Redemption in the Storm part 4 - Injustice
Sometimes life is full of betrayal, sometimes it's full of fear. Sometimes the world is overwhelmingly fearful and confusing and messy. In spite of this, the Bible is a unified story that tells us that God has worked hard and sought to bring about redemption even in the midst of those storms. One of those storms is injustice. Life is full of injustice. Our world is saturated by it and it's not hard to find no matter where you look, wether its in history, society or even family. Sometimes it's personal injustice. Sometimes it's on a larger scale. A few years ago, my wife and I, and a few friends went to Cambodia to do a short-term service trip. While we were there, we learned a little bit about the recent history of Cambodia, which is nothing less than horrifying. From 1975 to 1979 the Cambodian leader, a man named Pol Pot and his government decimated the country of Cambodia. They killed roughly a quarter of their own population and they did most of that without using bullets. Because bullets cost money. What they would do instead would be that they would get blades or saws or palm trees with the spiky bits and just club people to death that were different to what they thought was the ideal Cambodian citizen.
We visited a place that still haunts me called the killing fields. The killing fields is a place where they murdered and dumped thousands of bodies. Up till this day, there are so many dead bodies in that field that when it rains, fresh bones come to the surface. Over 40 years after the fact. While walking through the killing fields, we saw a tree called the killing tree. The killing tree is where the soldiers would take the babies of the people that they wanted to kill and hold them by their legs and smash them against the tree, killing them. Then they’d throw them into the huge pit of human bodies. This is, the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. I’ve had nightmares of that place. The other museums that we visited, real places, that were once concentration camps, torture camps and places where humans proved over and over how evil and vile we could be as a species. The scary thing is this is not the worst thing that's ever-happened numbers wise, and it's probably not the worst thing that's even happening as I write this. There are things like this all the time. Wars and secret wars, evil men and women inflicting all kinds of hell on other human beings. Murder, rape, torture, genocide, infanticide, corruption on every level. To think about it I quickly become overwhelmed. As I was learning about all this, I began to think about what happened to Pol pot. I wondered how he faced trial. I wonder how he was executed and if he had ever been remorseful of what he had done. The countless, countless lives he had destroyed and the impact his life had on the country he destroyed, even being felt today. But he wasn't. He never faced trial. He never got executed. He died years later, under house arrest in Thailand, which just means he got to stay at home. He had access to a television and would watch his favorite TV shows, he got to see and spend time with his grandchildren and he died in his sleep of apparent heart failure. When I learned this, my heart boiled inside myself. I remember standing at a temple made of real human skulls, that the government had built as a monument to the victims of the atrocities, and thinking over and over, “it's not fair” “Where is the justice here, How could there be justice here?” the thing was, that there was no justice and it enraged me. I felt so horrified, heartbroken, even defiled just learning about it. I just thought, how can someone that has done something like this to so many people, how can he die in his sleep? He should've been tortured for hours, for days, FOR YEARS. They should have like revived him over and over again. I can only think of the things that they should have done to this guy. Injustice is a storm that we all face or even perhaps cause. And the story of Joseph in the bible is rife with this storm. I used to be a Sunday school teacher and I had this habit of making the stories sound a little bit.. well, nicer than the Bible does because I was dealing with kids. I didn't want to give them nightmares. So, you might've heard this story before and not realize just how incredibly unjust and harrowing it actually is. If you don't know the story, it goes like this. Jacob had 12 sons. He was a polygamist, (against God’s will) and had a favorite wife, Rachel. Rachel bore him a son Joseph, and then died tragically in giving birth to the second son, Benjamin. So because he was the eldest and because his mother was the favorite and she was dead, Jacob showed favoritism to his son, Joseph and that made the other 10 brothers hate him and they mistreated him. One day they were out taking care of their sheep, and Joseph came out to them sent by Jacob to see how they were going. They conspired against him and decided to kill him. That's how badly they hated their own flesh and blood. Then one of them says, you know what? Killing him isn't going to get us anything. Let's SELL him. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, a special gift that his dad gave him because he loved him and they took him and threw him in an empty well or a pit that had no water in it. They threw him down into that and plotted about their cover up plan. They got a goat and they killed it and they sprinkled his blood all over the robe and they tore up the robe and took it back to their father and said, “we just found this robe. Maybe a wild animal killed him”. Joseph was rejected and mistreated and a few days later when some Ishmaelite merchants came by, Joseph's brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for 20 pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt. He was betrayed and sold by his own family. Let that sink in. I always used to read these colorful kids Bible books and Joseph would have a bit of a sad face in this story, about as bad as I make when I’m stuck in a traffic jam. But I can’t for the life of me now imagine, what that would have been like. This is heartbreaking. Can you imagine your family sells you and the reason why they sell you, is only because if they murder you they will profit nothing, so your life is not only meaningless to them, but you are. Completely meaningless. to your own family. So the story continues
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. Genesis 39:1
Joseph gets sold to an Egyptian. He works hard and he rises in the ranks until he becomes a fairly important slave. But there’s more injustice on its way. This storm isn’t done just yet.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. Genesis 39:6-10 I don’t know how you are feeling this is going to go, but even as a child I’m pretty sure I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I read this. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” Genesis 39:11-18 The storm clouds of Injustice are starting to pour. Joseph gets falsely accused and falsely convicted and is thrown into prison. Most scholars estimate it to be between 10 to 12 years. Let that also sink in. What were you doing 10 to 12 years ago? Let me put it this way. 12 years ago (as I’m writing this) was 2008. Iron man 1 was in cinemas. Beijing hosted the Olympic games. George W bush was still president at the time. For crying out loud Michael Jackson was still alive in 2008. 10 to 12 years is a lifetime ago. Joseph is in prison a long time, after being accused of something he didn’t do, after being sold as a slave by his family. Even so, this storm isn’t over. Josephs cup of injustice hasn’t finished being poured. Genesis 40 starts with a story about the Pharaoh,
Sometime later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. 2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
Joseph takes care of them, serves them and when they have disturbing dreams and Joseph even interprets the dreams for them. Joseph only asks one thing in return of the cup bearer.
14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”
Perhaps now, finally after all this time, justice will come. Chapter 40 begins with a hopeful tone, an interesting turn of events, the possibility of perhaps an end to this storm. But it does not end the way we, or Joseph, would have wanted.
23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. So not only does he get rejected by his family, sold by them and betrayed. Not only does he get falsely accused and have to pay for a crime that he didn’t commit, but now even the good that he does is forgotten. Where is the justice? I don't think it would be right for you to read this story and just keep reading. Sometimes you just have to stop and let there should be some kind of reaction. As I was reading this, I felt that same feeling that I was in Cambodia. Not to the same level of course, because 1 man’s life doesn’t hold the same weight as 3 million lives, but I still felt angry. I had the same bitter taste of injustice in my mouth. The same stink. The same foulness. Now let me digress for a moment. I love the movie The Wedding Singer, an Adam Sandler film from 1998. Let me sum it up for you if you havent seen it. Robbie, played by Sandler is engaged, he has a job as a wedding singer and he's happy. Then he gets dumped On his wedding day. His Fiancé, doesn't turn up to the wedding. And he's so upset that he can't sing at weddings anymore, so he loses his job. He's broken hearted and he's miserable. Then he meets Julia, played by Drew Barrymore, who is also engaged, to a lying cheating jerk. As Robbie and Julia get to know each other, they start falling in love, but then theres a miscommunication and Julia leaves to go marry her Jerk fiancé in Las Vegas. I got to this point in the film and I felt the same way as when I was reading the story of Joseph. I thought, what, what is going on? There's no justice. This is not fair. But something weird happened to me when I was watching the movie. I just, I questioned, is this really the end of the film? Is it? Of course not. Of course not films don’t end that way, because if they did you'd walk out of the cinema enraged. Is it the end of that movie? No, of course not. Is at the end of Joseph’s story? No, of course not. Chapter 41 begins
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: 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. 9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” 14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. 15 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.” 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” So, Joseph reveals to Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams, That God was sending 7 years of abundance, and then 7 years of famine, and what the Pharaoh should do in response, which would be to store up grain in the 7 years abundance, for the famine. His conclusion to Pharaoh is this: 33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.
This is the point in the story where everything changes. The point of no return. Whenever I read it I just have to pause and imagine it my head because it’s such a moment.
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 YOU shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” In a moment, everything changes for Joseph. The injustice of his crime is removed, he is no longer a prisoner. The injustice of his slavery is removed, he is no longer a servant. And over the next chapters his brothers come and bow to him, not realising who he is. They come in the famine to buy food, and though Joseph has every oppurtunity to take vengence and enact justice for himself, he does not. And soon, the injustice of his betrayal is removed, Joseph is no longer seperated from his father, or his family. He is restored into the fold and forgives his brothers. I love this story. It is hands down one of my favorite stories of all time. A timely reminder that God doesn’t leave stories half finished, no matter how it might look for you right now. Often times I find that when injustice surrounds me, I cry to the heavens and say “God do something”. As I study the life of Joseph, I can definitely imagine him doing the same. But Joseph behaves in such a way as if it were God saying to him “do something”. Ill explain. There's 1 specific things that Joseph does throughout the story of his life. I’ve learnt that when God repeats something in a story, its worth focusing on. I'm going to show you 3 times I noticed it. The first 1 is when Joseph gets sold as a slave. If you were sold as a slave by your brothers, what would you do? You know what I might do? Nothing. I might be the worst slave of all time and then my master would kill me and at least I'd out of my misery. I'd show it to my brother's, sell me? I'm worthless as a slave. I'm not a slave so I'm not going to behave like one. But what does Joseph do? Genesis 39 tells us;
2 The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.
Misery and in deep injustice Joseph becomes a slave. How does Joseph behave? He works hard. He picks up his suffering and he walks with it. It wasn't fair for him, but he makes it fair for Potiphar. Potiphar bought a slave, so Joseph worked so that he could say, “it wasn't fair for me, but I'm going to make it fair for Potiphar. Potiphar bought a slave. He's going to get a slave. He bought a good slave. He's going to get a good slave”. The second time is in prison. Ive often thought if this happened to me, I'd be in that prison, miserable. But not Joseph. Again Genesis 39 shows us what Joseph does;
20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
It's the same thing again. Joseph gets put into prison. He's an innocent man. It's not fair. So what does he do? He makes it fair for the prison. He's an innocent man and so he ACTS like an innocent man. He’s a good man so he ACTS like a good man. It's not fair that he’s there, but he makes sure that he works hard. So much so. Can you imagine this? It just sounds so weird. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. Can you imagine a prison warden trusting a convicted prisoner this much? Do you see it? It's the same thing as in Potiphar’s house Then the third time. Genesis 40:4-8 After they had been in custody for some time, 5 each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 6 When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” 8 “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” It's the same thing. In Joseph's injustice he creates justice for those people around him. Potiphar bought a slave, so Joseph made sure that he got his money's worth. The prison warden took an innocent man, so Joseph made sure that he acted like one. The baker and the butler were unjustly thrown in prison, so Joseph takes care of them. Joseph picks up his suffering and he walks with it. As he walks, he picks up other people's burdens as he goes. It's a deliberate action. He deliberately does this. He repeatedly does this. In the midst of feeling rejected, Joseph takes the time to notice the other prisoners and how they are feeling. In the midst of being in prison without cause, Joseph gives hope to the cupbearer that he will be free soon. In the midst of his pain and hurt, Joseph eases the burden on his slave master and his prison guard. This is almost a whole lifetime of injustice and God highlights this as Joseph’s only response. Can I tell you when things are unfair for you what should do you do? Be miserable? Sure, cry? Yes be Upset, have a broken heart. But what else should you do? Pick up your suffering and walk with it and pick up other people's suffering on the way. If justice isn't coming for you, make sure that if it is in your power, it can come to other people. In doing so, Joseph becomes strong enough to face his destiny. When Pharaoh says those words that changed it all, If Joseph had been a miserable slave, by the way, committing adultery with the chief guard’s wife, he wouldn’t have been ready. If Joseph had been a miserable slave, I'm fairly sure the story would have ended a lot sooner with his head on the floor. Potiphar had the power and right to execute Joseph if he wanted it, but I don’t believe Potiphar truly believed his wife in Joseph’s case. If Joseph had been a miserable prisoner, he would have never served these 2 guys. When the Pharaoh had a dream, he would never have come to him. If he was weak and pathetic, he would have appeared that way to the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh would have found some other person to take the job. But in carrying his injustice and working hard in the midst of it, Joseph becomes strong enough to face his destiny. 2010 was a difficult year for me. I had wave after wave of things happen to me that I felt were unfair and unjust. My car blew up, I lost my job and I got dumped by my girlfriend in the same week. I just kept saying, it's not fair. It's not fair. Why? What is happening? I had no answers, and soon I fell into a depression. After a couple of weeks of moping and refusing to move on through it all, my dad said this to me. It wasn't because he was angry or sick of it, it was the thing I needed to hear. He told me “get up, stand up and move forward!” Of course, I didn't really want to hear that, but I needed to hear it none the less. In the midst of your injustice, get up, stand up and move forward. If justice doesn’t appear to be coming to you, make sure it comes to someone else. One of the most powerful verses in the bible is spoken by Joseph in Genesis 50:20 Joseph is talking to his brothers, and he says 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
In walking through the injustice dished out to him, Joseph changes the future for the entire world. Do you not realize the ramifications of this story? The Bible would have ended here if it was not for Joseph. Jacob and his family would have starved to death. That would have been the end of the Bible. It'd be short. It'd be 1 book and it would end with everyone dying. Jesus would never have even been born since Jesus comes from this family. One of the guys that Joseph saves is his big brother, Judah. Judah is the ancestor of Jesus. So how can we survive injustice? Look at Joseph. Here’s a twist for you though. How can we survive JUSTICE? Let me explain. In the story of Joseph and his brothers, I like to put myself in Joseph’s shoes. But if the truth was to be told, I am more like his brothers than him most of the time. And as much as I hate to admit it, the vilest most evil human, wether it be Pol Pot or Adolf Hitler or anyone else has a lot more similarities to me than differences. now before you call the police to report me, take a moment to ponder. God is the founder of Justice, and he makes the rules that define it. I am aware of my guilt before those rules. out of the 10 commandments I have in fact broken each and every single command. Jesus says hatered is the same to God as murder and lust the same as adultery, so though I have not murdered or committed adultery at the time of me writing this, I have broken those laws as well as all the others in the eyes of God. So how does someone like me survive when true Justice comes? Because the bible says that it is coming. Judgement day. On that day not only will murderers and rapists, child molesters and tyrants be judged, but even petty thieves, liars and those who disobey their parents, because true justice wont stop until it is complete. so let me ask you again, how can we survive JUSTICE? Look at Jesus. The people that were calling out for him as king on Palm Sunday, we're filling the streets with cries for his blood only a few days later on Good Friday. But I think that Jesus could quote Joseph and say “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”. Jesus was betrayed and sold for 30 pieces of silver. But in the midst of it, He could say,” you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”. Jesus was falsely accused and convicted. But again, I can hear Him say “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” The good that Jesus had done was forgotten. The people that had seen him feed 5,000 men plus women plus children were probably part of the crowd screaming “crucify him!” They forgot how good he was, the people that had been healed or had demons cast out of them or someone that they loved forgot. But in the midst of it, Jesus can say, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is being done, the saving of many lives”. So how can we survive it? Well, it's the same way that Joseph's brothers survived. They survived because of Joseph. Joseph in his misery stood up and picked up his burden did something fantastic to provide for them. How did they survive the famine? Because of Joseph. How do we survive our true Justice in front of God? It's what Jesus has done. Jesus died on the cross. That's unfair, but in taking that standing up and moving forward and saying, I'll take it, He provides justice for us. When I stand in front of God as guilty as I am, Jesus will look at the father and say, he's one of mine. I paid for him. That bill's paid. That's how I survive my injustice. But the second one is how can we survive the injustice of others? How can I sleep tonight knowing that Paul Pot lived an easy life, and that he didn't face justice on this earth? Again, by looking at Jesus. 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Matthew 25:31-33 Paul Pot will pay. Justice IS coming. Oftentimes when people talk about Judgment Day, it's this frightful, horrifying thing. I tell you all of us deep down, long for Judgment Day. All of us long for the day when murderers and rapists and pedophiles and psychos and Hitler's and all of the things in between, get what they deserve. The only reason that we won't get what we deserve is because the judge is also the one that paid for our freedom. Life is unfair for now and God is doing something about it. He's already done something unspeakable, but He's even doing something about it now. In the same way that Joseph was able to say at the end, “you intended to hurt me, but God intended it for good” Live as though this is true and therefore step up and live properly in the face of it. Life is unfair for now but Jesus has made sure that it won't be like that forever and the injustices you face are not for nothing. There is redemption my friend, even in the storm of Injustice.