Proper 14
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Recently, ‘Duk on Yahoo’s sports blog, “Big League Stew,” wrote of Billy Crystal’s mighty strike out in his pinstripe debut. Apparently, the 60-year-old comedian led off the bottom of the first inning for the New York Yankees as the team’s designated hitter. Fulfilling his life long dream, Crystal worked out with the team and attended batting practice with Derek Jeter before suiting up and going 3-1 and ultimately striking out. A publicity stunt? Perhaps. But on this particular day, Billy Crystal was a firm believer that sometimes dreams really do come true (March 13, 2008, (http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/mlb_experts).

Those days are easy to handle, but what about when dreams don’t come true? Sometimes life can be cruel and circumstances harsh. How should we react when our back is against the wall and nothing seems to go our way? Just one word gives us a glimmer of hope – TRUST. When our world makes no sense and God seemingly turns a deaf ear, that’s when trust is most difficult and most essential. No biblical example illustrates the principle better than the life of Joseph. These verses remind us to trust in the encompassing providence of God when our dreams don’t come true.

I. God Can Use Our Sin for His Purposes (Genesis 37:1-4)

Due to the remarkable life Joseph lived throughout the book of Genesis, we often find it difficult to be critical of him in any way. As a young man, however, Joseph was far from perfect. Genesis 37:2 concludes: “Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.” Despite the efforts of some commentators to explain Joseph’s actions in a positive light, it is hard to deny that as a young man he was a spoiled tattletale.

The added detail of Genesis 37:3 sheds even more light on the scenari “Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.” Favoritism was seemingly genetic in Jacob’s house. Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau, and Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. Now, as father, Jacob designates a favorite son despite the devastating consequences of the past. No wonder Joseph’s brothers refused to associate with him. Yet, in this environment, God is providentially preparing a path for the Messiah.

While they were accountable for all their actions, God used the sins of Joseph, Jacob, and his brothers to accomplish His purposes. Despite the complexities of a sinful world, we rest in knowing that God is sovereign and He can still use us for His glory as well.

II. God Can Use Our Situations for His Purposes (Genesis 37:11-17)

Initially, these verses appear to be useless detail with no consequential bearing on the narrative. A closer look, however, reveals that God even utilizes the smallest details of our circumstances to accomplish his will. After arriving in Shechem, some 50 miles from home, Joseph is unable to find his brothers. The natural thing to do after such a search was to return home.

However, Joseph is sought out by the right man who knows exactly where his brothers are. Consequently, rather than return home, he continues to search and successfully finds them in Dothan, where he is ultimately sold into slavery. Apart from the minute details, the incident was impossible.  God uses incidental situations to accomplish monumental purposes.

III. God Can Use Our Suffering For His Purposes (Genesis 37:18-28)

The brutality of these verses forces even the twenty-first century cynic to cringe. Joseph’s brothers plot to kill him (Genesis 37:18-20), assault him (Genesis 37:23-24), sell him into slavery (Genesis 37:26-28) and deceive their father Jacob (Genesis 37:31-32). From the human perspective, it appears as though Joseph’s life is ruined without hope. The view of heaven, however, is that what man means for evil God means for good (Genesis 50:20). After all, we serve a God that is trustworthy and faithful. Everything unfolding in Joseph’s life was working toward the ultimate good of God (Genesis 15:13-14).

And the same is true for us. Does your life fail to make sense? Ever feel disappointed because others betray you? Is it hard to see a silver lining in your present suffering? The hope of Joseph is not that God will spare us from all trouble and anxiety. To the contrary, the Christian hope is knowing that God uses even our darkest hours to accomplish a purpose that is illuminated by His light. Never be afraid to trust God, even when your heart is breaking and your dreams don’t come true.

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