Whispering Jesus

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We must become more like Jesus.

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Marc Webb(70) on August 13, 2023 (Sunday Morning(335))

Forgiveness(15), Humility(7), Jesus(8)

Whispering Jesus

My opening illustration is from bible.org. Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop cafe where a truck driver, a little guy, was sitting at the counter, quietly eating his lunch. The three thugs saw him, grabbed his food, and laughed in his face. The truck driver didn’t say a word. He got up, paid for his food and walked out. One of the bikers, unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the little man into a fight, bragged to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over three motorcycles.” The familiar saying, “Don’t get mad, just get even” sums up the world’s philosophy of how to deal with someone who wrongs us. But in contrast to the world’s way, God prescribes a radical approach when we are wronged: Ephesians 4:32 says, “We are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” It’s easy to say that, but it’s a lot harder to do. The difficulty increases in proportion to how badly we’ve been hurt. When we’ve been badly hurt, we don’t feel like forgiving that person, even if they repent, at least not until they’ve suffered a while. We want them to know what it feels like and to pay for what they have done to us. Maybe some of us are struggling with those feelings this morning. Maybe it’s something that happened to us recently, or maybe from a while back. If we’re bitter and unforgiving, we’re not obeying the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love others. Bitterness not only displeases God; it spreads to others, defiling many as we see in Hebrews 12:15. So if we want to please God, we must ask ourselves, “How can we root out bitterness and truly forgive those who have wronged us?”

We have been studying the life of Joseph and he had to find a way to avoid bitterness and learn to forgive. He had been repeatedly hurt: His own brothers had planned to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery at the last moment. As Potiphar’s slave, he was faithful and upright, but was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife. He spent years in prison and was forgotten by a man he had helped, who could have pled his case to Pharaoh. Yet in spite of all this, Joseph never grew bitter toward God or toward those who had wronged him. In fact, he was able to forgive his brothers for what they had done to him; forgiving them even before they apologized to him. When he revealed himself to them, he embraced, kissed, and wept over them. He then brought his entire family to Egypt, setting them up in their own land, and providing for them in every way. Joseph’s actions toward his brothers proved that he had forgiven them.

Joseph, because of the way he lived, his actions and his words, has been called a type of Christ. Typology is a form of symbolism that is prophetic. In the Old Testament, there are people and objects that pre-figure, foreshadow, or “whisper” of, something that is yet to happen or of someone (most often Jesus) who is yet to come. Joseph is clearly seen as a type of Christ throughout his life presenting a remarkable whispering of Jesus Christ. The typology between Joseph and Jesus highlights God's sovereignty and providence in ordaining events and individuals in redemptive history and serves to deepen the understanding of God's unfolding plan for us and the world. In Genesis 45, Joseph acknowledges God's sovereign hand in his suffering, betrayal, and eventual exaltation. This strikingly parallels the narrative of Jesus, who, as recorded in Acts 2 & 4, was betrayed and crucified according to God's predetermined plan. In both cases, God's providence ordained the evil intentions of men to bring about the deliverance of His people. Joseph, like Jesus, suffered unjustly at the hands of his brothers, yet ultimately saved many of those who initially sought to harm him. So far, in Genesis we have seen numerous typological connections with Jesus. First, betrayal and hatred: Joseph was betrayed and hated by his brothers, foreshadowing Jesus' betrayal by His own people. Second, temptation and sinlessness: Joseph resisted temptation and remained sinless with Potiphar’s wife, reflecting Jesus' sinless nature. Third, false accusation and condemnation: Joseph was falsely accused and condemned, mirroring Jesus' unjust trial and crucifixion. And lastly, exaltation and salvation: Joseph was raised to a position of authority beside Pharaoh, becoming the savior of many, prefiguring Jesus' resurrection and ascension as the ultimate Savior.

We will continue to see more typological connections this morning as we study Genesis 50:15-21. Just as Joseph was the whisper of Jesus by his life, as Christ-followers we are also to be whispering Jesus by our lives, our actions and our words. In order to be whispering Jesus in our everyday lives we must become more like Jesus. As that process of spiritual growth or sanctification happens, we will live as Joseph lived, as a whisper of Jesus. So our big idea this morning that God wants us to understand is that we must become more like Jesus. This is also our theme for the year as we strive to become more like Jesus in our devotion to prayer, to scripture, to serving others, to generosity, to fellowship, to evangelism and to worship. Those are all talked about in this year’s Spiritual Life Journal which can be found on the Information Station Wall in the foyer.

Before we start our study of how Joseph was the whisper of Jesus and how he is our example of becoming more like Jesus, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Give us wisdom and insight into what you what us to learn and obey. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Appeal, found in Genesis 50:15-17. This is what God’s Word says, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

A couple weeks ago, we studied the death of the patriarch, Jacob. He had his sons promise to take and bury his body in Canaan and the last we saw the brothers they had returned from Canaan carrying out that promise. We don’t know how long they were thinking about what was going to happen to them after their father died but we now know that they did not believe Joseph when he said, in Genesis 45:5, 7, “And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” They did not believe that Joseph could forgive them for what they had done to him, so they are now afraid, wondering if Joseph had been holding a grudge all these years. Was he going to get payback now that their father was dead and buried? The phrase “pay us back” shows they were dreading what Joseph might do to them but they also realized that they deserved whatever payback they might get.

It seems their father, Jacob, had told the brothers to let Joseph know that he wanted him to forgive his brothers for their “iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin” against him. They sent word to Joseph asking him to forgive them based on this message from their father. They used the phrase, “your father” as opposed to “our father” because they wanted Joseph to think about his obligation to forgive them based on what Jacob would want him to do. They were trying to play on his emotions to get his forgiveness. At face value, it sounds like the brothers are trying to pull a fast one on Joseph in order to convince him to not take revenge on them for what they had done. What they failed to understand was that Joseph had already forgiven them and had moved on long before they showed up in Egypt. When Joseph named his first son, Manasseh, he was praising God for allowing him to “forgive and forget” his suffering at the hands of his brothers. We don’t know for sure if they were lying to Joseph or not but here are a few things to think about. First, if you remember, Jacob on two occasions talked with Joseph about burying his body in Canaan and not in Egypt. He could have mentioned forgiving his brothers then, but we don’t read that in scripture. Two, Joseph and all the brothers were with Jacob when he died and again nothing is mentioned. Three, if their father had really said this to the brothers and they were to relay it to Joseph then why not go and meet him face to face. You know it’s always easier to lie behind one’s back than it is to their face. Now on the possibility that this was true: it would not be the first time in Genesis that something had been brought out later that was never mentioned earlier. So, I will leave it up to you to decide. Nevertheless, the brothers are afraid of what Joseph might do to them now. Interestingly, after they recount what their father said they actually confess that they sinned against him. They refer to themselves as “servants of the God of your father” hoping Joseph would act like their father’s God who is the one who “forgives iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin.” (Wenham). ​​ But again, we are reminded that Joseph had already forgiven his brothers and the proof is seen in his actions. He wept because he was saddened that they didn’t believe that he had forgiven them and didn’t trust that Joseph wouldn’t punish them now. He wept because reconciliation had not been fully realized which is what he had hoped for.

So how was Joseph able to root out bitterness and truly forgive his brothers who had wronged him?” He had to have the proper attitude towards his brothers in order to truly forgive them. He had an attitude of humility before them and he didn’t keep score of their wrongs. And he didn’t easily take offense when they had hurt him yet again. He didn’t get upset at them and yell and scream “Why can’t you believe me?” No, he wept because he realized that all these years, they had continued to live with the guilt of what they had done. The problem was that the brothers had never confessed their sin to him until now. So how can we model Joseph and move toward becoming more like Jesus? We must forgive the wrongs done to us by others even before they come and ask for forgiveness. This humility before others is important. If we dwell on the wrongs done to us for too long, we become bitter and filled with hate. It will eat us up inside and if we don’t take care of it, will cause us to plot revenge on those who have hurt us. We need to remember that Jesus forgave others even while he was on the cross. In Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” ​​ Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t wait for us to confess what we had done before he forgave us. He forgave us, and showed us how much he loved us and then he pursued us into a relationship where we can come to repentance and salvation. So maybe this first next step on the back of your communication card is for you and will help you to become more like Jesus (Big Idea): My next step is to forgive those who wrong me before they ever ask for forgiveness from me.

That brings us to our second point this morning, which is Assurance found in Genesis 50:18-21. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Once his brothers had sent the message from their father to Joseph, they then followed up with a face-to-face visit. They threw themselves down before Joseph and announced that they were his slaves. This would have been another fulfillment of Joseph’s boyhood dreams. But we notice that Joseph didn’t say “I told you so.” He told them that that was not necessary, and they were not to be afraid. He assured them he wasn’t holding a grudge against them and he wasn’t going to take revenge on them. To prove this he said to them, “Am I in the place of God?” This was the same question that Jacob had asked Rachel when she complained to him that she was barren. But there are differences between these two questions. Walton says, “When Jacob used the same rhetorical question in response to Rachel’s barren condition, he was confessing his inability to assume the role of deity. In contrast Joseph’s use of the question reflects his own commitment to restraint. He refuses to take on the role of deity. Hamilton says, The Septuagint renders his question “for am I God’s (surrogate)” meaning they had no fear of retribution for Joseph had God’s view of things and therefore is above retribution. Joseph denied that he was in God’s place. He refused to cross that line. Joseph will only be God’s instrument, never his substitute. That is important for us to remember, as well.

Joseph knew that to forgive others we must realize our proper place before God. We must allow God to be the judge and not ourselves. We must humble ourselves before the sovereignty of God and believe that God is good in all his ways, as we see in verse 20. Joseph didn’t sugarcoat what his brothers had done to him. They intended to harm him, and he told them so. This was not to make them feel bad, he was just telling them the truth. He wasn’t going to sweep it under the rug, but he wasn’t going to rub their noses in it, either. Joseph saw the sovereignty of God in what happened to him, and he embraced it. He also called it good because God had used it to accomplish the saving of many lives. Joseph not only forgave his brothers before they had even asked for forgiveness, he also humbled himself before Almighty God. As we follow this example of Joseph we will become more like Jesus (Big Idea). This brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to: Allow God to be the judge, humble myself before his sovereignty and believe that God is good in all his ways. ​​ 

He told them again to not be afraid and he promised to provide for them and their children. And he assured them that he had forgiven them, speaking kindly to them. He literally “spoke to their heart” reassuring them by his words and his deeds. “Speaking to their heart” is mostly used in the Bible in cases where there are feelings of guilt and there is a need for forgiveness and/or repentance. There was no malice in his tone at all and he was still going to provide and care for them as he had since they first came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph again in this section exhibits many attributes that we need to emulate in order to become more like Jesus. He didn’t remind his brothers about the fulfillment of his dreams even though it happened numerous times. He spoke the truth in love. He didn’t give them a free pass for what they had done to him but he knew it wasn’t his place to judge. He had provided for his family and would continue to do so. He was following God’s sovereign plan for his life. When we take our proper place before God it is easy to express the proper attitude towards others and we can forgive the way that Joseph forgave his brothers and the way that Jesus forgave us for our sins that nailed him to the cross.

My conclusion is adapted from a John Stott article called “Becoming More Like Christ.” What is God’s purpose for His people? God wants His people to become more like Jesus. We see the biblical basis for becoming more like Jesus in three scriptures. The first is Romans 8:29 which says that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son. Becoming like Jesus is the eternal predestinating purpose of God for his people. The second is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is by the indwelling Spirit Himself that we are being changed into becoming more like Jesus. Third is 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We don’t know for certain what it will be like in heaven, but we do know that we will be like Christ. We will be with Christ, like Christ, forever. These three biblical perspectives—past, present, and future – for becoming more like Jesus is the purpose of God for the people of God.

In what ways are we to be like Jesus? First, we are to be like Jesus in his incarnation. 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way as he walked.” In other words, if we claim to be a Christian, we must be Christlike. We are to be like Christ in his Incarnation meaning we are to be like Christ in the humility of Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped for his own selfish enjoyment, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We are all called to follow the example of His great humility in coming down from heaven to earth. Second, we are to be like Jesus in His service. In John 13 it says, “He took off his outer garments, he tied a towel round him, he poured water into a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. When he had finished, he resumed his place and said, ‘If then I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” To be like Jesus in his service means that just as Jesus performed what in His culture was the work of a slave, so we in our culture must regard no task too menial or degrading to undertake for each other.

Third, we are to be like Jesus in His love. Ephesians 5:2 says, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are to walk in love, meaning that all our behavior should be characterized by love, but we are also to be like Jesus in his death, to love with the self-giving Calvary love. Fourth, we are to be like Jesus in His patient endurance which is talking about his suffering. In 1 Peter 2, Peter urges Christian slaves, if punished unjustly, to bear it and not to repay evil for evil. We have been called to this because Christ suffered, leaving us an example so that we may follow in His steps. This is a call to us to be more like Jesus in suffering unjustly as he did. Fifth, we are to be like Jesus in His mission. In John 20:21, Jesus prayed, “As you, Father, have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world.” He is talking about his disciples but also about us. The disciple’s mission in the world was to resemble Jesus’ mission. As Jesus was sent into the world by his father, we are sent into the world by Jesus. As we put these into practice, we will become more like Jesus and be whispering him into the world.

There are three practical consequences of becoming more like Jesus. First, there will be suffering. Suffering is part of God’s process of making us more like his Son. Whether we suffer from disappointment, frustration, or some other painful tragedy, we need to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. God is always working for the good of His people, and this good purpose is to make us more like Jesus. Second, is the challenge of evangelism. Why do Christian’s evangelistic efforts often end in failure? One main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming. John Poulton’s book, “A Today Sort of Evangelism”, writes: The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. Christians must be authentic. The Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said “If all Christians were Christians—that is, Christlike—there would be no more Islam today.” WOW. If Christians would just be authentically Christlike in every way imagine what this world would be like. Third is the indwelling of the Spirit. In our own strength, becoming more like Jesus is clearly not attainable, but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within. So, God’s purpose is to transform us to become more like Jesus and God’s way to make us like Jesus is to fill us with his Spirit. This enables us to become more like Jesus: in His Incarnation, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission. That brings us to the final next step on the back of your communication card this morning: My next step is to become more like Jesus in His humility, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission.

As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final song and as the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and communication cards, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Word. As we go about this week, help us to remember and obey what we’ve heard. Help us to be able to forgive others who have wronged us even before they ask forgiveness from us. Help us to allow you to be the judge, help us to humble ourselves before your sovereignty and believe that you are good in all your ways. ​​ And help us to become more like your Son in His humility, His service, His love, His suffering, and in His mission. I pray all this is your son’s precious name, Amen.