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Garment of Accusation

Genesis 37:18-24 

 

"When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. [19] And they said to one another, 'Here comes this dreamer! [20] Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!' [21] But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, 'Let us not take his life.' [22] Reuben further said to them, 'Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him'-- that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. [23] So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; [24] and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it."

Last week we left Jacob holding Joseph's coat of many colors covered in blood. As far as Jacob knew, Joseph, his favorite son-the son of his old age-was dead. Jacob grieved bitterly. There is an old saying that I think applies to Jacob: What comes around goes around. Jacob, the deceiver is being deceived by his sons, much in the same way he deceived his father when he was young. Jacob put on his brother's best clothes, and put goat's skin on his arms to persuade his father to give him the blessing that belonged to his brother, Isaac's favorite son. Notice the similarity. Jacob's sons drenched their brother's best tunic in goat's blood to persuade Jacob that his favorite son was dead. Coincidence? I don't think so. There something else about last week's story that has puzzled me. Did you notice that Israel is referred to as "Jacob" in the text instead of the name that God gave him at his second major encounter with God? Why do you think that is? I have an idea. It is to draw our attention to the fact that Jacob was getting what he'd previously dished out. The name Jacob means "supplanter or deceiver." While Israel meant, "he will rule." As he held Joseph's bloody garment, he was not a ruler, he was reaping what he'd sowed as a deceiver. It will be weeks before we talk about Jacob again. The story continues, but now the main character in the story shifts from Jacob to Joseph.

Last week, we left Joseph in the pit not knowing what would happen to him. In the darkness he sat naked, shivering in the cold. Hungry. Thirsty. Without hope. Would his brothers leave him to die there? Will they kill him? Will a wild animal get him? What will he do? His fate, it seems is in his brother's hands. 

But I didn't tell you the whole story last week, before the brothers took the blood drenched tunic back to their father, they sold him into slavery. Let's rejoin the text in Genesis 37:25-28. "Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. [26] And Judah said to his brothers, 'What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? [27] Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.' And his brothers listened to him. [28] Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt."

I particularly like what Judah said to his brothers to convince them to sell him to the slave traders, "for he is our brother, our own flesh." I suppose that when the alternative is to kill him, selling him into slavery was compassionate, but the reality is that murder wasn't the only alternative. They could have repented and done what was right. But in a twisted sort of way, this decision was a good one. It was critical in God's plan for Joseph to end up in Egypt. If they had not sold him to these slave traders, Joseph's dream would not be fulfilled and the nation of Israel would not survive the famine that was to come.

I'm sure that at the time Joseph did not feel God's providential hand upon him. How could he as he traveled in the caravan with other slaves? Perhaps he was grateful to be alive. Certainly he was confused at this turn of events. How would his dream be fulfilled that he would rule over his family? Was the dream just a hallucination or was it from God? In just a few days Joseph went from a life of luxury as the favorite son of a wealthy man to becoming a slave. Stripped of his clothes and his dignity, he headed into an uncertain future. Uncertain to him, but not to God.

In Egypt, Joseph got a great assignment. Let's rejoin the text in Genesis 39:1-6 "Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. [2] And the Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. [3] Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. [4] So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. [5] And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord's blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. [6] So he left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance."

In effect, Joseph became Potiphar's chief of staff and God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph. Potiphar didn't make any decisions except to decide what he was going to eat, Joseph managed the rest of his household. Joseph landed on his feet, right? Well, not exactly. The last sentence of verse 6 gives a foreshadowing of something to come. It says, "Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance."

Potiphar's wife desired to sleep with Joseph and she propositioned him. Joseph responded to her in Genesis 39:8-9 "But he refused and said to his master's wife, 'Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. [9] There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?'" 

Joseph refused her advances for two reasons. One is that it would break a trust that his master had in him, and second because it would be a great evil-a sin against God. Joseph demonstrates personal fidelity and exercises great self-control by buffeting the sexual advances of this seductress. In tonight's service we're going to focus on avoiding temptation and strategies you can use to remain holy before God and maintain your integrity. One of the things we will do is have our Deacons pray for us as we take the Lord's Supper. 

Joseph did not yield to temptation here, but his problems weren't over. The seductress tried again, but this time she was more aggressive. Let me read to you what happened: "Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. [12] And she caught him by his garment, saying, 'Lie with me!' And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. [13] When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled outside, [14] she called to the men of her household, and said to them, 'See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. [15] And it came about when he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled, and went outside. [16] So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. [17] Then she spoke to him with these words, 'The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; [18] and it happened as I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled outside.' [19] Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, 'This is what your slave did to me,' that his anger burned. [20] So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail." (Genesis 39:11-20 NASB)

Joseph learned that doing the right thing doesn't necessarily mean that his life would be trouble free. Actually, Joseph would have less short-term problems if he would have accepted the offer of Potiphar's wife to sleep with her. Short-term, his life would have been easier, but long-term, it would have been harder. What could be harder than sitting in a jail for a crime he didn't commit? Sitting in a jail for a crime that you did commit-void of integrity, and alienated from your God. 

Last week, we left Joseph in a pit, without his garment of favoritism, this week we leave him in a prison cell, without his garment of accusation. I'm sure that as he tried to sleep on the cold stone floor, trying to ignore the rancid odor and the cool dampness, Joseph wondered what would happen to him. Had his God abandoned him? How would he ever fulfill his dream in jail? What had he done wrong?

But just as surely as Pharaoh was sitting on his throne, so was God sitting on his. God wasn't through with Joseph yet. Next week, we'll see what happened. 

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