Joseph: The Word of the Lord tried Him

By Dr. Gene Scott
Preached May 1, 1977

Please turn to Psalm 105. “O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.” Then the psalmist begins to do that, saying, “Remember his marvelous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.” He is talking of God’s wondrous works, and verse 17 adds, “he sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant. Whose feet they hurt with fetters . . .” If you view it from Joseph’s perspective, it may not look at all like God’s “marvelous works that he hath done, his wonders.” Yet, the psalmist records it in that context: God’s deeds, His wondrous works are followed by “Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron.” If it were your feet, you might not think it was so wonderful.

“Until the time that his word came . . .” Circle his word, we’ll come back to that shortly and discuss whose word is being talked about here. “Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him.” The original word translated tried is the same word that is used by a goldsmith who beats the one until the heat separates the dross from the gold, and the gold comes forth.

Theologians debate whether “his word” refers to Joseph’s word or “the word of the Lord.” The original supports the interpretation that the first reference is to the word of Joseph, as he told his brothers and his father what God had shown him in a dream. But, because Joseph was reporting the Lord’s Word that had come to him in vision, what difference does it make? Until that specific promise of the Lord to Joseph came to pass, either the knowledge of the Word itself tested him, or the withholding of what God had promised tested his ability to hang on to it. In either case, there was a gap between the coming of the Word to Joseph and the fulfillment of that Word; and in-between, he was tried. This is one of the wonders that God records in Psalm 105.

Paul said that all of these things written in this book are for our example (1 Corinthians 10:11). Every one of these people in God’s book is selected by God to teach us something today. I often ask you to put flesh and blood on these people. Do you know how long Joseph was tested? The Scripture says in Genesis 37:2 that Joseph was 17 when this Word of the Lord came to him. We’ll find that he was 30 when he came out of the last dungeon that he was in. By my count, that’s 13 years. Then there were “seven years of plenty” before the famine came. Sometime during the years of famine, the fulfillment of God’s Word came to pass. Between 20 and 27 years, The Word of the Lord tested Joseph. How many years have you been tried? How many years have you been thinking, “Do I really have a promise of God that I can hang on to? Is God’s Word really going to work for me?” Let it settle in. The Word must become incarnate where you live.

The moment Jesus comes into your life, a trench warfare starts. The Galatians letter says that within us there is that Spirit which produces fruit like Him, and there are also the desires of the flesh, “and these are contrary one to another”(Galatians 5: 16-17). It’s a military expression; the opposing forces are settled in for a long battle. Because of what Christ did, God has deigned to move His Spirit into us when we are faithing, the same Spirit that penetrated the rock and resurrected Jesus. There’s nothing mystical about it all. His life comes into you when you ask Him. Then the struggle begins. Paul recognizes that sin will always be struggling with us. His message is, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12). Will the new Spirit become ruler, or will you go back to the old spirit ruling you?

That is why the New Testament warns, “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Galatians 6:1). The words “if a man be overtaken in a fault” do not mean
that the man was caught in his mistake. The literal Greek of the verse says that the man was “overtaken by his own nature;” that is the “old man” we all have to fight with until we are clothed with newness in eternity and we become like Jesus. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Paul goes on to say in Galatians, “consider yourself, lest ye also be taken,” because that same dynamo of the old nature dwells in all of us.

That is why I love to look at these people recorded in God’s Word. They tell me that God has a lot of expertise in dealing with flesh and blood. These Old Testament characters, with all their ups and downs, inspire me with the knowledge that God keeps trying with them. Yet Joseph is one of the champions. He made it, in spite of the problems, but he had the same flesh and blood on his bones that you and I have.

When Joseph was 17 years old, God gave him a promise in a dream. He was the son of Jacob’s old age, and Jacob pampered him and made for him a coat of many colors. His father sent Joseph to look for his brothers, who had gone off shepherding. So he set out from Hebron and came to Shechem where his brothers were supposed to be, but they weren’t there. He asked someone, “Where did they go? and was told, “Well, they went to Dothan.” From Hebron to Shechem to Dothan is a long journey, as Dothan is north of Jerusalem. Joseph went on until he found his brothers, and when they saw him wearing his bright coat, they remembered Joseph telling them his dream: “We were all a bunch of sheaves in a field and all of your sheaves bowed down to my sheaves” (Genesis 37).

Before you judge those brothers, how would you like your little teenage brother saying to you, “All of you are going to bow down to me?” Joseph was a spoiled brat! He could have kept his mouth shut instead of flaunting his dream. Joseph had another dream in which the sun, the moon and the 11 stars made obeisance to him. That meant his father and mother would bow down, too. No wonder his brothers hated him. So when he came to them in that bright-colored coat, it reminded his brothers of how their dad had spoiled him, and they decided to kill him.

Judah and Reuben were there, and Reuben became a hero. Although Reuben didn’t have the courage to stand up and fight the other brothers, he did talk them out of killing Joseph. He said, “Let’s not kill him; let’s put him in a pit,” because Reuben intended to rescue him later. But Reuben left. While he was gone, some traveling Ishmeelites came by and Judah said, “You know, we’re not going to make any profit by killing him. If we’re going to get rid of him, why don’t we put some coins in our pocket in the process? Let’s sell him to these Ishmeelites!” The Ishmeelites were heading to Egypt, so his brothers took Joseph out of the pit and sold him to them. As soon as Joseph was carried off, Reuben came back. Consider the statistical improbability of these occurrences. Reuben left immediately after they seized Joseph and put him in a pit. Reuben came back right after Joseph was sold as a slave.

Remember, the Ishmeelites had no use for Hebrews. Joseph would not get any favored treatment from them. Put yourself inside the skin of that 17 year old pampered boy who had a dream, a promise. The Ishmeelites’ path went down through the Philistine territory, and no doubt Joseph, dragging a chain, whipped by a slave master, could see his homeland as he passed Hebron. When he arrived in Egypt, the Ishmeelites sold him to Potiphar.

Some people excuse everything they do by blaming their environment. What would you have done? Compare whatever circumstance you may have complained about in these last few days, or whatever has made you think God is not leading you today, with Joseph’s situation.

After Joseph was sold to Potiphar, there was a quality about him that caused Potiphar to put Joseph in charge
of everything. Talk about trust; the Scripture says Potiphar didn’t even know what he had except the bread he ate each day. Potiphar’s wife then became desirous of Joseph. The Bible records that day after day she went after him. Joseph avoided her, but one day she caught him alone in the house. Although she had caught Joseph alone, unlike those in today’s world who excuse every type of sin, he said, “No!” She grabbed his cloak from him and he ran from the house, leaving that compromising evidence behind him. She called in the men of the house and blamed him for her sin. “He was the pursuer,” as she told the story, and when her husband came home she made Joseph the culprit. Potiphar believed his wife and threw Joseph in the dungeon (Genesis 39).

For those looking for a rationale for their immorality, I don’t know where you could find a better one: the reward for Joseph’s morality was to be thrown into prison. If you think God owes you something, erase it from your expectancy. Doing the right thing has its own value. I do not find anywhere that Joseph shook his fist at God saying, “You shouldn’t do this to me!” He does say, on a later occasion, that he had been unjustly imprisoned (Genesis 40:15). But I want to pause in this familiar story long enough for you to see objectively the total injustice, from a human frame, of everything that happened to Joseph. He got in trouble in Potiphar’s house because he was faithful to Potiphar’s trust and because he wouldn’t commit the sin against God. Although Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife, he had an awareness of God’s presence.

Once more God favors Joseph, and he is put in charge of the prison. Pharaoh sent two of his servants to the prison, the baker and the butler; and because they were important in Pharaoh’s house, the captain of the prison put them in Joseph’s charge. They each had a dream and Joseph found them one morning long-faced and puzzled over their dreams. The butler said, “I saw a vine grow up having three branches, and it brought forth grapes. I squeezed the grapes and put them in a cup.” Joseph said to him, “I know the interpretation: in three days, Pharaoh is going to lift your head out of here and you’ll be serving the cup to him again.” The baker was inspired by Joseph’s interpretation of the butler’s dream and reported, “I had a dream, too! I had three baskets on my head with bread, and the birds came and ate the bread.”

Here you see a certain honesty about Joseph: even though the dream was bad news, Joseph interpreted it truthfully. Joseph said, “In three days, your head is going to be lifted and you’re going to be hanged from a tree and birds will eat your flesh!” Three days later, both interpretations proved true. As the butler went out, Joseph said to him, “I’m in here unjustly and my brethren sold me unjustly. When you get to Pharaoh, will you remember me?” Do you know what happened when the butler got out? “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.” He simply forgot him (Genesis 40).

Years went by. Pharaoh had a dream and he called all his soothsayers in to try to interpret it. Pharaoh dreamt he saw seven fat, beautiful kine come out of a river and graze in a meadow. Right behind them came seven lean kine, which were the worst-looking animals he’d ever seen, and they ate up the seven fat ones. Then he had another dream in which seven ears of corn came out well-shaped and full-bodied, followed by seven lean ears that ate the seven fat ears. Pharaoh demanded that all the soothsayers interpret his dreams. None of them could. Then the butler remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh, “There was a Hebrew in the jail, and he told me my dream.” Pharaoh ordered, “Bring him to me” (Genesis 41).

As Joseph prepared himself that day in the prison to appear before Pharaoh, how far removed do you think he was from the promise of God that his family would bow down before him? He had not see his brothers or his father since he had been sold into slavery. His brothers had killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s many-colored coat in the blood of the goat and taken it to his father and said, “Is it Joseph’s coat?” His father said, “Yes, and an animal hath rent him to pieces.” Joseph’s father mourned and none of the brothers could comfort him
because he thought Joseph was dead. For 13 years the brothers carried the guilt of their deed, and Joseph suffered. If you were in Joseph’s shoes, would you believe God’s promise?

The Scripture says that Joseph shaved, changed his raiment and came to Pharaoh. The Pharaoh told him his dream, which Joseph interpreted, “That’s God speaking and this is the interpretation: Egypt will have seven years of plenty, followed by seven terrible years of famine that will eat up all that came in the years of plenty.” Pharaoh asked, “What should I do?” Joseph answered, “Pick a wise and discrete man, and put him over the nation so that in the years of plenty one-seventh might be laid in store to provide for the seven years of famine.” Then came Pharaoh’s surprising announcement: “There is no one wiser than you. You will be next under me, and I alone will be above you.” He brought Joseph out of prison, made him the boss over all of Egypt, married him to the high priest’s daughter, and Joseph ruled second only to Pharaoh. Talk about God’s ability to move in a hurry when the time comes. That’s about the longest leap I can imagine: in one stroke, one sentence by Pharaoh, Joseph moved from a dungeon to become the second highest ruler in the land.

Joseph, once a pampered kid, had learned something. “He stayed in fetters until the iron entered his soul,” one translation of Psalm 105:18 reads. Too many people want to be spiritual giants in one step. That spoiled kid with his many-colored coat would have been a catastrophe as ruler over Egypt. But God knew where He was taking Joseph. It has been said, “Christians are made, not born.” When God chooses you, if you become His, He has a plan for you. When you give your life to Him, expect Him to shape you for a while.

How many Christians would have had heart failure on the second mile of that trip with the chains of the Ishmeelites around their neck? Thank God for wonderful experiences, but they don’t put iron in your soul. It is the heat that brings forth gold. Peter commends the treasure of faith tried in the fire and coming forth as pure gold (1 Peter 1:7).

In Romans 5, Paul says, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God’s enmity against us because of our sins has been removed, and He is at peace with us because Jesus died; and God “laid on Him all our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:6). We now “have access by faith into this grace,” unmerited favor, “wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

That is the starting point and the end. We come in undeserving; Jesus did it all. By faith, we move into a sphere of unmerited favor and the benefits flow down to us. We have the “hope of glory.” What is the glory? Jesus is the expression of glory. Glory is not something that makes us feel good; it is the expression of His nature. Paul said to the Corinthians, “With open face we behold him, and are changed,” literally, metamorphosed, “into the same image from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18).

All these super-mystical sounding concepts are very simple if you stay with God’s Word. There is only one definition of the glory that God gets excited about: “Jesus-ness.” God doesn’t fail in His purposes. He has a plan for all of us. He started it with one sentence: He said, “Let us make man in our image,” and He never changes His mind (Genesis 1:26). God is a lot more impressed with getting His job done on us that He is with the jobs we try to do for Him. He said, “Let us make man in our image,” but “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to our own way.” We mess it up. So “the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Undeserving, we now by simple faith in Him move back into a sphere where we become the recipients of God’s unmerited favor. He approves us, He makes us His habitation, and we now have hope again. Having gone the wrong direction, we have hope of glory that some day we will be what He wanted us to be. What about in-between? That’s the part that hurts. That’s the 20-plus years of waiting. That’s why Paul says,
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.” The word tribulum in the Latin is the stick used to beat
the chaff from the wheat. I call it “whackings.” We glory in whackings. Your old self starts dying, and your unique facet of the diamond of “Chris-ness” will shine throughout eternity.

“We glory in tribulation also: Knowing that tribulum worketh patience.” In the original Greek, the word for patience means “endurance.” Our first whack hurts. But after a while, we find out that, though we thought the first whack would kill us, by the tenth whack we are still alive. Glory to God, we just proved we have endurance.

“And patience, experience” (Romans 5:4). The Greek word that is translated as experience means “triedness.” After I endured 10 whacks, I can look back and see I have made it. “And triedness, hope.” As the whacks keep coming, I can look back and see I’m making it. That gives me the hope I’m going to make it all the way home and glory will be mine.

Did Joseph make it? During the famine in Egypt, more than 20 years after he was taken by the Ishmeelites, there came the day when Joseph’s father and family were starving because of the famine. The father sent the sons and they bowed down to Joseph, the ruler in Egypt. He sent his brothers back to get his father, and his father came and they all bowed down (Genesis 42-46).

“O give thanks unto the LORD . . . Sing unto Him . . . Talk ye of all His wondrous works . . Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders . . . He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: until the iron entered into his soul: Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord refined him.” When Joseph was ready for the job, God brought him forth.

The engraftation of the Word requires the heat of the experience, and finally we will come forth as Jesus was, able to hurl Himself into the darkness of the grave because the Father has said that in three days He would bring Him forth. And He did. That same Word of God says, He will never leave me, nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). That same Word of God tells us, “God entereth into all things and worketh good,” and, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)

That same Word of God says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). That is why we should never doubt in the dark what God said in the light.

I want the Word to settle in, wherever you are. Figure the statistical probabilities. What if Reuben had left an hour sooner? They would have killed Joseph. What if he had come back 20 minutes sooner? He would have prevented the sale of Joseph to the Ishmeelites. What if those Ishmeelites had been going north and east, instead of south and west to Egypt? What if Joseph had been sold to someone besides Potiphar? What if the timing in the prison had been different, and the butler and the baker had not been there? It is statistically impossible when you count the odds, yet “God sent a man to Egypt, one Joseph.”

When you come into God’s care, He is your Shield, He is in control, there is nothing that can come into your life of which He is not the Master. There is no moment when His eye is not on you. God used every one of those things that would seemingly defy God’s promise to bring Joseph to the point of His Word. What if Joseph had stopped believing under the heat? He wouldn’t have made it, and neither will we. So why don’t we keep on faithing?

Reprinted with the permission of Pastor Melissa Scott

In Memory Of “Margaret’s Chocolate Barney” (Nickname: “Barnabas,” after the Apostle Paul’s companion) August 20, 2001 - July 1, 2010
It was November 10th, 2001 when Billie asked me to come down to her house, and as I walked in the front door there he was, the cutest (and the biggest) chocolate colored lab puppy I had ever seen. He was a gift, one of those lovely blessings God bestows on us now and then.

He was very shy in the beginning, but once he realized that this was his home he became comfortable. He was clean and never had an accident in the house, always able to communicate to us when he needed to go out. Rodney has told many of you the story of how he covered up the mess that our little Yorkie made one day while we were away. He quickly grew tired and bored of the puppy games, like chasing balls and retrieving various objects. He had that smile that labs have, and that inquisitive face at times, but all in all he was a fairly serious dog.

Labs are pretty smart dogs and Barney’s vocabulary was extensive. We had to spell “P O S T O F F I C E” or otherwise he would head for the door. And he knew the names of many people like his Aunt Shirley and Walnut. If the name “Walnut” was mentioned Barney would bark (very loudly I might add) and run to the door. He was great at warning visitors who knocked on the door, too, but once you got in, and he sniffed you out a little, he would get bored and go to the “other room,” the bathroom, where he hung out a lot, because it was usually the coolest place in the house.

Barney was as gentle as a lamb. He only raised his lip a couple of times, both when someone approached him and Rodney in the car. He was the most sensitive dog that any of us have ever known. He always knew what Rodney and I were feeling. If we were sharing a hug or a kiss, Barney would sense it from another room and come out to join us by putting his head between our bodies. He was a human love detector.

I don’t know if angels take on the form of dogs, or not. But at least they are the next best thing to angels. God surely sent them here for a reason - many reasons, in fact, if you think about it. Barney was a rare gift from God that we got to enjoy for a while. We will miss him always.


Prayer Requests for August, 2010
For Michael Whitmill’s Mother, Marg Whitmill, who is recovering from hip replacement surgery. Michael is at OSP at McAlester, Oklahoma.
For Michael Chavez’ Mother, Renee, that she will overcome her drug addiction.
For Rudy Sisneros and his nephew, Jesse, that Jesse will turn to God and manage to stay out of prison.
For Earl Oswalt, Hodgen, Oklahoma, for his transfer to happen quickly; and for his friend, Laurie Newton, who is going thru a rough time.
For Willie Davis at the Cook County jail in Chicago, who is being retried after an appeal.
For Joseph Runge at Centralia, Illinois, who injured his shoulder lifting weights; also for his children: Crystal, Joe, & Angel, that God will open their hearts to receive the Gospel.
For Mickey Ray Reil, McAlester, Oklahoma, that the Lord will guide him after he discharges.
For Johnny Carruthers, Florence, Arizona, that his hernia condition is treated soon.
For Stephen Clayton at Grady, Arkansas, who has a bad liver
For Anthony Grayson, Comstock, New York, for the right words to put into his appeal.
For Willie Scott at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, for his health. Also, Willie comes up for clemency later this year.
For Jimmy Huff, Colorado City, Texas, for his health. He also needs transportation.
For Willie Clark, Iowa Park, Texas, that he’ll be transferred closer to Houston to be near his family.
For Cleveland Cook, Buckeye, Arizona, that his family will come back into his life.
For Michael Small’s son, Derek, that he will come back to the Church. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Sister Ann & all the Carmelite Nuns in Little Rock.
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas, who is preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For Freddie Lee Lott, Galesburg, Illinois, for his health and that he stays “cancer free.”
For our friend, Sandra Beckcom, Prairie Grove, Arkansas. She survived a very serious surgery to remove cancer around her heart and other places. She’s been in the hospital two weeks, but is making good progress. Her recovery continues to be a miracle.
For Willie Harper, Joliet, Illinois, that he stays “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health.
For Ed Ewing, Visalia, California, who is 88 years old and in bad health.
For our Pastor Scott & her ministry (The University Network) in Los Angeles.
For all of us at Wingspread

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