3rd Sunday in Lent “A Miracle of Miracles”
March 20, 2022 Genesis 39:1-21; Luke 22:31-51
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
There is an insert in your bulletin outlining the special focus for our Sundays in Lent.
It’s called: ‘A Journey with Joseph.’ You’ll also find there a 3-part outline for the message.
Two Sundays ago we talked about Joseph’s miracle birth, as God remembered his mother Rachel, & opened her womb, & restored her faith. Last week we talked about how Joseph’s brothers punished him unfairly, & sold him into slavery; and how God was silent & allowed it = because God had an unseen purpose for it: it was so that Joseph would be able to save his whole family -the tribe of Israel- from death.
More importantly, those two events prompted us to hear again the chief historic miracle- birth of a first-born son = the One born to a virgin named Mary. That Son was punished unfairly for our sins, & The Father allowed it. And when He was nail to the cross, Jesus faced heavenly silence because there was a purpose: Jesus saves the whole world from death & hell. So, just to be clear: the reason we’re taking a journey with Joseph is because we are learning about Jesus, the Son of God = the One who saves us.
So, after Joseph is born as the eleventh son of Jacob, who is also named Israel; and after he is sold into slavery by his brothers, & is taken into Egypt, *what happens next? For that, we need to hear from Genesis 39, where we get our word for the day: ‘temptation.’
Rv.Dr.Martin Luther sees here ‘a miracle of miracles.’ That Joseph, being forsaken by his brothers, & forced into slavery, & hearing nothing but silence from God = it’s a miracle that he doesn’t lose it all: Joseph doesn’t lose hope, /he doesn’t lose faith, /& he doesn’t give-in to temptation & lose his virginity in a shameful sin. God’s gift of strong faith in the lives of His people accomplishes much, both big and small. Luther was thinking that this was a big deal, & calls it ‘a miracle of miracles.’ But, just because he thinks so doesn’t mean we have to. So, let’s take a closer look.
As we look, we see that Joseph is a young adult when he’s faced with these things. In Gen.37, we’re told that Joseph is 17 yrs.old when God gave him those dreams, & when his brothers made $50 selling him to those human-traffickers going to Egypt = just 17! We’re not told how long it took for Joseph to prove himself trustworthy, or how long it took Potiphar to notice that he was being blessed by Joseph’s God, but it was probably within just a couple of years. So even tho he is a foreigner, Joseph is young, strong & smart, handsome, trustworthy & loyal; that makes him desirable. And there he is, on his own, forsaken of family & the old-country traditions, culture & morality. He’s a free-agent; life had handed him a lemon, *why not make some lemonade?
*What would you do in his place? No one in Egypt knows him or his far-away-family. God has taken away his former life, & any plans he had back in Canaan; maybe he even had a girlfriend from a neighboring family back there. All of a sudden his life is stripped from him, and he’s on his own. *What would you be tempted to do = experiment with various sins; who would know? As they say, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’; ~ or like the old song says, ‘walk like an Egyptian.’
Actually, most of us have been in that kind of situation; not slavery, but as a young adult going off on our own. Going off to college, or in the military, or to somewhere far away for job training. We all left ‘the nest’ at some point (or we will). Think back to what you did & how you behaved once you left your parents house. *Did you have the godly character of Joseph? Did you stand up firm under the temptations that face young people such as /drinking, /drugs, /sex, /lawlessness, /recklessness, /laziness, /wasteful spending, /running with the wrong crowd.
When you look back now, *can you see where the devil -or the world- was aiming at your vulnerable spots to tempt you; and that the enemy could sense your areas of weakness? Let’s not forget that our enemies are the enemies of God; they’re serious & out for blood; their goal is for our downfall & eternal defeat. That’s what it’s like for us to live in this fallen world, just as it was for Joseph. Stay alert & guard your soul!
The devil is attacking Joseph on two different fronts. On the one side, the devil is tempting him to doubt & despair, to be depressed & defeated; leading him to conclude that he’s been forgotten & forsaken by God, even as he was betrayed by his own brothers.
*How could a loving God allow those things? How easy it would have been for Joseph to abandon the faith he had been taught in his family. So why not give the Egyptians gods a try? That would be the easy road to take, the gutless road == to give up & hold a grudge against his brothers; & then it’s a very short step further to hold a grudge against God. That’s one attack.
The other attack is thru his boss’s wife, who was trying to seduce him on a daily basis. So, he resists, to begin with; but how long could he hold out? How long would you hold out —I mean, when you were his age? Think of all the excuses to give-in: /He could blame it on her; /it’s just a physical thing; /it’s nobody’s business; /they’re consenting adults; /everybody does it; /blame it on raging hormones; /it’s a harmless opportunity to get some experience; /it’s my body~my choice. Sin has lots of possible excuses to give-in to.
Martin Luther saw it this way: “Joseph spurns and rejects an opportunity so convenient and so full of safety, power, favor, and pleasure.” (AE 7:77). But Joseph does not waver. He identifies the wrong of adultery & sexual immorality. He says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
And think of this: even among the ancient Egyptians, in about 2,000BC, one man & one woman in marriage meant something! It was the right thing, a natural & wholesome arrangement. Corrupt people in our day want you to believe that this kind of design for marriage & family is useless, or comes from ‘white culture,’ or is just a man-made social construct. Well, don’t you fall for that! This creation & this life bears the marks of our holy Creator, & all mankind is held accountable to Him & His right ways. Even the ancient Egyptians knew what marriage was.
But Joseph’s morals are even better. *From where does young Joseph get this strong character & clear godliness? *How does he so clearly differentiate between right and wrong since he is living 450 years before Moses gets the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20? There’s no Bible written yet for him to read for comfort in trials & guidance in living. The only confirmation instruction he had was what Jacob & Rachel taught him at home.
So, parents teaching the faith, and the Law of God written in his heart is what he has = and that’s enough. It’s the miracle of God’s Spirit working in the heart, mind & life of His people.
The gift of faith is reigning in the life of this young man, so that even pagan Potiphar has a clear witness of the power & blessing of the Hebrew God. Well, until Potiphar is forced to choose between his wife & his servant as to who was telling the truth. About 2,000 yrs. later, the apostle Paul implored the Corinthian Christians to flee from sexual immorality, because God-in-Christ intended their bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit; and they were not free to use their bodies for immorality; and neither are we free to use our bodily life for sin. (1Cor 6:18–20)
Joseph had been taught by his father Jacob, his grandfather Isaac, & his great-grandfather Abraham. He was taught The Word about the perfect creation, & of the fall into sin by Adam & Eve. He was taught about the wickedness of the world & the judgment of God in the flood, & about the pure grace of God to faithful Noah & his family. Joseph was taught the faith, and to believe in God meant he must live obeying the holy God. His age, his circumstances, & his excuses didn’t matter. Above all else, his relationship in grace with God meant he would walk in this faith = no matter what. So, I’ll ask again: *how would you do in his place? Or maybe a better question for you & me is this: since we are forgiven of our sins in Christ Jesus, how are we going to live our lives from this day forward?
So, this part of Joseph’s life has been written down for you & me = for our learning; this was not just God’s expectation for Joseph, but also for God’s people today. Just as the temptations of anger & bitterness & revenge of Joseph’s brothers is written for us to be warned about, so the temptations to doubts & sexual immorality are everywhere today. Potiphar’s wife is everywhere, with her promises of pleasure without limits & without consequences. She’s on your TV & computer, & on the cell phone of every teenager, which never leaves their hands.
The devil & the world never quit; they may seem to retreat for a while, but they’re just lying-in-wait for a more opportune time of weakness; they seek to violate your chastity and your trust in God.
We should also note here that old saying: ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ We can see how the world can treat God’s faithful people. Joseph’s trust in & obedience to God did not result in praise & promotion. He goes from slave to prisoner; out of the frying pan and into the fire. Joseph descends into prison to be abandoned & forgotten; which is one way to describe the place of hell.
So, if we were to ask Joseph -at this point- if his faith & his obedience was worth it, what do you think he would say? Well, if this earthly life was all that mattered, he would probably say ‘no ~ not worth it’. And if righteous Joseph was treated so poorly; what hope is there for those of us who have fallen often into sin. The Word is: the wages for sin is temporal and eternal punishment.
That’s true; but that’s not the last Word. And that’s because One who is greater than Joseph was promised & arrived. Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we & Joseph are, yet was without sin. Jesus came in our flesh & took on the temptations of a thousand wives of Potiphar, and He never took the bait. Why not? Because he was battling temptation for you = He is your heavenly substitute. Where we fail, He succeeds. Where we stumble, He stands firm. Where we are weak, He is strong.
And that is ‘a miracle of miracles’, that God had His Son exchange places with you & me to take away our guilt so that we are counted as innocent, and set free from condemnation. The punishment that has brought us peace was upon Him; & by His wounds, we are healed. The death He died, He died once-for-all, so that with His resurrection, we would live our life to God = a new life, where the power of sin is broken, & the promise of heaven is ours.
Joseph could not speak about his savior as ‘Jesus-of-Nazareth,’ but he certainly was basing his life on the promise of God’s forgiveness for life & salvation which was made to Abraham/Isaac/&Jacob. Joseph believed there was no future in giving-in to the world’s temptations; sin can only bring God’s displeasure, judgment & death. That has always been true. But Joseph knew the Messiah was coming.
That One Messiah would be humbled, like a slave, even though He would only do good.
He would be falsely accused, arrested & imprisoned; He would be betrayed & abandoned by all. But by His life, the world would have a Savior; and for His sake, God would show favor -or saving grace- to all who believe & are baptized into Him.
One last thing Martin Luther said. He wrote: “You must never hope the world will acknowledge …your faithfulness and diligence, for it does the opposite.” (AE 7:97). That’s true. How often has this world cared about all the times a Christian has stood firm against temptation and done what is good and right?
The world will not praise us when, by the grace of God, we lead a sexually pure & decent life in what we say and do. Joseph’s world didn’t care either. But to the people of God, living our lives in the good & holy ways is important to us, because it’s important to God; and it’s important as a strong witness to those around us.
That witness will show that the God of all mankind has high expectations, and is also the God who made a plan to forgive the repentant sinner, and to bless those who fear Him and do what is right. Our lives will show others the value of looking beyond the pleasures of this world to the better blessings of the life to come. Our lives show that the Lord accepts all repentant sinners, and He gives His own Spirit to us so that the old life is gone and the new life has come.
Because you carry the name of Jesus Christ, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit beginning again today. Some things in this world have changed from the time of Joseph,
but these promises, and the work & mercy of God for His people have not changed.
Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.