Sun, Feb 10, 2008

ALL THINGS ARE AGAINST ME! GENESIS 42:29-36

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ALL THINGS ARE AGAINST ME!
GENESIS 42:29-36
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 42 as we focus on a statement made by Jacob, "All these things are against me. You see, I believe that this statement can teach us some important things about ourselves.  I’m sure we have all been where he was at or you may be there right now. Before we get to our text this morning let me share with you this true story of three Jewish psychiatrists. We are told:

Vienna, Europe, the period leading up to WW2. Three Jewish psychiatrists, two learned masters in the field, one the young apprentice.

The first master is a man named Sigmund Freud. He has spent years studying people, striving to understand what makes us tick. He's reached the conclusion that the most basic drive in human beings is the drive for pleasure. It’s our need for pleasure that explains why we do what we do, how we live.

The second master is Alfred Adler. He too has spent years studying human behaviour. His studies have led him to disagree with Sigmund Freud. Adler is convinced the bottom line explanation for human behaviour is power. All of us grow up feeling inferior and powerless. Life is a drive to gain control, to feel we are important.

The third man is a young up-and-coming psychiatrist by the name of Victor Frankl. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his mentors. But before his career gains any momentum there’s a hiccup – a little altercation called WW2. The Nazis invade and its dangerous for Jews. Freud and Adler are world renowned scholars and so manage to escape Europe before Hitler invades. Frankl is not so lucky. He is arrested and thrown into a Nazi concentration camp for 4 long years.

After the war is over Frankl is released from the concentration camp and resumes his career. He reflects upon his time as a prisoner. He noticed something quite strange – the people who survived were not always the ones you’d expect. Many who were physically strong wasted away and died while others who were much more weak physically grew strong and survived. Why? What was it that enabled them to hang on through a living hell?

Frankl reflected on the theories of his mentors. Freud’s pleasure principle couldn’t explain it. For four desperate and terrible years the men in that camp knew only pain, suffering and degradation. Pleasure was not a word in their vocabulary. It wasn’t pleasure that kept them going.

What then of Adler’s theory about power being the basic human need? That didn’t fare well either. Frankl and his fellow Jews were completely powerless during their time in the concentration camps. Each day they stared down the barrel of a loaded gun, were treated like animals, felt jackboots on their faces. They had no power and no prospect of power.

Victor Frankl came up with his own theory. The difference between those who survived and those who perished was hope. Those who survived never gave up their belief that their lives had meaning, that despite everything going on around them it would one day end and they would live meaningful, purposeful lives. What is the basic human drive? The one thing that gives life value? The ability to live with a sense of meaning. Not pleasure. Not power. Meaning.

- Based on a talk given by Australian speaker Michael Frost

            I agree with Victor Frankl to a point. I don’t believe that life is about pleasure or power but it must have meaning.  You see, why are we here?  And here is where I think he misses the point. It is not just to live with a sense of meaning, but to live a life that is focused upon God for He alone gives true meaning to our lives.  And, by focusing on the Lord He brings hope to the situations we are going through but, by taking our eyes off the Lord it will bring despair, a sense of hopelessness!

            In our study this morning, Pharaoh has elevated Joseph from a position of a prisoner in prison to second in command over all of Egypt for interpreting his dreams.  Joseph is the man in charge of grain storage during the seven years of bountiful harvest and then grain distribution during the seven years of severe famine. Those seven years of bountiful harvest are now over and the start of the seven years of famine has begun, and it is horrific!  In Genesis 41:57 we see how far reaching this famine was as we are told, So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.

            Now, living in the land of Canaan are Jacob and his sons and they too are being affected by this famine. It is so bad that Jacob is going to send his sons to Egypt to buy some grain, but he keeps his youngest son Benjamin home with him.  And the other sons make this long, 265-mile journey to Egypt that may have taken a few weeks if they traveled around 20 miles per day!

            Upon arriving in Egypt they meet the man who is in charge of dispensing the grain, but they don’t know it is their brother Joseph, who they sold into slavery over 20 years ago! But Joseph does recognize them and he puts a little pressure on them, makes them nervous by placing them in prison for three days, saying that they are spies.

            But Joseph does release them but he keeps Simeon behind and tells them to return home and come back to Egypt with their younger brother Benjamin. If they do, then he will know that they are not spies and he will release Simeon. So off they go, another 265 miles back home, with the grain.  That is where we will pick up our study this morning, in Genesis chapter 42, starting in verse 29 as we see two kinds of perspectives to have in regards to life’s situations, the things that we face and what is the one that the Lord wants us to have!

GENESIS 42:29-36

            So as the boy’s come home they explain to their father all that happened to them down in Egypt. How the man was rough with them. That he thought they were spies. But they explained to him that they were honest men, but that was not exactly true. But, because of that they explained to him where they come from, that they come from a family of 12 sons, one is home with their father and the other has died. Now that was not true and they knew that. They sold Joseph into slavery and he was probably somewhere in Egypt right now, not knowing that they were standing right before him!

            Then there was more trouble for these men. The man wants them to bring Benjamin back to Egypt to prove they are not spies and to make sure they comply with this command, and Simeon is locked up in prison and would not be released until they return with Benjamin!

            As they finish telling Jacob all these things, they begin to unload their sacks, and more trouble.  The money they brought down to Egypt to buy the grain was not only in one of their sacks, but in all of their sacks! Thus, they were afraid.  They were terrified. They knew exactly what this meant.  You see, the man will come to the conclusion that they are not just spies, but they are also thieves!

            Then, the spiritual leader of the family speaks up and says, “ . . . ‘You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.’  Genesis 42:36.  I see Jacob acting like Eeyore here, from Winnie the Pooh. You know, that melancholy stuffed donkey who thinks that everyone and everything is against him! That truly is Jacob here, not Israel!

            First of all he said, Joseph is no more. Now, God promised Joseph in a dream that Jacob was aware of, that his brothers and parents would bow down before him. Thus, God will fulfill what He has promised even if it does not seem possible. So this is wrong!

            Secondly, he said, Simeon is no more. Now I wonder how Simeon would feel about that since he is not dead but sitting and waiting in an Egyptian prison! He is waiting for them to come back with Benjamin so he can be released! That is the problem, Jacob does not want to let Benjamin go down to Egypt and thus, he writes Simeon off!  So this too is wrong!

            And thirdly, Jacob said, All these things are against me. Is that true?  No, in fact it is just the opposite. All these things are not against Jacob, but they are working for his good!  Now, before you are too harsh on Jacob, do you ever feel that way? I’m sure you have and thus, I want to examine two different areas this morning to help us.  The first is dealing with HOPELESSNESS and what is does for us. The second is HOPE and what it does for us. I think you will see how it is better to place your hope in God then to be hopeless by placing your hope in yourself!

1.  HOPELESSNESS

            As you read the response of Jacob here there are some striking problems that come out regarding his actions. You see, He makes no mention of God. For the moment he has forgotten how the Lord had led him at first to Laban's house, and had given him prosperity during his twenty years sojourn in Padan Aram; how He had cared for him when he left his father-in-law; how He had appeased the anger of Esau towards him; how He had blessed him at Penuel after the night-long wrestling; and how He had protected him at the time when the violence of some of his sons might have drawn upon him the vengeance of the Shechemites. Now God was in this new trial as much and as really as He was in these old ones, and if Jacob had remembered that, he would not have spoken as he did. We shall see, indeed, that after a while, when his sons were bidding him farewell on their departure for Egypt for more food, he came back to his old trustfulness, and offered for them this prayer: "God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." But at the first, when the full shadow of his trouble passed over him, God was to him, for the moment, eclipsed, and that only made his trial heavier.

            When you take God out of the picture, then there truly is no hope!  Paul, in Ephesians 2:11-12 tells us, Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  You see, there is no real hope apart from God.  Yes, people have hope in many things, like the Bears going to the Super Bowl this year, but it was a false hope!  But when you place your hope in God, no matter how bad things may look, there is hope!

            Let me give you this example to show you how we can let things get in the way and rob us of hope. The sun is fairly close, only some 93 million miles away.  It is over 5,500 degrees Celsius at the surface and 15 million degrees Celsius at the center. In terms of size, the sun is 900,000 miles across!  The earth is only 8,000 miles wide.  Think about this. It would take more than 100 earths’ to span the width of the sun. And, if we were to make the sun a hallow ball, you could fit about one million earths’ inside of it!

            As impressive as the sun is, some 900,000 miles across, do you realize I can completely obliterate the sun or reduce it to nothing with just my fist!  I know, I am a pretty big guy, standing in at 5 feet 6 inches tall with these massive hands that can palm a golf ball! But 900,000 miles across the sun is and I can block it out with my fist?  You bet I can. I can move my fist close to my face and the sun is gone!

            We can do this with our problems where we have them so close to us that we block out, not the sun, but the Son of God!  Jacob blocked out God and everything was against him, or so he thought.  And when we block out God, it truly does seem like everything is against us.  Let me share this true story with you. We are told:

            One night at dinner a man, who had spent many summers in Maine, fascinated his companions by telling of his experiences in a little town named Flagstaff. The town was to be flooded, as part of a large lake for which a dam was being built. In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone. Then he added by way of explanation:

“Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.”

- Halford E. Luccock, Unfinished Business

            As Christians, when we take our eyes off of God during difficult situations, we tend to give up, what’s the use!  Hope is so important in our lives.  God does not want us to be an Eeyore, moping around. He wants us to be more like Tigger the Tiger who has a spring in his step and joy in his heart.  Thus, we have spent enough time in hopelessness; let’s look at the hope we are to have in our lives that is found in the Lord!

2.  HOPE

            Hope is so important for us to have and not hope in just anything. In Genesis chapter 43 the Holy Spirit calls Jacob by his new name, Israel or governed by God and this is then reflected in his actions, the things that he says.  In Genesis 43:14, as he is going to send his sons, with Benjamin, back down to Egypt, he says, And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!

            Notice the difference. All things are not working against him, the reality is that all things are working for Jacob, to preserve him and his family and to raise up a nation from the children of Israel.  Thus, in these verses he tells us that he is going to rest in El Shaddai or Almighty God, the covenant name of God given to Abraham!

            And that phrase, If I am bereaved, I am bereaved is not a “Whatever will be will be” mentality, just giving up. It is not that at all.  It is an expression of giving it over to Almighty God and trusting that not only will His will be done, but it will be what is best. It is as Paul said in Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” 

            The English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blest.” But where does man turn when hope dries up'

The director of a medical clinic told of a terminally ill young man who came in for his usual treatment. A new doctor who was on duty said to him casually and cruelly, “You know, don’t you, that you won’t live out the year?”

As the young man left, he stopped by the director’s desk and wept. “That man took away my hope,” he blurted out.

“I guess he did,” replied the director. “Maybe it’s time to find a new one.”

Commenting on this incident, Lewis Smedes wrote, “Is there a hope when hope is taken away? Is there hope when the situation is hopeless? That question leads us to Christian hope, for in the Bible, hope is no longer a passion for the possible. It becomes a passion for the promise.”

-Our Daily Bread, December 19, 1996

            Don’t let anyone rob you of the hope you are to have in the Lord, not even yourself! Let me give you an example on how perspective is so important in our lives, how it helps us to have hope.  In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he is writing from prison, placed there for his faith in Jesus Christ. Not a great place to be and yet look at the perspective he has in the situation he is in. He is not an Eeyore but a Tigger!  We are told in Philippians 1:12-14, But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

This is important and Paul wants them to know, to understand this, he wants their attention.  Do you think there are accidents with God?  Do you think God ever says “Oops”?  Not at all and that is Paul’s point here. You can look at the situation he is in and think God is not in control, how could He be?  But Paul turns it around and says that his imprisonment didn’t stop the work of God but actually moved the Gospel message forward.  The wordfurtherance is PROKOPE (prok-op-ay’) in the Greek and it speaks of advancement, progress like that of an army or expedition.  And Paul lists two ways this happened to prove his point to the Philippians who may be discouraged seeing Paul in prison.  Here are those two reasons:

            A.  PALACE GUARD OR PRAITORION (prahee-to’-ree’on) 

            Paul, being a prisoner, was chained to a Roman soldier and these chains were about 18 inches long, but he was never alone.  Every 6 hours a new soldier would replace the old one and so, in two years time, Paul had a large captive audience to witness to, they could not run away, they were guarding Paul and because of the witness of Paul and the love of God, many of the Imperial Guards of Rome were saved!

            B.  ENCOURAGED OTHERS BY HIS EXAMPLE

            Paul, being under house arrest, could have visitors, and as the brethren came and saw Paul, saw people getting saved, even the soldiers guarding Paul, they were strengthened in the faith, they were bold in their witness because they saw that nothing could stop the Gospel message from going forward, not even chains!

            Thus, instead of complaining about the situation we find ourselves in, look at Paul’s example, be encouraged by it, for God is not chained nor is the Gospel message.  Rejoice in what God is doing even if you don’t understand that situation you are in, for there are no accidents with God, He has a plan, He has a purpose for what we are going through!

            Just to encourage you more, listen to what John MacArthur said about John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. He tells us:

            John Bunyan’s preaching was so popular and powerful, and so unacceptable to leaders in the seventeenth-century Church of England, that he was jailed in order to silence him.  Refusing to be silent, he began to preach in the jail courtyard. He not only had a large audience of prisoners, but also hundreds of the citizens of Bedford and the surrounding area would come to the prison daily and stand outside to hear him expound Scripture. He was silenced verbally be being placed deep inside the jail and forbidden to preach at all.  Yet in that silence, he spoke loudest of all and to more people than he could have imagined. It was during that time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, the great Christian classic that has ministered the gospel to tens of millions throughout the world.  For several centuries, it was the most widely read and translated book in the world after the Bible.  Bunyan’s opponents were able to stop his preaching for a few years, but they were not able to stop his ministry.  Instead, they provided opportunity for it to be extended from deep within a jail in the small town of Bedford to the ends of the earth.

                                                                                                            - John MacArthur

            You see, when your remove the situation from being the focus of your life and place God there instead, it changes everything.  Thus, I want to share with you some verses of hope from the Bible to give you a perspective of things.  There are 142 listings of hope in the Bible and I won’t go through them all, but they are obviously important.  If you want you can turn to these verses with me, or you can write them down or just meditate upon them. I truly believe God’s Word is living and powerful and will give to us exactly what we need and hope is something we all need! So here they are:

Psalm 31:24 – Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.

            Psalm 38:15 – For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.

            Psalm 39:7 – And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.

            Psalm 71:5, 14 – For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth. . . . But I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more.

            Psalm 78:7 – That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments.

            Psalm 119:81, 114, 147 – My soul faints for Your salvation, But I hope in Your word. . . . You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. . . . I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word.

            Psalm 131:3 – O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever.

            Psalm 146:5 – Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.

            Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord.

            Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

            Romans 15:13 – Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

            II Corinthians 3:12 – Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech.

            I Timothy 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.

            Titus 1:1-2 – Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.

            Titus 2:13 – looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

            Titus 3:7 – that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

            Hebrews 6:19 – This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.

            I Peter 1:3, 13, 21 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . . Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

            I realize that was a long list of verses, but I want to drive home this point. Where is our hope to be found?  It is in the Lord!  Where does God show us this hope?  In His Word, the promises He gives to us regarding our salvation, sanctification, knowing that the work that God has started in us He will complete, His return and-so-on!

            You see, it is not about us, but about Him. Don’t lose the focus as this story illustrates for us. We are told:

            The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn't know what to do. Napoleon's massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church.

The pastor rose and said, "Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord's resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us." The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left.

- Source Unknown

            My prayer this morning is that you would leave here with hope in the Lord and His promises to you.  If you came in here this morning as Eeyore may you leave as Tigger the Tiger with a bounce in your step and joy in your heart. Or, Biblically speaking, if you came in here as a Jacob, a schemer, may you leave here as Israel or governed by God!  It is as Peter tells us regarding what we need to do. He said, But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.  In other words, let us share our faith, share our hope in the Lord with others, being ready to defend what we believe and doing it in love!

            Let me leave you this morning with this to think about. J. Parker tells us:

            Take a comprehensive view of God's dealings with us: -- A child might say to a geographer, "You talk about the earth being round. I look on this great crag; look on that deep dell; look on yonder great mountain, and the valley at its feet, and yet you talk about the earth being round." The geographer would have an instant answer for the child; his view is comprehensive; he does not look at the surface of the world in mere detail; he does not deal with inches, and feet, and yards; he sees a larger world than the child has had time to grasp. He explains what he means by the expression, "The earth is a globe," and justifies his strange statement. And so it is with God's wonderful dealings towards us: there are great rocks and barren deserts, deep, dank, dark pits, and defiles, and glens, and dells, rugged places that we cannot smooth over at all, and yet when He comes to say to us at the end of the journey, "Now look back; there is the way I have brought you," we shall be enabled to say, "Thou hast gone before us, and made our way straight."

- J. Parker

            You see, all things are not against you. In fact, God is using all those things that have happened, are happening and will happen in your life to build you up, to help you to grow, to use you for His glory, you just may not see it yet!  Thus, trust in Him and what His Word is saying to you because in the end, “. . . we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28.  May we not forget that!

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