Fruitfulness Through Faithfulness
“In 1940, Clarence Jordan founded Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, as a haven for racial unity and cooperation. In 1954, the Ku Klux Klan burned every building on the farm except Jordan's home.
In the midst of the raid, Jordan recognized the voice of a local newspaper reporter. The next day, the reporter showed up for a story about the arson while the rubble was still smoldering. He found Jordan in a field, planting seeds. He said to Jordan, ‘I heard the awful news of your tragedy last night, and I came out to do a story on the closing of your farm.’
Jordan just kept planting and hoeing. The reporter continued his prodding, with no response from Jordan. Finally, the reporter said, ‘You've got two Ph.D.'s, you've put 14 years into this farm, and now there's nothing left. Just how successful do you think you've been?’
With that statement, Jordan stopped hoeing. He said to the reporter, ‘You just don't get it, do you? You don't understand us Christians. What we are about is not success, but faithfulness.’”
Source: Kevin Conrad, "Wisdom for Faithful Living Today," SermonNotes.com.
Judy and I enjoy gardening, but it takes a lot of work
We have to be faithful in watering and weeding in order to have a garden that is fruitful
We have found the same to be true in our spiritual growth also
If we want to experience spiritual fruit, we have to be faithful in watering our walk and weeding out sin
If we want to see friends and family believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, then we have to be faithful in watering those relationships with God’s Word
How many of us have or are gardening?
What is your favorite part of gardening? (watering, weeding, harvesting)
What happens when we are not faithful in watering or weeding? (no harvest)
How many of us are faithful in watering our walk with the Lord?
Are we currently weeding out sin in our lives?
Are we watering relationships with family and friends, so they will hear the Gospel and believe in Jesus for salvation?
Last week we learned that the Spirit of God was with Joseph, so that he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph had faithfully watered and weeded his relationship with God, so that he would experience fruitfulness in God’s time. We once again learn from Joseph’s example that . . .
BIG IDEA – God blesses those who are faithful to Him.
We are going to see how Joseph was fruitful in his profession, with his progeny, and during paucity.
GOD (Genesis 41:39-57)
Profession (vv. 39-49)
Pharaoh’s approval (v. 39)
Pharaoh recognized God’s hand at work in Joseph’s life
God had given Joseph wisdom and discernment in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream
Pharaoh wanted someone with the spirit of God in them to help run Egypt
Pharaoh’s appointment (vv. 40-45)
Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of his palace and everyone in the palace
The only thing that would separate Joseph from Pharaoh, as it pertained to greatness, was the throne that Pharaoh sat on (Joseph would not have access to that)
Pharaoh was still in control, but he delegated the daily responsibilities to Joseph
Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land in order to accomplish the plan that Joseph had shared with him
Pharaoh’s seven steps to proclaim Joseph’s position and power [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 334]
“A verbal appointment by Pharaoh.”
“The giving of a signet ring.” (Joseph would have the power to validate documents in the name of Pharaoh, to do business with Pharaoh’s authority)
“The dressing in robes of fine linen.” (it was the “byssus” or Egyptian linen; notice again that Joseph is being honored with special clothing)
“The placement of a gold chain around his neck.” (in addition to the fine linen robes, the gold chain would identify Joseph’s rank, status, and office)
“His public display in a chariot.”
“The verbal charge to the Egyptians to Make way! before Joseph.”
“The assignment of a new name to Joseph.”
Zaphenath-Paneah (tsof-nath’ pah-nay’-akh/sof-a-nath pah-nay’-akh)
This Egyptian name may mean “treasury of the glorious rest” or “God speaks and lives” or “the god has said: he will live”
“That the narrator does not interpret Joseph’s name means that Joseph’s Egyptian name—whatever the best translation—assumes no significant role in the narrative.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 508]
Joseph was now in charge of all of Egypt
He went from being a royal prisoner to second in command
No one would do anything without Joseph’s word
“The expression ‘hand’ and ‘foot’ is a figure (merism), meaning that every activity must meet with Joseph’s approval.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 763]
Joseph also received a wife from Pharaoh
Asenath (aw-se-nath’/awh-say-nath’) means “belonging to the goddess Neith”
She was the daughter of Potiphera (po-tee feh’rah)
His name means “he whom the Ra gave”
He was the priest to the sun god Ra and served in the city of On (one/own)
“At this time the priest of On officiated at all major festivals and supervised lesser priests who served the sun god Re in the temple city of Heliopolis.” [Gangel & Bramer, 334]
On was also known by the Greek name Heliopolis, which means “city of the sun”
“The city ‘On’ was the prestigious religious center of Re and Atum, the Egyptian solar deities.” [Mathews, 764]
Heliopolis/On was seven miles northeast of Cairo [show map]
Joseph’s status in Egypt was firmly established when he married “into the elite of Egyptian nobility.” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 534]
Joseph went throughout the land
We see Joseph’s achievements as he travels throughout Egypt
Joseph’s achievement (vv. 46-49)
Joseph was 30 years old when he began serving under Pharaoh
He has been a slave in Egypt for 13 years
He was probably imprisoned for 3 of those 13 years
We see again that Joseph went out and traveled throughout Egypt
He was probably traveling to the various cities doing two things
Appointing commissioners in each city
Setting up storehouses in each city
During the seven years of abundance, Joseph collected all the food produced in the fields surrounding each city and then had it stored in the city
When the seven years of famine would come, the commissioners in each city would distribute the food to the individuals in their area
The Lord’s plan through Joseph was so successful that he stopped keeping records, because it was immeasurable
I skipped over verse 47 because I wanted to come back to it, so we could discuss God’s sovereignty, power, and control at work
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is in control!
God provides for His plan in Egypt
During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully (Gen. 41:47)
“Years of average production are replaced by seven abundant years.” [Hamilton, 511]
God is the One who gave Joseph the plan to ensure that Egypt would not be ruined by the famine
God then provides abundantly for them
God provides for His plan in our lives
When we are faithful to the Lord and follow His plan, He will provide for that plan
How have you seen that worked out in your own life?
How have we seen that worked out in the life of the church?
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Worship God for being in control of His plan in my life.
Joseph was fruitful in his profession, because he had been faithful to God
God blesses those who are faithful to Him.
Progeny (vv. 50-52)
During the seven years of abundance in Egypt, Joseph also saw fruitfulness in his family
Joseph’s two sons
Joseph and Asenath (aw-se-nath’/awh-say-nath’) had two sons
His name means “causing to forget”
Joseph gave his firstborn this name, because God had made him forget all his trouble and all his father’s household
“Joseph didn’t forget his family or the events that occurred, but he did forget the pain and suffering that they caused.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Pentateuch, 150]
We know that Joseph had not forgotten his family or heritage, because he gives both of his sons Hebrew names
“The reason of this forgetfulness and silence can only be found in the fact, that through the wondrous alteration in his condition he had been led to see, that he was brought to Egypt according to the counsel of God, and was redeemed by God from slavery and prison, and had been exalted by Him to be lord over Egypt; so that, knowing he was in the hand of God, the firmness of his faith led him to renounce all willful interference with the purposes of God, which pointed to a still broader and more glorious goal (Baumgarten, Delitzsch).” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 227]
PRINCIPLE #2 – God enables us, through His grace, to wipe out the pain and bad memories of the past, so we can make a new beginning. [Wiersbe, 150]
God’s grace means that we get something that we don’t deserve, which is forgiveness of our sins and salvation through Jesus Christ
Because of God’s incredible grace, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, can and should extend grace to others
That’s exactly what Joseph is doing here in naming his son Manasseh, and will be evident when he confronts his brothers
Hurts of the past
How many of us have hurt from the past that we are still dealing with?
Have we extended grace and forgiveness to those involved?
“. . . grudges are like weeds in a lovely garden or germs in a healthy body: they just don’t belong there.” [Wiersbe, 150]
“While the Bible depicts forgetting mostly in dire terms related to apostasy, it also presents some instances when it is a blessing. There are some things we should forget. We do not want to be like the fifty-five individuals in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with hyperthymesia, also known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, HSAM. These people spend an excessive amount of time thinking about their pasts and display extraordinary ability to recall specific events.
Alexandre Wolfe is one of the fifty-five. In an interview for National Public Radio, she described how she remembers every detail of a mundane activity like driving to Target for groceries which occurred more than ten years ago. She remembers what she wore and ate every day for the past decade. She remembers if the fan in the bedroom was running on this date last year. Sometimes this extraordinary ability is an advantage, but at other times—many other times—it is a curse.
One interviewee in the NPR report says that he remembers all the wrongs done against him and all the wrongs he has committed, and that very scenario is the basis of an episode from the television show House. A middle aged character with hyperthymesia remembers everything she said and did since the onset of puberty. She also remembers the wrongs people have done to her and those memories haunt and harass her. The episode demonstrates, as the NPR story states, that ‘we need to forget as much as we need to remember.’”
Source: Alix Spiegel, "When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison the Present," NPR (12-27-15); House, Season 7, Episode 12, "You Must Remember This."
We certainly need to extend grace and forgiveness to past hurts, but we also need to do the same with current hurts
Hurts of the present
Perhaps we are currently dealing with some hurt that needs to have grace and forgiveness applied to it
Don’t let another day go by without extending grace and forgiveness
We can make a new beginning!
Philippians 3:13-14, Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Read Ephesians 4:20-32
Read Colossians 3:1-17
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Strive for a new beginning by allowing God’s grace and forgiveness to be extended to my past and present hurts.
That is exactly what Joseph did
“If the name of Joseph’s first son (Manasseh) focuses on a God who preserves, the name of Joseph’s second son (Ephraim) focuses on a God who blesses.” [Hamilton, 512]
His name means “double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful” or “made me fruitful”
Joseph gave his second son this name, because God had made him fruitful in the land of his suffering
PRINCIPLE #3 – God still blesses in suffering.
It can be difficult to see and understand when we are going through suffering
Many times, after we have come through the suffering, we are able to look back at the suffering and recognize God’s blessing in and through it
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Worship the Lord for His blessing in my suffering.
Joseph recognized God’s blessing in his life
Joseph experienced fruitfulness with his progeny, because he had been faithful to God
God blesses those who are faithful to Him.
Finally, Joseph experienced fruitfulness even when things got scarce
Paucity (vv. 53-57)
Paucity means the condition of having very little or not enough of something, scarcity
The seven years of abundance came to an end, just as the Lord had said through Joseph when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream
The seven years of famine began, and it didn’t stop just in Egypt, but spread to all the other lands
Because Pharaoh listened to God’s plan through Joseph, there was food in Egypt
We don’t know how long it took for the Egyptians to feel the pinch, but when they did they cried out to Pharaoh for food
Pharaoh pointed them to Joseph
He told them to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them
Joseph didn’t open the storehouses immediately, but waited until the famine spread over the whole country
When he did open the storehouses, he sold grain to the Egyptians
He also sold grain to all the other countries
Joseph experienced fruitfulness even when there was scarcity of food in Egypt, because he had been faithful to God’s plan
God blesses those who are faithful to Him.
Do you need to worship the Lord for being in control of His plan in your life?
Is it time for a new beginning? Are you ready to extend God’s grace and forgiveness to someone who has hurt you?
How has God blessed you even when you are suffering?
We can worship the Lord for being in control of His plan and for blessing Idaville Church
Whom do we need to extend God’s grace and forgiveness to as a body of believers?
I am grateful that God blesses those who are faithful to Him.
“George Lucas’ 2012 film Red Tails provides a dramatized version of the true events behind a group of World War II soldiers called the Tuskegee Airmen. Formally, they belonged to a 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The nickname ‘Red Tails’ was coined after the group painted the tails of their aircraft red.
The Tuskegee Airmen became famous for two reasons. First, they were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. But the Red Tails hold a special significance in American history, not just racially, but militarily. In the European air war, U.S. bombers were getting shot down at increasingly alarming rates. The problem arose when the enemy attacked. Fighter pilots, protecting the bombers, would leave the bomber to engage enemy aircraft. Though this seemed like the obvious response, it meant leaving the bombers vulnerable to attack. Each lost bomber carried a crew of 10 or 11 Americans.
The Tuskegee Airmen were brought in and given a different strategy: Never leave the bombers. Never. Regardless of what was happening around them. When the enemy attacked, stay the course and defend your charge. The result of their steadfast devotion? Only 25 of the hundreds of bombers they protected during the war were lost. Their stellar reputation became legend: If you flew a bomber, you wanted the Red Tails with you. On the movie screen, the Tuskegee Airmen gather around each other on an airstrip in a foreign land and shout their motto: ‘The last plane, the last bullet, the last man, the last minute, we fight!’
The Tuskegee Airmen are celebrated, not just because they were excellent pilots, but because they never wavered from their duty; they never left their charge. No matter what happened, they stayed faithful to their calling.”
Source: Wayne Drash, "A Midair Courtship: Tuskegee's Historic Love Story," CNN.com (1-22-12).