What principles can we learn from Joseph if we want to make our God-given dreams reality? Today, we’re continuing this series and looking at the first key to achieving your dreams.
1. Don’t let your past determine your future.
I’m going to ask you to hang with me here this is going to take a little time to develop. We’re going to focus first on Chapter 37 of Genesis.
As our story opens we find Jacob settling once again in the land of Canaan.
“So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived.
This is the history of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks with his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.”
So let’s give a little background to this story because I really want to camp on this first key because I think it is so vital in our culture today.
Joseph is the son of the Bible Patriarch Jacob. Jacob had just spent 20 years in Haran where 11 of his boys were born. He had 4 wives Leah, Rachel who had died giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son Benjamin on the way back from Haran, Bilhah and Zilpah who were originally Leah’s and Rachel’s handmaids.
So we have here a gigantic blended family. That all still lived at home!
We have a father who tried to bring God’s plan about in his life by lying, cheating, and conniving. A trait he had passed on to most of his boys.
And talk about dysfunction – these guys could write the book. Jerry Springer would love this family!
Reuben the oldest son slept with one of his father’s wives,
Jacob’s only daughter Dinah had been raped by the Prince of Shechem, so Jacob’s sons deceived the men of Shechem and then Simeon and Levi went into the city and killed every man in the city and then the rest of the sons went in and looted and plundered all the wealth of the city and took captive all the kids and women.
Besides his other stellar qualities, Jacob showed total blatant partiality to Joseph.
Scholars differ on why this was, it could be that he spent more time with Joseph than his other kids, or that he was Rachel’s son that they had believed for for so long because she could not conceive for a long time, or it may have been because he was a good kid unlike his brothers. But no matter the reason Jacob made no attempt to hide the fact that he like Joseph the best.
So, as if there was not already enough tension in the family, Jacob gives Joseph what is commonly known as the “coat of many colors.” Scholars believe that it was most likely an ornate robe that was not suitable to work in that denoted royalty.
Many scholars believe that the coat that Jacob gave Joseph was a coat that designated that Joseph had been selected by Jacob to assume the family leadership.
So it’s not rocket science that his brothers hated him and trash talked him.
Here’s an interesting note: the brothers couldn’t say a kind thing about him, and yet Joseph is one of 3 or 4 characters in the entire Bible, one of them being Jesus, that God does not say one negative thing about through the writers. In fact, later we’ll see that Joseph is actually a type and shadow of Jesus.
As our story continues, Joseph has a dream. He dreams that he and his brothers were out in a field tying up bundles of grain and suddenly his bundle stands up and all the brothers bundles gather round him and bow low before him.
So what does Joseph do? . . . He goes and tells his brothers.
Do you think they were happy about this dream? no . . . .
They responded, “So you think you’ll be our king do you? And you think you’ll reign over us?”
And the Bible says,”They hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.” Genesis 37:8
First, it’s not always wise to tell everything you know! Some things are better kept between you and God.
Second, not everyone is going to be excited about your dream. The odds are that more people will try to discourage you from achieving your dream than will believe in your dream and help you achieve it. In fact, we’ll see in a minute that some will even try to sabotage your dream.
Then if things weren’t bad enough, he has another dream, this time the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed low before him.
So has Joseph wised up? No . . . this time he not only tells his brothers about the dream, but his dad as well.
His dad gets on his case “What kind of dream is that? Will your mother and I and your brothers all bow down to the ground before you?”
The word goes on to say while his brothers were filled with jealousy, Jacob ponder what it could mean.
Soon after this Joseph’s brothers took Jacob’s flocks to Shechem to pasture them. After some time, Jacob sends Joseph from Hebron to Shechem to check on them.
So Joseph arrives in the hills of Shechem and a guy sees him wandering around looking lost and asks him what he was looking for and he tells him he’s looking for his brothers. Now this guy tells Joseph, “They aren’t here any more, they have gone to Dothan.”
Let’s stop for one minute and look at this: Jacob didn’t send Joseph across the street to find his brothers. From where he lived he had to travel about 50 miles to get to this place. Also, what were the odds this guy would know where his brothers were? Remember, this was the city where Simeon and Levi had killed every male and trashed the whole city. You’d better believe that when these boys were in town someone would be keeping a close eye on them. This was also probably one of the reasons Jacob was concerned enough to send Joseph to check on them, as they had been gone for a while.
So then, Joseph had to go another 20 miles to get to Dothan. Which was right on the trade route to Egypt.
Joseph’s brothers see him coming from a ways off and say, “Let’s kill this dreamer. Then we’ll see what will become of his dreams.” Genesis 37:19-21 So they devise this plot to kill him and throw his body into a cistern and tell their Father he was eaten by a wild animal.
Reuben intercedes and says, “Hey, let’s not kill him . . . why have his blood on our hands, we’ll just throw him in the empty cistern, then he’ll die without us having to do it.” And all the brothers thought it was a great idea.
Reuben was secretly planning on rescuing him and taking him home. Possibly in an attempt to regain first-born status with his father.
So Joseph arrives, they strip off his coat and throw him in the cistern.
Then they cook dinner like nothing happened. At this point in the story, there is nothing recorded about Joseph’s reaction to all this, but in Genesis Chapter 42:21 some 22 or so years later, we’re privy to a conversation the brothers have after they have come to Egypt to get grain and are accused of being spies.
“Speaking among themselves, they said, “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why this trouble has come upon us.”
So we see that Joseph must have been terrified and begged and pleaded for his life and they heartlessly ignored his pleas. And 22 years later they are still plagued by the guilt of what they did.
Then a caravan on it’s way to Egypt comes along and they sell him as a slave. So they not only don’t have to kill him, they make a profit off the deal.
Let’s stop here in our story and go back to Point 1. Don’t let your past determine your future.
Would you agree that if anyone qualifies as a victim, and has the right to play the blame game it would have been Joseph?
But the truth is, No one can keep you from your God-given destiny but you. Others can’t keep you from your dreams. We are the keeper of our own dreams.
No one can limit you, except you . . . its a choice
You can be a victim and remain a spectator for your entire life, or you can get up and make the world your dance floor.
No excuses – just do it.
Your past can’t stop God’s plan, your circumstances can’t stop God’s plan, your education, your color, you are the only one who has that power.
If you will trust him, God will take even your worst day and use it to your good.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
While God did not cause all those awful things Joseph’s family did to him, it was playing right into God’s plan. God got him right on the trade route to Egypt exactly where he needed to be to complete his assignment.
About 35 years ago, my husband and I went through a horrible separation. It devastated our family. After a year of being a complete knucklehead, I surrendered my heart back to the Lord. I had the distinct impression that the Lord was telling me that He was not through with Kip and Sandy Lawson yet, unlike Joseph, I had no one to blame but myself and my own poor choices for the situation we were in. However, God is so good that even though our circumstances looked impossible, God’s goodness reached down and brought healing to a truly hopeless situation. Today, we’re happily married for over 48 years. My husband is my best friend, and our family is healed. God is the God of the impossible.
Since that time, God has used us in the lives of literally thousands of kids and he has used our son in even greater ways as well as our other kids. We just had to get to the point that we desired God’s highest more than anything else. We also had to get to the point that we truly believed and received that His blood had truly cleansed us of past sins and by His grace we got a do over. We didn’t let our past determine our future, we used it to help others from falling into the same traps that we did. God made all things work together for the good as he promised in Romans 8:28.
God does not want us to be trapped by outward circumstances, I think this is one of the beautiful truths in this story. Joseph was a man who lived above his circumstances as we will see as the story continues . . . He didn’t let his past determine his future. Back to our story . . .
So Joseph arrives in Egypt and gets sold to Potiphar the head of Pharaoh’s Palace guard.
We are now in Genesis 39
At once he goes to work with all his heart and immediately Potiphar starts noticing that everything Joseph touches gets better!
“The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.”
I believe that God was able to work on Joseph’s behalf to bring about his destiny because Joseph kept his heart right. He didn’t allow bitterness or unforgiveness, or a victim mentality to occupy his heart. The only one who had the power to rob Joseph or his desitny was Joseph.
Sometimes we can see delays and detours as defeats. Maybe God is using them to refine our character, or maybe what seems like a detour is God’s rerouting to get us to our divine destiny. We can’t always avoid delays and detours, but we can control our heart response to them.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 2-4 NKJV
How can Joseph’s story help you change the way you view your circumstances?