Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: From the Pit to the Palace
I really appreciated Deffinbaugh's conclusion to his sermon and am going to share excerpts of it with you:
This episode in the life of Joseph brings us to a vantage point from which we may look backward and forward. Looking back, we must realize that Joseph’s elevation is not the result of one lucky break, but rather of a chain of painful but divinely purposed events. Had Joseph not said “no” to Potiphar’s wife and been unjustly cast into prison with the cupbearer, he could never have been recommended to the king. And had Joseph not been cruelly treated by his brothers and sold into slavery, he would never have been in Potiphar’s house. What a beautiful illustration of Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Looking ahead, we see that the story does not end with chapter 42, for while Joseph is the principal character of this section, he is not the sole object of God’s attention and activity. While there is a sense in which Joseph was blessed because of his faithfulness, there is the even broader perspective that Joseph’s promotion was not for his own prosperity as much as for his brothers’ preservation. Joseph’s position of power and prosperity enabled him to become the “savior” of his brethren. We must be humbled by the fact that while God cares for us as individuals, He often has a broader purpose for what He gives to us. Spiritual gifts, for example, are not given for our own benefit so much as for the upbuilding of others....
We need to be very careful about using Joseph as a model in the matter of suffering and glory. In the ultimate sense, Joseph does illustrate the truth that suffering comes before glory and, indeed, even prepares us for glory. The Christian life will be marked by suffering, as countless passages of Scripture inform us (for example, John 15:19; II Corinthians 1:3-5; Philippians 1:29; II Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:7-13; James 1:2-4; I Peter 4:12-19), but we know that we will enter into many of the joys of our salvation and the glory which is our Lord’s at His return (II Thessalonians 1:3-12; I Peter 1:3-12). Let us be very careful, however, that we do not view Joseph as a promise that all who are faithful in suffering will be brought to glory and prosperity in this life.
Perhaps my point can best be illustrated by a contrast between the lives of Joseph, who lived out these events, and Moses, who recorded them for us. Joseph began in the land of Canaan and ended up in the land of Egypt with the nation Israel under his care. Moses began in the land of Egypt and ended up in the land of Canaan with the nation Israel under his care. Joseph began his life as a shepherd in the pastures of his father and was exalted to the palace of Pharaoh. Moses was taken as an infant into the palace of the Pharaoh, but later he became a shepherd among the flocks of his father-in-law.
Do you see how very differently God used these two men to accomplish His purposes? While it was necessary, in the purposes of God, to elevate Joseph from the pasture to the palace in order to save the seventy people of God (46:27), it was necessary for Moses to step down from the palace in order to lead the people of God out of bondage....
God’s purposes are not achieved through only one method or pattern for all men. He raises some up, giving them power and prosperity, while He humbles others. We have no right to demand that God treat us just as He did Joseph, for He may choose to deal with us as He did Moses. Or, more likely, He may deal with us is some way that is entirely different from the way he directed either Joseph or Moses. Joseph, then, is no guarantee that faithful obedience will always lead to position, prosperity, and power in this life. One need only recall the life of Job to correct such shallow thinking.....
God did not raise up a preacher nor a priest, but an administrator to deliver His people from extinction. Let us beware of categorizing occupations in such a way as to make some more spiritual than others. Everyone is a full-time minister in the Scriptures, but some are called to labor in one sphere while others are called to another. Spirituality is totally independent of one’s occupation. One’s job is a matter of both gift and calling, not of spirituality.
In this same line, Joseph was not promoted by Pharaoh (in human terms) because he was spiritual, but because he was skillful and knowledgeable. Pharaoh recognized Joseph to be a man who had divine enablement, but he could have cared less who his “god” was. He was only concerned with finding a man who could do the job which needed to be done. Many Christians think that God is obligated to bless or that His people are bound to patronize people simply because they are Christians. During our recent elections it was sometimes implied that we should vote for a person solely on the basis of a profession of faith. When I go to a surgeon, I will go to the one who is the best, regardless of whether he (or she) is a pagan, an atheist, or a devout Christian. God is not restricted to working only through saints, you know. Many of us who are Christians are not very good at what we do, either because we are lazy, or we think that God is obliged to bless us only because we give testimony to our faith. Joseph’s testimony would have had little impact if he had proven to be wrong or had failed miserably to administrate the collection of grain. Let us enhance our testimony by doing well what we do.....
While I believe that God elevated Joseph because he trusted in God and obeyed, I am just as confident that Pharaoh elevated him because he was diligent and skillful in what he did. Piety without proficiency is folly. We praise God in our work as well as in our words. One without the other is useless.
Joseph’s life is a commentary on the principle that: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).
Joseph did nothing different in Pharaoh’s palace than he did in Potiphar’s penthouse or in his prison. In every instance Joseph exercised his God-given ability to administrate. While the features of each job may have differed, the functions were the same. Joseph, I am certain, did well in the palace because he had done his work diligently and faithfully wherever he had been previously.....
I think we can all see how God used adversity to prepare Joseph for the promotion and power he receives in chapter 41. But have you noticed that it was national disaster which provided the occasion for this promotion? Pharaoh would never have promoted Joseph unless he knew that there were trying days ahead and difficulties which were beyond him and his wisest advisors. That is when the Josephs are needed, in adversity.
Some of us, as Christians, would do well in the matter of prophecy. We are great prophets of doom. We love to stand up and proclaim to the world that the world is going to Hell on a bobsled. And we stop just at this point, with only the bad news. Joseph did not stop here; he had a message of hope, a message which provided a solution for the problems of that day.
The ultimate solution to the problems of mankind is a spiritual one. The crises of our lives are, at bottom, a result of sin. And the solution to the problem of sin is one that only God, through the death of His Son on the cross of Calvary, has the answer to. Let us be faithful to offer men hope and not just despair. It is in man’s darkest hours that the message of the gospel is most desperately needed and when godly men and women are turned to.
But let us not stop with this, as fundamental and primary as it is. We live in days of tremendous difficulty. It takes little wisdom or ability to confirm the fact that things are bad, but it takes the wisdom which only God gives to offer solutions to the practical problems of hunger and injustice, of energy and ecology. Let us, like Joseph, speak to these issues too, with wisdom and skill, and by this add credibility to the faith which we proclaim.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 42