Feb 4, 2022

(Genesis 37, Mark 7; Optional Psalm 27:1-6, Proverbs 7:4-5, 10-23)

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Much longer than usual today. Introducing the story of Joseph, which God has powerfully used to sustain me in tough times when I don’t understand what He’s up to. AND giving thoughts on Mark 7 that gives such helpful answers to our world that is SO confused about sexual issues….

GENESIS 37 – Focusing in on the next generation that benefits from the Abrahamic Covenant. The story of Joseph takes up far more words and focus than any other story in Genesis, even Abraham. It’s such a beautiful and powerful reminder of how “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform” (full lyrics to one of my favorite hymns below). What makes Joseph’s story so exciting to READ is what makes it so hard to LIVE. Many would only want to say God “allows” people to sad and sinful events into our lives. But what comforted Joseph when he was being sinned against and things looked hopeless was that an all-good, all-wise and completely sovereign God was working behind the scenes to accomplish HIS good purposes. Here’s his reflection years later, after his story has miraculously turned around. His brothers who sinned awfully against him are terrified, because he now has power of life and death over them. He comforts them with the truth that’s been sustaining him through the dark years: “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.” (Gen 50:20, ESV – what I call the Rom 8:28 of the OT)

Notice God didn’t only ALLOW the evil against Joseph, He had a MEANING and a PURPOSE for it, to save many lives. And don’t miss that it’s GOD’S purpose that won the day ultimately and decisively! In Joseph’s story, we’ll also see powerful pointers to Jesus – the beloved son is horribly and wickedly treated, but through all the darkness and sin God is bringing LIFE and RESCUE in His surprising ways that bring ultimate GLORY to Him and ultimate GOOD to His people!

Gen 37:3-4 – Sinful favoritism toward Joseph. You’d think that Jacob would remember all the pain between him and his twin brother caused by favoritism from HIS parents (Gen 25:27-28). But again, God is working out a beautiful pointer even through this sin and pain to His Beloved Son.

Gen 37:5-11 – It turns out that Joseph WASN’T just a crazy and prideful dreamer – God was giving Joseph a glimpse of the END of his story. And even though for YEARS it looked impossible, God brought every detail to pass! And He graciously has given US (if you belong to Him by trusting in Jesus) many glimpses into the glorious end of OUR story – read Revelation 21 & 22! Yes, sometimes it’s VERY helpful to look to the end of the book…it can sustain you in the VERY dark and painful working out of the story.

BUT…it probably WASN’T too wise or mature to keep SHARING the triumph that really would come. And God IS going to teach Joseph FIRST about being a SERVANT (Gen 39) and also about being more aware of what OTHERS are going through (Gen 40).  But even here, God is using all this to bring about His perfect plan. This is never a reason to be careless with others, but it SHOULD keep us from being paralyzed by our own immaturity and sin. And cause us to keep being amazed at our great God who is always working out His perfect plan, even through all the sin and pain in this fallen world.

Gen 37:10-11 – Jacob didn’t LIKE Joseph repeatedly sharing his dreams (v 10), but he wisely “kept the saying in mind.” Oh, to learn this lesson! Just because we really dislike something does NOT make it false!

Gen 37:18 – Talk about a dysfunctional family! But God is quietly at work, and HIS good purposes will always win in the end!

Gen 37:22, 29-30 – God is sovereign AND we are responsible. So Reuben did the right thing trying to rescue his brother, but God sovereignly over-ruled Reuben because God’s plan (for the next 13 years) is for Joseph to become a slave in Egypt.

Gen 37:25 – More than 20 years later, his brothers still felt guilty and vividly remembered his crying out to them in distress from the pit (see Gen 42:21).

Gen 37:28 – Compare Judas betraying Jesus for a little money.

Gen 37:31-35 – God is still teaching Jacob (who so often tended to use cunning to get his way) the pain of being deceived. Compare how similar to the deception Jacob did to his own father, using his brother’s clothes in Gen 27.

Gen 37:38 – Throughout the storm of all the sin and sorrow in this chapter, God is quietly working His sovereign plan. Here are two songs that have often been used by God (along with the story of Joseph) to sustain me in dark times…

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (by William Cowper in the late 1700s)

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

“Trust His Heart” (by Babbie Mason & Eddie Carswell, copyright 1989. Look up Babbie Mason singing this – so encouraging!)

Verse 1 – All things work for our good
Though sometimes we can’t see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just can’t see Him
Remember you’re never alone

Chorus – God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His heart

Verse 2 – He sees the master plan
He holds the future in His hands
So don’t live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him

Bridge – He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you [chorus]

MARK 7 – Three sections (Mk 7:1-23, 24-30, 31-37) where Jesus gives necessary help, but in surprising ways that don’t LOOK very tender at times. I’m going to go in reverse order and spend most time on the first section, where the Bible spends the most time…

Mk 7:31-37 – A miracle involving Jesus both sighing and spitting! I’m not fully sure what to make of these surprising details, but one clear truth is that He often works in surprising ways, so we shouldn’t get too settled on what WE imagine His rescue plan will look like in our lives!

Mk 7:24-30 – In v 27 Jesus is reminding her that He came first to rescue Jewish people (and she’s Gentile – v 26). But oh how easy it would have been for her to turn away, offended and un-helped. But she wouldn’t be deterred (and of course Jesus knew what the end of this story would be)! She humbly (“Yes, Lord”) but persistently pleads for help and gets it.

Mk 7:1-23 – You may not readily see the necessary help that Jesus gives in this story, but He’s telling us what our REAL and FOUNDATIONAL problem is – our own sin. ALL of us (because we’re all sinners) are part of groups that tend towards putting something that we see as important ahead of what God’s word actually SAYS. It may start with great intentions – I think the Pharisees wanted to put up EXTRA guard-rails, thinking that by extra rules they could protect people from sin. But over time they put more and more emphasis on their own traditions and their own rules and less focus on what God’s word actually said. How ironic, since the Pharisees prided themselves on knowing Scripture! Another vital point is that we ALL are in groups that tend over time to see the big problem is something OTHER than us. But Jesus hammers home that our biggest problem is our own sin (Mk 7:20-23).  

I’m going to spend some extra time here, because one of the sins that Jesus lists as what “defiles” us is “sexual immorality” (v 21). And out world CELEBRATES so much of what the Bible clearly condemns. Jesus doesn’t define “sexual immorality” and too often people want to bring their OWN definition in. I’ve heard people try to dodge the clear teaching of Romans 1:18-27 on homosexuality by saying “Well, JESUS never condemned homosexuality or transgenderism, so the church shouldn’t either.” Or I hear people try to dodge the clear teaching on sexual immorality in the OT by saying “Well, many of the sexual rules are near the food cleanliness laws that most Christians don’t think they have to follow now, so I’m going to ignore the sexual rules also.”

Mark 7:1-23 is my GO-TO SCRIPTURE for understanding two clear truths: 1) Jesus DID fulfill many OT laws about external things, so the food laws, cleanliness codes, sacrificial regulations, etc ARE fulfilled in Christ.  AND… 2) HUGE areas of the moral law from the OT are here clearly affirmed by Jesus, including “sexual immorality,” meaning that He affirms the OT sexual laws. He didn’t need to define “sexual immorality,” because He is depending on and affirming the OT definitions. Those OT definitions of sexual immorality are clearly summed up in one NT verse: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Heb 13:4, ESV – and remember that the only definition of marriage the Bible EVER recognizes is between a biological man and woman). So the clear, unified teaching of Scripture is that God made male and female (Gen 1:26-27). The ONLY sexuality to be righteously expressed is between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage (Gen 2:18-25, Heb 13:4).

A bit more about the food laws from the OT (this is mostly a quote from earlier thoughts on the Matt 15 parallel)…  Some Christians will feel they still need to honor some of these as part of how they glorify God (see Rom 14), but others can rightly live in the freedom Jesus began setting out here (see Mk 7:14-19). Sections like this (and the parallel in Matt 15) and Acts 10-11 prepared the early Jewish believers who had grown up with such clear OT laws about clean foods (and other cleanliness rules) for the teaching that these laws are fulfilled in Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, ALL foods can be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:3-5, Col 2:13-23). HOWEVER, if you have convictions that there are certain foods you’re to avoid to glorify God, you SHOULD avoid those foods for now (Rom 14:14). As you continue to study God’s Word, He may change your thinking in this (Rom 14:5-12). A KEY POINT in this whole section (and in Rom 14, which points out that believers can have differing convictions in areas where NT believers aren’t under clear commands): Make sure you’re not just APPEARING to honor God, but that your HEART is actually with Him (Mark 7:6-7).

Optional Psalm 27:1-6 – I love the strong God-confidence here! In the midst of painful and scary times when evil SEEMS to be winning for a while, we must remember that the END of the story for ALL believers is full and complete deliverance one day, and full and eternal joy and victory (compare Ps 27:4-6 with the end of the whole Bible – Rev 21 & 22)!

Optional Proverbs 7:4-5, 10-23 – The reason Jesus didn’t need to define “sexual immorality” in lists like in Mark 7:21-23 is because He had inspired the OT authors to be incredibly clear that sex outside of a husband and wife in marriage will end in destruction, no matter how enticing it looks for a time. Watch out for false teaching when you hear that someone only wants to follow the “red letters” from the Gospels (some editions of the Bible use red letters for Jesus’ words when He was in the flesh). Remember that Jesus is God in the flesh, so He inspired ALL the Bible (see 2 Tim 3:16).