Born into disfunction, mercilessly betrayed by his own, and wrongly condemned to prison — there seemed to be countless reasons for Joseph to choose resentment and retaliation. Are you and I prone to cling to our wrongs, or can we say with Joseph: “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction?”
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again today as we discuss the topic, “When You’ve Been Wronged.” Well, today and next time, I have the responsibility to summarize the life of someone in the Bible to whom thirteen chapters are devoted. So, I’m going to assume that you know his story very well. I’m thinking, for example, of the story of Joseph. You all know about his coat, you know about the favoritism in his family. I’m going to skip all that. What I want to do is to give you reasons why Joseph could have been very bitter.
First of all, because he was sold by his brothers at about the age of seventeen. Now, if you think he just accepted this with a lot of joy because of God’s will, you are wrong. Years later, Joseph tells his brothers, after they are reconciled, how terrible it was and all of the agony and the loneliness that he went through. So, he was sold by his brothers. He was accused falsely — you remember the situation with Potiphar’s wife, and he is thrown into the dungeon for two full years. In that dungeon (and he doesn’t know that he’s going to be able to get out of the dungeon)—in that dungeon, Joseph died three deaths. First of all, death to his family. He had already died that death. I’m sure that he had no hope that he would ever see them again but he also died to his reputation. Because the people in Potiphar’s house all accepted her story that he was guilty of something that he was not guilty of. So, his reputation was tarnished. He also had to die to his friends. Remember the story of the cup bearer? Joseph interprets his dream. The cupbearer gets out of prison and before he does, Joseph says, “now, when you get out of prison, remember me.” And what does the Bible say, “but the cupbearer forgot Joseph.” Just like some of our friends we think that they will remember us but, low and behold, they forget about us. Now that was his situation. Later on, of course, he gets out of prison and he’s exalted in Egypt and so forth, and he marries.
What lessons do we learn from him that we can take with us? The Bible says that he has two sons, he calls one “Manasseh.” Manasseh. What does Manasseh mean? That “God caused me to forget my troubles.” What Joseph is saying is, despite all the wrong that has been done against me, I am going to choose to not live in the past. I’m in a new relationship now, a new situation—again, he has no hope that he’s going to see his family. Next time we’re going to talk about that reconciliation but he’s saying, God has given me the ability to say that I will forget my troubles. But the second son is named “Ephraim” and I love this, Ephraim means “fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Am I speaking to you today in the midst of your sorrow, in the midst of your affliction? Do you have the faith to believe that despite all the wrong that has been done against you, God can make you fruitful right there? Despite the fact that, indeed, you may experience, like Joseph, your reputation is ruined, everything is going wrong, you’ve been betrayed by your family, you’ve been betrayed by your coworkers and on and on and on. My friend, today I want to leave you with this, God can make you fruitful in the land of your affliction. Right where you are today, bear fruit for God because He is with you.
And you know what? Often times, trees that grow in very difficult situations, if they have an oasis, a hidden strength—and, of course, the analogy is that the strength comes to them by God, they can be fruitful wherever they are planted. Thanks for joining us today and next time we’re going to pick up the story of Joseph again, but as for today, well, you already know what I’m going to say, you just go with God.