Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for March 21-22
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Worship Series: Undefeated - Our Journey to the Empty Tomb
Worship Theme: Undefeated by Dysfunction
Message: Undefeated by Dysfunction
Hello everyone. We may not be meeting at the church this week, but that does not mean we do not have access to God’s incredible Word. Doubtless, you have heard so much about the Coronavirus this past month. “Coronavirus this, coronavirus that.” It is important to stay updated, but maybe you need a break. Take a load off and come join me with some time in God’s Word.
Today we get to continue our series on being undefeated through Jesus. Our focus for today will be undefeated by dysfunction. Unfortunately, I know a lot about dysfunction. Many times, I get to help people and be part of the solution to dysfunction. However, far too often. I have been part of the problem in my own life. Maybe you understand. Is there some dysfunction among you and your loved ones right now? We will talk about that later, but for now, let us pick on someone else. Let us look at the dysfunction between a man named Jacob and his sons.
Our first verse tells us Jacob has moved into the land where his father stayed, the land of Canaan. This is actually very significant. Why would Jacob bother to move here? A couple weeks ago, we talked about the numerous promises God gave to a man named Abram. They included making him into a great nation, the promise of a Savior from his lineage, and that one day the land of Canaan would belong to his descendants. These promises, as well as others, had been passed along from Abram to his son Isaac, and now to his son Jacob. This first verse shows Jacob’s great faith as he now moves into the land of Canaan. He is fully confident that this land will one day belong to his descendants just as God promised.
Verse 2 then introduces us to Jacob’s children and then immediately focuses in on one child in particular, Joseph. In his generation, Joseph, more than any other, represented Israel as a people who struggled with both God and man and as a source of blessing to the nations. It is moreover, through the life of Joseph that the covenant family in Canaan becomes an emerging nation in Egypt, thus setting the stage for the Exodus (but that is a story for another day).
In our account, almost all of Jacob’s sons are various ages of adulthood. Joseph, the second youngest, is currently 17 (Benjamin, the youngest, is probably still too young to tend the flocks). As Joseph is tending the flocks, he sees his brothers are constantly not doing what they should be doing. Maybe they were constantly goofing off, maybe they were portraying a bad reputation to the people around them, and maybe they were even having unsanctioned sheep fights. I don’t know. God’s Word does not tell us. It does make clear that whatever the brothers were doing was wrong and worthy of their father’s anger. Joseph, being the honorable young man he is, tells his dad everything. He tattles and spills the beans. How do you think his brothers viewed him after Joseph did this? As a responsible young man, doing his duty? Doubtful. His brothers started to hate him for stopping them from doing what they wanted to do. Throughout this account, I want you to keep in mind the anger levels of Joseph’s brothers. Imagine a thermometer filling up. Instead of measuring temperature, have it measure the hatred of Joseph’s brothers. As they get angrier, the heat of the emotions raise the level of the thermometer and right now it is starting to fill up.
There is more to this story. Jacob, also known by the name Israel (who the nation of Israel descends from), shows preferential treatment to Joseph. He loves Joseph much more than all his brothers, not only with emotion, but also with actions. He treats him far better and even lavishes him with wonderful and expensive gifts. He gives Joseph this beautiful robe. This robe was meant to show Joseph as superior. His father is basically saying, “Let this be a sign to all others that I love you more than the rest of your brothers.” How do you think this made the brothers feel? They certainly were not celebrating. Our text says, “They hated him and they could not speak to him in a friendly way.” The anger thermometer goes up. Put yourself in the other brothers’ shoes for a moment here. If you are not a kid right now, imagine you are. Now imagine your sibling gets a brand new car for his/her 16th birthday. And it is not just any car. It is a $500,000 car and it is as close as anyone can get to riding on a cloud. Now your 16th birthday arrives and you are expecting something similar, but instead you get a lump of coal. How does your sinful nature feel? Even though it is not your siblings fault, you would probably hate him/her at least just a little. That is how the brothers are feeling to the point where they refuse to have any sort of amicable conversation with him. Remember, these brothers do not just live together. They work together too. There is definitely some dysfunction going on in this family.
It gets worse. Joseph has this dream about his brothers. In his dream, they are all binding one sheaf each. Suddenly Joseph’s stands straight up and all his brothers’ sheaves bow down to his. The message in the dream is clear. Joseph would one day rule over his brothers. Joseph gets the bright idea that maybe his brothers would just love to hear about this dream. So either with blinded naivety or with a little bit of prideful arrogance he decides to tell his brothers about the dream in detail. The brothers pick up on the message right away. “So will you really reign over us? Will you really have dominion over us?” The thermometer of anger rises again. Their rage towards Joseph is overwhelming.
Joseph is not done yet though. There is still one more occurrence in our account for today. Joseph has another dream and it is a lot like the first one. In this dream, the sun and moon and eleven stars are all bowing down to him and it signified that he would rule over his parents and his brothers. Joseph decides it would be a good idea to go tell his brothers (Really, Joseph?) as well as including his father in this conversation. His father basically yells at Joseph for rubbing it in: “What kind of dream is this that you have dreamed? Will I and your mothers and you brothers really bow down to the ground in front of you?” Yet in the back of Jacob’s mind, he wondered if there might be something to these dreams. He wondered if perhaps they one day might come true. If you did not think the brothers could hate Joseph any more, think again. Their jealousy and hatred grew and they began to look for a way to get rid of Joseph. Soon they would sell Joseph, their own brother, into slavery. The dysfunction within the family was complete.
There is a good chance there is some sort of dysfunction within your relationships. Maybe you have children that scoff at your faith and the lifestyle that comes with it. Maybe you have/had parents heap abuse on you and you are struggling to recreate even the semblance of a relationship. Is it possible you struggle to get along with some of your in-laws? Could it be that you think your parents favor one of your siblings? Maybe members in your family keep doing something bad just like Joseph’s brothers (maybe not illegal sheep fighting, but who knows?). After all, there is so much hurt and dysfunction in the world. And it all stems from one thing: SIN. Sin is the reason for cowardliness, faithlessness, detestable things, abuse, uncertainties about our own sexuality, lying, and even idolatry (Rev 21:8). Sin is the reason for greed, drunkenness, swindling, and all kinds of evil thoughts (1 Cor. 6:9-11). These things cause dysfunction and we see it all over the world around us. We see the sins of our friends, our family, everyone.
It is easy to simply place the blame on others, but what about looking at the sin within yourself? We probably like to identify with Joseph, but we are so much more like Joseph’s brothers, just piling on hate because we are not getting what we want or what we think we deserve. Sure, we could celebrate other people’s accomplishments and push ourselves to be better or more like them, but it is so much easier just to tear someone else down. Our sinful nature makes it so we do not want our sins pointed out. We would rather be the ones doing the pointing. Yet we are often committing the damaging activity in our relationships. We are the ones often too lazy to put in the effort, too selfish to show genuine care, too greedy to share, too timid to help, too self-conscious to open up, too vengeful to let go. The list goes on and on. We need to point the finger at ourselves because we are just as guilty as those around us. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) You are a source of dysfunction in the world. You are a source of dysfunction in relationships.
If you do that to your relationships with those around you, think about your relationship with God. Was God the one that hurt our relationship with him? Isaiah 59:2-3 says, “No, it is your guilt that has separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden God’s face from you, so that he does not hear. Look, your hands are polluted with blood, and your fingers drip guilt. Your lips speak lies. Your tongue mutters dishonesty.” Every sin we have committed has also been a sin against God and his reputation. We have even tainted the best relationship in our life, our relationship with God. We have ruined it beyond our own repair. If the relationship were based on us and what we do, we would be defeated by dysfunction.
But it’s not based on you. God can do some incredible things with relationships. God fixed Joseph’s family in the most round-about way. It involved slavery, prison, dream interpretation, a Pharaoh, several countries, and a famine, but God used it to bring Jacob and all of his sons together again. He did it in a way no one could have possibly seen coming (read about it in Genesis chapters 37-50). God has promised to do amazing things in your life too. God has made his Word powerful, and while he does not promise all your relationships will be perfect, his Word can certainly heal the dysfunction among the people in your life. Who knows what God will do in your life? The more time people spend in the Word, the more the Holy Spirit works in a person’s heart to bring everyone’s will in line with God. If two people see eye-to-eye with God, it will bring them closer to seeing eye-to-eye with each other. Sharing the same beliefs and motivation can do wonders for our relationships with each other.
More importantly, God has fixed the dysfunction between him and us. Though we sin against him repeatedly, God provided a way to dispel the dysfunction among us. He gave us a savior who wiped away the dysfunction of sin. This is part of what we hear in the confession of sins every week. We admit how we have sinned against God and…he forgives us. This is all because Jesus out of love for us paid the price necessary to forgive us of our sins. He led a life without dysfunction and covered us with it. Dysfunction no longer has the power to dominate your life.
God used Joseph in the midst of the dysfunction caused by Joseph and his family. God used him for good by saving others. He was a testimony of God’s grace to both his brothers and all the people he met. Then God called Joseph home to heaven, away from dysfunction. The same is true for you. In the midst of a world filled with dysfunction, God can and will use you as a testimony for his Word, for the message of a savior named Jesus. Through Christ, he will call you home one day too. Amen.