We see time and again how God has called and calls both ordinary men and women throughout history to do extraordinary things for His Kingdom purposes. Last week Jim Hatmeyer introduced a new series we are beginning titled “Ordinary Rebels”. The purpose of the series is to show that God has and always will call normal ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him. We see this in Jesus’ ministry as he called the twelve ordinary and sinful men to be his disciples for his master plan of ushering in the Kingdom of God.
I am and we all should be encouraged by how God uses these ordinary men/rebels to forever impact and change the world for his Kingdom and glory. Their lives are truly evidenced that when Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of your life that life and living will never ever be the same again. Pastor John MacArthur writes in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness and What He Wants to Do with You, “The twelve were personally selected and called by Christ… He knew all their faults long before he chose them.”
As we read through the accounts of each one of these ordinary rebels, we see one common denominator… When Jesus calls someone to follow Him, they drop everything to follow him. The tax collector gives up his life of luxury and leaves his career behind to follow the savior. The blue-collar fishermen drop everything (this would have been their livelihood) to walk with the savior to see his grand scheme to save the world. The skeptic encounters Jesus and is challenged to “come and see for himself” this savior who does not fit the conventional description of what everyone thought the Messiah should look like. We see Philip and Andrew who are so struck with the Savior they just must go out and introduce their friends to the Lamb of God who is going to take away the sins of the world.
But, before we meet all these rebels it is important for us to look at the one who paved the way for these 12 men whom Jesus would eventually call. He maybe not so much an ordinary person, as he had some unique qualitied about him, but he is “ordinary” in the fact that he was not a person from an influential family, nor did he ever rise to a level of fame that would set him apart from others. He is John the Baptist. Today we will look at the person of John the Baptist and the role he plays in the both in the Gospel accounts and in the society he lived namely the religious rulers.
I am going to establish somethings before we get too deep into the message.
I will conclude with some personal applications, but I would like to extend an invitation for you to expand on the Word in your personal time with the Lord.
John The Baptist – We don’t know a lot about John the Baptist but what we do know we can find it in the Scriptures.
The Jews – Most often when this term is used in the Gospel account of John it refers to the religious leaders. The hierarchy of the religious order is a little complex and it is tied in with government. There was no separation of Church and state.
The Temple Order – There are many ranks and levels to the priesthood, and they are as follows…
The Religious Leaders
John 1:19 – 34
John the Evangelist (not the Baptist, but author of the Gospel of John) introduces a new topic and expands a little about this unique individual he briefly mentions in vs 15. It is believed John did not personally witness this account, so he is probably telling a well-known secondhand story of what happened.
Verse 19 – The religious leaders (probably the Sanhedrin) sent priests and Levites to question John the Baptist about who he was. They did not send in the big guns yet. They were only inquiring as to who he was… However, this was not just a casual “Who are you?” question. They were coming to find out specifically if John was the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet.
Israel was under Roman leadership, and they had lost their independence. So, there was a great sense of anticipation and hope for the Messiah to come and deliver the nation from the shackles of Roman rule. So it seemed the time was ripe for his first advent. The Jews believed the Messiah was coming to set Israel free from captivity and establish his Kingdom through the nation of Israel.
Verses 20 - 21 – John strongly denies he is the Messiah. He also says that He is neither Elijah nor the Prophet (which was believed to be one like Moses). They inquired about Elijah because Malachi 4:5 reads, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” They wondered if he was the fulfillment of this prophecy in Malachi. They thought the prophet was like Moses because Deuteronomy 18:15 says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.”
Verse 23 – John says who he is and why he has come. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” He was the one who is laying the foundation for the One who all of Israel has been anticipating… The Messiah.
Verse 25 - 28 – By what authority was he baptizing? According to D.A. Carson in his commentary on John, “There interest is in what authorizes John’s baptismal practices. It is not that baptism is unknown. Some Jewish groups practiced ‘proselyte baptism’, i.e., proselytes were baptized in the process of converting to Judaism… Candidates baptized themselves. One of the things that characterized the baptism of John the Baptist is that he administered it.” He continues, “They want to discover by what authority John is baptizing Jewish people as part of the preparation for the Kingdom of God he is announcing. Looking around for an adequate authority to sanction so extraordinary a practice, they wonder if he is an (end times) figure.”
Verse 29 – The day after John’s encounter with the religious leaders John sees Jesus coming towards him and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” To the modern Christian (or even to anyone post death and resurrection of Jesus) this statement is an understandable statement and think little of its meaning and how radical of a statement it was coming from John the Baptist. Some have debated even if John the Baptist understood to a degree the significance of what he was saying.
The Messiah the Jews were anticipating was considered a man who was strong, charismatic, a leader, and one who was going to usher in the Kingdom of God and establish Israel as God’s nation once again. To the Jews the Messiah was not going to be one who would be humiliated, hated and eventually murdered as a common thief. A sacrificed lamb was probably the last thing on their minds. They had high hopes for the Chosen One.
D.A. Carson writes in his commentary on the Gospel of John, “Modern Christians are so familiar with the entire clause that it takes effort of imagination to recognize that, before the coming and death of Jesus, it (the Lamb of God) was not an obvious messianic designation.” In other words, the title “lamb of God” was not a common reference to the coming Messiah.
However, John knows (from when Jesus was baptized, and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove) that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He proclaims publicly Jesus as the Messiah.
Verses 30 – 34 – In verse 30 John affirms Jesus as Messiah. He states that Jesus was before him (even though John was older than Jesus). Jesus was confirmed for John the Baptist as the chosen one previously when Jesus was baptized by John (probably a week before this encounter) and the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove and remained on Him. In Isaiah 42:1 the prophet writes that God will put his Spirit on His servant (the Chosen One) and he will bring forth justice to the nations.
John admits that before this encounter at the baptism he didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah. John knew Jesus since they were cousins, and they most likely had some sort of relationship before this. However, at the baptism Jesus was confirmed to John to be the Chosen Messiah.
As I was studying this passage, I thought about not only are we introduced to two new characters in this story but also to two opposing attitudes when it comes to our relationship with God. These two groups are characterized as heart changers and rule followers.
John the Baptist’s ministry (and life for that matter) was devoted to pointing people to Jesus. He was a heart changer. He knew his place in life. He had a humble (and strong) spirit about him. He was not about self-promotion, he was about Jesus promotion. He had no agenda of his own. His concern was God’s agenda. He was more concerned with people being right with God through preaching a message of baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. His purpose was to show people a new way of life and a real relationship with God through the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
The Jews (or religious leaders) on the other hand, were all about the rules, conformity, and power. Their whole lives and ministry were bound to keeping the law and being pious. Their “religion” was more about doing than being. They were very much into self-promotion and power simply by imposing rules and regulations on people based on their interpretations and beliefs. Their clothes were lavish, their concern was with status, and their attitudes were conceit. They had no concern for God’s agenda; they were more concerned with their agenda and promoting their will. There was no talk of repentance and forgiveness and submitting to God. Their message was about the rules and regulations. Their righteousness was based in outwardly keeping the rules.
When we look at these groups, we are reminded of how these attitudes are still among us today.
Unfortunately, there are still people and attitudes among us today of the rule changers. These are individuals who depend on “doing” more than “being”. In their minds their fulfillment of duties and “being a good person” are all they need to be a Christian. They attend church on a semi regular basis, they try to be moral (but like all of us fail every so often). Maybe they will put some (in some cases a lot of) money in the plate when it comes around. There is little to no change in heart; they are the same person they have always been and maybe there is a little compartment in their life for God (on Sunday or when they are in a difficult situation. You get the picture.
There are still heart changers in this world today. There are believers who are committed to Christ promotion and preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. They understand their spirituality or faith is not a result of keeping rules and pointing out the sins of others in judgmental and self-righteous ways. They are who they are because they are submitted, committed and obedient to the one (Jesus) who has shown us the way to the Kingdom. A heart changer receives a new heart when Jesus becomes their Lord and Savior. 2 Cor, 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This means that they don’t just become better versions of themselves, they become new creations in Christ. The old has passed away and the new has come.
The question I leave with you today is… Are you a heart changer or are you a rule follower in your relationship with Jesus? Are you putting all your chips in the false beliefs that you are a good moral person and follow the rules as insurance or assurance of eternal life? Or have you repented of your sins, sought forgiveness, and given your heart completely over to Jesus to completely transform your life?
In the February 2021 issue of Sarasota magazine, I read an article titled “What’s Better Than the Super Bowl Halftime Show? A Peek Inside Tom Brady’s Tampa Mansion”
“Tom Brady’s mansion is the most famous home in Florida. Located on Davis Island in downtown Tampa, it was built by another sports legend—Derek Jeter—who is renting it to Tom and his wife Gisele Bundchen and their two kids...for a reported $75,000 a month.
It has been the setting of Tom Brady’s amazing year in Tampa during which he conquered the town as the GOAT—Greatest of All Time.
It’s a big house: 22,000 square feet under air, with another 9,000 feet of terraces, set on 1.25 acres. It has seven bedrooms and nine baths, plus every imaginable luxury feature: a theater, a dock with two boat lifts, a club room with a full-service bar, an au pair suite, a professional gym (naturally), an 80-foot lap pool, etc, etc. As for the kitchen, well, it has four dishwashers.
The exterior of the home is rather traditional, looking like a country mansion in Connecticut or perhaps a dorm at Yale. Lots of stone. There’s even stone inside, warmed up by a lot of dark wood.
Jeter is living in Miami now, thanks to his new job as CEO of the Marlins, and he has put the house on the market for $29 million.
58 Bahama Circle, Tampa, is priced at $29 million. For more info, call Smith and Associates Real Estate.”
After reading this article one can ask these questions, “How much is too much?” Regarding possessions, can we have too much and if so, at what point does having excess go from being blessed to being wasteful and sinful? Lastly, is it just the wealthy who are most prone to excess or can someone who has little still have too much? I am not going to answer these questions directly, but I will talk about the heart and attitude behind our desire to have more.
James 5:1 – 6: A Warning to the Rich
Today’s text deals primarily with the issues of those who put their trust in riches, wealth, and excess. It is often read or preached with a theme that generally comes across as a rebuke to wealthy people because they have much. As a result, many people who are wealthy often feel guilty or beaten up for being rich and having too much. This is a common mistake made by many. The theme of this passage is not so much about wealth as being sinful but more specifically the sinful heart and attitude behind hoarding, excess, and trusting solely in wealth for security and happiness.
Verse 1: James proclaims a warning to the unrighteous rich about the coming judgment that is upon them because of their selfish and oppressive use and views of wealth. He tells them of the misery that is coming upon them. James is not talking about a physical judgment or misery that is going to occur immediately but most likely is referring to the judgment they will receive after they have lived their lives in selfish and oppressive ways.
Verse 2: This certainly is a reflection or reminder of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19 - 21
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus tells his listeners to not store up or hoard their wealth where moth and rust can destroy but rather lay up your treasure in heaven. This passage in Matthew is a way of saying that material wealth and earthly treasures are unreliable and of little value regarding the eternal Kingdom.
Verse 3: James reminds his reader that not only are treasures useless, but they will also be used against them in the last day as evidence of corruption. The wealth they were so dependent on for their security and happiness in the last days will be of no use whatsoever and their unrelenting greed and selfish accumulation will in fact be the one thing that has assured them a place in an eternal separation from God.
Verse 4: Apparently the workers (maybe some of the people in the church) were not paid for or were cheated for the work they had done. These workers most likely appealed to the earthly courts but to no avail, so they made their cry to heaven. The cries of injustice and oppression by those who have been defrauded by the wealthy unrighteous have captured the ears of God the Father and James ultimately says this injustice will not go unpunished.
Verse 5: The word indulgent also means a life of luxury, delicate or soft living… a pampered life. It’s not that the wealthy couldn’t afford to pay their workers they just flat out refused to pay. As their workers were living in destitution or going without food the rich were living lives of luxury. They spent ridiculous amounts of money on themselves and on things they did not need all the while refusing to pay their workers. This neglect and fraudulent actions of the wealthy were just preparing them all the more for judgment.
Verse 6: The wealthy persecuted and took advantage of the poor so they could gain more for their selfish lifestyle. “The righteous person” refers to believers. Although the rich may have defrauded them and even had them killed their cries are still brought before God and God is going to deal with the unrighteous wealthy in due time.
Does This Apply to Me?
In the United States of America God has certainly blessed each one of us with an abundance when it comes to having the necessary means to live our lives in relative prosperity. Now, you may not think you are rich, in fact you may think you are poor but the fact that we can live at the standard of living that we do indicates that we have wealth. When we look at the extreme poverty around the world, we can attest that we are indeed blessed. If you are a believer, you are doubly rich because you have earthily possession and you have eternal treasure that you can share as well.
The reality we should consider is by asking ourselves what we are doing with the resources God has so generously blessed us with? I have often heard people say, “Money is a curse.” I would agree with this only if what you mean is “I need to make money so I can have more and hoard it to myself all the while neglecting the needy” then yes, it is a curse. If you and I are in bondage to accumulating wealth, then it most certainly is a curse. However, as Christians we are called to view and use our money differently than the world. We are continually bombarded daily with the idea that to be completely happy and content we need more. We need bigger homes that we cannot afford, more cars than we need, the most up to date technological device to keep us connected to the world, more clothes, and more luxury items. more…more…more. You cannot be happy if you do not have.
I Timothy 6:17 – 19 is a good reminder, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
R. Kent Hughes, retired pastor of College Church in Wheaton writes in his commentary on 1 Timothy, “Arrogance is accompanied by dark, telltale shadows. Wealth deludes people into imagining they are of superior value. The delusion goes like this: ‘I have more than other people—therefore I am superior. And certainly, God sees my superiority—otherwise I would not be so blessed.’ Of course, a Mafia don could use the same reasoning. Nevertheless, that is the way our culture thinks, with its pathetic elevation of the rich—so that a vacuous millionaire prominent in the media or the entertainment industry or whatever is held in awe by the masses. Moral superiority is believed to be a matter of homes and cars and yachts and designer labels”
James has accused and warned those in this church who have this mindset. He warns the rich of hoarding, cheating, and devoting their lives to living in luxury all the while neglecting to use our resources for the Kingdom of God. This is a warning we should all take heed. You see the Bible doesn’t necessarily condemn people of wealth because of their wealth. God condemns and judges the wealthy who allow their riches to become their god and devote their lives to hoarding, accumulating, and squandering it all. No matter where you or I may be individually today; as in all things we need to check our hearts when it comes to the resources God has entrusted to us. We also need to check our hearts and attitudes regarding how we treat those less fortunate or in difficult financial positions. Most of all we need to understand and come to terms with the vast wealth we have spiritually. We possess the greatest treasure of all; the Holy Spirit which is Jesus Christ in us, and we must be willing to share him with others. As his children and servants, we must allow him to have complete control in all aspects of our lives (for everything we have is given to us by Him) so we can in turn live as righteous men and women before God Almighty.
 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 160). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
In 1976 I was a young boy at the tender age of six and I remember on October 29th my world was literally rocked! I was watching the Paul Lynde Halloween Special on ABC and I saw a performance from a rock band named Kiss. The song was a ballad called “Beth”. I immediately fell in love with the song and the band. The next day I pleaded with my mom to take me to the local department store (It was Big N, later called Ames) to buy the record. I recall walking to the back of the store where the record section was located, and I finding the record from Kiss called Destroyer. Surprisingly my mother bought me the record and I took it home and listened to it over and over again. This introduction to Kiss began my lifelong obsession with not only the band Kiss, but with rock music in general… more on that in a bit.
So, if you would indulge me for a moment, let’s get in our Delorian and go back in time to the mid 1970’s where hair was feathered, the pants were belled, corvettes were cool, Jesus was just alright with me, and Kiss was one of the hottest bands in the world… Yes, Kiss were an anomaly to the music scene of their day because they were four grown men who painted their faces in makeup (one as a cat, one as a spaceman, one as a demon, and one as a starchily), wore platform shoes, outrageous costumes, blew fire out of their mouths, spit blood, and guitars that would smoke. And if this wasn’t outrageous enough, they had a stage show that literally blew every band off the stage… they had fire, platforms, a spectacular lightshow, and a band logo that was larger life.
In the 70s Kiss was the hottest band in the world. Just about every person knew them. They were on the cover of ever teen magazine, the radio waves, and television. I watched a documentary about the band a while back and at the peak of their fame it was estimated that each member made $12,000 per concert they played, and they sold out auditoriums around the world.
They had a marketing team that flooded stores with Kiss lunch boxes, action figures, puzzles, games, radios, Halloween costumes, posters, t-shirts, pinball machines, and belt buckles. It seemed a at the time that literally everything had Kiss on it. The problem with Kiss though was that they were weren’t a spectacular musicians. Their fame was, unfortunately based on gimmicks, not raw talent. People loved them because of all the things I have mentioned before. When you sit down and really listen to the music, I admit there was nothing spectacular about the songs. They were ok songs. Sure, some songs were catchy, but they were not stellar musicians at all. Stellar performers yes… musicians eh.
This eventually came back and bit them because they gained fans and a following based on gimmicks and to keep their fans they needed to always come up with new gimmicks. Unfortunately, with gimmicks they get old-, and over-time people lose interest after a while. This was the case for Kiss. By 1981 they were pretty much forgotten by the masses. Inevitable they canceled tours due to lack of ticket sales and created albums that flopped in the charts. After some time, they decided to take off their makeup and this gimmick put them back in the spotlight for a time and eventually they fell off the radar again. So, they put the makeup back on in the late 90s with much fanfare and success and now in 2021 they are currently on their third farewell tour playing mid-sized venues.
So, why have I spent so much time talking to you about a rock band named Kiss (a name some people thought meant Knights In Satan’s Service)? Because I believe the church and Christianity has in many ways become like them. Let me explain. With Kiss when you take the makeup off, take away the extravagant stage show, the outrageous costumes and gimmicks you have a band of four musicians who make ok music. When all of this is stripped away only the hard-core fans stick with the band no matter what. They have bought in to the band Kiss and not the gimmick.
Is this what has happened with the Church and Christianity? Think about your own worship experience. Some of your church services are like rock concerts, complete with smoke, lights, great music, cheering, and a message that makes you feel good about yourself, and may help you see Jesus in a different light, kind of like a buddy Jesus. Christians come to these large and sometimes small churches by the droves to get their Sunday Jesus fix. In other cases, people depend on liturgy, tradition, and their church building. In both cases people NEED their Sunday Jesus fix in order to make it through the week.
Now, am I being hard on these churches? Yes, but my intention is not to harp on them and call them evil, heretical, or shallow. That is not my intent. My purpose for today is to help us strip down our inflated ideas on what church and Christianity is and reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul… “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1 – 5)
I know I spent a lot of time telling you about a gimmick and I guess that could be a gimmick. My hope in using the example I did would show you that gimmicks don’t work long term. I really don’t care if you like Kiss or not. My guess is most of you do not. My goal for today is to share the importance of Jesus.
Let me ask you this question… “When you strip away all the lights, smoke, auditoriums, praise bands, traditions, liturgy and eloquent speakers; is Jesus enough?” Is Jesus enough for you? Can you worship him without all the bells and whistles? Can you serve Him and be obedient to Him without the “feel good” sermons?
In the passage I just read the Apostle Paul is telling his readers Kiss is the only way. (Keep it Simple Stupid) His message is a simple message it is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That is, it. There is nothing more. It is not Jesus AND… The effectiveness in preaching the Gospel is not based on Paul’s eloquent words, his intellect, nor his personality. He has a simple message that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you and your sins. His death is an atonement for your sins. His resurrection is for your justification. His ascension is in the establishment of His Kingdom.
Is Jesus enough for you or do you think you need more? I know many of you have gone to church and to a Christian school for most of your lives. You are inundated with Jesus. In school you have bible classes, chapel, and are expected to conduct yourselves in a Christian manner. Your parents may bring you to church where you are told about Jesus weekly (if it’s a good church). You may go to youth group where you have praise and worship, bible teaching, food, games, and friends. Maybe you do more or maybe you do less. But I want to make it extremely clear right now. This school does not give you salvation. Your church won’t save you. Your youth group won’t save you. Your parent’s faith won’t save you. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified can save you.
When I think of what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary, and I try to wrap my brain around what he did it humbles me. Why does it humble me? Why would the message of the cross humble anyone? What is the purpose of the cross of Christ? Why did Jesus have to face such an agonizing and humiliating death? Simply because the cross points me to my sin, my life here on earth, and my eternal destiny.
The Bible records that all are sinners and that no one is righteous before our holy God. Sin has separated us from God. If this is true, then we are worthy of one thing… death… eternal separation from God. The truth is we are ALL sinners and the sin nature we inherit makes worthy of death. No good deeds are enough to declare us righteous before our holy God.
There is good news though; the Bible says, “God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus as a sacrifice and atonement for our sins) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” This is the core of the Good News of the Gospel! We don’t deserve forgiveness, eternal life, or even to be declared righteous, yet He gives them all to those who respond to the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father and repent of the sins and are called by God to become his children.
Pastor Craig Groeschel writes in his book CHRISTIAN ATHEIST about something horrible that had been happened to his younger sister throughout the years… He writes, “You can imagine how I felt when I learned of the tragedy. I found out that my little sister had been (abused) for years by a close family friend. Max had been Lisa’s sixth grade teacher. He taught me how to play racquetball, shopped at my dad’s retail store, and often cheered for my sister at her school drill-team performances. At the time, this single man in his mid-thirties seemed like a nice person looking for friends. Our family really accepted him, unaware that behind the supportive teacher façade was a very sick man who repeatedly abused numerous girls over many years.
To say I wanted Max to die and burn in hell doesn’t even begin to convey how much I wanted him to suffer. Although the words rage, hate, and revenge come to mind when I think about Max, the English language simply doesn’t have a word for how I felt.
We all know Christians are supposed to forgive. But many of us think that there are exceptions to this rule. Sure, we should forgive most of the time – maybe even almost all the time. But to forgive a guy like Max? Forget about it.”
Anger and forgiveness are two words that go together like water and oil. It is extremely hard to show forgiveness to someone who you are angry with.. To say it is easier to stay angry at someone rather than forgiving them would be an understatement. But controlling our anger and extending forgiveness is something the Bible tells us we must do. I think about Groeschel’s story, and I can’t even imagine how I would respond or even consider the painstaking difficulty I would have in even entertaining the idea of forgiveness. Yet, as a Christian I know that this is what I would need to do.
In Genesis we read the story of Joseph and his story is one that is entrenched with anger and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was ridden betrayal as his brothers took him and sold him as a slave. Abuse when his brothers threw him in a pit and when Potiphers wife tried to seduce him. False allegations when Potipher’s wife accused him of trying to abuse her. And injustice as he was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. We see from our vantage point it was all for the glory of God. However, at the time I am sure he did not know how the outcomes would be for God’s glory, so I am also sure that he had difficulty working through his anger and ultimately forgiveness. Today we are going to look at the events of Genesis 42 – 45. I am going to give a quick overview of these chapters (I would encourage you to read these chapters on your own) and we will see how Joseph worked through his difficulties and look at the amazing act of forgiveness he shows to those who did him wrong.
Genesis 42:1 - 10
At this point of the story Joseph had overcome his hardships and was promoted to a place of honor in the land of Egypt. He was Pharoah’s right hand man. However, there was a famine in the land where Joseph’s father, Jacob and his brothers lived, and they heard that there was grain for sale in Egypt. Apparently, his sons were a little mystified as to how they should deal with this famine. He says, “Why do you look at one another?” This is another way of saying, “Why are standing around doing nothing when there is a lot of work that needs to be done?” He sends his sons to Egypt but leaves his youngest Benjamin behind. Jacob did not trust his sons with Benjamin since he was Joseph’s brother. He was afraid they would allow something bad happen to him like they did Joseph. The pain of losing his son Joseph was still raw, and real after 17 years. Jacob had not forgotten what happened to Joseph. There is a lack of trust on his part and rightfully so.
Nevertheless, the brothers make the journey to Egypt and unbeknownst to them their brother Joseph is still alive and thriving in Egypt; in fact, he is now the governor of the land, and the one person people would see when they came to buy grain from the storehouses. When his brothers approached Joseph, they did not recognize him, but Joseph knew them. They bowed before him, and Joseph remembered his dream of many years ago (Genesis 37: 5 – 8).
Joseph does not want to reveal his identity to them just yet. He treats them like strangers and speaks harshly to them. He accuses the brothers of being spies. After grilling them for some time the brothers mention they have another brother… They say unfortunately, one is dead and the other, Benjamin, is back home with their father. Joseph demands they bring Benjamin to back to him and one should stay back until they return. The brothers talked among themselves, and Joseph went to a private place and wept.
Joseph filled their bags with grain and put their money back and sent them back home; Simeon stayed behind. When they returned home, they were afraid because their money was still in the bags and they were even more afraid when they saw their father. They told him the governor wants Benjamin to come back with them and Jacob refuses. Interestingly he would rather lose his son Simeon than entrust Benjamin with his sons.
Some time passes and the famine gets worse (just as the dream stated) the grain runs out in Jacob’s household, and he tells them to go back to Egypt to buy more. They convince Jacob to send Benjamin along with them. Judah swears that he will protect him and if anything, bad happens to Benjamin then his father could hold him responsible.
As they return to Egypt, they are afraid because they think they will be accused of stealing since the money was still in their bags from before. This ends up not being an issue. Joseph tells them he received their wages so God must have blessed them.
As they stand before Joseph, this time with Benjamin, he is overcome with emotion once again. He goes into his chamber and weeps. Once he regains his composure, he invites the brothers to dinner and portions from Joseph’s table were given to them, but Benjamin received five times the portion.
Joseph plants his cup in Benjamin’s sack. He accuses Benjamin of stealing and the brothers pleaded for mercy for their brother. Judah insists on taking the blame instead of Benjamin.
Joseph can no longer contain himself. He begins crying and commands everyone to leave him except his brothers. He then reveals his identity to his brothers. The brothers were troubled at this revelation. They were literally speechless. They were afraid because they knew what they had done. Never in a million years would they have ever thought this would have happened, but it did. They didn’t know how Joseph would respond. He was now second in command in all of Egypt and he could have easily sought revenge. But he doesn’t. This is where we see the true heart of Joseph. He demonstrates compassion, he extends grace, and he shows them forgiveness. He responds in 45:5, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God has sent me before you to preserve life.” Did you hear that? Do not blame yourselves for anything because I am here by divine appointment. In verse 7 he declares his purpose for going through all he went through and then caps it off in verse 8 by saying, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” In so many words he is saying, “All is forgiven.”
Not only does Joseph show compassion and forgiveness but he invites his brothers, their families, and his father to come move to Egypt so he can take care of them. What an amazing spectacle of grace. They are so undeserving of this treatment, yet Joseph shows them kindness.
As he sends his brothers back home, he says, “Do not quarrel on the way.” He knows his brothers well. They could very easily play the blame game on the way home… “Hey, it wasn’t my idea to put him in a pit!” “I never wanted to sell him, I was going to rescue him, and so you are to blame!” and so on…. Joseph says “don’t quarrel. All is forgiven so let’s put this behind us now and continue as a family.”
When the brothers returned home, they told their father what happened, and he is ecstatic! He is willing to go to Egypt so he can go see his son Joseph before he dies.
All Is Forgiven
This is one of the most beautiful stories of compassion, grace, and forgiveness in the Bible. Joseph’s response could only happen through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. Joseph chooses forgiveness over anger and bitterness. Why? Because he knew it was the right thing to do and he also knew it was pointless to harbor anger and bitterness in his heart because then he would become an angry and bitter person. He could have easily justified revenge or gave his brothers a taste of their own medicine. But he doesn’t. He forgives. I/we can certainly learn a lot from Joseph when it comes to forgiveness. There is great difficulty in letting go of anger and extending forgiveness. Personally, I am still working through something that happened to me in recent years and I will admit I am having difficulty not being angry with someone who caused great harm too my family and me. In my heart I have forgiven this person, but the root of anger and bitterness lingers. I think therefore the story of Joseph speaks to my heart. I can honestly say that I have never withheld forgiveness from anyone, but I do struggle with allowing the spirit of anger and bitterness to remain in my heart towards this individual. Maybe some of you in this room have had similar experiences and have difficulty either showing forgiveness or allowing bitterness to take root; so, I am not going to stand up here and tell you how easy it is to forgive… but I will tell you by the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit you can forgive… even if you think you can’t.
How we can show forgiveness
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books