excelling, Joseph suddenly finds himself in prison over a trumped-up charge. Yet another betrayal! And it happened after he made a righteous and Godly choice. It’s certainly a stark example of a bad thing happening to a good person. There’s no explanation for it — and often many of us wonder how God can possibly be on our side and looking out for us if he lets something like this happen.

But when we think this way, we’re misunderstanding God. His promises haven’t changed. He will be with us. He’ll be with us when we’re prospering and excelling in life, and he’ll be with us when times are bad. When we’re betrayed. When we’re treated unjustly.

And wouldn’t you know that despite being thrown in prison, Joseph ends up at the top of the heap there, too? Because God is with him, Joseph is soon placed in charge of all the prisoners because those above him saw — just like Potiphar — that the Lord was with him. Joseph doesn’t mope and feel sorry for himself amid his horrific circumstances — and God turned them around in a big way.

As we saw Sunday, one of the big secrets to Joseph’s success is the fifth and final principle: Don’t focus on the results; focus on being faithful.

In our own lives, if we focus on results, we start doing things that impact results, such as cutting corners and stepping on other people on the way to the top. Instead, we must obey the Lord and leave the results up to him. Our job is to just be faithful.

And God certainly took care of the results while Joseph was in prison, just as he did while Joseph was in Potiphar’s house. The final sentence of Genesis 39 reads, “And whatever [Joseph] did, the Lord made it succeed.”

So, let’s integrate our faith into our daily lives, share God’s grace with others, not get sucked in by sin, believe that God’s sovereignty overcomes our darkest moments, and focus on being faithful rather than on the results. Now those are some Godly principles to live by!

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As we continued our study of the life of Joseph in Genesis, our look at chapter 38 uncovered a parenthetical account of what became of Judah, one of his brothers. It’s a sad story about drifting from God — and the bad things that typically happen when we do.

As Pastor Scott emphasized, all relationships take work so that they may grow and thrive. Each person in a relationship needs to focus on the other, remain accountable, and continually demonstrate love. It’s not easy. And human relationships aren’t perfect because humans aren’t perfect.

But when it comes to our individual relationships with God, one party is doing it right all the time — and it’s not us! Indeed, each of us imperfect humans must work hard at our relationships with God to stay connected to him. The Lord doesn’t force himself on us; we need to decide each day to enter into God’s presence and commune with him.

Judah didn’t do that. He doesn’t really have a strong connection to God. He leaves the protection of his home, meets a friend who’s not a Jew, and ends up marrying a woman from another land. Sound familiar? How many believers have done the same thing? Any of us could be Judah and drift away. And problems certainly happened for Judah.

Judah’s wife gave birth to three sons. And God put to death his firstborn, Er, for being wicked. And God put to death his second son, Onan, for not following through on his duty to give a son to his older brother’s widow, Tamar. In short, Onan didn’t mind having intercourse with Tamar but knew a son wouldn’t be connected to him, so he “would waste the semen on the ground.” 

As Pastor Scott pointed out, the awesome holiness of God should scare us — especially the fact that he cannot tolerate sin. And the fact that he blesses us and gives us life is only due to his mercy. “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed (holy) be your name.”

Not wanting death to come to Shelah, his third son, Judah sent Tamar to her father’s house to remain a widow until Shelah was old enough for her. But Judah didn’t follow through on his promise to Tamar. Over the course of time, Judah’s wife died — and then one day after Judah’s grieving was over, he was on his way to work. When Tamar found out, she disguised herself as a prostitute to entice Judah since he still had not given his son Shelah to her in marriage. And Judah had sexual relations with the disguised Tamar, not knowing who she was, and Tamar became pregnant.

When Judah found out Tamar was pregnant through immorality, he said “let her be burned.” Of course, Judah didn’t know that Tamar was the “prostitute” he met on the side of a road. When Tamar was being brought out, she sent word to Judah that the signet, cord, and staff he had given her as collateral after their sexual act belonged to the man who impregnated her. Judah was caught. He identified the items and confessed, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And Judah didn’t have sexual relations with her again.

As Pastor Scott pointed out, if we go down the wrong roads sexually, we end up losing a lot. Proverbs 5 tells us, “Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” In other words, sexual danger is out there — it’s all around us. We must be careful not to get involved in it.

As it turns out, Judah’s comeuppance may have been a turning point for him. As Pastor Scott noted, we’ll soon learn that he went back and reconnected with father and brothers. And even better, Judah’s father Jacob later in Genesis blessed him and said he will be like a lion — the Lion of Judah. And that term is an identifier with Jesus, who descended from Judah’s line.

And wouldn’t you know that it was one of the twin children — Perez — born through Judah and Tamar’s sinful act, who would continue the genealogical line to Jesus? Despite their moral failure, God miraculously turned it into something good. It’s yet another demonstration of the Lord’s mercy to all of us.

Of course, a much better way of going through life is to stay close to God and stay away from sin and listen to all the Lord’s words to us. 

Are we, as Pastor Scott suggested, creating “mile markers” for ourselves as we move forward in life? And are these markers showing that we’re moving away from God or moving closer to him? When we see warning lights flashing before us as we journey, do we take the detour the Lord has made for us — or do we continue toward the danger? May we “obey the rules of the road” instead, so that we’ll arrive at our destination in good shape!

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When we left off in Genesis 37, we were introduced to 17-year-old Joseph who found himself in the middle of an exceptionally bad case of sibling rivalry. His father Jacob favored him over his 11 brothers, Joseph got a great-looking robe in the deal — and then Joseph decided to ally himself with his dad rather than look the other way when his brothers didn’t do a good job in the fields. In short, Joseph’s brothers hated him.

This past Sunday we started looking at what happened next: Joseph’s dreams.

Thing is, Joseph — perhaps showing youthful exuberance — didn’t keep his dream to himself. Instead, he told it to his brothers: “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.”

His already steamed brothers replied, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” And according to the Scriptures “they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.”

But as Pastor Scott pointed out, another way of looking at Joseph’s reaction to his dream is that he wasn’t craving power or dominance over his brothers — he was simply excited and wanted to share the vision God gave to him. And we can learn something from Joseph’s reaction, too: We should expect big things from the Lord!

Do we not limit God from time to time? View him from our own mortal perspective — and then end up believing somehow that the Lord is no more powerful than we are? No more merciful than we are? No more loving than we are? If our God is no bigger than our own assumptions and limitations — if he can’t explode from and rise above our faulty, flawed, tiny boxes — then it’s not surprising why we sometimes react to him in faithlessness rather than faithfulness.

Then Joseph had yet another dream — and it didn’t appear to get any better for him, because it turns out he dreamed that “the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” And this time Jacob also heard Joseph describe his dream and asked, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And the Bible says his brothers were jealous of him, “but his father kept the saying in mind.” 

Perhaps Jacob also is open to how big God can be — which indeed reflects important moments from his life we’ve already seen. Indeed, as Pastor Scott emphasized, we also must maintain the wonder of God in our lives, and always be ready to ask the question — in good times and in bad — “What is the Lord doing right now?”

And that very well may be what Joseph soon began to ask as well, as the next part of the chapter describes how his brothers plotted to kill him and ended up stripping Joseph of his many-colored robe and tossing him into an empty cistern containing no water. With how big and grand the Lord has been so far in Joseph’s life, how will Joseph view God now, in what must be a shocking circumstance? To make matters worse, his brothers managed to talk themselves into selling Joseph into slavery rather than killing him as a way not only of getting some money but also to make it seem as though they did the “more honorable” thing by not killing their own brother. Finally, his brothers concealed their deed by dipping Joseph’s robe in goat’s blood and convincing their father Jacob that Joseph had been devoured by an animal.

What possibly could have Joseph been thinking now? What is God doing in his life in this awful circumstance? He’s cut off from his father Jacob and his family and headed to Egypt as a slave and will end being there into adulthood. But as Pastor Scott reminded us, God had his hand on Joseph — and when the Lord has his hand on you and me, nothing that happens in life will change that. Nothing will get in the way of what the Lord wants to do in Joseph’s life — or in our lives.

Therefore, let us all be sure to ask ourselves more and more frequently, “What is God doing right now?” The more we ask that question — and the more God reveals his answers to us — the closer we’ll be to the Lord and what he has in mind for us in our lives. And that is the very best place to be.

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As we shift in Genesis 37 to the life of Joseph, we see yet another family situation filled with conflict and sibling rivalry — in this case, it’s the teenager Joseph versus his 11 brothers who grow to hate him and eventually plot to kill him. (Which hopefully pales in comparison to squabbles you’ve seen over who gets the last ice cream cone and control over the TV remote!)

Pastor Scott shared a number of crucial truths on Sunday that — even with an ancient biblical account that may look far different than our 21st-century realities — is quite applicable to our lives. Whether or not we struggle in our relationships with our siblings, or even if we don’t have siblings at all, we all have to face conflict and other challenges in our relationships with others.

In this chapter, we find that Joseph — who was 17 at the time — gave a bad report to his father Jacob about his brothers. Naturally his brothers didn’t like that, and the bad blood began to boil over. Not that it’s ever a good thing to tattle — and there’s no evidence that Joseph did that with respect to his brothers — but the more important thing is that Joseph made a decision that day: He aligned himself with truth and with his father rather than protecting his brothers.

Is that something you can relate to? Being in the position of having to choose the truth over a lie — and maybe others getting angry at you for doing so? Joseph’s brothers hated him for telling the truth about them. Sometimes doing what’s right comes with an emotionally painful cost. But remember that it’s never as costly as turning a blind eye to the truth and not standing up for it.

What’s more, we see in this chapter that Joseph received a “robe of many colors” from his father, who “loved Joseph more than any other of his sons.” Ouch. In a family with more than one child, it most definitely hurts when a parent openly favors one child over the others — even if there’s good reason to do so. And that probably applies to Joseph’s brothers. But still, one wonders if Jacob tried harder to show more love to his other sons and demonstrated favor toward them in other ways, would they have reacted in such anger toward Joseph later on? It’s an important question to ask ourselves, whether we are a parent or a son or daughter.

But just as crucially, as Pastor Scott shared, Joseph receiving the robe from his father symbolizes important truths in our relationship with God. Since the Lord is a perfect father to each one of us, he literally has a “robe of many colors” he wants to give each of us. And these robes are all different, as they are made especially for each one of his children. But the question is, will we reach out and receive God’s gift? And even if we do receive God’s robe, do we check it at the door of culture, as Pastor Scott asked us?

Are you in a state of heaviness today? Are you angry or discouraged — even reluctant to put on the “garment of praise” the Lord has given you? Do you even wonder if you are worthy of such a gift? Stop right there and rest easy: None of us is worthy. God gives each of us his gifts because he loves each of us — not because we’ve done anything to earn his love.

And remember God’s safety net: the church. We gather with fellow believers at Calvary Chapel Living Hope because that’s where we can get support and prayer and learn how to manage difficulties in our lives and how to receive grace and forgiveness. And it’s also where learn how to throw off our selfishness by being servants to one another.

On this day, may we each put on the “robe of many colors” the Lord has given us, practice kindness and compassion, walk in humility, and exercise gentleness and patience as we serve each other — especially our fellow siblings in the house of God.