Click here to hear the Word Proclaimed: 12-08-19 The COAT of Many Colors – Prison to Palace
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 41:1-13
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream. In the morning his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my faults today. Once Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard. We dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each according to his dream. As he interpreted to us, so it turned out; I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 41:14-44
Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.” Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
As I sat down this past week to begin my reflection on this narrative of Joseph, I had to go back to the very beginning of the story and begin re-reading what we had already talked about to refresh my memory. And so, it dawned on me that if I had to go back, the one who has been planning, preparing, praying, and writing this sermon series, certainly I could feel safe to assume it may be good for me to re-cap what we had been talking about before jumping in to today’s lessons.
Back about mid July, we began this series called the COAT of Many Colors. And throughout this series we have seen quite a many different coats worn by our young main character Joseph. Beginning with a coat of many colors and long sleeves given to him by his Father. Joseph, being the youngest at the time of 10 older brothers and one older sister, caught a lot of grief from his older brothers as they were envious and jealous of their father’s love for Joseph. One day, while out tending the sheep they sold Joseph off to a trading company, and Joseph, stripped of his robe was beginning a journey that brought him into the hands of Potiphar, a captain in Egypt. While there, Joseph was placed in a place of authority within Potiphar’s house and was being tempted daily by Potiphar’s wife to lay with her. One day, she held onto his COAT and stripped him of that coat and she cried out to all who would hear her that Joseph tried to seduce her. And so, because again of that coat, was he placed in prison. And this brings us to where we were last. Joseph in prison interpreting the dreams of a cup bearer and baker. Joseph being truthful both in time of good news and bad news. And the story that we left off with was that the cup bearer was reestablished as Pharaoh’s servant, but had forgotten Joseph who had asked him to remember him in prison and the injustices that Joseph had faced.
And so, we begin by jumping right back in to our story and we jump in here with Joseph remaining in prison. You know, ironically, we waited two weeks before coming back to this story, while Joseph waited 2 years before his name was ever mentioned again by this cup bearer. Think back over the last 2 weeks, think of all the things that has happened. VBS hadn’t even begun two weeks ago. And how much we have forgotten about this story from just merely two weeks gone by, and Joseph waited, in prison, unjustly placed there, hearing the words “Not Yet” from God as I am sure he pleaded to be released. You know, these words “Not Yet” forever are ingrained in my mind. Especially in this age of instant gratification, we click a link on the computer and if it doesn’t come up in 1/100th of a second, we are simply waiting too long and have to call the local internet company to find out why are internet is dragging. We, especially now more than ever, just simply do not like the words “Not Yet”. But these words are certainly words that we hear throughout the scriptures. Joseph, desiring to get out of prison, and God’s answer, “Not Yet” seems to be forever wavering in Joseph’s face. Jesus’ mother asking him to do some miracle and let it be known to all people that her son is the Son of God, and Jesus replies, “Not yet my time mother.” What this really boils down to is we as a people get frustrated when we think we know better than God. And it is not about our will. It is certainly difficult and I do not think as we continue down this new era of the technology it is going to get easier, it is God’s Plan and not our own that counts. We, as Christians are taught that we must daily submit ourselves to take up our cross. And that cross, I believe is letting go of our plans for our life, and allowing God’s plan for our life be the prevailing plan.
So Joseph waits…waits…and waits. Finally, Pharaoh, two years later has this strange dream. So strange in fact it woke him up. Pharaoh shrugged off the dream and dreams again. Very similar to that of the first dream, and again wakes up and as the scriptures says, “Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled.” Pharaoh knew that there was something more here to these dreams than any normal dream. These words echo so much from the dreams that the cup bearer and baker had had. You may recall, Joseph had gone in the next morning and they were “troubled”. Sounds familiar doesn’t. So just as the cup bearer and baker desired someone to interpret their dreams, so did Pharaoh. Remember dreams in the Egyptian culture believed dreams were encoded revelations, leaving one in need of a specialist in the science of dream-interpretation. And so Pharaoh brought in the best of his best. And not one of them could understand these dreams. Finally, two years later, the cupbearer remembered. Notice though he did not remember the injustices that had happened to Joseph, simply of Joseph’s gift by God.
And this next part astounds me to this day. Two years later, Joseph is called forth to come and meet with Pharaoh, and Joseph is the same Joseph he was two years before. Joseph, the one who still resembles “Christ” in this story, continues to serve God and not looking out for his own self interest. Pharaoh brings Joseph forward and asks a favor. I don’t believe I would be so forth coming and willing. I would have probably tried to say, “Let’s make a deal here….I will tell you what your dream means, IF you are able to release me.” You know, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind of thing. But no, Joseph does not do that. Joseph shows Grace.
You know, I am not sure how many of you have seen the movie National Treasure, but in the movie, Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence because someone else was going to because it had a hidden map on it, in the end, The FBI agent who had been tracking down Nicolas Cage finally gets a call from him. And Nicolas Cage asks to meet up with him. In the movie, Nicolas Cage tells the FBI agent everything, and even before receiving a pardon, hands the FBI agent the Declaration of Independence.
The FBI agent says, “Just like that?” – and Nicolas responds, “Just like that.” The FBI agent responds, “You do know you just handed me your biggest bargaining chip?” and Nicolas responds, “The Declaration of Independence is not a bargaining chip.”
I suppose I brought this part of the movie up because to me, Joseph is a lot like Nicolas Cage. Joseph interprets the dream, tells Pharaoh how he should go about solving the issue, and from the very beginning tells him that it is not Joseph who is going to answer, but God. By the end of it, because of his selfless giving, Pharaoh owes Joseph NOTHING. But because of Joseph’s relationship and clear wisdom given by God, is given a new COAT. A robe of fine linen, a gold chain around his neck, and placed a ring on his hand. Certainly all three of these symbols carry with it family ties, power and authority, much like how these symbols are used in the story of the prodigal son.
Now I want us to stop and think back to how this narrative today began. Imagine two scenarios here. One scenario where the cup bearer remembered Joseph and Joseph had been released and had gone on his way. Joseph would have not undergone any suffering, any hardship of prison for those two years, BUT may not have been found when Pharaoh needed him and been placed into a place of power, which later effects the purpose of Joseph’s power…we’ll discuss that next week. Or the second scenario if Joseph had become impatient with God and by the time Pharaoh needed Joseph, Joseph was no longer on speaking terms with God. When we begin to place our trust, even when times get tough, and hard, in God; we may just begin to see God’s blessing. No, not always a blessing of palace life such as Joseph had. Let me close today with this clarification about Joseph’s blessing. Joseph followed God’s plan and led him from the pasture to prison, to a palace. But Moses also followed God’s plan and it led Moses from a Palace, to a flock, to the wilderness. Both of them were blessed, not because of what they ended up with, but because the allowed God’s plan to unfold. God’s will does not always lead to riches, but certainly to eternal glory.