If we don't overcome the hurts in our lives, they will overcome us.
Good morning. It’s so good to be with you on this the Lord’s day sharing together. We’re talking about the whole idea of going up and over. Even now, Lord, I ask that you would open up our hearts so that we might be stirred to have an overcoming kind of faith that will help us to prevail even in these most challenging of times.
We’ve been looking at the account of one of the most amazing figures and characters in all the scripture, a man named Joseph. We’ve been talking about what happened to him. He’s only at this point a man of 17 years of age, he’s just a young man. We’re going to return to his story, his account. We’re going to pick up where we left off, Genesis 37.
Some of you may recall what had happened was that Jacob, Joseph’s father had sent him to go find Joseph’s brothers. Joseph’s brothers were pastoring the flocks in a region called Shechem. Joseph was in Hebron. Joseph went to Shechem with the provisions that his father Jacob had given him. When he found that his brothers weren’t in Shechem he then went to Dothan, which is where he had heard they were.
This is where we pick up, Joseph is on his way. We know one other detail, he’s wearing that beautiful garment, the robe his father had given him. Even though he was the younger of the brothers, only Benjamin was younger than him, Joseph was given the place of greatest esteem, the token of Jacob’s love and favor. The robe of many colors, glistening in the sun, Joseph wore it, I’m sure with a great degree of pride. His brothers we know, not just because of the robe but also because of his dreams, despised him.
Also, we know that as they saw him coming from afar. It triggered something that they had been talking about already. Joseph has no way of knowing that he is about to have a life-altering experience. A tragedy will hit him, that’ll change the entire course of his on this fateful day. No one could have seen it coming. Of course, God knew. It was destined to become part of a larger story of God’s saving His people. Yet at the same time when we read it, we must remember it’s so human, it’s so real.
It connects to deep pain and wounds. It is in some ways a hurt of life that some people could never recover from. Yet we watch what happens and we’re going to learn from it because God is going to change Joseph as the years go by. God will take this wound that he’s about to experience and turn it around, but watch how it happens. We’re going to sit and draw some conclusions from it. Even now, Lord, I ask that you would speak to us about our own lives, about what we’re walking through right now. Maybe this word has even more meaning for us. So as best as we can, we open up our hearts to you and we come as a learner, open, ready to receive your goodness. This we ask in Jesus’ name.
It says this in Genesis 37. “They saw him from afar,” that is, the brothers did, “And before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him.” They started talking about killing Joseph. “They said to one another, ‘Here comes,'” you can see those dreams are still on their mind. “Here comes the dreamer.” Joseph had talked about being their ruler. “Here comes that dreamer. Come on now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll see what will become of his dreams.”
“But when Reuben heard it,” now, Reuben was the oldest of the brothers, the son of Leah. He rescued him out of their hands. Basically what the Bible is saying right there is that he stopped them from killing him right at that moment. Ruben said, “No, let’s not take his life.” And Ruben said to them, “Shed no blood, my brothers. No, we cannot kill him, just throw him into a pit here in the wilderness. Let’s just rough him up a bit and throw him into this pit. But remember this, don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. In Reuben’s mind, he was going to come back after things settled down to take Joseph out of the pit and bring him home. He didn’t want to kill him.
“So when Joseph though came to his brothers,” verse 23, “They stripped him of his robe.” The robe that they despised, the robe of many colors that he wore. “They took him and threw him into the pit and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.” Now, the entire event, if we can just try to imagine in our minds must have been so traumatic. Joseph, there is no way he could have been prepared for the anger, the violence, the shock of the merciless cruelty that his brothers just imposed upon him. The brutality, the hardness of their hearts.
Years later in Genesis 42, they would confess to one another. In a moment of deep introspective honesty they would say this in Genesis 42:21, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother.” Look at this phrase, “For we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us and we would not hear him. Therefore,” they said, “This distress has come upon us.” That phrase, the anguish of his soul, the cry, the girl cry of mercy that Joseph had. The terror of his moment of just feeling incredibly devastated, overwhelmed by what he could not understand. It just didn’t make sense to him that they could be so mean and evil towards him and yet they were.
Joseph remember was still a teenager, I know he was 17. But he cried, pleaded, and begged in the pit in the darkness. I can just imagine him there. They’re a distance away, Joseph is screaming and yelling. He’s wailing, weeping, crying, doing anything he can to get out of this pit. “What are you doing? My brothers.” But there nobody did anything, nobody helped him, they just left him there. So entrenched in their offense, so resentful and angry that his pleading just fell on callous ears. They could not hear him, would not hear him.
Think of it this way. The bitterness of their soul had made them deaf. Now, we know again from the passage we just read that Reuben was uncomfortable with the idea of murdering Joseph. He wouldn’t go there. That was just way too far for him. Reuben was a bit of a pilot figure if you think of it this way. He may have had concerns. He may have had good intentions, but he was weak too. Reuben could have led this moment and said, “No.” But he didn’t have enough to do that.
Reuben had a different idea that he was going to try to come back around and help Joseph get out of that pit but at the moment when he needed to stand he didn’t do it. Reuben might’ve been okay with just giving him a good scare, teaching Joseph a lesson. This will put him in his place, but he didn’t want to kill him. However, things didn’t work out the way that Reuben was hoping.
It says in verse 25, “Then they sat down to eat and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh.” These are very important trading goods. The traders were coming from Gilead on their way to Egypt. We’re told some of the things that they were carrying down to Egypt as they were heading southward.
It was at that moment that, with Joseph whimpering in the background, crying out every now and then, “Brothers, brothers, let me out.” We know a couple of other things. Reuben had gone. He wasn’t with them at the time. I think Reuben again was planning on coming back when they were all at a different place and he was going to let Joseph go. But we also know that they were all eating while Joseph is screaming in the background, asking them for mercy, pleading with them for some element of tenderness. “I’m your brother.” They are pictured as eating the very provisions that Joseph had brought. Think about that. They’re eating and talking. Literally, they’re eating the very things that Joseph had brought them while he’s in the pit screaming and asking them, pleading with them for help.
In verse 26 it says, “Then Judah who was the fourth in line,” and by the way the one from which Jesus the Messiah will ultimately come from. He said to his brothers, “What profit?” Because I think he saw the caravan in the distance passing. Judah said, “Listen.” The idea came to him. “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Now I have a better idea. Listen to this, this is too good. But having his blood on our hands… No, no, no. No, no, no. No, no. Let’s get rid of him in a different way. Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites. Let’s just sell him off. They’ll take him and sell him off in Egypt in the slave markets, ready? Let not our hand be upon him for he is our brother, our own flesh. You know what? I don’t want to kill him, I want to get rid of him for a good.”
His brothers listened to him and they said, “That’s not a bad idea. Yeah, let’s do that instead.” It says, “Then the Midianite traders as they passed by they drew Joseph up and they said, ‘You take him.'” Here’s what it says. “They lifted him out of the pit and they sold him.” It says the brothers drew Joseph out of the pit, they took him and they sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver. It says the Ishmaelites also known sometimes as the Midianites took Joseph to Egypt for 20 pieces of silver.
I go back into that moment when Judas is speaking. “Hey brothers, I have an idea. I don’t feel great about killing him. He’s our brother but I can’t stand this, let’s just sell him. Sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. Then we never have to see him again and listen to his dreams or ever have to hear how great father says he is.” So they negotiated the price, 20 shekels of silver. Does that remind us of anything? When another deliverer was sold by one of his own for 30 pieces of silver? They all concur, “Let’s do it.” So Joseph is sold.
Joseph will never forget this moment ever. It will sit with him all the days of his long life. So he is sold. “What are you doing? What are you doing?” He’s sold, his cries ignored. His brothers turn him in and turn their backs on him. They say, “This is what you get you dreamer. Now you get what you deserve, see where your dreams take you.” “No, brothers, don’t do this, don’t. Brothers.” You could see and feel it. His hands are bound by callous and indifferent men. We’re told something else, his neck was put into a collar and he begins a 250-mile journey to the slave markets of Egypt.
In Verse 29 it says, “When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit he tore his clothes. ‘What did you do?'” He returned to his brothers he said, “The boy is gone. The boy is gone.” He is still a boy. “And I, where shall I go?” Reuben is now worried that somehow he’s going to be held accountable for what happened to Joseph. He’s worried that when his father finds out, he’s finished. Because he was the firstborn Reuben’s concerned panic sets in.
He runs back to them. “Where’s Joseph? You didn’t kill him, did you?” “No, no. We didn’t kill him. Reuben. Reuben, calm down. It’s even better. It’s even better, it’s way better. You won’t believe it. It’s too good, it’s perfect. It’s almost like God sent us a solution. After you left, we ate, and as we were eating there was a caravan that was passing by, those Ishmaelites, the traders. They trade in all kinds of goods, don’t they? Well, he’s on his way to Egypt.” So it was Judah’s idea. He gets the credit. “We just sold him.”
“You what?” “We sold him.” “You sold him, what did you do?” “We sold him.” And Reuben is beside himself. “What am I going to tell father? What am I going to tell father? He’s going to hold me responsible.” “Hey, calm down. We’ve been discussing that. We’ve been discussing it, we’ve got an idea. It’s a plan, it’s a good plan. I think you’re going to like it. We’re just going to take the robe, this thing. We’re going to take that robe,” the one that’s kind of torn up right now. “We’re going to dip it in blood.” As we said it’s already torn and then we’re going to tell him, “This is all we found. This was all that was left. Father would think that he’s just been attacked and drag off by a wild beast. You won’t have to say anything, he’ll just draw his own conclusions. That’s all. Just calm down. Get a hold of yourself, Reuben. Calm down, right?” “Yeah, yeah, that’s what we’ll do. Yeah, you’re right, you’re right, Okay, yes.”
This is verse 31. “Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, dipped the robe in blood and then sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, ‘This we have found, please, father tell us, is this Joseph’s robe? Do you think? Please identify whether it’s your son’s robe or not. We think it is but you would know better.’ And Jacob identified it and said, ‘That is my son’s robe. Oh, a fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph, Joseph.'” Jacob says, “Joseph is no doubt been torn to pieces.” Jacob is devastated, he’s overwhelmed in grief. Verse 34, “Then Jacob,” in the tradition of the ancient Eastern culture, “tore his garments, ripped his clothes off, put on sackcloth on his loins, stripped himself, with the only sackcloth on. For days he lamented and grieved, torn apart on the inside.” It says that all his sons and daughters rose up to comfort him but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol, I will go down to the place of the departed spirits. I will leave this world to my son and I will do it mourning.’ And thus his father wept for him.”
Jacob was broken. Again his grief emphatic, his pain overwhelming, they tried to comfort him but he refused. “Leave me alone.” Perhaps as they saw him they regretted what they had done, they felt the guilt but it was too late. What’s fascinating and I would say sadly ironic is that Jacob in his earlier days was quite the trickster manipulator himself. If you study the earlier part of the book of Genesis you will see he was. It would be almost an overstatement to describe it this way, but he was, well maybe an understatement. Jacob was a master of deception.
Jacob’s family especially on his mother’s side were known for their guile, craftiness, scheming, and for their cleverness. Then who could forget his uncle Laban? Jacob himself had been deceived by his uncle. Jacob himself had deceived his father, Isaac, with the help of his mother, Rebecca. Remember they had stolen the birthright from Jacob’s brother Esau with chicanery. Jacob was clever and he was blessed. So this is a family thing. I want to call it a kind of family dysfunction. Now it’s coming back to bite Jacob in his old age, isn’t it? Or his older years. He’s reaping what he’s sown. The deceptive one is being deceived just as he deceived his father in his younger days. Oh Lord, be merciful. Lord, do not remember the sins of our youth. Please forgive us.
Verse 36. “Meanwhile, the Midianites had sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guards of the Midianites and the Ishmaelites, the captain of the guard. This is a pivotal moment in Joseph’s life. It’s a transition into a season of unfathomable tumultuous change. Because of this incident, he will never be the same, he will be changed forever. It would be so easy for Joseph at this moment, it would be, I should say, to see himself as a victim on the way to Egypt either being dragged along in a chain with others or in a cage of a kind of a wagon. I wonder what was going through Joseph’s mind. I’ve tried to put myself there. What was he thinking about, about God, about the faith of his fathers? What of his father? Would never see his father again?
The tears flowed. “Why did they do that to me? How could they do it?” How hurt, how wounded was he that the pain tore into his soul? Wow, the pain ripped through his body. I’m not sure which one was greater, the physical pain that he was feeling or the emotional pain of what was happening. It was awful, so bad. How would he recover? How does one recover? That’s the question.
Hear me out when I say this; I’m not saying we’re going to experience hurt like this. I know people have, people do. It’s true. But the hurt of any kind hits us hard. Hurt always sends us on a journey. Hurt always sends us on a journey, it does. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I was thinking about it in light of Joseph’s story. I want to share something about how to overcome the hurts of life because you and I are going to have the hurt, we’re going to have hurt in this life. Hurt like Joseph’s was just incredibly traumatic. I don’t know any other way around it. But we will have hurt. Some of us have had great hurt in life, some of us are in it right now. Some hurt is smaller or more modest, other hurts are just overwhelming. Let me start out by saying this, there are some experiences in life that are so intense and devastating that we will need to contend to stay free. We will need to contend to stay free for if we do not we will be defined by them.
This is where that phrase which I think maybe can be used a bit tritely comes in though, but it’s still applicable here. We are either going to get bitter or better. When certain things in life hit us we’re either going to get bitter or better. We will either slowly heal, adapt, and grow, or we will die, we will die. People can die and still be alive. I’ve seen it. In some ways, I saw it in my father’s. It is possible to be so defined by the hurt and wounds of life that a part of us dies. If we don’t get better, we can die. We just stopped contending, we just stop living. We can lose our love for life.
Sometimes we see this with people who feel so lost and hurt that they see no way out. They will take their life. As followers of the Lord, we want everyone to live, we don’t want anyone to ever give up on that gift. No matter how bad things are the Lord can redeem them. He can use them for good in our lives. That’s what He did on the cross and that’s what He can do with us. With the Lord’s help, and this is what I mean by this, we can actually get better. Well, let’s put it this way. The Lord can heal us, He is the healer. He can by His grace. This is our message, and please hear it, please hear it. He can always help us to become a better version of ourselves.
What do we mean when we say we can get better? Part of what we mean is to let the Lord help us become a deeper person, a more empathetic man or woman. God by His grace will work what is meant for evil for good, that’s what we’re saying. One of the keys will be this, and here’s another thing for us to consider. This is where it is when a wrong is done to us one of the keys is going to be forgiveness. I’m talking about a kind of forgiveness that sets us free. It’s often said that forgiveness sets the captive free and that captive is us.
Forgiveness on the backside of an extreme hurt is not so easy. In fact, unless it’s miraculously given it’s going to be a very slow and gradual process. A process that will require great patience and continual application. Which is one of the reasons why Jesus taught conceptually the idea of forgiving and forgiving again. He used the phrase 70 times seven. It had to do with a practice of forgiveness that ultimately produces a freedom and liberation in us because we can forgive and yet still be bound. We can forgive, get free, but start to take it back again. We need to keep applying the balm of forgiveness. It’s one of the things the Lord teaches us. Because if we can’t find a way to forgive then we will become the loser, the victim, yes, a double victim. We become a prisoner as our spirit shrivels in the prison of our wound.
One more thought here is that forgiveness is one of the ways we are most like Jesus. I thought about this, it is the dance of heaven. It’s the dance of heaven, forgiveness. Along with grace and love, it’s the heartbeat of heaven. Some of us are holding on to things God wants us or wants to help us to learn how to forgive. Now, some things are easier to forgive. Some of us right now are honestly hanging onto something that’s relatively speaking a pretty minor offense.
If you’re hearing me right now the Lord wants you to forgive. Forgive. To err is human to forgive divine. There is an element of truth in this. The Lord wants us to forgive. Maybe there’s something right now just between someone we love or care about. Maybe we’ve had a relational fissure where we’ve got some walls built up. Where we’re angry. We’re upset something has happened, something was done. Relatively speaking, maybe it was a compounding thing you’re just fed up with it. But can we forgive? Can we forgive?
Some things are small, some things are so much harder, they’re much more difficult but they must also be brought to the foot of the cross. Why? It’s as much for ourselves as for the other. For the Lord forgives us and He knows also that true freedom is always found in forgiveness. Now, it’s incredibly hard at times. I need to say this one more thing and this is where Joseph is going to stand out so beautifully. As an older Testament man, he’s going to model forgiveness. Remember we have one thing that Joseph did not possess, we have Jesus. We have Jesus. Not only His example but His presence at work in our lives by His Spirit. Think about that.
Here’s my final thought, the last thing I would like to say about this, something for us to sit with as well. This is true for all the hurts in life. If we don’t overcome them they will overcome us. In terms of the hurts of life if we don’t overcome them they will overcome us. They’ll bind us, they’ll make us their captive but the Lord has come to give us freedom and life at all levels for he or she whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
That is our heritage. The spiritual heritage of every person who knows the Lord is freedom. Now, we don’t always walk in that promise but it’s our promise nonetheless. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Oh Lord, let us live in your freedom, not bound by the hurts of life, by the disappointments of life. As we move forward into the weeks ahead we’re going to see how Joseph models for us the overcoming life and I hope it will inspire us to this entire year, I really do, as we’re just going to weave in and out of His life and study together and learn these things together.
Now, this is also one of those times that we use to remind everybody about our giving. Remember, you can give online through the app. Or you can give traditionally like some of you do. Just send this into the offices via mail, but really I know most of us are gravitating away from that, that’s fine. I just want to, again, commend all of you for how faithful you have been in this time as we have made our journey together as a people through what I think is a very difficult time that many of us are trying to figure out. Oh, but thank you. May His love of bound over you.
Lord, captivate us with your love. Lord, capture us with your love. Yes, let’s be captured only by your love. Not by wounds or hurts of our past, no, we let them go, let them fly away into the love of Christ. Enveloped in His grace. Wounds and hurts of today or the fears of tomorrow we just let them go. We’re trusting you, Lord. We’re trusting you at the center of our lives, that’s what we want. We want you and your love to be the defining, the defining quality of our life and we to be vessels of blessing others with it too.
We want to be able to declare how good you are because you’re so good, you’re so God and we want to sow good and we want to sow, God. We want to be people who reflect the transformative love of the Lord. So keep us, God, keep us in a place where we’re at peace. Don’t let us be bound up in things. Keep us free, free in your love. May the love of Jesus be yours this day, this week, and all the days ahead. As we make this journey together we are not alone and you are greatly loved. May He keep your spirit, soul, and body. In Jesus’ name.