Joseph’s 50/20 Vision – Sermon Text


Preached: June 15, 2014 – Father’s Day – Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church
Series: Beginnings: The Story of Genesis Part 8
Text: Genesis 50:15-21 (CEB)
Audio: HERE

We began by learning “Cast My Cares”

In the middle of the night when worry finds me
In the middle of a fight when strength is gone
In the middle of a fire when fear is closing in
You are You are my song
You’re my hope when hope is gone.

I will cast my cares on You the Almighty
I will cast my cares on You ’cause You’re good
I will cast my cares on You ’cause You love me, You love me
Oh oh because You love me

“Cast My Cares” by Alli Rogers & Tim Timmons
2011 Simple Tense Songs (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
Letsbebeautiful (Admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing)
Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (Admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing)

Which flowed right into this video

What is it for you? What are you worried about today? What fear is distracting you this morning? Most mornings I would pray that you would be able to put that junk aside while we worship. But today, I want you to reflect on it. What in your life fills you with anxiety, causes your heart to beat a little faster? As the song says, in the middle of the night, what worry finds you? In the middle of what fight, what struggle, do you find your strength gone? In the middle of what fire—and for residents of Black Forest this has special meaning especially this weekend—do you feel fear closing in?

For Tim Timmons its his cancer. For some of us in this room it is also a diagnosis—our own or a friend or family member’s. For some of us, it is our kids graduating into a difficult workforce environment, to college, to high school, and wondering what’s next for them. For some, it’s being those kids. For others it is the bills piling up, and barely enough money to get by. For others it is a marriage we’re worried is falling apart, or a friendship on the brink of goodbye. For some more it is the stress at work which appears unbearable, and for others it is the fear of a job that is disappearing.

This morning, as we hear Joseph’s story which concludes the book of Genesis, I hope we can put ourselves in the story, and hear God speaking to all of our worries, our fears, and our struggles.

Let us pray.

Joseph’s Story

Joseph and Amazing Tech DreamcoatAs we conclude our series called Beginnings: The Story of Genesis we come to the final story in the book of Genesis, the story of Joseph. Now, I am comfortable talking about Joseph with you because, not only am I his namesake, I have also played him three times in my youth when my home church used to do Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat every couple of years. I was young Joseph the first time, middle Joseph a couple of years later, and adult Joseph a couple of years after that. It is also the only show I have ever seen on Broadway.

Joseph’s story takes the final 14 chapters of Genesis to tell (37-50). Here’s a brief recap.

joseph coatWhen Joseph was about 17, his father Jacob—the same Jacob from last week’s sermon—gave him a special robe or tunic or coat. Because the Hebrew is unclear, it is sometimes translated as a coat of many colors—hence Andrew Lloyd Webber’s title—or as a long coat, or a long-sleeved coat, which seems more likely. Any way you want to translate it, the coat is a sign of Jacob’s favoritism toward this one of his 12 sons.

Here’s the Father’s Day portion of the sermon: Dads, don’t do this. In fact, if you are looking for a model of fatherhood, run away from Genesis. Abraham puts his son Isaac on an altar, almost sacrificing him. Isaac chooses one of his son’s Esau as his favorite while his wife Rebekah favors their other son Jacob. Jacob apparently learns nothing from the trouble the favoritism caused him and makes Joseph his favorite. The parental history in Genesis is appalling, as we see the dysfunction passed on from generation to generation.

Dads, love your kids as they are. Yes it is your job to mold them and shape them, but from where they are. But you already knew that, so let’s move on.

josephdreamsAs if Joseph didn’t think enough of himself after this, one night he dreams about his brothers and him gathering stalks of wheat in the field, something they had probably done often. In the dream, the stalks become animated. His stands up, while his brothers’ gather around his and bow down to it.

When he tells his brothers about the dream, bad idea, the meaning is not lost them. “Will you really be our king and rule over us?” they ask (Genesis 37:8). What an annoying little brother!!

Soon he has another dream, more grandiose than the first. This time the sun, moon, and 11 stars, all bow down to him. When he tells his brothers and father, the Bible tell us Jacob “scolded him and said to him, ‘What kind of dreams have you dreamed? Am I and your mother and your brothers supposed to come and bow down to the ground in front of you?’” (Genesis 37:10).

As you can imagine, his brothers become quite jealous of and frustrated with him, and Joseph’s story begins to shift. The favorite son, who has had prescient dreams about where God is calling him, finds his life take a dark turn. The things that were supposed to happen, don’t seem to be happening. As I read this part of the story, I have Tim Timmons’ question from the video ringing in my ears, “What if Jesus is still on the move and actually at work in and through my cancer? What if he’s still is God and I am not through this?”

cisternThe story continues. One afternoon, Jacob sends Joseph to go find his brothers who are with Jacob’s flocks far from home. Notice that favorite Joseph is not with them. He is living the good life while his brothers are out in the field. When Joseph comes to check up on them, which I’m sure did not go over well, they seize an opportunity to be rid of him.

Most of the brothers simply want to kill him. Reuben, the eldest brother, instead suggests they throw him in a dry cistern. The brothers seem to think leaving him to die rather than actively killing him, will somehow make them less liable for his death. What they don’t know is that Reuben plans to go back later to get Joseph and bring him home. But while Reuben is gone, the 10 other brothers sell Joseph to a group of traveling salespeople, and he is taken into Egypt as a slave.

What happened to the dreams of stalks and stars? This isn’t how the story is supposed to go!!

Guido_Reni_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_Wife_-_WGA19310Joseph is purchased by Potiphar, a high-ranking official in the Pharaoh’s court. Joseph, who is a gifted manager, rises through the ranks of Potiphar’s house, and soon is managing the whole thing. Alright, the story seems to be getting back on track now!

Then, Joseph being an apparent heart-throb (which I’m sure is why I got to play him in high school! Uh, no.) catches the eye of Potiphar’s wife. As the most trusted slave he is often in the house alone, and Mrs. Potiphar, who is acting like a Mrs. Robinson, uses that time to seduce Joseph. The Bible says it happened every, single day! To his credit Joseph turns her down each time.

One day, Potiphar’s wife becomes more aggressive. she grabs Joseph by his cloak, but he slips out of the coat and runs out of the room. Frustrated by his constant denials, Potiphar’s wife takes the coat to Potiphar and tells him Joseph attacked her. Potiphar has Joseph thrown in jail. Another coat gets Joseph in trouble, and the story again doesn’t seem to heading toward the dreams Joseph had years before.

jailAfter “some time” in jail, the Bible says, and who knows how long that was, Joseph meets a couple of other prisoners who had been part of the Pharaoh’s inner circle—his baker and wine steward. One night they each have a dream and Joseph interprets their dreams. When his interpretation proves to be true people are impressed, but for at least two years, nothing comes of it.

Then one night Pharaoh has a dream of his own which no one could interpret. The wine steward, who has been restored to his position, remembers Joseph’s gift for interpretation of dreams and suggests the Pharaoh speak with him. Joseph is called before the Pharaoh, who in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s vision is dressed as Elvis, the King (I always wanted that part), where he shares the dream with Joseph. God gives Joseph the ability to interpret the dream, which was warning Pharaoh of 7 years of a bumper crop followed by 7 years of famine.

joseph-pharaohImpressed with Joseph’s wisdom, the Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of managing Egypt’s food. During the 7 years of plenty, Joseph has them store food. Then when the famine comes, not only is Egypt relatively unaffected, they have enough to feed surrounding lands. Joseph’s gift for dreams and interpretation, and his gifts for management, not only give him some status—he becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man—they also save countless people! It truly is an amazing story. An Israelite saves Egypt and the entire region.

LegoJosephJacob and his family being affected by the famine, hear a rumor that Egypt is selling food to people in the surrounding countries. So they go to ask for food, bowing before Egypt’s manager of this food assistance program—their annoying little brother, Joseph—just as those dreams many years before had said they would. After messing with them, and testing them, Joseph eventually reveals to them who he is, and there is a wonderful reunion. Eventually the whole family comes to live in Egypt where there is plenty to eat and they are wonderfully cared for. In the words of Emmet Brickowski from The Lego Movie, “Everything is awesome!”

This is how the Israelites wound up in Egypt where they were later enslaved. When Genesis closes Israel is enjoying life in Egypt, but then as Exodus opens we read, “Now a new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).

50/20 Vision

eyechartWhen Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers fear he will now turn on them, taking revenge for selling him into slavery. As Joseph tries to assuage their fears, he says these remarkable words from today’s reading, “You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today” (Genesis 50:20).

Because these words come from Genesis 50:20, Pastor Bob told me he has heard this referred to as 50/20 vision. As 20/20 vision gives us the ability to see things as they are, 50/20 vision gives us the ability to see God at work—not just in the good stuff, but in all of it, even when our current circumstances are miserable.

I wonder how often in his discouragement and struggles, Joseph paused to remember the dreams he’d received in his youth. Or maybe God kept giving him dreams and visions of his future, but he’d learned not to share them. As I read his story, I am convinced that Joseph’s dreams, his faith, and his trust in the promises of God, sustained him through every low point. I’m sure he didn’t understand what was going on through those inexplicably tough times, but I’m guessing he continued to trust God for the best, for God to come through on his promises.

In and through?

TimTimmonsWhich brings me back to the question Tim Timmons asked in the video I opened this message with: “What if Jesus is still on the move and actually at work in and through my cancer?” There is something about the way he words that question that jars me. He doesn’t say what if Jesus is at work in spite of my cancer. Nor does he say what if Jesus is at work although I have cancer. He asks if Jesus might be at work in and through his cancer. In and through. “What if,” he asks, “he’s still God and I am not through this?”

What if we were able, like Joseph and Tim, to look at the struggles in our life and still trust God is at work in and through them—through our cistern, our slavery, our prisons, our cancer? What if we had 50/20 vision that saw beyond our circumstance and continued to trust in the promises of God, even when things are at their worst?

Tim Timmons offers a little more. Listen to how he addresses this very topic.

Unlike Joseph most of us haven’t received dreams about how our lives are going to be. We don’t have a crystal ball (not that they work anyway) to tell us how things are going to turn out. But we do have Jesus. We have his promises to hold onto, as Joseph did his dreams.

In the loneliest parts of our lives, we remember Jesus’ words, “Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (Matthew 28:20). When things are not going according to plan we read the words of Paul, “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When our home lives are a wreck, we can recite the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace, and the outcome of righteousness calm and security forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful dwelling, in secure homes, in carefree resting places” (Isaiah 32:17-18).

This is 50/20 vision which changes the way we see our circumstances. It allows us in the middle of the night, the dark night of the soul, to pray with confidence. It allows us in the middle of the fight to know God is greater than all our struggles. It gives us the courage in the middle of a fire because we know God is still holding us.

50/20 vision gives us the ability to live differently, even with our struggles, our challenges, and our tragedies.

Whatever your cistern, your slavery, your prison; whatever your cancer; whatever your worry in the night, your fight, your fire—God is with you and he is working it out toward your good.

May you and I have 50/20 vision, even in our struggles, to see God at work. And may we cast our cares on him, so we can continue to be faithful and move, despite the struggle, toward his glorious, glorious Kingdom! Amen.

Chorus of “Cast My Cares”

I will cast my cares on You the Almighty
I will cast my cares on You ’cause You’re good
I will cast my cares on You ’cause You love me, You love me
Oh oh because You love me

Bibliography

“Cast My Cares” by Alli Rogers & Tim Timmons. © 2011 Simple Tense Songs (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) / Letsbebeautiful (Admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing) / Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (Admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing)

Complete unedited version of “Cast My Cares”: The Song Sessions – TIM TIMMONS on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSJZoEoVPy4

All scripture quotes are from the Common English Bible, Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible.

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