Faithlife Sermons

Survivor

Year A - 2019-2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:36
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Have you ever been in an emotional situation where you had to work really had to control your emotions? A time when you knew that you had to keep it together because if you didn’t you were going to fall apart and cry?
People often do that when there is a death in the family. Somehow they are able to check their emotions and demonstrate a strong facade. After the funeral is over they are able to put the wall down and the emotions come out.
That is usually how I deal with death in my family. When I first learn of the death there is that sense of loss but then I put on my strong persona and get through the funeral and then afterwards have my time to grieve. I officiated the funerals of both of my parents and co-officiated at my sister’s funeral. Fellow pastors told me they could not have done that. I didn’t think I could, but God gave me the grace to be able to do that.
I know of a family that when there is a death that the grief is overwhelming for them and they are unable to hold their emotions in check. There is lots of weeping and crying.
I had an undertaker tell me one time about a funeral that they had at their funeral home. The family members were practically climbing into the coffin because they were so overwhelmed with grief. He said that he and one of his works had to ask the family to back away from the coffin because it was threatening to tip over. Can you picture the scene had they actually knocked the coffin over and the body fell out?
There probably would have been several funerals to be had that day!
Some people when they experience grief just lock it away. They never show it, some will even avoid it at all costs.
Grief is a natural part of life. It is an emotion that we will all feel at some time or another.
Sometimes people experience what is called survivors guilt. It is seen in military veterans or people involved in an accident where one or more people die and that person survives. They often live with guilt that they survived while the others died.
I remember in high school there was a guy in my grade who lost his mother and a sibling or two in a tragic accident. As best I recall, they were traveling in two vehicles and a car crossed the center line and hit both of the vehicles killing several of his family members in the first vehicle that his family members were traveling in.
Can you imagine living with that? Knowing you survived while a couple of siblings and a parent did not. That would leave an awful void in your life and maybe even guilt.
Veterans often deal with that knowing that a squad member was killed right next to you. Somehow you survived.
In our scripture this morning we are jumping many years ahead in the life of Joseph. You will recall last week we looked at the incident where his brothers plotted to kill him because of their hatred for him. Now it has been about 22 years and Joseph not only survived being sold off as a slave, but he has worked his way up in Pharaoh's government that he is now second only to the Pharaoh.
22 years separated from his family. I wonder if during those 22 years did Joseph maintain hope that he would be reunited with his family? That is a long time be separated from people that you love and care about.
There was a story from last year about two sisters who were reunited after being separated for 75 years. The youngest sister was given up for adoption because the mother could not afford to keep her along with her other three children.
75 years and they were reunited. There were lots of tears of joy, lots of great emotions as they embraced for the first time in 75 years. Amazing story.
It has been 22 years for Joseph and he is in the same room with all his brothers. They don’t know yet that this guy is their brother that they thought had long been dead or still living in slavery.
This event is the second time that Joseph’s brothers have been here. There has been a famine in that region. Joseph had prepared Egypt well for the famine. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to purchase food. They used up what they bought the first time. Now they are back again to make a second purchase.
Joseph plants a silver cup and silver in Benjamin’s bag and then arranges to accuse them of theft to bring them back to his home.
At the end of chapter 44 you will read the Judah, the oldest pleads with Joseph not to toss Benjamin in prison but to allow him to return to their father. Remember, they don’t know that this official of Pharaoh is actually their brother Joseph.
Listen to what Judah says in chapter 44
Genesis 44:30–34 CEB
30 When I now go back to your servant my father without the young man—whose life is so bound up with his—31 and when he sees that the young man isn’t with us, he will die, and your servants will have sent our father your servant—old as he is—to his grave in grief. 32 I, your servant, guaranteed the young man’s safety to my father, telling him, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, it will be my fault forever.’ 33 Now, please let your servant stay as your slave instead of the young man so that he can go back with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father without the young man? I couldn’t bear to see how badly my father would be hurt.”
What stood out to me is there is verse 30 when Judah describes the relationship between Jacob and Benjamin.
Genesis 44:30 CEB
30 When I now go back to your servant my father without the young man—whose life is so bound up with his—
Whose life is so bound up with his. Benjamin was the youngest son in the family. He wasn’t just the youngest son, he was the youngest son of the love of Jacob’s life, Rachel. Rachel was his first love and it took many years before she had any children. Joseph and Benjamin where their children.
The writer says that Jacob’s life was so bound up with Benjamin’s. Their lives were tied together, intertwined.
That phrase made me think of my relationship with Christ. One of the things that I have learned is that people who claim to be a Christian use that as a tag-line about their life or that it is a badge that they wear.
To be a Christian means putting on Christ, clothing yourself with Christ. It is a radical transformation of your life.
Paul wrote:
Ephesians 4:23–24 CEB
23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.
Paul wrote to the Galatians:
Galatians 3:27 CEB
27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Our lives are to be bound up in Christ. We don’t just state that we are a Christian, we actually put on Christ, we are a new creation in Christ. To be a Christian means to put on Jesus Christ. You live in Him and He lives in you.
Joseph hears Judah’s plea for Benjamin. The facade that he has painted for his brothers is beginning to crack. In chapter 45 we see the facade crumble. Take a look at verse 1
Genesis 45:1 CEB
1 Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers.
Have you ever experienced that depth of emotion? That moment when you cannot hold it together any longer and you know that you are ready to crack?
Joseph was at that point. Judah had just pleaded his case for Benjamin and Joseph could not keep the act up any longer. He orders everyone to leave accept his brothers.
Genesis 45:2 CEB
2 He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him.
Here it is, he finally breaks. Those 22 years of grief of being hated by his brothers. Those 22 years of being separated from his father and brother. Those 22 years of bottling up those emotions and they are to much to contain and they come boiling out, uncontrollable.
He wept so loudly that he was heard in other parts of his home. I really wonder what his servants and other officials thought when they heard him.
I wonder what the brothers thought as they stood there in front of this man who is second in charge in Egypt and this man is not just crying, he is openly wailing and weeping. It must have been a shocking scene.
That is the way it is with God. We can try to hide, we can try to stuff all sorts of stuff in our life, we leave no room for God. We do that, but when we are finally confronted with the presence of God that all that stuff comes rushing out of our lives as God the Holy Spirit comes moving in.
There is no holding back.
Look at verse 3
Genesis 45:3 CEB
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him.
There he finally says it, he finally reveals who he is. One commentator wrote that Joseph did not speak in the language that they had been using to communicated. He wrote the Joseph spoke in Hebrew, the language of his people.
That must have seemed like a load of bricks had just been dumped on them. The one that they had sold off into slavery. The one that they had made up a story and told their father about his death. The one that had been separated from his family for 22 years was standing their before them.

His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him.

They had been carrying around the truth for 22 years. They had to live a lie that they were reminded of every time someone brought up the name of Joseph. They had been living a lie for 22 years and now they were confronted by that lie because Joseph stood before them.
They now had to deal with their lie, their sin. Being confronted with the truth is a hard thing for people to deal with. The truth will eventually come out. For Joseph’s brothers, the truth was going to bring about the greatest blessing they could ever have imagined.
Ever since the very first sin with Adam and Eve, people have tried to cover up sin. Remember what Adam and Eve did? They took fig leaves and tried to cover themselves. They tried to hide from God who had come to walk and talk with them.
Humanity is bent on hiding sin rather than confronting it and confessing it and receive the forgiveness that God so freely offers us.
What happens when we do that? We rob ourselves of the freedom and forgiveness provides us and we are damned to the bondage of guilt and shame that sin brings.
Remember Jesus’ words?
John 8:36 CEB
36 Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free.
In one moment these brothers experience the freedom from the guilt of what they had done. They had carried that guilt for 22 years. They stood before their brother and were totally at his mercy. Joseph in his position could have had them tossed into prison or sentenced them to death. They were at his mercy and that is what they recieved from him.
The brothers did not receive what they deserved, they received what they did not deserve. Forgiveness and restoration was theirs. Joseph extended mercy to them in spite of what they had done to him.
They were terrified of him but Joseph invited them to come closer to him.
Isn’t that the way that God is towards us. We sin, we are distant from God, we are separated by sin. We deserve punishment yet God invites us to come into a relationship with Him. In fact, God the Holy Spirit has been at work in our lives even before we ever gave any thought to God inviting us into His presence.
Joseph invites his brothers to come closer to him. I think it wasn’t just the physical proximity to Joseph that he was inviting them. He think it was also that relational aspect that Joseph was inviting them to. He wanted to reconcile himself to his family.
The Bible says there beginning in verse 4
Genesis 45:4–5 CEB
4 Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer. He said, “I’m your brother Joseph! The one you sold to Egypt. 5 Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives.
Right here Joseph is reestablishing the bonds of their family relationship. He doesn’t just say I am Joseph, he says “I’m your brother Joseph.” Their actions had broken the bonds of their relationship. Their betrayal had separated them but Joseph is re-establishing that family bond.
Joseph adds “The one you sold to Egypt.” He doesn’t say that to judge them or to make them feel any more guilty than they already do. He is just making a statement of fact and then he ties it to
Genesis 45:5 CEB
5 Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives.
I think what is unspoken here is the forgiveness that Joseph is giving to his brothers. They deserved condemnation for what they had done, but Joseph tells them to no be upset or angry with themselves. What a tremendous picture of God’s mercy.
Twice Joseph tells them that they sold him so that he ended up in Egypt.
Twice he reminds them what they did.
Three times he tells them what God has done.
vs 5 “God, sent me before you to save lives.”
vs 7 “God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way.”
vs 8 “it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire house-hold, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt.
God, God did it. They had planned and schemed, yet God was involved working things out for a tremendous blessing.
Stuart Briscoe wrote:

The balance of truth which insists on an Almighty One working out His purposes and at the same time teaches that the people through whom He works are free agents has taxed the Lord’s people for centuries. Joseph used two phrases which kept both sides of the truth before his brothers and also before us. On the one hand he told them “you sold me,” but at the same time he reminded them, “God sent me.” In no way was their responsibility diminished, but equally in no way had the Lord ever lost control of the situation.

Even when we think God is not present, he is there. Joseph ascribed his situation to God.
God is there in times of prosperity, success, or when blessings come, but God is also there during the adversity and trouble.
Bishop Pete Wilcox of the Church of England in his commentary on this passage wrote:
Living the Dream: Joseph for Today: A Dramatic Exposition of Genesis 37–50 Scene One: Joseph and His Brothers (Verses 1–15)

Joseph sees the hand of God at work. This is what Christians mean when they speak of God’s providence. We are subject to many adversities in the course of our lives—illnesses and bereavements, setbacks and disappointments. Some are ‘mishaps’; others result from malice. But these things are themselves subject to the working of God: they have no power to remove us from his care or to thwart his good plan and purpose for us. On the contrary, these things (as much as prosperity and success) are the means by which God’s will and purpose are fulfilled.

Joseph saw God’s hand at work in his life. Later when Joseph is an old man and his entire family has settled in Egypt and his father has died, he says to his brothers.
Genesis 50:20 CEB
20 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.
You planned something bad, but God produced something good from it.
Isn’t that the way that God works. The devil may through all his efforts against us and God takes that and turns it into something good.
1 John 4:4 CEB
4 You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
But God, but God took the horrible situation that Joseph and turned it into something truly amazing. Joseph was the second most powerful person in Egypt. He was able to provide for his family in ways they could not even imagine. Joseph was not only a great survivor, he was an overcomer.
Joseph overcame the horrible situation. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
Isaiah 55:8–13 CEB
8 My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans. 10 Just as the rain and the snow come down from the sky and don’t return there without watering the earth, making it conceive and yield plants and providing seed to the sower and food to the eater, 11 so is my word that comes from my mouth; it does not return to me empty. Instead, it does what I want, and accomplishes what I intend. 12 Yes, you will go out with celebration, and you will be brought back in peace. Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you; all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13 In place of the thorn the cypress will grow; in place of the nettle the myrtle will grow. This will attest to the Lord’s stature, an enduring reminder that won’t be removed.
The apostle John wrote
1 John 5:4–5 CEB
4 because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. 5 Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son?
Are you a survivor today? Are you an overcomer? If not, it all begins with surrender your all to God and allow Him to work in your life.
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