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From Prison to Prominence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 16, 2024 12:01 am

From Prison to Prominence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 16, 2024 12:01 am

Through the many difficulties of Joseph's life, God was developing the gifts he would need to save Egypt from a national emergency. Today, R.C. Sproul considers what we can learn from God's providence and Joseph's wise stewardship.

Get R.C. Sproul's New Hardcover Book 'Joseph: From Dreamer to Deliverer' and Teaching Series 'The Life of Joseph' for Your Gift of Any Amount:

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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JOSEPH got in trouble because he said to his brothers when he was a boy and had had this dream that the time would come when he would be exalted over them. And now Pharaoh said, I am going to appoint you over everybody in my kingdom except me. Now, who does that include?

The butler who forgot him, Potiphar who put him in prison, Potiphar's wife whose lies put him in prison in the first place. The story of Joseph is filled with drama, surprises and irony. It has encouraged Christians for millennia and is filled with lessons for you and me. So we're taking time this week to pause and freshly walk through a story that may have become familiar for some of us.

This is the Tuesday edition of Renewing Your Mind and I'm so glad that you're joining us today. Joseph has been sold by his brothers, lied about and put in prison as a result and then forgotten about when he thought that he might have an opportunity for release. But God had not forgotten Joseph and as we were reminded yesterday, God is the God of Providence and he is never late even when he calls us to wait.

This series is 20 messages and we're only featuring five this week, so don't forget to visit if you'd like to learn how to get the entire series and R.C. Sproul's new book on Joseph. Well, here's Dr. Sproul as we see how God took Joseph from prison and raised him to prominence. We continue now with our study of the life of Joseph. In our last session, we saw how that after two years, the butler finally remembered Joseph when he realized that Pharaoh had been so profoundly distressed by this dream that he had. And so after 13 years of trial and tribulation, Joseph is about to be vindicated.

We pick up the story in chapter 41, beginning at verse 14. Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon. Maybe that day they brought him quickly out of the dungeon, but it wasn't quick enough to satisfy Joseph.

He'd been there about three years. And he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. Interesting that that little detail is added there, that Joseph was given a new set of clothes because the clothes that he'd worn in prison were not fitting to appear before the Pharaoh.

And it was the custom of the Egyptian men at this period in history to be clean shaven. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I've had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it, but I've heard it said of you that you can understand a dream to interpret it. And so Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, it is not in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace. Now, the first thing that Joseph does here is expresses a statement of profound humility. Here, Pharaoh himself is talking to Joseph, who has been dragged out of prison. He's in exile.

He's nothing in this land. And Pharaoh is at his wits' end, and Pharaoh is saying, I've heard that you can interpret dreams, and nobody can interpret mine. Please help me. I mean, what a time for Joseph to stand up there, let his chest swell out a little bit, and say, don't worry about it in another minute, Pharaoh. I'll interpret it for you.

I can handle this. Joseph said, it's not me. It is not in me to interpret your dream. Only God can interpret your dream. And here is Joseph bearing witness to Pharaoh of the character of his God, and at the same time saying, I'll give you the answer. God will interpret this dream to give Pharaoh peace. And so Pharaoh said to Joseph, behold, in my dream I sit on the bank of the river. And now for the sake of time, I'm just going to skip over this part of the text because all that we have here is the Pharaoh's recounting of the dream as we've already read it.

And he speaks of the devouring of the fat cows by the skinny ones and the good grain by the bad grain. And in verse 25 we read this, Joseph said to Pharaoh, the dreams of Pharaoh are one. Now that's something that obviously the other interpreters had missed. Pharaoh, this really isn't two dreams. It's one dream.

It's the same message given in two different forms. Joseph recognizing God's handiwork of confirming the truth by repetition, and he says there's a unified message in both of these dreams. The dreams of Pharaoh are one. God has shown Pharaoh what he, that is what God, is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years.

The dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Indeed, seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them seven years of famine will arise, and so all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will deplete the land so that the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following it, for it will be very severe. And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

And so Joseph interprets the dream. The cows and the wheat are all about what is about to unfold in the nation of Egypt, seven years of plenty followed by seven years of great distress and famine. Now think about what famine can do to a nation. Think of Ethiopia whose whole economy for the people of the land was found in cattle. They had no agriculture.

They lived from their cattle. And a cattle disease, a severe blight came and completely decimated the herds. And as a result, people in Ethiopia were dying by the millions in our own day. Bangladesh, other places in this world where the famine comes and the crops are destroyed. Now in those days, they didn't have relief agencies from wealthy nations to transport goods and perishable food with airplanes and trucks and all of that. So in that agricultural society when a famine came, not for one year but seven years, it would be worse than the bubonic plague.

Life itself would be threatened in the land. Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this and let him appoint officers over the land to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming and store up great under the authority of Pharaoh and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt that the land may not perish during the famine. So Joseph gives the Word of God to the strongest politician on the globe and said, it's time right now to introduce emergency measures of saving for the future. And he said, what you need to do, Pharaoh, in each of the seven years of plenty, we have to impose a special tax, as it were. This is not the ordinary tax. This is a crisis tax of 20 percent. Twenty percent of everything that has grown in this period is to be set aside in store cities as a reserve to have us able to meet the crisis of the famine when it comes.

And you need to appoint somebody who's an able administrator, and I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that Joseph was suddenly suggesting himself here. He just simply, this has to be done with no political machinations, no political chicanery, with the well-being, the real well-being of the people in view. In reading about this text, I was amazed at the level of taxation in ancient lands, not anywhere near the level of taxation in 20th century America or in the economies of the Western world, such as in Europe and Canada and elsewhere. And yet here we are with a tax rate that far exceeds 20 percent in our country, and at the end of each year we're deeper and deeper and deeper in debt. And as a nation we are not saving. We are not protecting the future of our people. We are not setting up reserves for the future as God commands this ancient pagan king to do.

Because the ruler is responsible to be a steward in the house of God, to be concerned for the well-being of his people by making provisions for the future, and you don't do that by spending more than you make. I don't know of any government on the face of the earth today that couldn't learn something very significant from this text. We are a world of wasteful consumers who exploit the goods and the resources of the land and don't preserve things for the futures.

Our silos are empty as we spend and spend and spend, and the more we tax the more we spend. Now this program here that Joseph is advocating in the name of God is similar to what some of you remember still from World War II, where there was rationing because there was a national emergency, and people were saving lard and silk and paper and all of these supplies in order for there to be a future for the nation. And the people understood that sacrifice was needed for survival because we were engaged in a world conflict. And those kinds of severe situations call for sacrifices to be made in order to protect the future of the land and of the people. It's no different from what God is calling Pharaoh to do. That food shall be as a reserve for the land for seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine. Verse 37 of chapter 41, so the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. I remember a man making a statement several years ago in the midst of a political debate. He made this claim. He said, I wish that we will have statesmen who will look to the next generation instead of politicians who look only to the next election.

That stuck in my mind. That's the difference between a politician and a statesman. The statesman is concerned about the future generations. The politician is only thinking short-term. What do I have to do to get re-elected?

Instead, what do I have to do that will really benefit the nation? Statesmen are hard to find, but Pharaoh, at least this Pharaoh, was a statesman, and he was looking for the future of his people. And so Pharaoh said to his servants, can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? Verse 39, Pharaoh said to Joseph, inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word.

Only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, see, I have set you over all the land of Egypt. When God vindicates His servant, He does it royally, really royally, far above and beyond anything Joseph could ask or think. That's God. That's the promise that's made again and again in the New Testament, that if we are willing to endure suffering and humiliation for a season, that God has promised a future for His people beyond what eye has been ever to see or ear has ever heard or has even entered into the thoughts of man. We can't imagine the wondrous things that God has in store for His people who will trust Him in the times of languishing in prison. Again, the irony of God's sovereign providence here. Joseph got in trouble because he said to his brothers when he was a boy and had had this dream that the time would come when he would be exalted over them. Just a few scruffy Hebrew guys. And he got in trouble with his parents when he said there would be a time when he would be over them.

It's two people. And now Pharaoh said, I am going to appoint you over everybody in my kingdom except me. Now, who does that include? The butler who forgot him, Potiphar who put him in prison, and Potiphar's wife whose lies put him in prison in the first place. Can you imagine in the next issue of the Egyptian Gazette Potiphar's wife picks up the paper and sees this servant, this slave that she had slandered is now the prime minister?

I mean, she's saying to Potiphar, don't you think it would be nice for us to go on a little trip or a vacation? I see them heading for Syria or someplace in a heartbeat to escape, because how do they know how vengeful Joseph might be? Then, verse 42, then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand. And he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck, and he had him ride in the second chariot which he had. And they cried out before him, bow the knee, so he set him over all the land of Egypt. Now, all of these symbols of power are transferred to Joseph, and it's not that Pharaoh said, go out and make a ring just like mine so that Joseph can have one, too.

No. Pharaoh takes off his own signet ring. That is the sign of his unique royal authority and says, put it on Joseph. And he gives him the garments of fine linen, the garments of royalty in Egypt. Fine linen. The garments of royalty in Egypt were there. The garments were white rather than purple in some of the other ancient kingdoms.

Fine white linen. And get him his own private chariot, and it'll be the second chariot. When we have the royal procession and Pharaoh drives in the first chariot, the second chariot will be manned by Joseph, second in command in the whole nation. Now, that may seem extreme and extravagant, and you might think that Pharaoh is acting a little bit impetuously, but do you realize, first of all, Joseph has just saved the kingdom. Pharaoh would be king over nothing in fourteen years without Joseph. He would have been unprepared for the devastating famine that would have destroyed his land. Not only that, but he would still be trying to figure out this mysterious message that he had received. Now, again, we have to read between the lines. Obviously, Pharaoh was inclined initially to think that Joseph might have an extraordinary degree of wisdom and might be useful in this place of power and authority that he needed somebody, but obviously he was getting more information about Joseph and finds out that Joseph's track record is one of unparalleled excellence in administration.

He's found his man. I once told somebody, I said, I need somebody to work for me. I have a job opening at Ligonier, and the pay is terrific. The pay is $200,000 a year. People say, well, what job do you have that offers $200,000 a year? I said, the job I'm offering for $200,000 a year is a job where somebody can come to Ligonier and take care of all my problems. And the guy said, well, I want that job. And I said, well, here's the problem.

First problem I have is we're fined at $200,000 in the pay. That's just a short way of saying good help is hard to find, particularly when you get to the responsibility of that kind of management, to manage an entire kingdom in times of crisis. Now, it's also important to understand that the place where Joseph was put was not only the head of peacetime operations in the land, but he was also in charge of war.

He was the chief executive officer for domestic concerns, but he was also the commander-in-chief of the armies of Egypt. All of that responsibility given to a slave taken from a dungeon. That's God. That's what God does when He raises up whom He will and brings the mighty down from their thrones. That's the power that we see displayed in the life of Joseph. We could easily look at this event in the life of Joseph and in the history of Egypt and see at first glance the wisdom of the program that Joseph is recommending to Pharaoh for saving for future famine. And it would be easy, as I've already mentioned, to look at stark contrast between that and the way we manage nations today.

And it's easy to throw stones at our politicians and our governments. But it goes beyond that. This kind of stewardship is to begin in the home with us. That the principle that we have in Scripture is that each family is responsible to provide for the needs of that unit. The Bible says that the father or the husband who fails to provide for his own household is worse than an infidel, worse than an unbeliever. And the word provide means to look ahead, to make provisions for the needs of his family. And you don't do that by spending more than you take in.

You don't do that without providing reserves for the rainy day or worse for the days when it never rains and nothing grows. And so this principle applies not only to Pharaoh, to earthly governments, but it provides to us. That was R.C. Sproul as we continue this week's study on Renewing Your Mind on the life of Joseph. Millions of people are being reached every month with the trusted teaching of Ligonier Ministries, including that of Renewing Your Mind.

But we recognize, as R.C. Sproul reminded us today, we can't spend more than we take in. That is, we can't do more ministry than you financially support. So I want to thank each of you who give often, as you're serving as a theological lifeline for so many. But if you haven't given recently, please consider a donation at or by calling 800-435-4343. And to thank you for your gift, we'll send you R.C.

Sproul's new book, Joseph from Dreamer to Deliverer, and give you lifetime digital access to all 20 messages in this series. Request this resource bundle today at Next month is our national conference in Orlando, Florida. And I hope I get to see and meet many of you there. There's still some room available, so you can learn more and register at slash 2024. The scope of the famine that would come would be great, but so would God's provision. Join us tomorrow as we continue this study here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-16 02:38:22 / 2024-04-16 02:46:42 / 8

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