Sunday, 11th April 10.30 am Order of Service

WELCOME

Psalm 145 O Lord, Thou art my God and King

1 O Lord, thou art my God and King;

Thee will I magnify and praise:

I will thee bless, and gladly sing

Unto thy holy name always.

2 Each day I rise I will thee bless,

And praise thy name time without end.

3 Much to be prais’d, and great God is;

His greatness none can comprehend.

4 Race shall thy works praise unto race,

The mighty acts show done by thee.

5 I will speak of the glorious grace,

And honour of thy majesty;

Thy wondrous works I will record.

6 By men the might shall be extoll’d

Of all thy dreadful acts, O Lord:

And I thy greatness will unfold.

Scottish Psalter (1650) John Craig (1512–1600) from Psalm 145

PRAYER

READING – Genesis 37

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

SERMON – Joseph – The Dreamer

Jacob in the Land (37:1)

1 Jacob is back in the Land of Promise but is still dwelling there as a sojourner, like his father (and grandfather) before him (cf. Heb 11:13). As his ancestors, he was awaiting the fulfillment of the promises of God.

Joseph’s Dreams (37:2-11)

2-3a The title is “This is the account of Jacob” however, this account is not about Jacob but about Joseph and, later, Judah. Joseph, at seventeen years of age, is a shepherd – looking after his dad’s flocks. We are told that Jacob loved him more than the other brothers because he was the son born to him in his old age. Jacob’s special love for Rachel (29:30) has carried over to that of her son, Joseph.

3b-11 The “richly ornamented robe” Jacob made for Joseph illustrates the father’s preferential love for Joseph. This was the central problem that angered his brothers and turned them against him. Eventually their anger resulted in a plan to do away with him altogether.

But first, adding to their hatred, Joseph recounted two dreams, both of which end with the image of his brothers “bowing down” to him.

God will bring to pass the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream. The irony of the story is that, in the end, this royal honour does not come to the house of Joseph but to the house of Judah (49:10).

Joseph’s Journey to Egypt (37:12-36)

12-18 Here at the beginning of the Joseph story, when Joseph’s brothers “saw him” approaching, they “plotted to kill him.”

19-36 Both the details of the brothers’ plans and their motivation are given. Behind those plans lie Joseph’s two dreams. Little did they suspect that the very plans that they were then scheming were to lead to the fulfillment of those dreams.

The first plan was simply “to kill him,” throw his body in a pit. This initial plan is interrupted by Reuben, who saved Joseph from their hands.

It was not merely Reuben who saved Joseph from the plan of his brothers, but Judah also played an important role. Again we can see the central importance of Jacob’s last words regarding Judah in 49:8-12. In the end it is Judah who is placed at the centre of the story’s focus on the fulfillment of God’s blessing. It is the descendants of Judah who will ultimately figure in the coming of the Promised Seed. Reuben’s plan is to persuade the brothers merely to throw Joseph into a pit and, apparently, leave him to die. His actual plan, however, was to return later and rescue Joseph. Reuben’s plan was partly successful. The brothers threw Joseph into the pit alive and left him there. The reference to Joseph’s coat highlights the central point of the story, that the present plan is part of a larger divine plan foreshadowed in Joseph’s dreams.

An important turn of events occurs with the arrival of the “Ishmaelites.” They become the excuse for Judah to enter the story with the suggestion that the brothers could “sell [Joseph] to the Ishmaelites.” Joseph is sold to them for twenty shekels. They then take him to Egypt with them.

The role of Judah in the actual rescue of Joseph is highlighted. Verse 29 suggests that Reuben had no part in the plan to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. He returned to the pit, expecting to find Joseph there and to rescue him, but Joseph was not there. He was surprised and angry that Joseph was gone.

Once again the coat provides the important link in the story. The symbol of the brothers’ original hatred for Joseph becomes the means of the father’s recognition of his loss. In the end the blood-stained coat is all that remains of Joseph; on seeing it Jacob tore off his own coat and exchanged it for sackcloth. And so Jacob’s own fate and that of his sons are briefly sketched out in this opening part of the story. What happens to Joseph speaks of all that will happen to the sons of Jacob. They will be carried down into Egypt and will be put into slavery. In this sense, then, Jacob’s final words set the focus of the story to follow: “in mourning will I go down to the grave [Sheol] to my son.”

What a story, eh? Scheming Jacob, dreaming Joseph, BUT what we need to see is that GOD is at work throughout it all. And so it is in your life and mine – despite our dreaming or our scheming… God is at work in us and working out His purposes through us.

PRAYER

Hymn God is our Strength & Refuge (Psalm 46)

1 God is our strength and refuge,

our present help in trouble,

and we therefore will not fear,

though the earth should change!

Though mountains shake and tremble,

though swirling floods are raging,

God the Lord of hosts is with us evermore!

2 There is a flowing river

within God’s holy city;

God is in the midst of her—

she shall not be moved!

God’s help is swiftly given,

thrones vanish at his presence—

God the Lord of hosts is with us evermore!

3 Come, see the works of our maker,

learn of his deeds all–powerful:

wars will cease across the world

when he shatters the spear!

Be still and know your creator,

uplift him in the nations—

God the Lord of hosts is with us evermore!

After Psalm 46, Richard Bewes (born 1934)

Benediction

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