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When God Turns Evil to Good (2010)
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Series: Joseph: Making Life Out of Lemons (Week 3 of 3)
Dr. Woodrow Kroll
February 26, 2010

Woodrow Kroll: Making life out of lemons.

Tami Weissert: That's what God did for Joseph.

Woodrow Kroll: Yes, and so I think God wants us to do the same today, but we need to take little more careful look at how that works. Hi, I'm Woodrow Kroll.

Tami Weissert: I'm Tami Weissert.

Woodrow Kroll: And this is Back to the Bible.

Tami Weissert: Making life out of lemons. Now, Wood you have so many great life stories, so how about an example from your life about making life out of lemons.

Woodrow Kroll: Well, Tami I have no complaints. The Lord has been extremely good to me and to my family. But I've made enough lemonade over the course of the years, I could have a franchise of a lemonade stand. I remember growing as up as a kid with a distinctive "Pittsburg-ese" accent. I grew up just north of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. So when I went off to college the guys in my dorm made fun of the way I spoke.

Well I decided I wasn't going to let them do that so I over emphasized everything I said. I spoke carefully. I enunciated everything to the extreme. Well now that I speak everyday on the radio, one of the things people often say to me is how much they appreciate how clearly I enunciate everything. That, Tami that's my lemonade.

Tami Weissert: Well, you know, what it seems like the longer that we live, if we're living rightly then, we should be able to tell those types of stories ourselves, right?

Woodrow Kroll: That's good, because it shows God's ability to take the lemons, all the bad things that happen to us, and turn those situations into good things.

Tami Weissert: And now that is a scene that is played out over and over in Joseph's life

Woodrow Kroll: Yeah, and today we're going to hear in his own words, we're going to hear him say that very thing when he tells his brothers, "But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."

Tami Weissert: All right, let's find out more about making life out of lemons. We're in Genesis 49 today. Here's our study.

Woodrow Kroll: In the first 27 verses of chapter 49 there is recorded Jacob's dying blessing on his sons. Let me just summarize that blessing for each of the sons. The first two verses read, "And Jacob called his sons and said, "Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall in the last days. Gather together in here you sons of Jacob and listen to Israel your Father."

Well that's what Jacob wanted them to do. Let's do the same thing. Let's hear what the Father had to say to each of these sons. The firstborn was Reuben, verses 3 and 4. Now Reuben forfeited by sleeping with Bilhah, his father's concubine. He forfeited the rights and the honors of being the firstborn.

So in verse 4 Jacob predicts that Reuben is unstable as water, and says, "You shall not excel." Basically, he means that his posterity will make no mark on future history. You know he's absolutely right, Jacob's prediction came true. No judge. No prophet. No [inaudible] ever came from Reuben's tribe. That's Reuben, the firstborn.

And then verses 5 through 7 Simeon and Levi are brothers. Now, they are brothers, of course, there are 12 brothers here, but these brothers were associated in wickedness. And Jacob's prediction applies equally to both tribes. Remember it was Simeon and Levi who killed Shechem, after he raped their sister. And at that point, chapter 34 of Genesis, Jacob said, "You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land."

Well Levi had cities allotted to them by Joshua in every tribe. And the tribe of Simeon, well it was guilty of the grossest idolatry. It was ignominiously scattered throughout the land, so both tribes are scattered, therefore they were left without a power base. They were left without any place of unity. Exactly what Jacob said would be the case.

Verses 8 to 12, talk about Judah and the fact that his brothers will praise him. Now Judah not only had the honor of lending his name to the Promised Land, but this tribe gave Israel some if its greatest heroes, including King David, and one even greater than David, the Messiah Himself. Growing from just a lion's whelp, that is from a very, very little power, Judah became an old lion, that is he became calm and quiet, and formidable as a foe in Israel. Judah would be praised by his brothers because of the contribution that Judah made to the life of the Jews

And verse 13 talks about Zebulun who's a dweller by the sea. Zebulun's lot placed it on the seacoast, very closed to Zidon . And consequently, these people are going to be great sailors, and they're going to be great traders, and that's exactly what they were. Exactly what Jacob predicted they would be.

And then verses 14 and 15, Issachar. It says Issachar will be a strong donkey, and I'm not sure that's very great compliment. But what it means is this tribe would be active farmers. Issachar was given the lower Galilee. It's a good land. It's probably the best and most fertile land in the whole of the country. But being farmers in the midst of the Canaanites would come with a price. They often had to bow their shoulder to bear and to become a servant under tribute. They, in other words, would pay tribute to the neighboring warring tribes just to have enough peace and quiet to go about their lives as farmers. A strong donkey.

Dan is said to the be the people's judge. A very good prediction, verses 16, 17, and 18. Although he was the son of a secondary wife, Dan would become very important as one of tribes of Israel. In fact, the word Dan means "a judge." He was to be a viper implying subtly. You can see that in the case Samson who was a Danite, by the way. So Dan becomes the judge of the people.

Verse 19 he says, "Gad is a troop. Well that's a pretty strange prediction. Gad was tribe that would generally be victorious, but would often be attacked and menaced by the people on its borders. It needed to be a powerful troop in order to ward them off, and that exactly what father Jacob predicts Gad will be.

His predictions continue in verse 20, Asher would be rich. Now Asher's lot was to put it on the seacoast between Mount Carmel and the northern city of Tyre. This also was a very fertile district. It's where the finest grain and the greatest oil in all of Palestine was produced. So Asher is going to be rich. They're going to be in a rich part of the land and the people will be rich as a result.

And then verse 21. A deer on the loose, Naphtali. Naphtali's name means "wrestling," which reflects the struggle between Rachel and Leah. They struggled for Jacob's love. They struggled as sisters for his attention. Well the tribe Naphtali would be located in a territory that was fertile and peaceable, peaceable so much that the deer could roam there and be prolific. Naphtali would be prosperous. It was be a deer on the loose.

Joseph's predictions come in verses 22 through 26. And Jacob says that Joseph will be a fruitful bough. Now Jacob describes Joseph as one who is given to envy, and one who is given to revenge. But by the grace of God, he would triumph over all these things, and overall his opposition. Jacob would shower blessings of every kind upon the head of favorite son. And the history of tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh--well it shows us that exactly what Jacob predicted would be the case, in fact, was the case.

And finally, the end of chapter 49, verse 27. Benjamin would be a ravenous wolf. Now that's a bit strange, but in the early history Benjamin engaged in petty warfare, especially when it almost exterminated. Well every time Jacob proved that he was just a stellar prophet. He saw the sons for what they would be. God gave him insight into how these tribes would manage when they settled into the land.

Now that brings us to the end of chapter 49. Jacob has now made all his predictions. Now he's going to instruct the boys in his burial desires.

Now I think it's a good idea for you and me to make plans before the day comes when we die, for what should happen to us when die. Just makes good sense. Linda and I have done that not only in our estate plan to make sure that our children are cared for, and to make sure that God is remembered in our estate plan. I don't want to cheat God out what he's given me during the course of my life. I want to make sure I remember God in my estate plan . But more than we even have our memorial service planned. I know exactly who I want to deliver eulogies and what songs I want to be sung, and who I want to give a Gospel message to tell the world that while the body is here the soul is gone and it's in a much better place.

Well Jacob is doing that. He's instructing his sons on his burial desires. Look at verse 29, he says, "Bury me with my fathers in the cave of Ephron, the Hittite. That's according to verse 30, the cave of Machpelah, the same cave that Abraham bought to bury his wife in. In fact, verse 31 says buried in that cave are Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah, and oh by the way, Jacob's wife Leah also is buried in that cave.

And then the last verse of this chapter, very, very interesting way to talk about his death. It says, "And when Jacob had finished commanded his sons he drew feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people." Drew his feet up into the bed. Sounds a little like assuming the fetal position, the same way we came into this world we go out friends and we carry nothing with us. All we do is leave behind everything we've had or send it on ahead in the work that God has done through us.

Now frankly, I don't want to leave a whole lot behind, but I do want to send a lot ahead. And I think that's Jacob's desire as well.

Tami Weissert: So Wood give us an example of what you just talked about.

Woodrow Kroll: You mean sending our material blessings on ahead?

Tami Weissert: Yes. You just said send it on ahead, and I know that's something that's really important to both you and Linda, your wife.

Woodrow Kroll: Well, it really is. You know, we've always believed that as parents and as followers of the Lord Jesus, we have two responsibilities when it comes to what we leave behind. Number one, as parents, I think it's my biblical responsibility to care for my children in my estate planning. That's certainly, what Jacob was doing with his right here in our passage today. We've done that with our family, but we also are followers of the Lord Jesus, and I believe that we have a responsibility to give back to him in our death just as we do in our life.

So in our case we've decided to treat the ministry, Back to the Bible, other ministries we believe in. We've decided to treat the ministry as a child. In our estate plan, 20% of whatever we leave behind goes to each of our four children and 20% goes to the ministry. So everybody handles this differently. I think this is a very private decision. It's something you all have to decide for yourself. I'm just telling you what we've done as a family.

Tami Weissert: You know there are some things that just go better with a partner.

Various voices: Things like going to the movies, exercising, preparing a meal, dieting.

Tami Weissert: Having that partner gives you instant accountability and it's just more fun. Well reading the Bible is fun too, especially with Powered by 4. Now Powered by 4, is an online ministry that walks with you as a we read the Bible together.

Hi, this is Tami Weissert from Back to the Bible. Join me and over 7,000 friends at Powered by 4 for daily Scripture readings and online discussion. It's a fun way to learn and grow in your relationship with God. So sign up to receive daily Scripture readings and application questions. Hey, the come right to your email, and you'll also get the opportunity to talk about the readings with me and other Powered by 4 members. So come on take that first step. Sign up at poweredby4.org. That's poweredby4.org.

OK well as we continue our study we know that Jacob prepared ahead of time for his burial and for the future of his sons. So let's see how Joseph and his brothers deal with the promises they made to their father and with the blessings he gave them.

Woodrow Kroll: Jacob is now dead. In chapter 50, the last chapter of Genesis tells us about Joseph expressing Jacob's desires to the brothers. Listen to this, chapter 50, verse 1.

"Then Joseph fell on his father's face, wept over him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Forty days were required for him, for such are the days required for those who are embalmed and the Egyptians mourned him seventy days. And when the days of his mourning were passed, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh saying, "If now I have found favor in your eyes please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh saying, my Father made me swear saying, behold I am dying in my grave, which I dug for myself in the land of Cannan there you shall bury me. Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father and I will come back."

Now you can't help but be impressed folks in the way that Joseph handles all this. Joseph embalms Jacob. It was the Egyptian fashion to do so. Remember, Hebrews did not embalm, they anointed. The Egyptians embalmed bodies to keep them for generations.

Joseph then asks Pharaoh for permission to bury his father, and Pharaoh agrees according to verse 6. Pharaoh said, "Go up and bury your father as he made you swear." So Joseph and the brothers carry Jacob's body back to the Promised Land, verses 7, 8 and 9. There's a seven-day mourning session that goes on in verse 10, and then finally according to verse 13 they bury Jacob in the Cave of Machpelah. So now Abraham is there and Sarah is there, Rebecca is there and so is Isaac, and now Jacob is there with his wife Leah.

This would be a good place to end the story wouldn't it? Except it doesn't end there, verse 14 says, "And after he had had buried his father Joseph returned to Egypt [Now he promised Pharaoh he would do that], he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father. When Joseph's brother saw that their father was dead, they said, 'Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and make actually repay us for all the evil that we did to him.' So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, 'Before your father died he commanded, saying, "Thus you shall say to Joseph, "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you."' Now please forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.' And Joseph wept when they spoke to him."

Interesting isn't it how the sons are still angling for leniency when Joseph's brother saw that their father was dead. Now that doesn't mean that they only now discovered that he was dead. They obviously carried his body back to the Promised Land. But no sooner had they gotten back to Egypt then they were worried about their own hide.

Now I want you to see what's missing in this passage friends, this is an important thing for us today. What's missing is there is no reference to remorse on their part. There is no reference to repentance on their part. They are still concerned about themselves. So they concoct this story that their father privately told them that they are to go to Joseph and Joseph is to forgive them of the evil they did to him.

Now this is a family that has had its trouble telling the truth. I mean we've seen that ever since Genesis 12. Yet they're still God's family. Their only concern was that Joseph not hurt them. So the brothers gravel before Joseph and Joseph weeps before them. Look at verse 18. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face and they said, "Behold we are your servants."

Now again, this is not an admission of guilt. This is not a display of remorse. This is not repentance. This is just a way for them to keep Joseph from killing them. But what I want us to learn from this passage today is in verse 19 and following.

"Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." Joseph was deeply affected by his brothers. He gave them the strongest assurances he could of his forgiveness and he displayed a very beautiful trait, his willingness to release a debt owed to him without requiring that the debt be paid.

Now if there were nothing else I this whole story of Joseph that would make him the eminent type of Christ in the Old Testament this would do it, friends. The willingness to release a debt that you and I cannot pay. He paid it for us. That's why I've said all along that Joseph is a finger pointing toward the Lord Jesus.

Joseph shows us what forgiveness is all about. Forgiveness is not making people gravel before us. Forgiveness is not beating out of them a confession of their sin. Forgiveness is releasing them of the debt of their guilt and going about our business.

Now Jesus did that for you and me. If he did it for me, shouldn't I be able to do it for you?

What these brothers meant as evil God turned into something very good. Well the last few verses showed Joseph living to be 110. He saw three generations from his children. He does some predicting of his own in verse 24. He says, "I'm dying, but God surely visit you, bring you out of the land to the land which he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob." You know what? God did exactly what Joseph said he would do. Joseph secures an oath from them in verse 25, "God will surely visit you and you shall carry my bones from here."

Hey, listen. The next to the last verse of the Book of Joshua says, "The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried in Shechem. They honored Joseph's wish.

The whole life of Joseph has been a wonderful story about God's unique ability to turn what is evil into making it good. Donald Gray Barnhouse used to say, "It's our business to see that we do right. It's God's business to see that it come out right." And all along the line Joseph did what was right. He did what was right in the case of Potiphar and Potiphar's wife. He did what was right in the case of the baker and the butler. He did what was right in the case of his brothers. When you do what is right, God make sure it comes out right.

Joseph's story is the story of making a life out of lemons. And you know what friends? You can do exactly the same thing because you have the same God.

If you do what is right, God will make sure that in the end everything in your life turns out exactly the way He wants. Take your life today and make a life out of the lemons that are handed you, because God will enable you to do it, and only God can.

Tami Weissert: Joseph's life totally reflects the fact that God turn even the worst situations and circumstances into something good. And what that's a reality we can count on, but there's another reality. We don't always get to see that happen.

Woodrow Kroll: Yeah, that's true. We are not in control of God's timetable. In fact, Tami we may never see it happen in our lives.

Tami Weissert: So if we're not seeing good in the here and now, how do we cope with that?

Woodrow Kroll: You know what? I think this is where we prove what we believe. If we believe that God is in control and that he's ultimately going to turn these bad things, things that have happened to us, into good things, then I think that we prove that we believe that by not getting antsy when we don't see it happening.

Tami Weissert: Hmm. Yeah.

Woodrow Kroll: It's all a matter of God's character, how much we trust Him. If we trust Him the way we say we do, then we don't ever need to see Him working all things together for our good. Remember, Hebrews 11 defines faith as the evidence of things not seen. So if we really trust God, I don't think we need to see things happening. I think His promise should be enough for us.

Tami Weissert: Well what do you say to someone that has had bad situation after bad situation just kind of come down the pike and yet their diligent in following the Lord and they're just down and out today?

Woodrow Kroll: Yeah, and I've seen people react two different ways to that. There have been those who have just given up. They said, "Well look it doesn't work." And there've been others who've said, "You know what? I don't understand, but it doesn't change who God is."

Tami Weissert: You're listening to Dr. Kroll's series on the life of Joseph here on Back to the Bible.

Hi, this is Tami. So what do you think of this man named Joseph? He was pretty amazing. But when you look at our lives in the light of God's grace and faithfulness, well, they are pretty amazing too, aren't they? That's why I love this series so much--so much that I've listened to it multiple times.

You can do the same when you order the Joseph series on CD. It's a 15-part study series. And it's available as a great addition to your CD library. And right now, we're also including Dr. Kroll's booklet, Jesus Cares, with each Joseph CD series. Again, when you order the full, three-week, 15-part Joseph CD series, we're also including Jesus Cares as a special bonus.

So give us a call. Our number is 1-800-759-2425.

Woodrow Kroll: Well, Tami we've just concluded our three-week rather in depth study on the life of Joseph.

Tami Weissert: Yeah, it was a really good one by the way, and I feel like I've really gotten to know Joseph through this. I'm kind of going to miss him.

Woodrow Kroll: I think we're all going to miss him.

Tami Weissert: We are. But next week we start something new. Tell us.

Woodrow Kroll: Well the title of our study next week is Being a Christian Is Like Buying a Car.

Tami Weissert: What?

Woodrow Kroll: I can see you're intrigued. Actually, we're going to begin a two-week series on the Book of Ephesians and my point in this is that when you get salvation. When Jesus Christ becomes your personal Savior along with that comes a lot of options that are just standard. Salvation not only brings to you life eternal, it brings a lot of other things to you, so being a Christian is like buying a car, all those options, all standard in your salvation. I think you're going to find this a very interesting series that begins on Monday.

Now the weekend is here and I know you're going to want to be in your local church this weekend supporting your church and your pastor, but join us on Monday as we go car buying. Being a Christian Is Like Buying a Car.

Thanks a bunch for being here today. God bless you. I'm Woodrow Kroll. Have a good and godly day.

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