Series on Genesis ii God's Family, J The Purging of the Family, Text:39:1-44:34. Title: Humiliation and Exaltation,


In this section of Genesis we have the story of Joseph in Egypt. we see his resisting the temptation to commit adultery with Potiphar's wife, his imprisonment, his interpretation of dreams leading to his release from prison and his exaltation to the right hand of Pharaoh. We see the arrival of Jacob's family in Egypt due to famine in Canaan and the ultimate confrontation between Joseph and his long lost family. As I have already indicated in the last message the latter part of Genesis may seem at first to be simply the story of Joseph, but actually it is the unfolding of two hereditary lines: Joseph on the one hand as the forbear of Ephraim, the northern kingdom, and Judah on the other hand as the progenitor of the southern kingdom of Israel as they later developed. Even though Joseph has the ascendancy here, it is ultimately the children of Judah who become important as the family of king David and of the Messiah. As we trace the two lines in this portion of Genesis, one of the prominent features is how God deals with these individuals. Although they are very different yet the lessons they learn are similar. We see in this a pattern of sanctification, and it is a pattern I would suggest that leads us away from any concept of ready made servants of God to a patient and painful process of growth. This is something we see throughout Scripture in the lives of God's servants. There are three stages to this preparation as revealed in this portion of Scripture. They are circumstances changed, compassion conceived, and commitment confronted. As we trace these themes let us consider how they apply in our own lives.

I Circumstances Changed

In the story of Joseph you will remember that he appeared to be a foolish young man. Though his relationship with his brothers was strained by his being the spoiled favorite of his father, yet he aggravated that problem by his attitude. Joseph used the dreams he had as a youth to humiliate his brothers according to 37:2-7, Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” How drastically his circumstances changed. He went from being the apple of his father's eye to a captive slave and prisoner in Egypt. The irony of his situation was that he was falsely accused by the wife of Potiphar of attempting to rape her. he went from being the accuser to the accused, from being the one who humbled others to being humbled himself, and the anguish and frustration he experienced in this must have been considerable. We might note that in spite of this Joseph like Abraham was steadfast as we read of his humiliation and faith in 39:19-23, When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph 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 the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. As a son of the covenant he displayed the advantages of being raised in a family of believers. Judah was a different kind of fool. Unlike his brother Joseph he led a life of sinful compromise with Canaanite women, and rather than flee adultery and fornication  as Joseph did, he turned aside along the road to procure the services of a prostitute. Of course he did not know it was his daughter-in-law, Tamar, in disguise, a woman whom he had badly treated. Thus, just like Joseph he went from being the accuser to being the accused. His circumstances changed so that the one who humbled others was now himself humbled. Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it? Dr. Harry Ironside was once convicted about his lack of humility. A friend recommended as a remedy, that he march through the streets of Chicago wearing a sandwich board, shouting the scripture verses on the board for all to hear. The pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Dr. Ironside agreed to this venture and when he returned to his study and removed the board, he said “I’ll bet there’s not another man in town who would do that." Humility is a virtue frequently misunderstood by these men, Joseph and Judah learned what true humility is. As John Ruskin put it, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a ... feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.” Samuel Morse was a graduate of Yale, and a renowned painter and inventor. What we would call a renaissance man. In may 1844 the first message was sent by the telegraph that he had invented from Baltimore to Washington. The message was “What God hath wrought.” The lesson to learn here is that often in the lives of his children God changes their circumstances in order to aid in their sanctification. They may stumble into sin, become impoverished, or fail in an endeavor, but we so often need to have our circumstances changed before we will be able to grow. This is not a fast process.

II Compassion Conceived

Returning to Joseph we find a man who wanted to hasten his climb to the top and soon found that he was at the bottom. He spent years in prison before he interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker and even after he told the butler to remember him the butler forgot for two whole years. All this taught him the important lesson of patience. He learned that his dreams were from God and that God was the proper interpreter of those dreams and he gave God the glory as we read in 41:15 and 16, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” This process of patient humiliation was bound to produce in Joseph compassion and understanding for others which he later shows in forgiving his brothers in 45:3-8, Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” 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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” In Romans 5:3, Paul reminds us that the fruit of tribulation and suffering is patience. He who had once been so quick to accuse, so bold in asserting his own rights, would now understand others’ sufferings and failures. You see the process of sanctification should not be viewed merely as an individual process in which we measure our lives in isolation by the divine standard. Sanctification has to do with our understanding of others and how we relate to them. Joseph and Judah were very different in their lifestyle, but both of them were users and manipulators. they had no compassion. The fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control has to do  almost exclusively with our attitude toward other people. Judah exemplifies this same progress. Through his humiliation with Tamar he too learned patience,and compassion. When he appears before Joseph in Egypt after Benjamin has been accused of theft he has no knowledge of Joseph's scheme and the planting of the evidence, the entrapment, but he pleads out of compassion for his father Jacob, and to protect his youngest brother. Genesis 44:33 and 34 records this incident, “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” True humility breeds compassion. Samuel Morse, who we mentioned earlier, was a generous man, a Calvinist who gave large sums to charity. He also became interested in the relationship of science and religion and provided the funds to establish a lectureship on 'The relation of the Bible to the sciences'. Morse was not a selfish man. Other people and corporations  made millions using his inventions, yet most rarely paid him for the use of his patented telegraph. He was not bitter about this. Marian Anderson the famous contralto born to a poor religious black family in  Philadelphia was once asked by a reporter, “What was your proudest moment?”  Bear in mind this is a woman who sang at the White House and Buckingham palace. On Easter Sunday in 1939 she sang at the Lincoln memorial for 75,000 people, including the supreme court, congress and the president’s cabinet. She sang with the New York Philharmonic, at Carnegie Hall, and at the Metropolitan Opera. Toscanini said she had a voice heard only once in  a 100 years. Jean Sibleius, the composer of Finlandia, composed music just for her. So what was her answer? What was her proudest moment. She said, “The day I went home and told my mother that she didn’t have to take in wash anymore.” She learned humility through many rejections early in her career because of the color of her skin. Truly humility breeds compassion.

III Commitment Confronted

Now then after the changes in circumstances led to patience and understanding of others, additional progress was made in the sanctification of these once proud men. They became committed to the cause of God and the truth. Joseph was confronted with the fact that his elevation in Egypt was all for God's glory. He was not raised up for his own sake but for the sake of his family, his people, and above all God. He was given his position so that he might accomplish God's purpose in preserving the Church of his day. He forgave because he was following God’s purpose. Judah in like manner meets his situation with self-sacrificing love. The man who once advised selling Joseph into slavery was now prepared to take the place of Benjamin who is accused of theft. He was willing to suffer the punishment due to his brother. He was willing to become a prisoner, a hostage and a slave in Egypt for the sake of his family. These were great deeds of love and compassion. These were commitments of the highest order. They were life altering. They cost Joseph an Egyptian crown and threatened Judah’s freedom and safety. Commitment is a word we take too lightly, like love. Wayne Hudson writes in “Many a Tear Has to Fall,” “When someone says, "I don't love you anymore,"  it shakes you to your very core.  It caused me to ponder the true meaning of love as never before. After many years, I arrived at the only definition that makes any sense. Since God is love and we must compare our love to him, we come up short if we define it any other way.  For you see, in the final analysis, love is a commitment with a beginning and no end." Christ chose to love us and he has never stopped.  He never will.  We should be very careful with a word like love.  Are we willing to make that kind of commitment?


This kind of commitment does not come about easily. It is the result of many years of humiliation and training. The proud men were humbled. Our own failures, and the realization of our own sins, brings true repentance and makes us compassionate and understanding toward others in their weakness. It is this compassion, this love, that leads us to be like Jesus. Like Jesus Joseph forgave,  and like Jesus Judah offered himself. The willingness to lay down our lives for our brothers is not born out of pride but out of humility and patience with them. It happens when we see that we are not better than they are but consider them better than ourselves.