Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on June 27, 1976
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt . . .
- William Hiley Bathurst
Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light. Will
you hang in there on whatever name or revelation of God meets
your need? Stay there, and watch God turn your darkness to light.
TURN TO PSALM 105, please. “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.” I would guess that most of you will have an instant response to that verse and will say, “Yes, I can do that.” Many people, when they think of giving thanks, think of what from their view are the good things the Lord has done for them, or is doing for them. If they think of making known His deeds, they think of great healings, miracles, outstanding provision, or things of that nature.
But this same psalm records, “He sent a man before them.” Who is the “He?” It is God. God sent a man before them, speaking of God’s people of the Old Testament. “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron.” (Psalm 105:17-18) Some of you will have in the margin of your Bibles various alternative readings of that phrase, “he was laid in iron.” My Bible, in the margin says, “his soul came into iron.” Another translation reads “the iron entered into his soul.”
“Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom.” (Psalm 105:18-22)
We don’t need any new truths; we just need to rediscover the old ones. Today I am teaching on a truth that is one of the oldest truths. It is a story so familiar to those who have gone to Sunday school that, if you are not careful, you will let your mind wander. But I feel God has a message for us in this old Bible truth.
Psalm 105 says that God sent Joseph that way. That is included among the deeds of God we are to give thanks for and remember. We will come back to Psalm 105 later, but let me expand this old familiar story of Joseph that is briefly referenced in this psalm.
Please turn now to Genesis 37, “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob.” Then the story of Joseph begins. Please circle the statement of Joseph’s age. “Joseph being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren.” I want you to remember it, because we are going to look at his age again much later in Egypt.
The story unfolds of the love that Jacob had for Joseph. Jacob, when he ran away from home, fell in love with one of the daughters of Laban. He worked seven years for her hand, and Laban tricked him. On the night of marriage, Laban gave Leah, Rachel’s sister, to Jacob. Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel, and he loved her. Jacob had many other children, but Joseph was the son of Rachel; and like a doting father, Jacob spoiled him.
Put flesh and blood on these Bible characters. We have learned, if we have gone to church for a long time, to elevate them into some strange arena where they are not people like we are. They are like us, and Joseph was a spoiled brat. His dad doted on him and made him that famous coat of many colors. The other brothers were not to blame for the fact they were born of another woman. Everywhere they saw this kid, that bright coat told of the dad’s favoritism, and they resented Joseph.
Watch this little brat. He had a dream. He dreamed they were in a field, and there were sheaves all bound up and standing. Some were his brother’s sheaves, and some were his sheaves. All of his brothers’ sheaves bowed down and did obeisance to him. Joseph told his brothers about the dream. Now, it is bad enough to look at his coat every day. But to have him march in one day and say, “You are all going to bow down to me,” that’s enough to make you want to slap him!
Joseph had another dream. “The sun and the moon and the eleven stars” did obeisance to him. (Genesis 37:9) That added his mom and dad to it. It rattled his dad, and his dad rebuked him. It was all right for the sheaves to bow down and for the brothers to pay homage to this favored son. But when dad and mom were bowing too, Jacob rebuked him, saying, “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father,” rattled as he was, “observed the saying.”
I am going to give you three words to use like pegs to hang ideas on: dreams, dungeons and diadem. Let these words group the thoughts that I give you today.
The first word is dreams. Joseph is the epitome of the dreamer. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) Literally, in the original, “Where there is no purpose, the people perish.” God made us a purposeful people. Most of us are not as outspoken as Joseph, and that is probably good. Some of us have more wisdom to keep our dreams to ourselves. That in itself, however, can be a bad thing, because it reflects disbelief in the reality and power of dreams.
Joseph had dreams. Those dreams denied everything he saw in his experience. What kind of dreams hide behind you? You may not have had a dream in the night like Joseph, but you have had some kind of dream. There are young people who listen to my voice today who dream dreams and see visions and have a feeling they want to be, become, do . . . something. Hopefully, their dream is in God’s frame: things that they want to do and be and become in God. There are older people listening to me today, and that is why I ask you to take note of Joseph’s age, because I am going to set before us a calendar before I finish today. There are some of you who have had dreams for a long time: dreams for yourself, dreams for your place in the kingdom, possible dreams for those you love and who are a part of your life. You have seen your dreams shattered by your circumstances. I want you to tune in to the flesh and blood reality of a young lad who had dreams that were utterly in contradiction to the reality of his circumstances. Nothing could be further from what appeared to be possible than his dreams, but he had them.
I have had dreams, and I am not ashamed to admit it. The further you go down your journey, the more the enemy comes along and would snatch the dreams from you. The world doesn’t like a dreamer; and if you are unwise enough to tell your dreams, you are probably going to get the reaction that this boy got from the world around him. You are going to find, as we follow this story, that if the world cannot get you to doubt your dreams, the world will try to make you unworthy of them. Notice that this kid Joseph wasn’t overly smart at this point. He talked too much; that is a universal ailment. He talked too much to the wrong people. But he had a dream.
Now watch. “His brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.” Israel was their father. Do you remember the story of Jacob? His name meant “heel catcher.” He was a self-seeking, grabbing kind of person. But when God finally cornered him one night, Jacob wrestled with the angel until he was crippled and could do nothing but hang on and plead for God to help him. He walked with a limp the rest of his life to remind him of the experience of subjection unto the hand of God. God changed his name to Israel, which in its roots means “God governed.”
So it was that Jacob, now Israel, said to Joseph, “Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send thee unto them.” Joseph said, “Here am I. And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren.” Notice the intent of Joseph’s going: he went to look after their welfare. So off he went. He started out in Hebron, down south. You don’t have to go much further to get to Beersheba, and that is the kicking off point into the desert, towards Sinai.
“He sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.” His brothers weren’t there. Then a man said to this boy, “I understand they have gone to Dothan.” Dothan is far north, past Jerusalem, on into the uplands of Samaria, and due west of Mount Gilboa, which hangs over the valley of Jezreel. It is about two-thirds of the way up to Galilee. It was a long way, but he went. Give him credit for that; Joseph was obedient.
“Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.” (Genesis 37:17-19)
By the time Joseph arrived, his brothers had made up their minds that they were going to kill him. Reuben, one of the brothers, heard the plot to kill Joseph. “He delivered him out of their hands,” saying, “Let us not kill him . . . Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness.” And if came to pass, they stripped Joseph of his coat of many colors. Reuben prevailed, and instead of killing Joseph, they cast him into a pit. There was no water in the pit, and into the pit he went. The brothers sat down to eat, and Reuben left.
Please start tracking some statistical probabilities. What if those brethren had been in Shechem, where they were supposed to be, instead of being driven in their hunt for grass to Dothan? Reuben left. Joseph was in a pit. Along came a band of Ishmeelites. One of the brothers, as they were eating, said, “Let’s sell Joseph. There is no profit for us with him in the pit. Let’s sell him to these Ishmeelites,” and they sold him. Again, what if that band had been going north and east, instead of south and west?
No sooner had they sold him than Reuben came back. What if Reuben had left one hour sooner and had not been there to spare Joseph? What if he had come back sooner than he did? Reuben would never have consented to selling Joseph to the Ishmeelites. The timing was such that Joseph was sold when the camel train was going south and west toward Egypt. If you follow the route, it goes down along through the Plains of Sharon, down through the area now south of Tel Aviv. The trail would go close enough to Hebron that Joseph could look and see the land of his father.
I want you to put flesh and blood on this boy: the shock, the rejection, the chains and the whip. We are so prone to think these Bible characters don’t feel it if they are beaten, it is not as dark for them if they are in a dungeon, they are not as lonely as we are if they are alone, a whip doesn’t cut as deep, and rejection isn’t felt as keenly. Don’t you believe it! This is a boy not much past 17; dreams shattered!
The second word I would set before you is dungeons, for the process of the dungeons has started. Into a pit he was cast: from dreams . . . to dungeons.
Again, have you any dreams for you or your family, your kids, your own ministry, or for this church, your career, or something you want? Or maybe you have had dreams as a singer, a musician, or just an ordinary guy or an ordinary lady. Dreams! And everything has gone against those dreams. Is what has happened to you and your dreams any more shocking a contradiction than what happened to Joseph when he was cast into the first dungeon, which was a pit, or placed into chains marching to Egypt? What do you think went through his head about his dreams as he carried those chains, rejected of the brethren he had dreamed would bow to him, and no doubt seeing the oaks of Mamre, his home, in the distance as he went toward Egypt?
Joseph arrives in Egypt and he is sold: “Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.” (Genesis 39:1) That is an ordinary slave market. Again let me introduce probability. What if someone other than Potiphar had bought him? Notice the conjunction which begins Genesis 39:2. It links the act of Potiphar buying him. “And the LORD was . . .” The Lord was what? The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.”
Do you think it would have been obvious to Potiphar that the Lord was with Joseph if Joseph had sat crying and moaning in his circumstance? While he was in that enslaved condition and everything defied his dream, if all he had done was cry and lament, do you think he would have made much of an impression about the Lord’s leading?
Look at another saint of God in the New Testament: Paul. He had set out to go to Asia to preach the Word of God, but the Holy Spirit constrained him and did not tell him where else to go. (Acts 16:6-12) Paul obeyed the constraint of the Spirit and went down to Troas. In the middle of the night, when he should have gotten gloomy, an angel appeared. Some of us would be crying tears so big we would not see the angel if he showed up. The angel said, “Come over to Macedonia.” Paul went to Macedonia, landed at the sea coast village and walked inland.
I spent four days among the stones and ruins of that city that is identified as Biblical Philippi. I wrote a book entitled Man, These Pews Are Killing Me . . . Our Church Sure Ain’t What It Used To Be! The essence of the message was that so many of us have to have the right situation to give thanks to God: the pews have to be just right, the thermostat has to be set perfectly, the ushers have to be imminently courteous, the hymn books have to be in big print for some and have the right songs for others, and the song leader had better do it right!
I imagined those two preachers, Paul and Silas. Paul had been sent by an angel to Philippi. He had done nothing but preach God’s Word, and they beat him up. With blood running down his back, they cast Paul into the inner prison and put his feet in the stocks. I pictured him sitting in that inner prison, surrounded by all the rest of the prison cells, in the darkest, the smelliest, the dirtiest, the coldest, the most miserable part of the prison. Any light that came in filtered through. Any air that came in filtered through. His feet are in the stocks and it is about midnight. That is enough to make you cry.
Then I imagined those two preachers sitting there, and one of them saying, “Is your pew as uncomfortable as mine? They ought to do something about the thermostat in this place. And that usher who let me in here was kind of uncouth and didn’t handle me too gently. I’m not sure I’ll come to this place and worship anymore. The light is bad – you can’t see the hymn book! The power must be off in the organ because I don’t hear any music. And did you see some of the people in this place? Man, these pews are killing me!”
That isn’t what they did. Paul, about midnight, nudged his fellow preacher and said, “Let’s sing!” He didn’t say, “Let’s sing the jailhouse blues.” The Scripture says they “hymned praises” to God, and the prisoners listened. The prisoners listened!
Joseph was the prisoner in this case and Potiphar took note. Joseph’s dreams had been crushed by circumstance. A dungeon had been his lot, followed by chains. Now he was a slave in Potiphar’s house; and Potiphar observed, “The LORD was with him.” Too many of us will only believe God is with us if He changes our circumstances. God was with Joseph in that slavery condition. God blessed that Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake. (Genesis 39:5)
Now, Potiphar had a silly wife. This woman, rich and prosperous, began to try to seduce Joseph. “She spake to Joseph day by day.” Despite her persistent continuous flaunting of temptation, Joseph did not yield. Why? Here is the crux: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” That is the issue.
We see this attitude in Elijah. God seems to get away with things we could never get away with. He sent Elijah to live in the house of that widow way out in the desert. That would start people gossiping in today’s world. How did Elijah get by? Everywhere else you meet men in the story of Elijah, they are aware that God lives, and that is part of their creed. When you bring up the subject, they will say something like, “As the LORD thy God liveth.” But when you meet Elijah, he says, “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, in whose presence I stand.” (1 Kings 17:1) He was aware of a Presence from which he could never hide.
There is nothing that happens but what is common to man. In this modern world, I would like us to pause long enough to look at this slave boy who had plenty to gripe about and plenty of disappointments unto God. All he had to do was change his focus a quarter of a turn to make the view of God a bit fuzzy. All he had to do was forget that God was still in control, and he would have lost it all. But at that moment of day by day temptation he said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
That is why I preach Christ and not a lot of silly traditions: when you come to know God aright and love Him and know He is with you, you will come to fear Him more than the opinion of any man. That is the keeper of the soul.
“And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day . . .” Take it out of the context of Joseph’s temptation and apply it to whatever temptation you might have. He wouldn’t sin against his God, though he might say in the flesh that God sure had let him down on his dreams. This silly woman finally caught his garment one day as he ran away from her. She shouted and called for the men of her house and accused him. That is typical; it is as true of life then as it is now. We always accuse others of what we are guilty of ourselves. So he was accused and lied on. When Potiphar came home, he threw Joseph in the prison. How is that for just treatment for being a moral person? In the natural, that is enough to make you immoral!
Into the prison he went as the reward for his morality. What happened? “The LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21) Again, put flesh and blood on him. What has happened to your dreams? What is your circumstance that has more attention from you than God has? “The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.”
He was in that prison a long time. The day came when Pharaoh’s chief of the butlers and chief of the bakers were put in the prison. They each had a dream (Genesis 40:5) The butler dreamed that there was a vine with three branches on it. As its blossoms shot forth and the clusters brought forth ripe grapes, he saw himself squeezing the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup again. Joseph interpreted his dream and said, “Those three branches of the vine are three days, and in three days you will be brought out and will become again the butler serving Pharaoh.”
The baker, hearing that good report, told of his dream. He saw himself with three baskets on his head, and birds did eat out of one of the baskets. I’m sure it was tough for Joseph to interpret that one, but he told him the truth: “In three days you will be taken out of here; they will hang you on a tree and birds will eat your flesh.”
It happened! In three days, they took the butler out. You begin to see the humanness of Joseph when he says, “Will you remember me when you get out? I was rejected of my brethren, and I did no harm that caused me to be in here.” But the chief butler did not remember Joseph, “but forgat him.” (Genesis 40:23)
At the end of two more years, Pharaoh had a dream. Seven fat cattle came out of the river. They were followed by seven skinny cattle that ate up the seven fat ones. And seven ears grew on a stalk of corn. Seven lean ears came up right behind them and gobbled them up. All of Pharaoh’s interpreters could not interpret the dream. At that moment, the butler remembered, and he told of the Hebrew boy in prison who had interpreted his dream, and the interpretation came true. So Pharaoh said, “Bring him to me,” and in haste they went to get him. Again, you find the human side: “He shaved himself, and changed his raiment.” (Genesis 41:14) He must have been dirty. Prison cells were not pleasant in those days, and it wasn’t any place that one would like to be.
He came to Pharaoh and interpreted the dream: “The seven fat cows and the seven ears of corn are seven years of plenty. They will be followed by seven years of famine which will gobble up that which went before in the first seven years. And that the witness might be by two, God gave you the same dream twice, but they are one in meaning: there will be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Appoint yourself someone discreet and wise, who during the years of plenty, will save in store so that provision might be available during the years of want.” (Genesis 41:26-36)
“And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” (Genesis 41:39-40) Joseph was put over all of Egypt and made to rule and to lay in store during the years of plenty.
Verse 46 says, “Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.” From a dungeon in Dothan to a dungeon in Egypt, his dreams were shattered. Count the years! “Joseph being seventeen years old” was a boy having a dream. He was 30 years old when he stood before Pharaoh. Thirteen years . . . how long has your dungeon lasted? How long have circumstances defied your dream? His brothers are still not bowing to him. Twenty years he was separated from his family. Twenty years passed without the dream being fulfilled.
From dreams . . . to dungeons . . . to diadem (diadem in the sense of a crown), but the fulfillment came. He had two children in those prosperous years: Manasseh, which means forgetting, because the Lord made him forget all his toil and the pain he had in his father’s house from his brethren. He called the second child Ephraim, which means fruitful, for God had made him fruitful in that land.
But the famine then reached the land of his fathers. His brethren in that land were suffering from famine, and the day arrived when the father said that there is plenty of corn down in Egypt. “Will you go down to Egypt and see if you can buy corn?” (Genesis 42:2) They came to Egypt, and Joseph saw his brethren and knew them, but he made himself strange to them and he spoke roughly to them. Joseph remembered his dreams as he saw his brethren kneeling before him. He didn’t reveal himself to them. He asked about their family, if they had other brothers. Then he commanded them that they go back and return with the younger brother Benjamin, the other son of Rachel, who had not come on this trip. He asked that they left Simeon as a bond for that younger brother, if they would come again to buy grain. They didn’t have much choice, so they left Simeon and went back home. But before they left, Joseph took the money they had paid for the grain and put it in their sacks. When they opened the sacks and found the money, they were fearful.
Joseph’s brethren returned to their father and told him what happened. He began to cry that in his old age he would lose his son Benjamin, also. He had lost Joseph; now he was in danger of losing Benjamin. But the day came when they were so hungry, they had to have grain and they had to go back to Egypt. Judah, one who had dealt so evilly with Joseph, finally prevailed upon his father to let Benjamin go, and Judah would be a surety. If Benjamin did not come back, Judah would give his life. So they made the trip down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph again. Joseph still did not reveal himself, and he wept.
Joseph sent them away on a second trip, and he looked into their hearts with this act: he hid his own silver cup in the sack of Benjamin. As they left to go home, he sent his soldiers after them and stopped them, and they uncovered the silver cup in the sack of Benjamin. He brought Benjamin back to put him in chains.
Then he tested these brethren. It was Judah, no less, who threw himself down in front of Joseph and told the story of the bleeding heartbreak of his father and the loss of Joseph. Still not recognizing Joseph, Judah says, “Please let Benjamin go home lest it put my father in his grave, and take me in his stead.” That finally broke Joseph open and he revealed himself.
Joseph’s brothers came near to him. He said, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4) Now listen carefully: “Therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you. For these two years hath the famine been in the land.” Add two more years to the calendar. Twenty-two years, and they are finally bowing down. “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”
Joseph sent for his father, brought him into Egypt that he might live out his days there, and delivered his brethren. They all paid homage to him, and the dream was fulfilled. As the chapters of Genesis end, after the death of their father, Joseph says to those brethren, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good,” to bring it to pass (Genesis 50:20)
This message is very simple: God sent a man to Egypt. God was in control in the dungeon. In God’s time, God brought him out. You add up those statistical probabilities that I named earlier. What if they hadn’t been in Dothan? What if Reuben had left sooner? What if Reuben had come back too soon to allow Joseph to be sold? What if the camel train had been going the wrong direction? What if he had been sold to someone other than Potiphar, where the very lying of the wife would put him into the prison at the exact time the butler and baker were there . . . at the exact time he might interpret a dream that he might be brought out to deliver Egypt?
God is in control of you; that is the message today. I could have said it in a sentence. Will you not give up on your dreams? “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” (Psalm 37:23) I said earlier I have had dreams. Many times life has contradicted my dreams, but I have come to know that God forsaketh not those who give their life to Him. Will you look up from your dungeon today and believe your dreams? Your hands are in God’s hands, and He leads you.
Father, take this Word: simple, old and familiar. Apply it to every life listening today. I don’t know how many sit in front of me with dreams they have not even told others; they’ve been wiser than Joseph, perhaps. As I said earlier, if the world cannot shatter our faith in our dreams, the world will try to make us not worthy of them.
Your Word says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) Faith does nothing more nor less than hang on to promises made so real to Your children that they become a dream. We call it hope. But I believe You led today.
I don’t want to just preach an old sermon. There are some in the sound of my voice who, figuratively speaking, are in a pit: they’ve been rejected; they’ve been misunderstood. They may be in a bondage of some kind. It may not be literal chains, but it is a bondage of circumstance that seems to defy the hope. They may be in a place they would not have chosen. They may have been slapped around for trying to do their best for You. Twenty-two years between the dream and the diadem: most of it spent in dungeons. God, if You would lead Joseph that way, You might be leading us today.
So I pray in Jesus’ name for the rekindling of hope! “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1) May we rise up today and let the world take notice of us, because God is with us in our circumstance. And He that has begun a good work in us will complete it. (Philippians 1:6) As Paul has said, after we have suffered a little while, the God of peace Himself shall finish the job. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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