“A Diamond in the Rough: Joseph’s Transforming Story!” (Part 2 of 2)
Hebrews 11:21-22 (ESV)
Pastor Jerry Ingalls
June 11, 2017
Other than the sun, can anyone here gaze upon the stars in the light of day? When is the time we can see the stars? When it is dark out…only in darkness can we see the beauty of God’s creative design of the cosmos! Let’s pray…
“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:21-22).
When I read through the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11, I ask myself two questions: (1) Who is this person? and (2) Why are they considered a hero of faith? In asking these questions, I go on a hunt. Hebrews 11 launches me throughout the Old Testament to read, research, and reflect upon the person of faith.
This week, I continue to study the life of Joseph. This is one of the most famous Old Testament stories. It is the inspiration behind the long enduring Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Jacket.” This is a story that has found a bridge into our culture and has inspired generations of Jewish and Christian people to live with integrity and to put their trust in a sovereign God during injustice and suffering. The problem is that it has been made into a “feel good” story without the true depth of the story. We need to look at this story in all its gore and glory for it to be more than a moralistic platitude.
Joseph makes me think of a diamond. Formed under years of pressure and showcased behind a black velvet backdrop to bring out its brilliance and beauty. Neither the years of pressure nor the darkness of the backstory are beautiful, but the diamond…oh, the diamond is priceless. But how many of us want to go through the process of being formed into a diamond?
A diamond has to start somewhere…one expert says, “Natural diamonds are formed deep within the earth, using heat and pressure found around 87 to 118 miles beneath the surface. Carbon compressed tightly together forms a crystal lattice, the purity of which determines colors in the diamond.”
Let’s continue to walk in Joseph’s shoes; will you join me? We have already explored Joseph’s childhood culminating in his brothers’ betrayal that would forever change his life. Did Joseph have the perfect childhood? Was he set up for success in his life? Was his future in bondage to his past? After spending a sermon looking at his first 17 years of life, let’s look at his adult life.
After being bought by Potiphar at the age of 17, Joseph becomes the all-star slave in Potiphar’s household, given charge over everything in Potiphar’s house except one thing, Potiphar’s wife. She was a cougar. But, Joseph would not compromise, not even for momentary pleasures. When solicited, Joseph asked of Potiphar’s wife, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
Potiphar’s wife lied about Joseph and Potiphar threw his young slave into prison (into the hole under the earth again!) to rot. This is the second time, Joseph has been thrown into a pit, a powerless victim again! Did Joseph get bitter or better? Where does a diamond form?
Let’s watch him: in prison, Joseph becomes the all-star prisoner. Genesis 39:21-22 states, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keep of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison.”
Earlier in his life (before his brothers abused him and betrayed his trust), we saw in Joseph a special connection with God through dreams (Genesis 37:5-11). His lack of maturity as a 17-year-old caused him to share his dreams without discretion or humility, but now that he has been put in the pressure cooker for a long enough period, this diamond in the rough was being shaped with the precision of a master gemcutter. How long does this process take?
Then in Genesis 40, Joseph was given the ability to help two prisoners by interpreting their dreams and his interpretations prove correct. He asks them to remember him and to put in a good word for him, but, “the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Genesis 40:23). Forgotten in the pit again! A third time and two whole years of being buried under the earth continue. Until one day, at the age of 30, after 14 years of pressure cooking, something happens.
Joseph learned that the spiritual gifts, natural leadership, and physical charisma was not about him, it was about God. The gifts of God were to be used for God by loving and serving other people. Joseph learned all this before we get to the climax of the story and because these lessons were not words in a book study or classroom instruction, but experiences chiseled into his soul. Joseph is being shaped, like a diamond, excavated from deep in the pit, and then cut by a master gemcutter to be displayed on the backdrop of black velvet.
In a dramatic turn of events that only the master story teller could orchestrate in the life of one of His faithful servants, Joseph goes from a condemned slave to a celebrated prime minister in the blink of an eye.
Genesis 41 captures the pivotal moment. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, has been given a dream that no one in the land can interpret (none of his magicians or wise men) and finally, 2 years later, the cupbearer remembers Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams accurately from his time in prison. Joseph (a condemned slave, sold into slavery by his own brothers who wanted him dead, forgotten by all but God Himself) stands before the most powerful man on earth. When Pharaoh asks Joseph if he can interpret his dream, what does Joseph say, “It is not me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16).
That right there is the point of the whole story, that one line. That is the unbelievable climatic moment: My God, in whom I trust, can do anything! That is not the empty praise of a man who has made his way through life successfully with everything put before him because of his family or own hard work. This is coming from a man who had every right, from the eyes of man, to curse God and die; to be bitter; to take credit and say to himself, ‘You can’t trust anyone but yourself to take care of #1.’ Joseph went from being a teenage braggart, spoiled by his father’s favoritism and love, to be being a mature man, shaped by God’s unrelenting favor and grace.
And for the rest of the story, the former diamond in the rough is now a finished masterpiece put on the backdrop of black of velvet for the world to see. It begins with the pronouncement of Pharaoh in Genesis 41:38-41, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? . . . You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you. . . . I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
From this moment in Genesis 41 until the last recorded moment of Joseph’s life in Genesis 50 we see that Joseph is the real deal a priceless diamond on display for the whole world to see. When Joseph’s father Jacob died, Joseph’s two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) having already received the blessing of the great patriarch Israel, with Joseph being more rich and powerful than any other man except Pharaoh himself, with the authority to exact revenge on all who had ever harmed him or forgotten him, what did Joseph do. In his old age, when so many people get bitter at life, what did Joseph do? Did he get even? Did he abuse his power? No, he blessed!
Listen to Joseph’s last recorded words from Genesis 50:19-21, “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
So many Bible teachers make this the moral of the story, but it really is the evidence of the moral of the story. The moral of the story if found in that one line–“It is not me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16)–when a broken man with no reason for hope, hopes in the Lord before the most powerful man in the world. At a moment when Joseph should have begged for mercy and told Pharaoh he was an innocent man sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown into prison and forgotten about, what did Joseph do: Joseph put his whole trust in God and gave God glory! That diamond in the rough had completed in its transformation!
For all time, Joseph’s story of transformation is a masterfully cut diamond of great clarity and quality, put on display. Just like with the stars in the sky, we shine brightest in the darkness of circumstance. Along the way, Joseph had many off ramps to becoming who God made him by grace. In each crossroad, in each circumstance, in each forgotten moment in the pits of his life, Joseph had the choice: better or bitter?
The difference is found in one simple word: FAITH. That is why Joseph is found in Hebrews 11. Because faith is, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
That is why every time we hear the name Caleb Kinnaird, we remember his family’s faith through a year in Riley Children’s Hospital waiting for a new heart; knowing that every day was a dark backdrop to put on display the beauty of a diamond. Because faith allowed them to be faithful in a dark season. That is why Caleb’s heart touches our hearts—it’s LIGHT in darkness!
You don’t need to become someone great in the eyes of the world for your name to be in God’s hall of faith. It is not about fame on the earth, it is all about putting your whole trust in Jesus Christ in this life. May you trust God as He forms you in the pressure cooker circumstances of life and may you trust God to be the master gemcutter as He shapes you and puts you on display in the situations of a darkening world. Remember, the stars shine brightest at night!
Brothers and sisters, today, choose to forgive all who have harmed you, choose to let go of the grudges you have held onto, choose to trust God by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior remembering his death on the cross for your sins and his resurrection from the dead as the guarantee of all His promises.
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.