In the beginning, God planted a garden in the east, in the land of Eden, and this garden was designed to act as God’s earthly temple, the connecting point between earth and heaven, the place where creation could come and worship the Creator.
And so, of course, the garden-temple needed a priest who would lead creation into proper worship. His job was to work the garden and protect it from defilement. So God created a man and called him Adam.
And God gave Adam everything he was going to need to do his job:
First, he made Adam in his own image: in the image of God himself, so that Adam would have the authority to rule over the garden-temple on God’s behalf.
He also gave Adam wisdom, the ability to tell the difference between good and evil, so he would know how to rule, how to work the garden and protect it.
Then he gave Adam a wife, a partner to work alongside him in the task of ruling and protecting and creating new life. And then he said, “Go! Enjoy! It’s all yours!”
But of course we know what happened next: the serpent crept into the garden and struck up a conversation with Adam’s wife while Adam was nearby. And Adam had the wisdom from God to know that the serpent was a creature of the outside wilderness, not a creature of the garden — so he knew that the serpent did not belong there. And Adam had the authority to cast the serpent out or even destroy it: his duty was to protect the garden from outside invasion. But Adam failed to exercise the wisdom and authority God had given him, he failed to protect the garden — or even his own wife — and as a result the garden of God’s presence was closed to him, and he was driven out to survive as best he could in the eastern wilderness.
Adam was tested. And he failed the test.
And the rest of the Book of Genesis has been the story of the consequences of Adam’s failure. But it has also been the story of God’s plan to provide a new Adam, a second Adam — a final Adam — who will somehow break open the gates, destroy the serpent, re-dedicate the garden-temple to God, and lead all of creation back in to enjoy true worship in the presence of our Creator.
And to help us understand what this final Adam is going to look like and what he is going to do, the Book of Genesis has given us a series of Adams, a series of saviours, a series of men that the ancient people of Israel would have called ”messiahs”: men who were specially anointed by God, chosen by God, to lead God’s people back into true life and worship.
The first one was Abel, a shepherd who proved himself to be perfectly faithful in his worship before God — and as a reward for his faithfulness he was promptly murdered by his own brother Cain.
The second one was Enoch, a prophet who proved himself to be perfectly faithful in his preaching against the self-anointed god-kings of his age — and as a reward for his faithfulness he was carried, still living, back into the garden of God’s presence.
Then there was Noah, and after him Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…and with each messiah that came and went we were given more and more detail, more and more insight into what God’s final Adam is going to be like.
But all of these later messiahs had one major problem that the two earliest messiahs did not have: the later messiahs — from Noah onward — did not prove perfectly faithful. They were all tested by God in a variety of ways, just like Adam was. And while they did pass some of the tests, they failed others — sometimes in spectacular fashion.
And this was actually a major problem. Because the single most essential part of the first Adam’s job was to remain perfectly faithful to the task God had given him. He needed to pass every test, not just some of them. Which means that the single most essential part of the final Adam’s job will also be to pass every test and remain perfectly faithful.
We did get two early examples of what this could look like — but God did not let either of those guys finish their lives in the normal way. And so we have been waiting ever since to find out what could have happened if Adam had remained perfectly faithful, or if Abel had not been murdered, or if Enoch had not been carried away into God’s presence.
Well, last week, this problem was finally resolved: Joseph remained perfectly faithful in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. He passed every test. He was proving himself to be the perfect picture of the God’s final Adam, God’s final Messiah. And just as we were really getting our hopes up — !
— he was thrown into prison and forgotten.
Basically, Joseph’s story is just the story of Abel all over again. And that was really troubling for us. Why would God treat his anointed messiahs like this? — especially when they have proven themselves to be perfectly righteous!
But right at the end of last week’s episode, Moses — the writer of Genesis — gave us a hint that Joseph’s story is not over yet. He is effectively dead and buried, as dead as Abel was. But ever after his death, Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground, and God remembered him and gave him justice.
In the same way, Joseph’s cries from the grave are about to be remembered…
And the process begins with a king and a pair of bad dreams.
But this is not just any king: this is the Pharaoh of Egypt, the king of the greatest empire in the world of that time.
And the Pharaoh of Egypt was not just a king, he was not just a man: he was also a god.
So the god-king of Egypt has a pair of freaky dreams about cows and wheat, and he knows at once that these dreams are a spiritual message.
Because, in Egypt at that time, the cow — the water buffalo, actually — was the symbol of Egypt itself. They were sacred animals. And wheat was also a sacred symbol, because it was the backbone of Egypt’s economy, their greatest export for more than 2000 years, right up to the time of the Roman empire.
So what we have here is a sacred man — a god-king — dreaming about sacred symbols.
And so, quite naturally,  in the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
And we already know from last week that dream interpretation was the sacred science of Egypt. Egyptian dream interpreters were famous throughout the world for their wisdom.
But somehow these world-famous dream-interpreters cannot figure out what Pharaoh’s dreams mean.
And for Moses, this is meant to be a bit of a joke, similar to the joke he told back when Rachel sat on her father’s gods and pretended to be having her period: what we have here is a “god” who cannot understand his own dreams, even with the help of the wisest men in the world…
And let’s be honest: that is funny!
Then the cup-bearer from last week’s episode — the one who forgot Joseph — suddenly remembers Joseph. He says, “Oh, I am such an idiot! I met this kid the other year in prison who turned out to be a really accurate dream-interpreter…!”
 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. He is quickly shaved — completely bald, in the Egyptian style — he is quickly dressed in something better than he had in prison, and he is hurried into Pharaoh’s presence.
 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
And Joseph says, “Nope. I don’t know who told you that, but they told you wrongly.”
— [dramatic pause. Sweat suddenly appears all over the cup-bearer’s bald head] —
“…but,” Joseph continues, “God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Just like he did last week, Joseph is very careful to point out that he himself is not the dream-interpreter. And he is very careful to say, “The God — the One God — is the only one who can actually give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Which is a very bold thing for him say to a god sitting on this throne! Most kings — and most gods, I imagine — do not like to be reminded that they are actually small potatoes.
But Pharaoh is desperate. So he ignores the insult and tells Joseph his dream: seven good cows get eaten by seven evil-looking cows, seven good heads of wheat get eaten by seven evil-looking heads of wheat — all very scary stuff, even without the sacred symbolism.
And then Joseph interprets the dreams very easily: there will be seven good years, years of great abundance, followed by seven evil years, years of famine and starvation. And the seven evil years will eat up the seven good years.
And again, all this is terrifically funny to Moses, because even as Joseph interprets the dreams, he continues to insult Pharaoh: he keeps on pointing out that The God has revealed to Pharaoh what he — The God — is about to do. He actually has the nerve to say this twice! — you know, just in case Pharaoh missed it the first time.
And then Joseph goes on to say that, “the reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is because the matter has been firmly decided by The God, and The God will do it soon.”
Joseph is using every bit of eloquence he possesses to tell Pharaoh, “You are not in charge here. There is a judgement coming upon you and upon your people that you are powerless to stop.”
Joseph is acting as a prophet here. He is preaching God’s judgement upon the self-anointed god-king of his age.
But like every good prophet, Joseph does not just preach the bad news, he also goes on to preach the Good News: in verse 33 he offers Pharaoh a way out. The years of famine and judgement are coming for sure — nothing is going to change that! — but there is a way to repent and survive:
Joseph suggests that Pharaoh should reform his government so that it becomes a source of life for the people instead of death. He suggests that, instead of blowing the nation’s wealth on — I don’t know — designer handbags? luxury condos? — Joseph suggests that Pharaoh should find a cabinet minister who will know how to save the nation’s wealth and then re-invest it in the people when times get tough.
And Pharaoh must really, really be desperate! He thinks, “That is a brilliant idea!” So he turns to his court and says, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
And this sentence is completely unique in the entire Book of Genesis: Joseph is the only person in the entire book who is described as having the spirit of God.
Now, Moses is not trying to say that Adam and Noah and Abraham and all those other guys did not have the spirit of God: they did.
But the reason Moses only says this explicitly about Joseph is because he wants us to understand that Joseph is the best of the best out of everyone we have met so far in Genesis.
And the fact that it is a pagan god-king who says it, from his throne in the center of an empire dedicated to false gods…for Moses, that just adds to the joke.
So Joseph is hired as Pharaoh’s prime minister, second only to Pharaoh himself. And as part of the swearing in ceremony,  Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.  He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
In other words, Pharaoh has just made Joseph in his own image, so that Joseph has the authority to rule over Egypt on Pharaoh’s behalf.
And then Pharaoh goes on give Joseph a new name and…a wife: Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
And at this point people often ask a question: why was it okay for Joseph to marry a foreign woman when it was not okay for Judah to marry a foreign woman?
There are two reasons why this was okay for Joseph:
First, this wife was given to him by someone who is in authority over him. He did not reach out himself and take her the way Judah took his wife. So this marriage was an act of submission by Joseph, whereas Judah’s marriage was an act of rebellion.
Second, as is going to become clear over the next few chapters, Joseph does not follow his wife into her false worship, she follows him into true worship. And this is also the opposite of what happened in Judah’s case: instead of leading his foreign wife into true worship, Judah allowed himself to be led away.
So Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife. And then he basically says, “Go! Enjoy! It’s all yours!”
So Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. And  during the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully.  Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it.  Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
And Joseph also starts to build a family:  Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.  Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
And all that is wonderful!
But there is a bit of a shadow here, at the end. Because while these names express Joseph’s gratitude to God…they also express sorrow.
Manasseh means, basically, “Forgetfulness”. And forgetfulness can be good: God is helping Joseph heal from the many years of trauma that he has gone through. But forgetfulness can also be bad: because Joseph is also beginning to forget his father’s household. As the years go by Joseph can feel himself becoming…thoroughly Egyptianized. His family became the central source of betrayal and agony for him — but before that, his family was the source of his earliest identity as a Hebrew, a son of Abraham, a son of The God. Joseph is not losing his faith, but…he is a stranger in a strange land, far away from family and home. And he feels the weight of that.
And then the name Ephraim means, basically, “Fruitfulness.” And again, fruitfulness is good: Joseph is grateful to God for raising him up, back to life. But fruitfulness can also be painful: because Joseph is in exile. In his own words, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Joseph is a stranger blessing a strange land, and that is a wonderful work of God’s grace of course! — but Joseph would also love to bless his family as well…
And we’ll have to come back next week to see how God is going to answer Joseph’s prayers here.
All right. So that was great! After three dark episodes in a row, finally we have arrived at this amazing turn-around!
But what does it mean?
Well, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the theological significance of what has just happened. In fact, what has just happened here is so hugely significant that Moses is going to spend the rest of the Book of Genesis unpacking all the implications. And we are going to be doing that alongside him over the next few weeks.
So…where do we start? That is the question!
Well…we have already noticed that Joseph’s story last week was just the story of Abel all over again: he proved himself righteous and got murdered as a result.
But this week we have found that Joseph’s story is also the story of Enoch. Like Enoch, Joseph turned out to be a prophet who preached God’s judgement against the self-anointed god-kings of his age — and like Enoch, Joseph was rescued from death.
So Joseph is both of those earliest messiahs combined: he is the messiah who died, and he is the messiah who was lifted up from death into life.
But I suspect that many of you have figured out that Joseph’s story is also the story of Adam all over again: Moses began the Book of Genesis with an Adam, and now he is ending the book with an Adam. Except that this second Adam is actually passing all the tests the first Adam failed, and all under much more difficult circumstances:
For instance, the first Adam was given wisdom in a garden, but he failed speak up at very the moment it was most needed. The second Adam earned wisdom through many years of slavery and prison, and he consistently spoke out in the most dangerous of circumstances.
The first Adam was clothed with his Father’s authority right from the beginning, but he failed to use it, and so he brought death to all the nations descended from him. The second Adam was also clothed with his father’s authority from the beginning — but then he was stripped down to nothing — multiple times! — before that authority was finally returned. And when that authority was finally returned, he used it to bring life to the nations.
The first Adam was given a wife who was designed by God to be his other half, but he followed her down into false worship and death; the second Adam was given a wife who was foreign to him, but he led her up into true worship and life.
And that is already amazing! But there is another layer to this as well:
The first Adam was given a huge head-start: he was given a garden-temple within which to do his work. But he allowed the serpent to slither into the very centre, into the very holiest point on earth, and take control.
Now, God immediately reversed that decision of course, and took his garden back. But by consequence, both the serpent and the man were exiled to the wilderness outside. And the serpent promptly went to work corrupting Cain, persuading him to build his own city, his own garden-temple: a counterfeit garden of Eden, a kingdom dedicated to the worship of the serpent — a kingdom dedicated to enslaving or destroying those who remained faithful to the true God.
And for the rest of the Book of Genesis we have been waiting for God to provide that second Adam who will re-open the gates of the true garden and save his children from the serpent.
Well, guess what? That is what has just happened. But it has happened in a totally unexpected way.
See, two episodes ago we realized that the serpent is preparing to use Judah as a Trojan horse to destroy Abraham’s family. At this point in the book, while Joseph is becoming the Prime Minister of Egypt, Judah is over there in Canaan sleeping with shrine prostitutes and making his own daughter-in-law pregnant. So at this point in the story Judah has been thoroughly enslaved by the serpent, enslaved by secrets and the fear of exposure. If the serpent can put his man Judah into place as the head of Abraham’s family after Jacob dies — then he will win the war against God. His plan is to slither his way right into the centre of God’s family, just as he did with the garden in the beginning, and destroy it from the inside out.
In the meantime, however, while the serpent was preoccupied with getting his secret agent in place over there in Canaan, God has just dropped his second Adam right into the very centre of the serpent’s kingdom…and transformed it from the inside out!
I’d better explain:
When Joseph walked into Pharaoh’s presence, he would have noticed at once that he was standing in the presence of a god-king who was seated in the centre of a temple that was built in the centre of a garden: because ancient temples were always surrounded by sacred gardens, which were designed to provide food and animals for sacrifice in that temple.
And when Joseph looked at Pharaoh, he would have seen that Pharaoh is wearing a golden crown that has a serpent rising up out of the centre of the king’s forehead — rising up out of the king’s “Third Eye”. Egyptians believed that serpents — with their cold, expressionless gaze — were the wisest and cleverest of all the animals, that they had access to the secrets of the earth and of the gods. So by wearing a golden serpent on his forehead, the Pharaoh is declaring that his spiritual vision comes through the eyes of the serpent, together with all its wisdom and all its access to the secrets of heaven and earth.
In other words, Joseph would have realized at once that he was standing right in the very centre of the serpent’s kingdom, at the very centre of the serpent’s counterfeit garden-temple.
So he preached. He preached the coming judgement. And then he preached the hope that comes from repentance.
…and Pharaoh actually repented. He sat in the centre of the serpent’s kingdom and he acknowledged, with his own mouth, that Joseph was truly God’s anointed, filled with the spirit of God.
That is the incredible joke, the incredible joy at the centre of all this: while the serpent was busy corrupting the next ruler over Abraham’s household, God was busy redeeming the current ruler of the serpent’s household.
And so, in a moment, with a word, the serpent’s counterfeit garden became the true garden of God’s presence, and the gates have been thrown open to all mankind. An empire that was centered around false worship, slavery and death has been transformed into the centre of life for the whole world.
And as I have already said, the implications of this are so huge that we are going to spend the rest of the Book of Genesis figuring it all out.
For today, though, we are going to pause and notice that this episode answers one very bothersome question — a question that everyone always asks after they read the story of how the first Adam screwed up: what would have happened if Adam had not screwed up? What if Adam had actually passed all his tests? What if Adam had passed his probation period and proven himself faithful? What would have happened? What would the world look like now?
And over the years people have offered all kinds of crazy guesses.
But what is funny about all that is this: we don’t actually have to guess!
This episode tells us exactly what would have happened:
Just like Joseph, if Adam had used his wisdom to recognize the serpent as evil, if he had used his authority to command the serpent to submit to God or be destroyed, then — having proven that he could be faithful in his care of the garden — God would have taken off that first robe authority over the garden, and would have given Adam an even greater robe of authority over the whole earth, over all creation. And so, just as Joseph traveled throughout Egypt, storing up all the abundance of the land, Adam also would have traveled throughout the entire earth, pushing the walls of the garden outward in every direction, preaching the wisdom of God to all creation, transforming the wilderness into a paradise, bringing order out of disorder, filling the world with food, abundance, and the knowledge of God…!
That is amazing!
But now we want to know: what is this supposed to mean for us!
And to answer that question, really we need to ask what this was supposed to mean to Moses’ people, the ancient people of Israel. What were they supposed to do in response to this?
Well, the first thing Moses would want them to do is this: have hope! Have courage!
Remember, Moses’ people were a nation of slaves. They knew from personal experience that Egypt is the kingdom of the serpent, but they also knew from personal experience that their God was great enough to defeat that kingdom. And now they are standing on the banks of the Jordan River, looking across into another land that is also ruled by the serpent. So they need to be reminded again and again that their God has the power to conquer every earthly kingdom, every counterfeit garden, every false system of worship.
But Moses also wants his people to understand that while God has the power to pass judgement on his enemies, he also has the power to redeem them.
Now this idea that God can redeem his enemies is not completely new. At various points in the Book of Genesis Moses has shown how God’s messiahs have made covenants with the people around them, which allowed God’s blessings to spill over into those surrounding nations. And this was designed to teach us how, one day, all nations on earth will be blessed through the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan.
But, here, for the first time, Moses has introduced a new element to this concept: here, for the first time, God has sent a messiah from the promised land of Canaan to a foreign land, and that messiah has redeemed that foreign land, transforming it into another source of God’s life and blessing.
And this new element was totally unexpected for the people of Israel. So far, as they have understood the plan of God, their land is supposed to become the centre of the world, the source of all life and salvation. The land of Israel is supposed to become like the new garden-temple of Eden, and all the nations of the world are supposed to come streaming into the land of Israel to receive the blessings of God.
And they are right about that! But that was only Phase 1 of God’s plan.
Moses is now introducing them to Phase 2.
See, the garden of Eden was never meant to be just a static concept: after Adam proved himself faithful to administer God’s blessings within the garden, he was going to be given the authority to administer God’s blessings over all the earth.
In the same way, the land of Israel was never meant to be just a static concept, a single localized holy place where people from distant lands would have to come if they wanted to receive God’s blessings. That was only Phase 1. But once God’s second Adam proved himself faithful to administer God’s blessings within the land of Israel, then he would be given the authority to start Phase 2 and repeat the process in every land on earth.
In Phase 2 of God’s plan, there will be a great decentralization of God’s people and God’s blessings. In Phase 1, only one small centralized point on earth is holy to God; in Phase 2, the whole earth will be made holy to the Lord. In Phase 1, the people of Israel are the source of life and salvation for the people of other nations; in Phase 2, the people of other nations will also become sources of life and salvation for people from other nations…including salvation for the people of Israel.
— but there, again! I’m getting ahead of myself. Moses is going to unpack those implications for us over the next few weeks.
All this was not just meant to be “interesting information” for the people of Israel. Over the last few weeks we have realized that, through the details of Joseph’s life, Moses is giving his people a clear picture of what God’s final Messiah and King is going to look like when he arrives, so that they can recognize him and submit to his rule.
So far they have learned that the Messiah is going to prove himself to be perfectly faithful, perfectly righteous, and that despite this — or, actually, because of this! — his own brothers are going to betray him and murder him, just like what happened to Abel.
Today they have learned that the Messiah is also going to redeemed from death, just as Enoch was. He is going to be raised up, ushered into the throne room at the centre of all reality. He is going to be clothed in the robes of kingship, given the authority to redeem all of creation, the wisdom to draw life from the earth and then give it back again. He is going to be given a wife, a bride, a partner who will work alongside him in the task of ruling and protecting and producing new life.
And then he is going to kick off Phase 2 of God’s plan, in which every nation of people on earth will become centers of salvation and blessing…
And so now it is time for us to ask: what is this supposed to mean to us now, today?
Well, if you have been with us for a while then you already know that we are deep into Phase 2 of God’s plan. Moses’ people did grow up to become the central source of God’s blessing in Phase 1: they were like a seed planted in the land of Canaan, a seed that grew up and blossomed, and produced the promised Messiah: the man Jesus of Nazareth.
Like Joseph, this Jesus grew in wisdom through what he experienced. The New Testament tells us that he learned obedience from what he suffered. Like Joseph, Jesus was betrayed by his brothers, killed, and buried. Like Joseph, he was raised back up to life, ushered into his Father’s throne room, robed with glory and honour, and given the authority to turn every nation of people into centers of God’s blessing and salvation.
And just like Joseph, Jesus was given a bride to partner with him in the task of bringing life to the earth. And that is where we come into this story: we are that bride. As members of the Church in this age we are the foreign wife that was given to God’s Messiah. Like Joseph’s wife, our ancestral nations were the daughters of pagan priests, raised up and trained to act as priestesses in the kingdoms of the serpent. But our Heavenly Father, in his mercy, redeemed us from our slavery to the serpent and gave us in marriage to his Son.
So what does this mean? What are we supposed to do as Christ’s bride?
Well, we are supposed to do what ancient Israel was supposed to do. In the Old Testament, God called the nation of Israel his bride, his wife. And her job as a nation was to help him fill the earth with life and blessing. And she succeeded! Through Jesus, that single centralized seed of salvation has produced countless seeds that have now taken root in almost every nation on earth. In Phase 1 there was only one temple, only one connecting point between earth and heaven where creation could come and worship the Creator. Now, in Phase 2, there is still only one temple, one bride, but she is expressed in countless points of light and life and language…
And that is what we are supposed to do. As one small local expression of Christ’s bride, we are supposed to continue to work in faithful partnership alongside our Lord to bring life into the world around us. This is why we exist as a worshiping community!
But how? Every week we try to figure out how all these things can be applied to our daily lives in practical ways. So how are we supposed to do this, today, in the midst of a modern world that is still clearly dominated by the serpent’s kingdom in many ways? What is Phase 2 supposed to look like on the streets of Kuala Lumpur?
And, again, it is hard to keep from running ahead here, because the rest of the Book of Genesis really is Moses’ detailed description of what Phase 2 is supposed to look like!
So, for the moment, let’s just focus on this one aspect of Phase 2:
Last week we were wrestling with the realization that in the serpent’s kingdom power is something we are supposed to reach out and take for ourselves, whereas in God’s kingdom power is something we are supposed to give away. And we talked about how easy it is for us as Christians to get caught up in that serpentine philosophy, believing that if we had more power then we would be more effective at blessing the nations — even though the bible clearly tells us that true discipleship consists of taking up our cross, embracing powerlessness, and following our Lord down into the valley of the shadow of death.
And then we realized that the only way we can have the courage to follow our Saviour down into the pit is because we have been promised that we will also be raised up with him on the other side.
This week was all about how our Saviour has been raised up, and how we have been raised up with him and married to him: we live in Phase 2, we live on this side of the resurrection, we have been resurrected with Christ in a very real way.
Now: what does this mean, in real life?
Does this mean that, since our Lord has been robed with all power and all authority over all the nations of the earth, it is now our job to seize positions of power and influence in our nations, just like Joseph did in Egypt?
Well, some segments of modern Christianity have decided that this is exactly what we are called to do.
But they are overlooking something: Joseph did not seize power and influence in Egypt. It was given to him. And — this is important — it was given to him only after his character had been thoroughly tested, and only after he had preached God’s judgement upon those who later entrusted him with power.
All too often, in our modern churches, we have this idea that if we ”play nice” with the world, then the world will like us and promote us into higher positions where we will really have the power to do some good. We totally overlook the fact that the very process of seeking promotion is a corrupting process, so that when we do finally ”arrive” we are too compromised to do any real good.
Joseph never sought promotion. His only version of “playing nice” was to work, to serve faithfully where the Lord had placed him. At every turning point he told the truth, and trusted God with the decision of whether he would be lifted up or lowered down. The first time he told the truth, he was sent to prison. The second time he told the truth, he was forgotten there. The third time he told the truth, he was lifted up to the highest position in the land.
So: what is it supposed to look like for us to live as the resurrected Bride of Christ in modern Kuala Lumpur? What is the best way for us to help our Lord bring life and salvation and blessing into the nation of Malaysia? Are we supposed to be seeking out positions of power and influence in our society?
No. This is how the Apostle Paul describes it, very simply and practically, in the New Testament: Make it your ambition to (1) lead a quiet life, (2) to mind your own business, and (3) to work with your hands…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.
Friends, we do not win the respect of outsiders by “playing nice” and seeking promotion — but by working hard and minding our own business. We do not bring life and blessing into the world by working our way up into positions of power — but by telling the truth from where we are.
And the truth is this: there is a judgement coming. And there is only one hope of salvation: that we look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of everything! Without him — without Jesus Christ on the throne — we perish.
Now, if the rulers and influencers of our societies still want to promote some of us into positions of power even after we have told them these difficult truths, then: great! Go for it. If you ever find yourself before the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and you tell him that he actually has no power and that he is going to fall under God’s judgement unless he submits to Jesus Christ, and then he says, “That sounds wonderful! Please, join my cabinet, bring life to my nation!”…then you should accept his offer! Because that is an honest promotion.
But in the meantime, brothers and sisters, while we wait for that golden opportunity to preach to the self-anointed god-kings of our age…let us obey Paul’s commands, let us follow Joseph’s example: let us live our daily lives in such a quiet and humble and hardworking fashion that we win the respect of outsiders. We work, we make money, we feed our families, we serve the poor, we tell the truth when we are called upon…and so, we bless the nations.
Isn’t that wonderful?