Last week, I talked about Abram or Abraham. Several weeks ago, I talked about Jacob and Esau and Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Today, I want to talk about Joseph. Before I begin the story about Joseph, I’d like to tie up the family ties between Abram and Joseph to hear briefly the stories of Genesis chapter 12 up to Genesis chapter 39 today.
As I was thinking about the stories of Abraham’s family, I got a camp song stuck in my head. I’m surprised by how many camp songs are funny and tell the stories of the Old Testament. You might know it from your camp days.
Had seven sons
And seven sons had Father Abraham
They never laughed (HA! HA!)
They never cried (BOO! HOO!)
So, Abram was married to Sarai, as I said last week, and their names were changed to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had Ishmael by Sarah’s maid servant, Hagar. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away when Sarah gave birth to Isaac. According to our song, Abraham had seven sons. With Abraham, God established a covenant through circumcision that God would be his and his descendant’s God.
Abraham’s son, Isaac married Rebekah. Isaac and Rebekah had Jacob and Esau. Rebekah and Jacob tricked Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing and inheritance. Then, Jacob fled Esau’s anger. Jacob and Esau are reconciled and Jacob’s name is changed to Israel. Jacob married Rachel and Leah and knew their maid servants, Zilpah and Bilhah, between the 4 women, Jacob was given 12 sons and a daughter. Can anyone name all 12 sons?
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Gad and a daughter, Dinah.
Jacob favors his son Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn son. He makes Joseph an amazing Technicolor dream coat which makes his brothers jealous. His brothers steal his coat and sell him to the Ishmaelites. The Ishmaelites take Joseph to Egypt and sell him to Potiphar, which brings us to today’s story about Joseph.
I remember hearing this story preached at I church I attended sometimes with a friend. The church was geared toward young adults, in their early 20s. The preacher had this special gift of interpreting Scripture that amazingly every story had the message of abstaining from pre-marital and extramarital sex. This story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife wasn’t a far stretch from the preacher’s regular repertoire.
Potiphar’s wife found Joseph attractive and propositioned Joseph into having an extramarital affair with her. Joseph thought he could get away with it. Potiphar didn’t pay much attention to Joseph as long as things were going well. Potiphar had given Joseph charge over everything, except his wife. Joseph, thinking he could get away with the affair, maintained his integrity and refused Potiphar’s wife’s advances.
Joseph was able to maintain his integrity, because He was convicted by God’s presence. He never doubted God’s presence, even in Egypt, even in slavery. Through his grandfather Abraham, Joseph was heir of a covenant that God would be his God and he would belong to God.
The Scripture tells us that Joseph was blessed by God. Verse 2 – 4 says: The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…Potiphar saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper. So Joseph found favor in his sight…he made him overseer of his house.
Joseph may have found himself in the situation of being a slave, but God blessed him in that life circumstance. All Joseph did was blessed and prosperous. God blessed Joseph through Potiphar. As head of the household, Joseph probably had as sweet a life as a slave could have, lavish quarters, good food, and well treated. He may have been a slave, but he still had a good life. The covenant God made with Abraham was that God would bless those who blessed him. So, we find God blessing Potiphar who blessed Joseph.
God also promised to curse those who cursed him. As Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph’s behavior, I can assume she was cursed. The Bible doesn’t say what that curse was, but, assuming God was faithful to His covenant, we can believe that Potiphar’s wife was cursed for lying about Joseph. And, Potiphar may have no longer prospered without Joseph’s leadership in the house.
Joseph was taken to prison for what Potiphar’s wife proclaimed he had done to her. Yet, even there, God blessed him. Verses 21 – 23 tell us that Joseph was given the care of all the prisoners and the responsibility to do whatever needed done. The chief jailer came to see that the Lord blessed Joseph and so the jailer blessed Joseph with leadership once again. The Lord blessed Joseph through the jailer. Joseph may have been in jail, but God was there blessing him.
The Bible challenges us, because believers don’t have easy lives. Joseph was one among many believers who found himself in jail. Joseph, Samson, King Jehoaichin, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul and Silas, and Peter were all in prison at some point in their life. Many did not survive their sentence, still God was with them through it all. Life may not always be easy, but God is always with us.
Today, we’re collecting the Reconciliation Offering. We’d normally do a minute for mission for the offering at the time of offering, but I’d like to share with you information about the theme of the offering because it goes along with imprisonment.
The theme of the Reconciliation Offering is School Yards, Not Prison Yards. The Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) would like to raise our awareness of education, suspensions, expulsions, dropouts, and incarceration. Not all of our children our treated equally.
According to data from the Department of Education, during the 2011 – 2012 school year, African American youth comprise 18% of school enrollment and 42% were suspended at least once during the school year. Children of color are not necessarily more prone to bad behavior, but they are not always treated fairly in their schools. If children are not in school, they are not learning and are not able to claim the same opportunities as other students who are in school. There is a current phenomenon known as the School to Prison Pipeline. Data from the Bureau of Justice shows a direct relationship between school suspensions to increased dropout rates and incarceration among black, brown and poor children. In December, the Reconciliation team will be offering a panel discussion in Decatur about the school to prison pipeline in Illinois schools.
We may not see these disparities in our schools across race lines, but they probably exist among socio-economic lines in our school system. The Reconciliation Offering is used to fund ministries that bridge the gaps between racial and economic divides, because we are called to love all God’s children, the little children.
I serve on the regional church’s Reconciliation committee. I am part of a team that determines how our offering is spent. We have supported ministries that help African refugees maintain their cultural customs while integrating in American society. We have supported ministries that help feed hungry children in racially and economically diverse neighborhoods in Illinois cities. We receive many grant requests from worthy ministries that are denied if they don’t seek to address division among diversity.
Reconciliation is a ministry close to my heart. The School to Prison Pipeline is something I’ve taken a recent interest in learning more about. We can support justice seeking ministries through our offering for the little children who could find themselves imprisoned like Joseph, Jesus or Paul. These little children could have the potential for great ministries, but can’t fulfill their callings if they are in jail.
God is with these children, and us, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. That is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham, the promise of God’s presence and blessing no matter where we are.
For more information about the Reconciliation offering, please visit: http://www.reconciliationministry.org/Portals/RM/2014%20Offering/Reconciliation%20Ministry%20Special%20Offering%20Theme.pdf.