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Jan 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 26, 2014 – Genesis 40

Let God In

Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. So he put them in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. Genesis 40:1-3

Intro: As you read through the story, be aware of the following:

■ Joseph was twenty-eight years old when these things took place
■ a “cupbearer” or “butler” was a wine-server who chose, sampled, and recommended wines to the king
– he held a powerful position, always standing next to the king
■ the butler’s dream was elaborate, containing seven visual images and lots of action
■ the baker’s dream was sparse but wild, contained only three visual images and one action
■ both of their dreams incorporated symbols of their occupations

God makes his next move

God has an objective, but he doesn’t pursue it with brute force
– the game board on which he makes his moves is the natural world
• it’s cluttered with humans who have their own objectives
○ their objectives may interfere or conflict with his
○ but God doesn’t violate their free will
• God can use any situation humans construct
○ he works through the ordinary circumstances of our everyday lives
– if it were a chess match, God knows every possible move and every countermove
• he never loses–he always achieves his objectives

God used dreams as catalysts in the major turning points of Joseph’s life
– it was not Joseph’s great organizational skills that won him an audience with Pharaoh
• it was his interpretation of dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker

Where will we find God’s next move in our lives?
– in our current circumstances
• we don’t have to like our circumstances
○ we only have to be turned toward God are ready to respond
– this is a critical element in the story
• Joseph was able to step into elevator when doors opened
○he was ready for God’s next move

There’s a paradox or irony in the story

Joseph was in prison, like the butler and baker, yet he was free
– some people, like Paul the apostle, held in chains and yet free
• others come and go as they please, but they are not free
• they’re imprisoned in a million fears, worries, envies, etc.
– the anxieties and despairs of our inner prisons have a source:
• this transitory and finite society in which we exist
• whatever solution we imagine will solve problem–e.g., money, a newer car, a better job . . .–would only bring with it more anxieties
○ because the circumstances of our lives are still temporary and finite
– the human soul cannot find its peace and freedom here

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

• this is why “we do not lose heart” and why our souls are free despite our circumstances (2 Cor. 4:16)
• our hope is in the One who transcends the transient and finite — he is eternal and infinite

Our circumstances are like “city limits” — they tend to create our perceptual and imaginative limits
– they mark the parameters of our challenges and opportunities
this body, this job, this car, this home, this family
• these form the boundaries that circumscribe my life
– freedom isn’t breaking out of the circumstances of life, but living creatively within them
• if we cannot find this freedom, then we’ll stay stuck
○ our hearts, minds, and spirits will always be constrained by our mental city limits
• freedom is the ability to make a different choice about how we look at, and deal with these things

Joseph was free because he knew:
– that the interpretation of dreams, and everything else, belongs to God
• he was free enough:
○ from preoccupation with his own pain to be attentive to others
○ to notice the facial expressions of other prisoners when sad and dejected
○ he’s free enough to get involved in their issues and to serve them
• it is this freedom Joseph enjoys that makes space in his circumstances for God’s next move

Who did God use to get Joseph to next stage?

Not who we would expect
– not a prophet, or priest, or pastoral counselor, but people of the world
• people who had no attachment to him
• nor was it their generosity, kindness, or gratitude that God used
○ it was their self-pity
○ their role was no more than to be game pieces

God used what was in Joseph:
– his conviction – that God holds the key that unlocks dreams
– his confidence – that he could decipher the message of their dreams
– his compassion – he was able to see beyond himself
• so that all God had to do, was to set up the moment

Why are so few people able to see beyond themselves?
– this kind of seeing isn’t only function of the eyes and brain
• it begins in the heart
○ it is why Paul prayed that God would enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians’ hearts (Eph. 1:18)
• the harshness of life and its challenges close off our hearts

Karl Rahner, “Hearts change quietly, and their collapse doesn’t make any noise. And they have often changed before we really notice it. And it can happen to us, and perhaps it already has happened–totally or partially–that our heart has become rubbled-over, that the last and innermost chamber of our heart, where we actually are really ourselves, is buried by the rubbish of the everyday, buried by doubt and skepticism, buried by despair and bitterness.” (The Need and the Blessing of Prayer)

– we don’t want our hearts to be closed-off
• and if they’re closed-off, we want them to be opened

Conc: This story shares a significant feature with other stories in Genesis

God never comes onto the stage
– he doesn’t show up and he doesn’t have any lines
• we see human circumstances and human interactions–that’s all
– so where is God in this episode?
he is in Joseph
○ and through Joseph he makes his presence known
○ and through Joseph he accomplishes his will

The next time it seems like everything is going wrong,
– stop asking, “Where is God in all of this?!”
• stop expecting him to break down the door and jump onto the stage
– where is God in your challenging and difficult circumstances? He is in you!
• God enters your story through you
– we don’t bring God into our world, because he’s already here
• but we give him space to move in us

We can do this, if we’re free
We can be free, if our faith in God is solid
Our faith in God can be solid, if we have open hearts
We can open our hearts through prayer
– and if they do not open in prayer, then we can still use prayer to allow God to pry them open

And the moment that our heart opens, we find Jesus, right here, waiting for us

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