Sermon Text

Genesis 37

Picture the scene...A beautiful paradise is created for sumptuous enjoyment.

But the paradise is tragically permeated by selfishness and relational infidelity.

The nudity, the shame, leads to the insertion of a series of new comers, some heroes, some villains, but the promise is one day, for the chosen, a great reward will be their’s.

Now the big question is, am I describing Genesis 1-36 or the latest series of Love Island?

They are fascinatingly similar aren’t they. But both Genesis and Love Island claim to help us make sense of who we are deep down.

Giles Coren, a columnist for The Times of London, called Love Island: “a vile, sexist, apocalyptically tasteless, immoral, sick, vomitous abomination”

But of course, for those of us who were here for the Genesis series, will remember…

Love Island offers us a factory line of hairless, bronzed Demi gods - social influencers who promise success if you emulate their fashion and relationship strategies.

And Genesis, has offered us a conveyor belt of possible serpent crushers...

But in both, the series, potential Saviours always let us down.

You see, one social commentator stated about Love Island, that:

From the girl crying ‘I just want to be enough for someone’ after being dumped, to the deep insecurities and flaws exhibited by every contestant, Love Island shows that the idols of today are doing what idols have always done: promising everything but delivering nothing.

Whether it be Adam, Cain, Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, all looked like they might fulfill the great promise…. they all are tragically flawed -

Whether it’s Love Island where we punish our former influences with #bitchiness, or whether it’s the fallen heroes of Genesis, who promise much then disappointingly #die.

The heroes who disappoint us, we silence!

That’s true of us at the beginning of time, it’s true in 21st Century Manchester, and that’s exactly what we see in today’s passage.

We silence Inconvenient leaders

The story focuses on a series of unusual family disagreements, all revolving around the youngest child called Joseph.

Statistically, the youngest child…is the best at making friends -

But, here the youngest child is the problem child.

If Joseph lived today, we’d write him a prescription for ADHD and put his dreams of superiority and ambition over the family farming business, as down to generation Z’s sense of over priveledgedness.

Let’s be honest, we all know someone we’ve thought it would be a good idea to throw them into a well when we saw them coming our way.

The problem is, Joseph makes a claim to the leadership of the whole family.

Verse 5 and 9: he had dreams where he is the king of the family, and everyone hates him for it.

We’re told in verse 3, that he was his Father’s favorite - which instantly means this guy is a prime candidate to lose the audience vote.

Now if you’re distracted by the Joseph Technicolor Dream Coat musical running around your head, come in back in the room, because many of us think we know this story of Joseph - wild child who is tamed to become sensible Saviour.

But in the context of Genesis, Joseph is number one pick from the start. What do I mean?

Normally the leader of the family after the Father is the eldest child, but we know from chapter 35, sleeps with his Father’s concubine so that Reuben the eldest is disqualified.

Secondly, dreams are a big deal in Genesis, so far in the Bible, God has only spoken to people he has favored and blessed through dreams.

Thirdly, the blessing of the Father really means something in Genesis - that’s exactly why Jacob and Esau fought so hard to get their Father’s blessing, and Joseph has his Father’s blessing in spades.

So why do Joseph's brothers reject him so deeply that they’re willing to leave him for dead in a pit?

The reasons are clear, Joseph diminishes their sense of privilege.

In the Ancient Near East, status is related to age. Oldest first, youngest last. Privilege flows top to bottom, If Joseph the lowest of the low, rises immediately to the top, then meritocracy of age, experience, social approval count for nothing.

It would be like going for a job interview where your qualifications or previous experience were irrelevant.

An inconvenient leader is one who makes you feel like you can’t rely on your unique advantages to pull you to the top.

But most seriously, Joseph makes them feel unloved.

To put it mildly - it’s an “inconvenient leader” who makes you feel unloved.

It’s no wonder that they - become crazed with getting rid of him in the most unsophisticated plan since Adam and Eve felt peckish around the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Wouldn’t you?

But before you chuck him in pit with the others, it’s important to know that since the Fall, and God promised to send a ‘Serpent Crusher’, we’ve been wondering who that would be.

But, seeing the whole story of the Bible unfold we know that the true serpent crusher, chosen one who will, fulfill to promise to Abraham - is Jesus.

And out of everyone in Genesis, Joseph most clearly points to Jesus.

The parallels are remarkable.

Jesus caused outrage when he…”No one comes to God the Father accept through me.”

Jesus was unashamedly loved by the father…”This is my Son, whom I love, with you i am well pleased.”

Jesus is exactly the type of leader who teaches that your status and social respectability counts for nothing

Jesus is the ruler who has an opinion on how you should live and some times that will feel like he is denying you love

Joseph points to Jesus big style - you still want to bury him?

You wouldn't do that to Jesus? Actually, I think all of us have. How many of us have sat through a sermon and seen Jesus heading towards us in an inconvenient application.

And so we conspire in our heart to refuse to hear him, to in affect silence him.

But we do worse than the brothers than throw Jesus our inconvenient leader into a well, we bind and gag Jesus and take him home. And remind ourselves that 'jesus loves us', so long as love means never telling me that I'm wrong.

You see, there is no greater inconvenient leader than Jesus.

Jesus looks at your…family heritage, academic achievement, your holy points for being a victim of life and pushing through, your career progression, recycling quota, community mindedness - you got anything else?

and is quite clear, they count for nothing - it's all about faith alone.

Ever said yourself, "But I'm a good person!" Jesus says "you might be the best but it's still not enough."

Jesus takes the very things that make me feel good about myself, even things that make me feel loved and sometimes the way he's asked us live is to let go of those things.

For example: aren’t there people in this church family who when you see coming towards you, you devise in your heart to punish them, by politely (because we're we're in England) withdrawing the warmth and generosity of your kindness that you would give to others?

And Jesus says, “No”, we are not to idolize protective friendship groups at the expense of others.

I get it most if us have never thrown anyone into well, but in a flurry of personal righteous anger, said things behind a person's back to socially isolate them.

Jesus, inconveniently, says regardless of the context, that was wrong.

Or, we’re not to, in this year of Weddings, idolize the relationships we’re in, in such a way we selfishly are insensitive to those who are without.

And those who are without relationships are not to punish those who have them, or even those who have denied them, through being cold or resentful towards them.

Do you want me shut my mouth now? Inconvenient truths feel better silenced don’t they?

Keller puts it like this, “An idol is something we cannot live without. We must have it. Therefore it drives us to break rules we once honoured to harm others, even ourselves, in order to get it.”

When Jesus challenges our idols we in the same position of brothers - we'll do anything to silence him.

So what would change our hearts to follow-him wholeheartedly?

2. Our leader raises us above inconvenient circumstances.

Verse 13 marks the beginning of a bad day for Joseph

Think about the horror

But there's an application principal that you need to know: it is possible to be blessed and chosen by God and yet lose everything that matters to you.

I:between 1959 and 1964, Richard Wurbrand, spent nearly three years in solitary confinement in an underground cell, and was repeatedly tortured, brain-washed and forced to watch the humiliation of other Christian prisoners.

Said this: "I have found truly jubilant Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church and in prison."

Application: at the end of the book, Genesis 50:20, 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

God transforms the consequences of ugly choices and turns them into beautiful results.

Jesus is the supreme example of this ..just like Joseph…Jesus came to his own people, but his own family rejected him. They beat him, and stripped him, without trial, without justice, they consigned him to a pit which was be his tomb.

At verse 23, Joseph is tragic picture of a cursed life,

Like the first episode if Love Island, Joseph entered our story a pretty, young, privileged thing, and is left naked, battered and bound as a slave.

From an outsiders perspective, would we not say the same about Jesus, as we observe the events of the cross 2000 years ago.

Yet, the message of this story: is what was intended for evil, was used by God for great good to save many.

In words of Isaiah 53:

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Application: when you...suffer...ask yourself the question, if you could see everything from God's perspective, and the end result was by the standard of God: 'Good'. Would you ask for a new life?

We know this right? Those of us who are Christians and lived a little while, can testify that suffering is always around the corner, sometimes small, sometimes big.

And yet, we have an odd, counter cultural relationship with our pain.

You see, for those of us who have been deeply wounded in life, you’ll know what I’m talking about,

We look back at that bad event or that life changing season we endured, and we refuse to deny it, we also refuse to reframe it, as a “small thing” or “it wasn’t that bad”, rather we establish it as a monument in our history.

A marker, of something that we would never wish to go through again, but in the knowledge that God takes things intended for evil and uses the consequence for good, we respect the fact that, positively, (be it how it shaped our character, the skills we learnt, the way we now can help others), we are who we are today because of it.

I: Moldova

“Ah, but anyone can say that their past makes them stronger”

The great philosopher of our time, Beyonce, makes the same point:

You thought that I'd be weak without ya, but I'm stronger
You thought that I'd be broke without ya, but I'm richer
You thought that I'd be sad without ya, I love harder
You thought I wouldn't grow without ya, now I'm wiser!

But here’s the thing, if you’re not a friend of Jesus you can endure wounds in life that cause you to, in effect, walk with a limp for the rest of your days,

but there is a tipping point where a positive attitude doesn’t work, and the suffering crushes you, leaving nothing but despair:

It’s when that event of suffering stops you from ever achieving happiness in the one and only life you have.

You don’t have to have lost a magnificent ‘technicoloured dream coat’ to understand what Joseph felt when he lost everything he held dear.

If you’re someone here who has had your mental health taken from you,
your confidence to walk freely outside or amongst crowds stripped from you . If your ability to trust others has been stolen,
and it’s not as if you haven’t tried to get help
yet you remain stuck in a pit of fear helpless awaiting death.

There are some of us here, who feel like that every day.

Sadly, Beyonce, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’ have a song about that.

But the Christian does.

Look with me at verse 28.

You see, Joseph throughout his whole story will point us to Jesus as we’ve seen. And Jesus just like Joseph won’t seem to stay dead.

Just as Joseph is plucked from certain death to a new life albeit, one a if a slave. Jesus really dies and comes back to life.

Not as a slave or carpenter but as one who sits at the right hand of throne of God the Father in heaven.

Why does that matter to us?

Because unlike the fake atonement of the brothers who dip their crime in the blood of a goat.

Our sin, our brokenness is cleansed by the blood of Jesus the lamb of God, who died and rose again, so that anyone who believes in him, has the guarantee that they are becoming the best version of themselves, as they become more and more like Jesus.

Meaning your suffering can no more stop you being the person God has made you to be, than a spiders web can stop Virgin Pendilona train at 200 mph.

Meaning not only will you live beyond death, but in Christ, the best is yet to come.

Very soon we will have a new PM, and a new era of uncertainty and anxiety will envelope our nation.

But Jesus makes this claim: he might be a leader who is inconvenient to us, in love he may require us to have hard conversations with ourselves and others.

But Jesus is the only leader who promises to raise us through and above inconvenient circumstances no matter what they may be.