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The Life Preserver – Genesis 45:5


 Audio Sermon

The Life Preserver

But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life“ (Genesis 45:5)

The following joke about a Church Board Meeting was sent to us: “A fight surprisingly broke out during the monthly board meeting, involving three men who hit each other with chairs. Later, when the case went to criminal court, one of the defendants, a deacon, described how the other two defendants had struck one another with those chairs. ‘You’re a deacon, why didn't you try to establish peace?’ asked the judge. ‘Didn't you think about that?’ ‘Yes, I did, Your Honor,’ the deacon replied, ‘which is why I picked up that other chair.’"

And that’s the way it often is in life. We might have thoughts about being peacemakers, but things often don’t work out so well. Have you ever been badly hurt by someone? Someone who meant something to you? This was the person or persons who were supposed to love you like you loved them, but instead they did you harm. That was what happened to Joseph, son of Jacob. He loved his brothers, but they were jealous of him because he was the favorite of their father. You can read about all it in Genesis Chapter 37. They were alone with him in an isolated place. It is revealed in Verse 18 that they already meant to kill him and suddenly they grabbed him and threw him down into an empty, waterless pit (Verse 24).

His brothers had second thoughts about what they had done, but not the kind of thoughts we would want. They pulled Joseph up out of the pit, and he must have felt a bit of hope that his brothers loved him after all, but all hope was quickly gone. They only raised him up to sell him to slave-traders in a nearby caravan for “twenty shekels of silver” (Genesis 37:28). The favored son was now the slave of strangers who cared nothing about him at all.

Slavery has been the way of humanity throughout history. Every cultural group in the world has trafficked in slaves at one time or another and those they controlled had no rights at all. For many years it was impossible for Joseph to meet anyone who had less freedom than he did, for slaves like him had no rights at all.

It’s amazing how we can be seemingly “free” one minute and then fall into abject slavery the next. Certain drugs, like alcohol, seem to offer freedom, but lead to slavery. A promising career can, with a sudden change of bosses or other circumstances, become like a form of slavery that imprisons us. Disease can come into us in such a way that we feel confined, trapped in our own bodies. Our very souls are imprisoned by the loss of a loved one. Those who had purchased Joseph now sold him to someone else (Genesis 37:36), and his circumstances then did seem to improve, but all too soon his life would become even worse than before. Soon he would be in an Egyptian prison for a crime he did not commit.

How many times did Joseph think of his brothers and what they had done to him? Many times, I’m sure. Very likely he thought of them every hour of every day, and each thought caused extreme pain. Did he forgive his siblings? Probably not, for a long, long time. The distance between Joseph and his brothers actually helped him, for if he could have spoken to them during those years, he would have found that they had not changed their minds about him, and they would not change until they had to. Did he eventually forgive them? Oh yes he did, although like most of us, he first had to endure a lengthy, grueling life process that finally turned him into a man who could forgive.

What about God, by the way? Did Joseph blame God for what happened? It does not look like it. When a temptress came to him in the person of his “master’s” wife, he shouted, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). His faith WAS being tested, however. Just like human muscles are taken to the limit in order to make them strong, OUR faith will be tested as well. God wants us to grow in faith to the extent that we will help others and no longer be like babies who always must cry for help. Here are some of the reasons why Joseph suffered, and these reasons may be useful to you as well:

  • It was not his brothers who sent him into slavery; it was God, and the reason was so Joseph would be enabled to help others (Genesis 45:5)

  • We have tribulation in life so we will receive God’s “comfort” and learn to share with others the comfort that comes from God (2 Corinthians 1:4)

  • Our suffering amazingly has the potential to lead others to salvation in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:6)

  • Like Joseph, and later, like Paul the Apostle, we can be so overcome by trouble that we despair even of life, but it is allowed so we will no longer trust in ourselves, but in God, “who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

  • Suffering comes so that we will learn to pray, learn to trust that God will deliver us, and become thankful to Him (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)

For a number of years I have taught Bible studies in convalescent homes. Recently someone new began to attend our studies, and unlike most of the others, this man actually brought a Bible with him, and he even opened it and followed along. We met, had a discussion and I learned that this man REALLY loves the Lord and leads a Bible study of his own which is connected to his work. Both of his knees were replaced, which led to his presence in the convalescent home and to time in a wheelchair. It’s interesting that God has led him to come back to the home, even though he has now been released, and he presents a fun question-and-answer Bible quiz to the residents after my study each week.

His name is Charles and he would not even know about the convalescent home except his knees went bad. Just like Joseph, his suffering drew him to help others.  I also think of Faye, who, because she had breast cancer, started the Breast Cancer Angels organization. I think of Genevieve, my wife, who became a widow when her husband, Bob, died from cancer related to the Agent Orange sprayed on Vietnam during the war. She started the Agent Orange Widows Awareness Coalition and helps others because of what happened to her. Sue, a friend of ours, learned firsthand what grief was all about and started the New Hope Grief Support Community in order to comfort others with the comfort she received.

Joseph, Paul, Charles, Faye, Genevieve and Sue all are extremely useful to others in ways they would not have sought or understood, except that God led them through suffering to become helpers. The Lord helped them and as a result, they do the same. When trouble comes, trust in God, for He indeed is our life preserver – forever.

Father, we often do not understand, but we trust in You. We know You will see us through and you have a good outcome for our lives. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

Donations to this ministry are greatly appreciated and may be sent to:
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA


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