Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Joseph (part 10) - The Power of Integrity

In Genesis 46 we see a great example of integrity in the person of Joseph.  Here's Joseph.  He's not just the second most powerful man in Egypt, he's really the second most powerful man in the world because Egypt at that time was the dynasty.  Even in an incredible position of power, Joseph understood the need for integrity.  As we look at Joseph we see his integrity in three different actions.  First of all, we see his integrity in his settling his family.  Joseph had sent his brothers back to the land of Canaan to get their families and father and bring them back to Egypt where they were going to live in the land of Goshen and Joseph was going to take care of them.  The brothers go back and they tell Jacob the whole story about Joseph, that he's still alive, and they pack up and they begin the move to Egypt. 


This was a serious change of life.  Very few changes in life are more serious than those of geographical location moves.  They're going from the land of Canaan to the land of Egypt.  They're going to a strange culture.  They will be around people they don't know who speak a language they don't understand.  As they prepare to move and get to the edge of the land of Canaan, Jacob is a little bit bothered. 

Jacob is 130 years old and the thought of change doesn't really do anything for him.  Human nature hasn't changed over the centuries.  The truth of the matter still remains that the older we get, the harder it us for us to get excited about change.  This was a huge change for Jacob and he’s getting nervous so he stops the caravan and he offers a sacrifice to God. 

There's no doubt that part of the reason for this sacrifice is his saying “thank you” for Joseph being alive.  But part of it is Jacob saying, “God, before I go one step further, before I make this humongous change and move my family 300 miles to a strange culture, I need to make sure You're in it.  I need to make sure this is what You really want us to do.”  I love this about Jacob because he’s finally becoming the spiritual leader of his home.  It only took 130 years but he's finally there.  He's not just moving to Egypt on impulse because Joseph is there.  He wants to know for sure that God is in it.  And God reassures Jacob that he does not have to be afraid as He gives Jacob several promises. 

“I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt.” (Genesis 46:3-4)

It’s as if God is saying, “Jacob, I know change is hard for you, especially at 130 years old, but you don't need to be afraid because I'm in the change.  I got it covered.  I'm in control.  Trust Me.”  It then goes on and it says,

“For I will make you a great nation while you're in Egypt.  I'll go down with you to Egypt.  I'll surely bring your people up again out of Egypt.  And Joseph will close your eyes.”

Let's break down those promises.  First, He says, “Let Me remind you, Jacob, I'm going to make a great nation of you while you're in Egypt.”  That promise wasn't originally given to Jacob.  It was originally given to Abraham, his grandfather.  God told Abraham that He was going to make a great nation out of his seed.  It hadn’t happened yet and Abraham has long since been dead.  God made the promise to Abraham but Abraham didn't see the promise fulfilled.  Yet, God would still fulfill the promise.  Never forget a principle we see all through the story of Joseph - God's timing may not always be our timing but it's always the best timing.  He reminds Jacob of that promise He made to Abraham which is now a promise to Jacob. 

He then says, “I'll go down with you to Egypt.”  I love this about God.  God doesn't just say, “Hey, here's a change.  Go do it.”  God says, “I'm going to go with you through the change.  I know you're feeling uncomfortable, Jacob.  I know you're anxious.  I know I you're not thrilled about this change but I'm in it.  I'm going to go with you.  You don't have to be afraid.” 

Then He says, “I'm going to bring you out of Egypt.”  You're not going to be there forever.  Your people won't be there forever.  I'm going to bring you out. What God doesn't tell him is that it would be more than 400 years before this happens.  This is like the promise made to Abraham.  Jacob won't see this one fulfilled but God will still fulfill it.  430 years after they arrive in Egypt, God will bring them out of Egypt with a new leader by the name of Moses. 

Then God says something very personal to Jacob.  He says, “Jacob, I promise you this.  Your son Joseph will close your eyes.  He will be the one who buries you.  Jacob, I know you were away from your son for 22 years.  I know you thought he was dead for 22 years.  But I want you to know, from the time you get to Egypt until the time you die, you will have Joseph again.  And Joseph will be the one who will be there when you breathe your last breath.”  That must have brought a huge smile to Jacob's face. 


All of Jacob's family now moves from Canaan and starts the 300-mile trip to Egypt.  In verses 5 through 27 God lists the names of all Jacob's sons and their sons that made this move.  This is the nation of Israel at the time.  He lists for us all the men – Jacob’s sons and grandsons.  We can add to that number all of the wives and daughters.  According Genesis 46:26-27, all the persons belonging to Jacob who came to Egypt (that's his sons and his grandsons that are listed in that passage, not including the wives and daughters) were 66 persons in all.  Jacob would make 67.  Joseph, who is back in Egypt, would make 68 and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, would make an even 70 men.  When you add in the women, there is anywhere between about 150 to 200 people who enter Egypt.  That's the size of Israel when they enter Egypt.  What happens to them while they're in Egypt?  Exodus 1:7 says this,

“But the sons of Israel were fruitful in Egypt and increased greatly and multiplied and became exceedingly mighty so that the land of Egypt was filled with them.”

If you remember the story that sets up Exodus 1, there are so many Jewish people Pharaoh, who doesn't remember Joseph at all as this is many years in the future, becomes nervous that they'll take over the country.  As a result, he puts them in severe bondage so that they won't take over the country.  430 years after they arrive in Egypt, after the 10 plagues, Moses will then lead them out of Egypt. 

How many are there of them when they leave Egypt?  There were 70 men plus wives and daughters when they entered Egypt.  How many are there when they leave Egypt?  In Numbers 1 we get the exact number.  According to Numbers 1:46, all the numbered men (again, not wives, not daughters, just the men) who leave Egypt are 603,550 men.  There were 70 men when they entered Egypt.  430 years later there are over 600,000 men when they leave Egypt.  If you add in wives and daughters, we're talking roughly 2 million people that left Egypt at the exodus under the leadership of Moses.  God was going to do exactly what he promised Jacob.  While they were in Egypt He made them a great nation and 430 years later He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

Let's go back to Jacob being reunited with Joseph because it's amazing.  After all those years, 22-plus years of thinking that Joseph was dead, Jacob finally gets to see his son again.  When they get close to the land of Egypt, Jacob sends Judah ahead to go tell Joseph that they are almost there.  Joseph, who is so anxious to see his dad, already has his scouts looking out for them and sees that they're coming.  Joseph puts on his royal garb, he hops in his chariot, and he goes out to meet them.  For the first time in over 22 years he's going to see his dad who he thought he would never see again. 

“Joseph prepared his chariot and he went up to Goshen to meet his father.  And as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time.”

We could put a pause there.  We don't know how long of a pause but I bet it was a long time.  They couldn't say a word.  They just hugged and cried and hugged and cried.  Put yourself in Judah's shoes and Reuben's shoes and Simeon's shoes.  You're standing there watching your father and your little brother embracing and weeping and embracing and weeping for what seems like an eternity.  You realize you were the one that caused the pain.  What an emotional moment this must have been.  I have a feeling, even though the Bible doesn't say it, that brothers were weeping, as well. 

After what probably seemed like an eternity of hugging and weeping, Jacob looks into Joseph's eyes, the son who he thought was dead for 22-plus years, and he says, “Now I can die.”  It doesn't get any better than this.  His life is now fulfilled.  That tells me that the whole 300-mile trip Jacob had doubts.  Was Joseph really still alive or was this a cruel hoax?  When he sees his face, he knows.  He is alive.


Here's where we see the integrity of Joseph.  Joseph has a plan.  They're on the outskirts of Egypt.  He looks at his brothers and says, “Guys, here's what's going to happen.  I'm going to take you before Pharaoh.  You've stood before me several times.  Now I'm taking you in front of the big cheese.  You're going in front of Pharaoh, the most powerful man not only in Egypt but in the world.  Let me give you a piece of advice.  When you go before him, tell him that you are “skilled in being a keeper of livestock.” 

In simple terms, what were Joseph's brothers?  They were shepherds.  Joseph says, “Don't use that term.  Don't say shepherd.  Say you're skilled in being a keeper of livestock.  It means the same thing.  I'm not asking you to lie.”  There's no deception here but you have to understand that shepherds are loathsome to Egyptians.  You see it in the text.  Egyptians really looked down on shepherds. 

Joseph says, “Listen, if you go before Pharaoh and you use the term shepherd, you're going to offend him.  We want to be sensitive here.  That's an offensive term in Egypt.  So instead, use a more sensitive term.  It means the same thing but it shows sensitivity.”  Here's what it says about Joseph's integrity.  Joseph understood a principle that I don't think we really get today.  Joseph understood that the choice of our words matter.  It did in Egypt all those years ago and it still matters today. 

I think it's harder for us to grasp that today than it ever has been in the history of the world because today a huge percentage of our words aren't verbal, they are written.  This means that we have to be more careful today than ever about the choice of our words.  Speech experts will tell you that communication is broken down into three parts.  First, there are your words which are only 7% of your communication.  93% of your communication has nothing to do with your words.  28% of your communication is your tone.  Your tone speaks four times louder than your words.  I can go home at the end of a day and I can say to my wife, “How was your day?”  And she can give a deep sigh and say, “Fine.”  Her words said, “Fine,” but is that what she communicated?  If I just heard her words it's going to be a long night.  Her tone spoke much louder than her words. 

55% of communication is nonverbal.  Over half of the way that you communicate is nonverbal?  When my kids were little and my son hit my daughter and I said to him, Jonathan, “Apologize to your sister.”  He would fold his arms, hunch his shoulders and grit his teeth and say, “I'm sorry!”  His words said, “I'm sorry,” but what he really communicated was, “Dad, please spank me.”  Your nonverbal speaks much louder than everything else. 

E-mail, Facebook, texting, it's all wonderful.  But you have to understand that when you send an e-mail to someone, or send a text message to someone, or post something on Facebook, all they can see and read are your words.  That means there's a 93% chance they're going to take it wrong.  Today, more than ever, we need to understand that the choice of our words matter.  Joseph understood that. 

“Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh and said, my father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan.  Behold, they're in the land of Goshen.” (Genesis 47:1)

I love what Joseph does here.  Even though he's the second most powerful man in Egypt, he doesn't just presume anything.  He goes in to Pharaoh to make sure Pharaoh is okay with the decision.  I love that about Joseph.  Sometimes I think we make big mistakes when we just presume because we have a title or because we have a position that we can just do something.  Joseph gets permission first.  Joseph understands that integrity means I have to be accountable to somebody.  Integrity means I have to answer to somebody. 

That's why I'm so thankful for our elder board here at the church because that's a group of men who I highly respect and who I make myself accountable to.  Every Thursday I write them a written report of my week so they know how I spent my time because I want to be accountable to them.  If an opportunity comes up, I don't want to just presume because I'm the lead pastor I can do it.  Integrity means I understand the need to be accountable to somebody else.  Joseph, even as the second most powerful man in Egypt, understood that need. 

Next, notice the presentation of Joseph.  He brings his brothers in before Pharaoh.  It is very interesting because when the brothers come in before Pharaoh and he asks, “What do you guys do?”  They say, “We're shepherds.”  They didn't listen to Joseph’s counsel.  Yet, Pharaoh gives them permission to settle. 

The next thing Joseph does is to bring his father in to see Pharaoh.  Think about this.  Who's Pharaoh?  He is the king of Egypt.  Not only is he the most powerful man in Egypt, he's the most powerful man in the world at that time.  He lives in a palace and leads millions of people.  Not only that, in the Egyptian culture, they considered Pharaoh a god.  Who's Jacob?  He's 130-year-old hunched over Hebrew with gray hair and a long beard.  He had just came on a 300-mile trip with all of his family.  It's like the "Beverly Hillbillies" coming to Beverly Hills.  He is like Jed Clampett coming in to see Mr. Drysdale at the bank.  He had never seen a palace before in his life.  He lived in a tent his whole life.  Don't you think he'd be intimidated by Pharaoh, intimidated by the palace? 

“Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.”

What does Jacob do?  Jacob blessed Pharaoh.  In our culture today, when we used the word “blessed,” we mean that somebody did something nice for us.  Somebody gave you something, they blessed you.  In the Bible, the word blessed is always verbal.  Jacob verbally blesses Pharaoh - he offers a prayer of blessing for him.  He comes walking in and looks at him and says, “May the God of Abraham and Isaac, my grandpa and my daddy, may that God bless you.  May that God give you grace.  May that God give you wisdom.  May that God cause you to prosper.”  He comes before Pharaoh and prays a blessing for him.  Was Pharaoh a follower of the God of Israel?  No.  He was a heathen, a pagan who set himself up as God.  And Jacob prays for him. 

Integrity understands how to respond to authorities even if they don't believe like you.  We're missing that in our culture.  Today in our culture if you disagree with authorities it's okay to bash them.  In our culture, if you disagree with an authority, it's okay to hate them.  In our culture, if you disagree with an authority, it's okay to judge their motive and attack their character.  I think we can all learn something from Jacob who blesses Pharaoh. 

Pharaoh says to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?”  Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are 130.”  Then he describes those 130 years in two ways.  He says, number one, they were few.  “I'm 130.  It's just a few.”  Today we would be thinking, WOAH!  130 years old?  That's older than dirt!  Jacob is saying, “I’m 130 and those years have sure flown by.”  The older I get the more I understand how true that concept is.  He then says, “Not only have I learned that life is brief, I'm going to be honest.  My years have also been somewhat unpleasant.”    Number one, life is short.  Number two, life is hard.  I think we can agree with him, can't we?  Life is short and life can be very hard.  Before Jacob leaves, he blesses Pharaoh one more time and the family settles in Egypt. 

We also see Joseph's integrity in saving the people.  When you first read what follows, it looks like Joseph is a very evil man.  You're going, “Wow, that's harsh!”  It is important that you take yourself out of our modern American mind-set.  We live in a culture today where there are lots of entitlements and handouts.  I’m not debating here if that is good or bad.  That's for other people much smarter than me to debate, but that is the culture we live in today.  Joseph did it differently.

During the seven years of plenty he stores up all kinds of grain.  The seven years of famine then come and the land is devastated and you can't even grow a weed in all of Egypt.  The people need food so Joseph sells them the excess food that he has stored up.  But the famine is so severe that after a while they run out of money.  The people don't have money because they can't grow crops.  The famine is devastating the economy.  They come back to Joseph and say, “We're out of food again.  We need more food but we don't have any money.”  So what does Joseph do?  He says, “I'll sell you more food for your animals.”  He didn't give them a handout.  If you think about it, it was actually a blessing because if there's no food, they can’t feed their livestock. 

But the famine continues.  They're out of money.  They're out of animals and they're out of food again.  So Joseph sells them more food in exchange for their land.  Again, no handout is given.  By the way, if you read the text, this was the people's suggestion.  They came and said, “We'll give you our land for more food.”  If you're in the middle of a famine and you can't grow a weed on your property, than your land is not very valuable.  No one else is going to buy it from you.  So now Pharaoh owns all the money, all the livestock, and all the land. 

Finally, the famine ends.  Joseph is a very wise individual.  He understands there's more at stake than just the people having food.  When the famine ends, the country has to somehow be able to respond and rebound from this horrible famine.  All the people lived in pockets of big population so Joseph is going to spread the people out throughout the whole land of Egypt. 

He gives them seed and, obviously, he also gives them animals to plow with and says, “Here's what I want you to do.  I'm going to give you this land.  I'm going to give you this seed.  I want you to plant.  I want you to grow crops.  20% of what you grow comes back to Pharaoh.  You keep the rest for your livelihood.”  Not only do all the people survive this horrible famine because they had food, but Joseph's plan allows Egypt to rebound quickly from this horrible famine by using all of the land to its redemptive potential when it comes to bearing crops.  It was an outstanding plan. We as Americans look at the plan and go, “How harsh.”  But notice how the people of Egypt responded. 

“So the people said to Joseph, ‘You have saved our lives.  Let us find favor in your sight.  We will be Pharaoh's slaves forever.’”

The people understood that Joseph had their best interest in mind.  That's what integrity is all about.  Integrity says, “Even when you are the most powerful person, you still have the betterment of others in mind.”  When you have to choose between something that would be best for you versus something that would be best for your family, what do you choose?  When you have to choose between something that would be best for you personally or would be best for the organization you work for, what do you choose?  When you have to choose between what would be best for your area of ministry or what would be best for the entire church as a whole, what do you choose?  Integrity says “It's not about me.  It's about the betterment of the whole.”  That's what made Joseph an incredible man of integrity. 

We've seen Joseph settling his family and Joseph saving his people.  The last thing I want to share with you is how Joseph now swears to Jacob.  In other words, he makes him an oath.  Jacob lives in Egypt for 17 more years.  He was 130 when he arrived so now he's 147 and it's time for him to die.  Realizing his death is near, he brings Joseph in and says, “I want you to swear to me, make me an oath, that you will bury me back in the land of Canaan.  I don't want to be buried in Egypt.”  To the Jewish people, the land matters.  It mattered to Jacob way back then.  It matters to them today.  Has asks Joseph to place his hand under his thigh and swear to him.  You read that today going, “He wants him to do what?”  In the culture of that day, that's how you made an oath to somebody who was close to you.  I am so thankful in our culture we just shake hands, but in that culture that's what they did.

“He (Jacob) said to Joseph, ‘Swear to me,’ and Joseph swore to him.  Then Jacob bowed in worship at the head of his bed.” (v31)

In spite of all his failures and shortcomings, in spite of all the trials and hurts, Jacob finished well.  Jacob the deceiver now becomes Jacob the worshipper.  At the end, the important thing about life is your relationship with God.  Jacob went through a lot.  He failed a lot.  But after it was all over, he learned that God is good.  Many of you have had a hard life and there are still some hard roads ahead of you.  Many of you, myself included, have had times of failure.  But here's the beauty of the story.  No matter what our past has been like, we can still finish well.  Like Jacob, we can fall down and we can worship.


Anonymous said...

Amen Brother Scott.. I very much have appreciated your commentary on the life of Joseph...... Many meditations this week ... God Cares and God Never Leaves Us.... And it's not over til it's over...and it's never over because Eternity is spent with our Savior!! Amen Blessings Scott Sister Jackie

Charlott Belt Morey said...

Pastor Scott, I am the sister of Charles W. Belt, Jr (Bud). Our sister, Sharleen, Steve and I would like a copy of the DVD interview you did with Bud and Rae Jean in their home. I believe it was to be connected to the Moses series you are doing. I will pay whatever you need to make this happen. I have nevered blogged before so I am not sure you will even get this. I am on facebook. Rae Jean can give you any personal information that you need. Thank you for the precious Memorial service Friday for Bud, it was as blessing. God Bless you

Pastor Scott said...

Hi Charlott. If you would email me with your emaila dress I will be sure this happens. My email is