Genesis 37:19-27, 39:1-2
Have you ever questioned the presence of God? I certainly have.
Scott, our youngest son, disappeared in a crowd at a hot-air balloon festival in So Cal when he was young. In those terrifying moments – when the fear that som
eone may have taken him raced in our minds – it was hard to see God’s hand at work anywhere. But despite everything that we could not see, we chose to trust. Later, we saw clearly that God had been at work in many details. We had told the boys where we would meet them if somehow we became separated, & that was just where Scott went – except he didn’t stay there! But we got our son back & came away knowing that God’s protection had been at work even before we cried out to him.
We often think of God in moments of betrayal – whether we are betrayed by a loved one, trusted friends, or simply by circumstances. We may even feel betrayed by God. Thankfully, God never betrays us. He is always working for our good, even when we don’t realize it.
As we will see in the Book of Genesis, Joseph was deeply affected when his own brothers betrayed him. Yet God was there the whole time, working on Joseph’s behalf to help him move beyond betrayal.
< Genesis 37:19-24 >
It is hard to imagine a group of brothers wanting to kill one of their own, but that is what happened between Jacob’s sons. We can’t justify their aggression, but their jealousy had deep roots. For example, Jacob’s wives were sisters with an intense rivalry, & his 12 sons came from 4 different mothers. And worse, Jacob played favorites. He loved Joseph more than his other sons, & he gave Joseph a special robe that identified him as a prince or other person of distinction.
Joseph did not help the situation any. He tattled on his brothers, & he bragged about 2 dreams that made him appear more important than the rest of his family – even his father & mother. For these reasons & more, Joseph found himself on the receiving end of his brothers’ growing hatred. They were his family, but they turned on him like a pride of hungry lions. He was betrayed.
Too many of us learn the sting of betrayal at an early age. And, sadly, we often re-learn it in many seasons of life.
You shared a secret with your best friend about a crush you had on someone, only to learn that your friend blabbed it to everyone in your class.
Everyone was talking about an awesome party they went to on Saturday night, & you realized you were the only one not invited.
Your parents said, “I do forever,” but forever only meant ‘until now.’
Someone took credit for your idea in the office & got the promotion you deserved.
Jesus knows what betrayal is like. Judas betrayed him to the religious leaders, Peter publicly denied even knowing him, & almost all the other disciples fled the scene when he was arrested.
Worst of all, Jesus felt abandoned by his Father as he died on the cross. He cried out: My God, my God, why have you left me?
The good news is that even in the midst of betrayal, you can trust that God has not abandoned you. You can rest assured that God is always involved in your life. Even when it is not obvious, God is at work!
< Genesis 37:25-27 >
In one moment, Joseph went from meeting his brothers to staring death in the face. Being thrown into a pit must have hurt, but I’ll bet his brothers’ apathy hurt even more. As the brothers said years later: We saw his life in danger & he begged us for mercy, but we didn’t listen.
Then the brothers thought of a new plan: they could get rid of Joseph & make a quick buck at the same time! This idea presented itself when they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite traders headed their way. It was perfect – no fuss, no mess, & a little cash on the side.
God probably seemed completely absent to Joseph in that moment – but was he? Joseph was facing death, when a caravan suddenly came down the road. Some would write that off as coincidence; but not me. The traders showed up at just the right time. Why? Because God wanted Joseph in Egypt. God was working behind the scenes to make sure he got there.
Let me say it again: God is always at work in your life – even when it is not obvious. Hold on to that truth when you feel like you have been thrown into a pit. And, trusting that God is always at work will help you live with hope when you are tempted to feel guilt & regret over past shortcomings & failures.
For example, have any of these thoughts ever crossed your mind?
I wasn’t the faithful parent I should have been.
I’ve wasted parts of my life in sinful living.
I didn’t speak up for Jesus like I should have.
God works in all things – even our failures – for the good of his people. God can even work in our lives in spite of these things. “He can take a trial & turn it into a testimony.” (Alex Himaya)
Well, the brothers struck a deal with the Ishmaelite traders. We pick up our story again in chapter 39.
< Genesis 39:1-2 >
Verse 2 sums up the main idea of this message: The Lord was with Joseph. People may betray & abandon us, but God does not. No matter what it looks like from our perspective, God has not & will not abandon us. Joseph may still have questioned why all these things were happening to him, but he remained faithful to God - & God remained faithful to him. God does not necessarily rescue us from all of our difficulties, but we can be assured that he walks with us through them.
It was only much later that Joseph saw why God had allowed him to experience these events. It was God’s plan all along for Joseph to have a powerful position in Egypt – a position that would ultimately keep his family alive during a famine & maintain the bloodline of the Messiah. Therefore, God’s plan was accomplished even in the midst of something as destructive as betrayal.
Right now, I am feeling betrayed by our denomination. I agreed to become a UM pastor because I thought it was an evangelical denomination. Little did I know 20 years ago that such a strong liberal movement would be trying to turn the denomination away from our Scriptural foundation. At this stage, I still feel betrayed & wronged, so what can I do? Well, I continue to trust that God will work all things together for His good.
Joseph’s example helps me trust God. Like Joseph, I may not see the different ways God is working in spite of the hurt & betrayal I feel. But I can still know that God is working. And I can still trust God.
We choose how we respond to betrayal. Here are some suggestions for trusting God even when you don’t know what He is doing:
Look back. Spend time thinking of the different ways God has worked in & through your life in recent years. I’m not talking about just the obvious God-occurrences, but those times when it is only in looking back that you can see that God was at work.
Forgive yourself. Think of a failure or a shortcoming from the past that still produces guilt in your life. Then choose to let go of that failure & trust in God’s ability to work it for good. Our God is a God of grace; He knows who you truly are & what you have done. And yet God loves you!
Forgive others. Think of a betrayal that continues to impact your life. Take a step this week to move toward forgiveness & healing in that relationship.
Of course, it is your decision to make. You can continue on in life holding on to the past & allowing the betrayals in your life to cause ongoing pain. OR you can begin to move beyond betrayal today by allowing God to do the healing work that only He can do. That is the only way to successfully work through these 3 simple steps: by allowing the power & guidance of the Holy Spirit to work within you.
I’m sorry to say that you will experience betrayal in your life. You will experience times when you cry out to God – maybe even times when you wonder if God is really there. Thankfully, God is at work even now to carry you through those moments, just as he carried Joseph.
Let us pray.