Here in San Diego, we live in a desert climate, yet we want to see beautiful, green, lush landscaping around us. We can spend a lot of money on plants and water, trying to make our surroundings green, but as we have seen in recent weeks, God can send down rain from above and turn everything green at once! Similarly, we can get life’s expensive blessings and limited opportunities in our own strength and with our own resources, but it’s so much better to trust in God and rely on His grace!
we can get life’s expensive blessings and limited opportunities in our own strength and with our own resources, but it’s so much better to trust in God and rely on His grace!
As a mischievous teenager, Pastor Marcus once got caught up in an evening prank with his baseball buddies. They dressed in dark clothing and roamed the town in the bed of a pickup truck, hammering unsuspecting pedestrians and animals with pre-filled water balloons. When he first heard what was on the agenda for the evening, he felt very wary, and once the activities began, he knew he shouldn’t be doing them, but he was already along for the ride and felt he couldn’t back out. But after a while, the adrenaline kicked in, and he began to enjoy himself.
A little after midnight, they ambushed a man outside of his BMW. They didn’t expect that he would, in turn, get into his car and pursue them. Once the man caught up with them, he pulled a gun and revealed himself as an undercover police officer! Marcus knew he was busted and there was no way out. His father would be furious with him. He imagined himself in prison and felt as if he would die. Then, imagine the boys’ surprise when the man related his own similar antics as a boy and let them off with just a warning.
God wants to give us grace and mercy, just as Marcus experienced as a teenager in a sticky situation. Think of all the wrong behaviors, thoughts, and actions you’ve done, and yet you are still here - God still gives you breath.
Today’s scripture is from Genesis. After God changes Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 35, Israel goes on to have twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel’s eleventh son, Joseph, is hated by his brothers for three reasons: their father loves Joseph more than all his other sons and lavishes him with privileges and gifts, Joseph gives a bad report to their father about them, and Joseph flaunts his dreams to them about being revered and exalted. So as their hatred mounts, the brothers hatch a plot to kill Joseph.
One brother has the idea to sell Joseph into slavery instead of killing him, so this is the plan they carry out. Joseph is sold and taken to Egypt, where he ends up in the house of a government official named Potiphar. As a slave in Potiphar’s house, Joseph serves faithfully, and God blesses his work, so he is soon promoted to a high level in Potiphar’s household. All is going well until Potiphar’s wife makes advances toward Joseph. When he refuses, she is furious! Joseph is wrongfully accused and consequently imprisoned.
Betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused, and now imprisoned, Joseph could easily sulk and wallow in his misfortune and the unfairness of life. Yet he does not let the wrongdoing of others define who he is. Rather, he continues to be a faithful servant of God even in prison and is soon provided with an opportunity to interpret the dreams of imprisoned servants of the Pharaoh. After one of them has his freedom restored, just as Joseph interpreted that he would, the servant eventually remembers Joseph when the Pharaoh has his own dreams that require interpretation.
Joseph is called out to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams - seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine - and Pharaoh is so impressed that he employs Joseph to oversee plans to prepare for the coming famine and manage the affairs of his land.
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 41: 41-43
Considering this story of God’s protection and deliverance of Joseph, Pastor Marcus highlighted three points about God’s grace:
1. God’s grace is glorious.
You don’t have enough power and resources to lift yourself out of your own bad situations, but God can take you from prison to the palace. You just need to faithfully weather the storm and allow God to do His work. Life is difficult, but God is gracious, and He wants to bestow grace upon you.
Thirteen years after being sold into slavery, Joseph is now in charge of Egypt. When the predicted famine hits, his brothers get hungry and come to Egypt in search of food. Their treatment of Joseph must have lingered in the back of his mind all this time. How would this have affected his attitude toward them? How would it be to see them all again after all this time?
When the brothers see Joseph, they don’t even know him. Joseph is overwhelmed with emotion. He accuses them of being spies and demands that they bring their youngest brother Benjamin back with them to corroborate their story. Along the way, the brothers fear that their sins have caught up with them. They start remembering their shortcomings with regret. Upon their return to Egypt, Joseph could decide to inflict evil upon them out of revenge, but instead, he recognizes how God has turned their evil into good in his own life, and he reveals himself to his brothers.
2. God’s grace is greater.
God’s grace is greater than your sin, your problems, or anything else that you could imagine. Joseph’s brothers could have declined the grace that Joseph offered, holding onto their bitterness and hatred of him, making excuses for what they had done, or blaming Joseph for his own misfortune, but instead, they owned their actions and asked for forgiveness. In return, Joseph forgave them, fed them and blessed them.
And Joseph situated his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. Then Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with bread, according to the number in their families. Genesis 47:11-12
Just as Joseph’s brothers did, we have to admit or wrongdoing and admit that we need God’s grace. God is faithful to forgive.
3. God’s grace is given.
God’s grace is a free gift, just as Joseph gave something free to his family.
We all need God’s grace. Maybe you need the biggest grace of the Savior, presenting yourself as a good person, but knowing deep down that you really haven’t dealt with all the sin in your life? Or maybe you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, but you’re not extending grace to others or accepting God’s grace in your own life?
Pastor Marcus closed with two questions to ponder in light of today’s Scripture:
Is there someone you need to forgive? What blessings are you withholding from others (or from yourself) by not showing them (or yourself) grace?
What blessings are you missing out on by not receiving God’s grace?