Meant for Good-Messy
There is a story about a man who was the sole survivor of a ship which sank at sea. He was able to make a small raft of some of the ship’s cargo and eventually drifted to a deserted island. There he constructed a make-shift shelter and lived on what little food he had been able to salvage from the wreckage. Time after time he had attempted unsuccessfully to attract the attention of a passing ship. Finally, he saw a ship approaching more closely and hurriedly set a signal fire ablaze. To his dismay, the ship passed by and was quickly fading from sight. Accidentally, sparks from the signal fire set the roof of his shelter in flames, and the man watched hopelessly and helplessly as all of his make shift “home” burned to ashes.
All was lost, he reasoned, and life could not last much longer. Suddenly he noticed that the ship which had passed him by was turning around and approaching the island more closely than before. To his great relief, he was seen by the crew and rescued. Once on board, the grateful survivor went to the captain of the ship to express his thanks. “But what caused you to turn around after you had already passed by me?” he asked. The captain responded, “Why, we saw the signal fire you made by setting your shelter on fire.”
The very thing which seemed to seal the doom of this marooned man was the means of his delivery. What seemed to spell disaster for him became an instrument of his salvation.
If you have your bible and I hope that you do, would you go with me to the book of Genesis. We are going to start in Genesis 50.
To be honest, I have no idea if that story actually happened. But the essence of that story happens all the time. All is good then disaster. We get our feet back underneath us only to be knocked down again. Time and again it feels like rescue ships come our way only to escape into the distance. And then hope comes but not in the way that we ever dreamed or expected it to play out.
We all have experiences similar to this. Normally when we are in the midst of struggle, in the midst of the disaster, the question we most frequently ask is “Why?” “Why God? Why me? Why now?” I understand this question. I have asked it frequently. But for those of us who in Christ, who have come to know the Lord, personally, the answer is ultimately that God meant it for good.
That seems odd. But over the next several weeks, I want us to learn from a family and specifically a man that came to realize this. We are going to spend some time listening and learning from the story of Joseph.
I want to start by looking at the end, and then we will flashback to the beginning of the story. It’s in Genesis 50 verse 20 where Joseph says,
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.”
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Why do we start here? This verses introduces us to an in important characteristic or attribute of God. His providence.
When we say the Providence of God what we mean is that God works His own ends, no matter if the intentions of people may be good or bad. God has the power, He is sovereign and God will bring about His own ultimate end. What God means to happen, will ultimately happen.
God coordinates and organizes all the apparently independent activities, and thoughts, and ideas, and movements of people, pulls them all together, makes them harmonize with one another to effect His ultimate ends. That is revealed to us in many stories in the Bible, none more dramatic than the story of Joseph.
This is a story that speaks to the very issues that plague our lives today. Mess. Deceit. Betrayal. Hurt. Anger. Forgiveness. Redemption and restoration. And through it all, God Means it for good.
So look with me now at Genesis 37:1-11
For people of my generation, we grew up watching the show Fresh Prince of Bel Air. That show starred Will Smith and the opening credits always began with these words, “Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down.“ Those of us who grew up watching that show could recite the whole theme song. And yet it perfectly frames what these 11 verses are talking about.
Vs. 2 begins “These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph” As you read through the pages of Genesis, we are told in detail about certain people. Noah. Abraham. Isaac. Esau. Jacob. And The final 14 chapters detail the story, the drama, and the mess that was the generations of Jacob, and is focused on Joseph.
Now we are let in on some important details. Joseph is 17. He is also a 17 year old November baby. A November baby is one born in the latter years of a parents life. And this 17 year old November baby is loved more than all his other brothers, he also ratted out his older brothers. Listen, it’s not that the others were not loved, Jacob just loved Joseph more and everyone knew it. We will get into the why here in a moment.
Here at the beginning, Jacob’s favorite son gets a gift. A coat. This coat is special. It was multi-colored. In the day in which they lived, everything was basically monotoned. But not this coat. This coat separated Joseph from the others.
And to make sure we understand the tension involved in this moment, the writer goes so far as to say that the brothers “hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”
You get a sense that this is a family that puts “Fun” in dysfunctional. I bet their family dinners were lively. Maybe a better word is messy.
Here is what I know. Life is messy. Family is messy. History is messy. And for many of us we would go so far as to say that our relationship with the Lord is messy.
But let me take a moment to help us understand how messy this really is.
Let’s start with Joseph’s great grandpa: Abraham. Abram as he was originally known was 75 years old when God called him to leave his father, leave his country, and go to land that He would show him. Now with that came a promise. You can first read about that 7 fold promise in Genesis 12. But at 75 years old, Abram and his wive leave and at this point they don’t have any kids.
As they journey into Egypt, Abram tells Sarai that if anyone asks she should tell them that they are brother and sister and not man and wife. Sarai being attractive is immediately brought into to Pharaoh as one of his wives. But when Pharaoh figures out that this is Abram’s wife she is released. Think of the mess that this represents. What happens.
The promise to Abraham was for a son. But Sarah is still without child so she gives her servant, Hagar, to Abram as a wife, which was part of the practice and custom of that day, and Hagar has a son. Now there is jealousy. Jealousy says they have something that I should have. Sarah is jealous kicks Hagar out. Now she does return but can you begin to see that this is a generational mess. And this story doesn’t stop there. After Sarah becomes pregnant and gives birth to Isaac, the years of bitterness, anger, frustration come to a peak and Hagar and Ishmael are abandoned by Abraham.
Was God in control? Yes. Was this part of God’s plan. Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is that it was messy.
Then after Sarah dies, Isaac marries Rebekah. Now she is going to have twin. Twins boys: Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest and he was the favored son of Isaac. He was a hunter. He was also hairy and Isaac delighted in Esau.
Messy seems to get multiplied in this generation as one day, Esau comes in from the outdoors hungry. And Esau sells his birthright as the first born son to Jacob for soup.
And then later as Isaac is old and about to die he is ready to give Esau his blessing. Rebekah hears Isaac and decides to play a trick on Isaac given his age and that he can’t see. They disguise Jacob to appear like Esau and he goes in to receive the blessing meant for Esau.
Listen. I am not creative enough to make this stuff up. But the mess only intensifies. Jacob and Esau are at odds. So Jacob runs off. He runs to Laban. Laban has a daughter that Jacob deeply loves and her name is Rachel. So he asks for Rachel’s hand in marriage and they cut a deal. Work 7 years and you get Rachel. The problem is that after that 7 years, when the wedding night came, Laban took Leah to Jacob. Messed up? Yup. But Laban has a plan. Jacob is to work 7 more years for him and then he will get Rachel.
Think of the complexity in that household. Married to Leah working for Rachel.
Married to Leah loving Rachel. 7 more years then Rachel. So Rachel comes in the home. But Leah is the one who has sons for Jacob. This angers Rachel seeing that she at this point is barren. So Rachel gives her servant Bilhah to Jacob and she has sons. After Leah’s 4 sons Leah gives Jacob her servant Zilpah. She has sons. And finally Rachel, the Rachel he loved, the Rachel he worked for not once but twice, has two sons: Joseph and Benjamin.
So the favorite wife, has a son who becomes the favorite son. Now don’t miss this. Jacob who knows what it’s like to be the unfavored child, passes on the favoritism now to Joseph.
Jacob gives Joseph a multi-colored coat. This was an expensive gift. This was something that showed he was the favorite. In a coat like this, you would be exempt from work. And while normally a coat like this would be reserved for special occasions, Joseph wears it all the time. And his brothers despised him.
The mess is real. But what happens next is pivotal to understand. Joseph receives two dreams.
Are the dreams from God? Yes. Are they detailed? Very. Was God letting Joseph in on His plan? Without a doubt. However, it only intensified the animosity and the mess of this house.
So why I have detailed this out.
I need us to Understand that Sometimes the mess is inherited.
Messy didn’t arrive when Joseph was born. This family, like all families, experience mess.
However, it’s not always inherited. Sometimes the mess is instigated.
Jacob instigates more mess with the gift. Joseph instigates more mess by tattling on his brothers. Then he adds more fuel to the fire by relaying his dreams.
We also know that Sometimes the mess is instant and Sometimes the mess is intermittent.
But understand what was true for this family is true for our lives today. You may be here and all you feel is mess. Your mess may have been inherited. What happened to your mom or to your dad. Your mess may have been initiated by you. Pride. Poor Decisions. Pornography or profanity. The mess you feel may be overwhelming. You may be hesitant to even show up on a Sunday in case others find out how messy your mess is.
I need you to know that I am so glad that you are here this morning and for this reason. In the midst of the mess, there are three things we need to understand.
The first is this. He was loved by his father. This is no small statement. He was loved and loved deeply by Jacob. You may be here and that is a foreign concept for you. But I need you to understand this…
You are deeply and dearly loved by your Father, your Heavenly Father. His love is high and deep, long and and wide. He loves you intensely. He loves you not if or when. And no matter the mess that you are in, feel, or experience today, you are loved. And as we will see, even when the mess impacts Joseph beyond what he could imagine, one thing never changes for Joseph, his fathers love. And the same is true for us with our Heavenly Father.
Second is that this loved son received a colored coat. Let’s think again about that multi-colored coat. This ornate gift was not crafted at Dillards nor was it delivered by Amazon. Those who made it didn’t have access to sewing machines. Instead this incredible coat would have been weaved together in intricate detail.
Why is that so important to note? Remember where we started this morning. At the end of all that Joseph will go through and come through, he makes this declaration in Genesis 50 and verse 20.
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.
In thinking through this verse here is what I discovered. Joseph twice used a word in speaking to his brothers, that traces its meaning to “weave.”
In essence he was saying, “You wove evil, but God rewove it together for good.”
Would you hear me for a moment. God is the Master Weaver. He stretches the yarn and intertwines the colors, the ragged twine with the velvet strings, the pains with the pleasures. There is nothing that is in your history or in your future that escapes His reach. Every king, weather pattern, and molecule are at His command.
And no matter the mess that you may have been through or are currently experiencing, God loves you and is able to reweave it together for good in your life. How can I be so sure?
Romans 8:28 says this, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Listen, no matter what comes: God can redeem the mess and make into a masterpiece. He loves you and it is meant for our good.
And finally, the dreams of Joseph were not of his own making. But that also means they would not happen in his own timing. God is going to use Joseph in a mighty way. He is going to impact not just people but entire nations. So what is the lesson?
I recently was reminded of a quote by A.W. Tozer. He said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
That is one of the quotes that gets all up in my crawl and messes with me. But I share it for this reason. If the mess you are experiencing seems overwhelming, it just might be that God is using this time in your life to prepare you for what you will experience.
Would you hear me: A single chapter does not make a book. We have looked at single portion of one chapter. While it details a lot, it also is not the complete story. Joseph, like you and like, is a work in progress. He is going to experience a lot. At times the mess will get messier, but His process, like ours, is meant for good. How can I be so sure?
Paul wrote it like this: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
And my encouragement is to see this moment as part of the process. Mess and all. And as you see yourself as a work in process, others are in the same boat. And so we have to make a decision. That we are going to wait so see what God is going to do, fully confident that He means it for good.
In just a moment I am going to pray. And I want to be able to pray with you and pray for you. No matter the mess you have experienced no matter the mess you are experiencing, will you choose to say to the Lord, I will wait to see what you God are going to do. I know that you mean good. Help me to trust.
If you would be encouraged to know someone is praying this for you and over you, I am going to ask you all over this room to come to the front and just let me pray for us. I am standing with you. Mess and all.
Although Life is messy, things are crazy and There is a lot we do not understand. But my hope and and my prayer for you is that you would know you are loved, that God can weave your mess into a masterpiece, and He means for you good. Now trust the plan of God and the timing of God.