Joseph in Prison

Click here  12-07-29 The COAT of Many Colors – Joseph in Prison to hear God’s Word Proclaimed

(VIDEO of Dr. Young Jin Cho is in the blog posting if you want to watch it for yourself)

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 40:1-8

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody. One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

 

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 40:9-23 

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.” When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” And Joseph answered, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a pole; and the birds will eat the flesh from you.” On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Sermon

Over these last three weeks, we have been following along with this story from Joseph. We have been learning from Joseph’s encounters with God and with humanity, and through Joseph’s story learning how we as people are to be living faithfully to God’s will for us. I believe one of the most desirable reasons we like to study this story of Joseph, is that Joseph always does what is God’s will. Joseph, often is characterized to be similar to the character of Jesus. From our lessons today, with Joseph in prison, I will be touching on three main points from this story. These points that I will be discussing are at times difficult to uphold in our personal lives, but are certainly worth striving for as we seek to be like Christ. But before I begin, I would like to show a video introducing you to our new bishop. Now you may be wondering, what does this have to do with our three points that we are about to learn from Joseph. Well, as I have watched this video this past week, and have been studying these scriptures…I could not help but notice the similarities in these three points I want to teach on today, and the Bishop Young Jin Cho. And so, with no further ado, let us meet our new Bishop.

As we have just heard, Bishop Young Jin Cho certainly is a man that could be characterized as humble, spiritual, and very devout in God’s will and not his own will. His prayer, that touched me deeply throughout this entire process, was simply this… “Dear God, Your will, Nothing more, Nothing less, Nothing else.” As we come to this first point in Joseph’s story, Joseph had been in prison for quite some time when these two servants of Pharaoh had been sent to prison. Joseph, like Bishop Cho, very well could have been a man off self-pity, a man who only looked to his own needs, as he had been wrongfully accused, and wrongfully sent away from his home by his brothers. But Joseph overcame those obstacles. Joseph instead of looking for what he needed or what he wanted, he looked and showed compassion to others, even in the face of trials and tribulation because the Lord was with him. Let me show you here in the scripture what I am talking about. Verse 6, “When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?”  Joseph did not look at them and say, “Well you think it’s bad, let me tell you my story…Joseph showed compassion. Joseph said, “Tell me your troubles….and I will listen….I will serve your needs, instead of telling my needs.” This act of servitude resembles so much of the Christ figure that we see in Jesus. Jesus says, “I have not come to be served, but only to serve.” We as followers of Jesus are also to be striving to do the same. We should not be coming to church and saying what can the church do for me…but rather, we should come to church and say, “Look at what God has done for me…what can I do now to serve in his Kingdom, How can I use the gifts he has given me for his Kingdom.”

The second point that I want to make today follows directly after this interchange between Joseph and these two prisoners. In response to Joseph’s question they said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

Now to you and I who have grown up in a totally different culture from that of Joseph, there is nothing marvelous or grand by these words of Joseph. But in that culture “ancient Egyptians believed dreams were encoded revelations, leaving one in need of a specialist in the science of dream-interpretation.  But Joseph speaks confidently of God’s ability to give the interpretation.”[1] And this is just my second point. Joseph trusts in God’s will, in God’s plan. Does this mean that Joseph just sits back and waits for God to do all the work…absolutely not. We see in verse 14 and 15 he asks the cupbearer to remember him and to tell Pharaoh of the injustices that he has undergone. But what I do believe is to be learned here is precisely what Bishop Cho was speaking of there at the end of his video. “If we become a praying conference, if we open to God and humbly rely on God’s wisdom and guidance, I strongly believe that the UMC will have a different future.” That different future that Bishop Cho is speaking of, I believe is the future of God’s kingdom fully revealed. Here and now. We are not just going to sit back and wait for God to break open the heavens. We must be in prayer, we must be in Christian Action, and we MUST be telling the good news of Jesus Christ.

And finally, my last point to glean from Joseph in our lessons today is the lesson I spoke to the children about earlier today. Joseph’s ability to speak Truth. Joseph in the last part of this lesson today, he gave two interpretations to two different people. We as Christians love to tell the Good News like the kind of news that Joseph gave the cupbearer. But we shy away too much from giving the bad news, like the kind of news Joseph gave to the chief baker, even when it is Truth. It is tough to do the right thing when you know it is going to upset people. We often like to point our fingers at other people, but I will be the first to tell you that I despise making decisions that I know will inevitably make people upset. But I know I must do what I believe in my heart to be biblically founded and what is Truth. As I told you all when I first came, I promised to make decisions not based on my experiences of you or anything else, but upon the cross of Jesus Christ. And that means being a person who is truth-telling. Joseph was not afraid, and neither was Jesus. In the Gospel of John chapter 2 verse 14 it says, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus was a testament of grace as he gave us his life on the cross. But Jesus was also full of Truth and told us the cost of discipleship and the cost of not believing.

So as we come to close today, may you continue to resemble Christ to others, even when you are in times of feeling imprisoned. May your hope be in Christ Jesus today and always. And finally, as Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him, may we remember and believe, today as we come to the Lord’s table, the one who freed us. Amen.


[1] Footnote of Wesley Study Bible, p. 54

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