Willie Brown - Joseph - Minneapolis - Sunday Evening, November 3, 1935

Joseph started to serve God in his tender years.  A good many chapters in the Bible speak about him.  People of the world think a young life is wasted if it is lived for God.  There is nothing that is further from the truth than that.  Nothing could be a bigger contradiction to the mind of God than that.  Many people who have wasted thirty or forty years living for this world would give anything they have if they only could have those years back again.  We don't have to dip very deeply into sin before we know it is sin.  Those who start to serve God in their early years are the cream.  Daniel, Samuel, Timothy, Jeremiah are some who started to serve God in their youth.  Their minds seemed to go out toward God in their tender years.  I don't remember any time in my life that I did not have a desire to want to know God.  I was just as disobedient as other children, yet I always had a desire and hope that the time would come when I would get to know God.  I am glad when I read the Bible, about Jesus and others, that I can see it is not necessary for us to waste so many years in the world before we can appreciate and value God's salvation.  It would be good for us all this afternoon, both young and old, if we could determine to want to know the mind of God.  Jacob wanted the blessing of God and got it after many struggles.


An organist in one of the big cathedrals would sometimes practice during the week.  One day while he was practicing, a poor man, in passing by, heard the music and went into the cathedral.  He stood for a while beside the organist and when he had finished playing, the poor man asked him if he might play a piece.  The organist sized him up by his clothing and started to play again.  Again the poor man pleaded to let him play, but he did not pay attention.  Finally after a great deal of pleading, he said he would let him play one piece.  The organist got up and allowed this poor beggar to play a piece.  He had not played long until the organist got down on his knees and begged him to forgive him.  The poor man was a master musician.  The organist said to the poor man, “How easily I might have missed it all.”  When we sit in meetings, I wonder is it not true that sometimes that thought comes to our mind.  Here we are--God has chosen us out of billions of people, and how easily we might have missed it all.  That organist who was playing perhaps thought he was a master, but when he heard the other man who had been high up in the music world and had been brought down perhaps through liquor and other things, he felt how easily he might have missed it all.  When we hear the heavenly music of God coming down through the lips of His children, we feel how easily we might have missed it all.  When others were wasting time and ability on other things, he was practicing and becoming a master musician.  This matter of serving God and having the approval of God in our lives should be the most important.  Let us make up our minds that we are going to get God's very best.  Joseph was like that.  At the age of 17 years, he was feeding his father's sheep.  He had some brothers who brought to his father an evil report.  His brothers were not an example.  One of the most foolish things we could say today is that because his brothers were not an example he did not go to the outside world and tell them.  But he came to his father and told him.  If it is so that there is an evil report going out from some who may even profess to be the children of God, because no man is perfect, it would be good to whisper it to God, and to pray for them that they might get help and blessing from God. 


Joseph was not very old before his father manifested a special love for him.  Jacob loved Joseph more than all the other brothers.  As God looks down on this meeting and looks at each one here, He loves us one and all.  I am not wrong in saying this:  that God loves some of us far more than others.  Jacob loved all his sons but he had a special place in his heart for Joseph.  Why does God have a special place in his heart for some more than others?  You have some friends that you have confidence in, and you can open up your heart and tell them some things you would not tell others.  Why did Jesus take Peter, James, and John up into the mount of transfiguration?  They seemed to have a more intimate relationship with the Lord.  They walked closer to Jesus than the others.  Think of what they saw there on the mount.  Think of the experience they had on the mount.  The vision they got was an incentive in future days that helped them to face up the conflict.  God could reveal himself more to some than to others because of them living in closer fellowship with Him.  John got 22 chapters of Revelation revealed to him.  Sometimes it takes a long time to get one verse revealed to us.  It did not make John feel very proud of himself when he got the revelation because it tells us he fell at the feet of Jesus as one dead when he saw Him.  He recognized how far he was from the mark.  It is when we are most conscious of our unworthiness that we are most worthy--“Study to show thyself approved.”


Most people at the age of 17 years are beginning to think about other things in the world.  Joseph's father loved him more than all the others.  He made him a coat of many colours--he clothed him.  It would have been easy to distinguish Joseph from the others.  It was the token of love that Jacob had in his heart for Joseph; it was that which this coat represented.  Jacob may not only have been a father, but a mother too.  Rachel died when Benjamin was born.  This coat of many colours could manifest his love.  Others could see this love and kindness manifested.  As you look upon the life of God's children, you are conscious of this-- that there is a person God has manifested His love to; they seem to be different from others, they are more in the estimation of God than others.  When Joseph's brothers saw this, they hated him; they could not speak peaceably unto him.  It was not from the outside, but his difficulties came from the inside--his own brothers hated him.  It was not because of anything he had done but because the Lord was with him.  When we see others more faithful to God than we are, let us make up our mind we are going to put our best into it so that we in turn might get to know God in the same way they do.  The seed of hatred was sown in their hearts.  They said, “Behold a dreamer is coming.”  Joseph had dreams.  At the age of 17 or 18 I dreamed dreams--I hoped that God would be able to make something out of my life the way He had been able to make something out of the lives of the people whose lives I looked at.  I would do anything to get the experience those workers had that I knew--those servants of God.


Genesis 27:7, even his father did not seem to understand it.  His brethren said to him, “Do you think we are going to serve you?”  If God has given you a picture of the possibilities that are in your life, I am sure that the time will come when these dreams will materialize.  A person in this world going into business will dream dreams of becoming something great and attaining to wealth.  “Behold the dreamer cometh.”  It was not the kind of dreamer they thought.  Something was going on in the mind of Joseph.  It took a long time before the dreams were accomplished, but they were fully accomplished.  “God's mill grinds slowly but surely.”  The brothers decided to take his life.  Could you imagine that brothers could be as cruel as that?  There are times when I feel I could love, pray, and labour for the very weakest, the most feeble and ugliest and it would not cost me very much.  There are other times when one feels cruel, critical, and almost despises the weak and feeble.  You remember the words of Jesus--“In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these My brethren ye have done it unto Me.”  They stripped the coat off Joseph and dipped it in blood and took it back to the poor old father that had one foot in the grave.  They were cruel.  It says “jealously is as cruel as the grave,” and “envy is as the rottenness of the bone.”  They were not able to interfere with his relationship with God even though they treated him cruelly.  They took the coat to the old father.  Do you not think they would have had a little more consideration for the poor old man that had done so much?  Did you ever think of the sorrow that we can bring to the heart of God because of the attitude that we show toward one of the least and weakest children of God?  The old father was broken-hearted.  It is a good thing for us to be careful, watchful, and prayerful about how we treat our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.  Some may have fallen and need to be lifted up.  It is a good thing to have the love of God in the heart that will enable us to help them, to lift them up, and strengthen them and enable them to get fresh courage for the future.


God's great eternal plan was being accomplished all the time in the life of Joseph.  There is nothing in this world that can hinder God's plan from being accomplished.  Joseph was a misfit, hated by his brethren, misunderstood by his father, and sold for twenty pieces of silver.  It would be quite reasonable that a master who has employed a servant would say to himself, “I wonder what kind of a servant I got this time,” so he would watch to see.  You can imagine Potiphar saying, “I never had a servant like this one before.”  Joseph was only a slave, he received no salary.  His master saw that the Lord was with him, Genesis 39:3.  The greatest thing in life is that God might be with us.  It is not necessary to be eloquent or to fill a great place in order that others might see that God is with us, but it is possible in every walk of life to so live before God that we would have the testimony that “The master saw that God was with him.”  Joseph was no doubt put in a room where there was not much furniture, where there was not much to appeal to a person.  His mind would go back to his father.  He was not able to get letters, he was separated from his brethren, but he knew his God, and God was with him and he fought the battle.  It was not long before a supreme test came.  Joseph said, “How can I do this wickedness and sin against God?”  He was living before God, and not before man.  He was misunderstood, misjudged, and put in prison.  It was going from bad to worse.  The horizon was getting darker and darker all the time.  He was not long in prison before the warden noticed he was different from the other prisoners.  The warden was used to seeing hardened characters in there.  He saw that God was with Joseph.  The people of the world can see far more than we give them credit for.  Joseph was in prison for a number of years but it tells us that the Lord was with him and showed him mercy, and gave His favour in the sight of the keeper.  After he had interpreted the dreams for the baker and butler, he was again wronged and forgotten, but the Lord did not forget him.  We may do a great many things that others may not know anything about, and we would expect a reward from others, but remember this, that God will not forget.  After a long time, the butler told the king about Joseph and he was released from the prison.  Joseph was about thirty years of age at this time.  It was thirteen years since he was sold into Egypt--thirteen years, but God's great eternal plan was going on all the time.  Pharaoh realized that there was not a man in the whole kingdom like Joseph.  There are trying hours in our experience, when everything seems to go wrong instead of right, but the time will come when God will bring everything to the surface.


It was shortly after this that two sons were born to Joseph.  The first one was called Manasseh, which means “God has made me forget all my toil and all my father's house.”  Have you ever had that experience?  Have you ever passed through an experience when everything seemed to be going wrong?  We might look at it like this--Manasseh was born--I have forgotten all the toil.  Would we look back and begin to say, “It cost me so much.”  No, we feel like saying, “God has caused me to forget my toil.”  What would you think of parents who would think it has cost them so much, all the privations, sacrifice, and suffering for their children?  It is love for their children that has caused them to sacrifice for them, and they have forgotten all about the toil.  When you look back and think of all that God has been to you, you don't think of what it has cost you at all.   “For God has made me to forget my toil and my father's house.”  It was not easy to forget.  That is how Abraham got the blessing.  He was told to go out from his father's house and into a land that the Lord would show him.  It did not mean that Joseph had no love for his father.  Did it mean that he was harbouring hard thoughts against his brethren?  His heart was bursting to do something for them, who had done so much against him, verse 52.  The name of the second son was Ephraim, which means “God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction," “to grow fruitful” is the Dutch translation.  Would you like to grow in grace and become like Jesus?  In the human family we see that children, as they grow up, become more like their father or mother.  It is a great thing in all our lives, if not only Manasseh, but also Ephraim is born, and God could cause us to grow in the land of our affliction.  It would be good if God could conform us more and more to the image of Jesus.  That is what took place in Joseph's life.


There were seven years of plenty, and it was in the second year of famine that his brothers came.  That made 22 years that he had been separated from his father and brothers.  Chapter 42:1-3, Joseph's ten brothers went down to buy corn, but their father would not send Benjamin with them, “lest peradventure mischief befall him.”  The tenderest spot in the heart of Jacob was Benjamin.  Twenty-two years before that Jacob sent out Joseph to seek the welfare of his brethren but he never returned.  Jacob did not have very much confidence in those ten.  He thought, “If I send Benjamin, perhaps he will never come back again.”  In this city, there may be some who are like Benjamin in the family of God.  They are the tender ones, the young ones.  Can God trust you and me with them?  How are we going to treat them?  Are we going to be true examples?  “Lest mischief befall him.”  There is nothing so nice in this world for those who are preaching the gospel than to be able to see some just born into the family of God and to realize there are others that take up the child in their arms and bless them--like Simeon.  Let us be a true example to them lest we hinder one of God's little ones.


When Joseph saw his brethren, he knew them.  How?  Because he saw the same marks in them as they had before.  But, when they looked at Joseph, they did not know him.  It would be a sad thing if after all that God has spoken, that we would go on year after year and all that could be said of us is that we are just the same.  When Joseph was 17 years of age, he was like a sheaf of corn.  What had taken place?  The straw and chaff had been removed; the wheat had gone between the rollers; he had gone through the oven of persecution and was set on the table as a loaf of bread.  It took 22 years for Joseph's dream to materialize.  Our dreams that we dream, they are coming to pass if we are willing for the dark experiences--if we are willing for the pressure that God will allow to come into our life that will cause us to be bread for others.  Joseph spoke roughly to his brethren, asked them if they were spies.  It seemed cruel for Joseph to do this.  Did Joseph want to give them corn?  Yes, he did.  He had to go into another place and pour out his heart in tears, so much did he want to give his brothers corn.  He gave to them, but not as much as later on.  When we go to God and pray, we ask for many things, but we often ask amiss for things.  Why did they not get the bread?  Why didn't he give them the key and say take it all?  Because their hearts and spirits were not broken, they were not humble enough.  He kept Simeon and told them to bring their younger brother back with them.  He wanted to put them to the test.  God puts us to the test too.


The famine was sore, and Jacob asked them go again and get more corn.  They were not to come unless they would bring Benjamin with them.  Joseph told them they would not see his face unless Benjamin was with them.  Here was Jacob, an old man, getting toward the evening hours of his life.  It almost seems that God is cruel--but He is not. God sometimes does things that would seem hard.  Just think of the pressure that God allowed to come to bear upon his life.  As we grow older in the service of God, we must not imagine that the pathway is going to get easier.  God did not ask Abraham at the beginning of his life to offer up his son, but it was at the end of his life that the most severe test came.  It is those tests that bring out the beauty that is in our character.  In South Africa, you often see people looking for valuable stones.  You may see diamonds together with other stones, and you perhaps cannot tell the difference.  There is a certain acid, when applied, that will melt the stones like sugar and water, but others will not melt.  The acid takes off the spots that are on the crystals.  Some seem to be genuine, but when they pass through the mill of suffering--when a pressure is made to bear, they are found out to be not genuine diamonds.  Joseph was a genuine one.  Jacob told Judah, “Why did you go and tell him you had a younger brother?”  Today we often speak of that verse, “Cast your bread upon the water and you shall find it after many days,” and we sing, “With the hungry share your bread.”  Jesus was the bread of life.  Few understand the price that has to be paid in order to get it. Here was Jacob, dying of starvation, wanting bread, “we will go, but give us Benjamin.”  Why did you tell him about Benjamin?”  Judah said, “I will be surety for him, etc.”  “If Benjamin does not come back, I will stand security for him.”  The price has to be paid.  Jacob's heart started to soften.  We sometimes think it is costing more than we thought it would cost.  We put the balances on the scales, and say, "Will I do it?  Does it mean all this to get God's best?"


Jacob said, “If it must be so now, do this--take of the best fruit of the land in your vessels, a little balm and a little honey, spices, myrrh, nuts and almonds and take double money in your hands, and the money that was brought back in the mouth of your sacks, lest it was an oversight.  Take also your brother, and arise and go unto the man.  If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”  Some of us would be willing to give the spices, the honey, the balm, the fruit of the land, but oh, when it comes to giving Benjamin, when God takes His finger and touches that something in our life, when God touches that tender spot--we will call it the Benjamin spot--we say, "It is too painful."  But Jacob in his evening hours said to take Benjamin. “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”  Some who are parents can understand better what it meant for the old man sitting home alone, thinking Benjamin gone, Joseph gone--a lonely picture.  But it was the darkest hour that came just before the dawn.  When Joseph saw Benjamin, who was his full brother, he had to go and look for a place to weep.  Pressure was still brought to bear upon them, but when Judah said to Joseph that he was willing for anything, Joseph could not restrain himself any longer.  He wept aloud and told them he was their brother.  Could he have done that at the beginning?  Why did he not do that?  Why does God not open the windows of heaven and give to us?  It is because we are not humble and lowly enough.  When his brethren were humbled and willing even to eat dust, he said, “I am Joseph."  He said to them, "Don't apologize for what you did to me. God sent me here, before you, to preserve life.  God was in it all."  He said to them to go back and bring their father there.  When they returned and told him that Joseph was still alive, he did not believe them, but he believed when he saw the wagons.  We tell the world that we are the children of God and that we believe in the New Testament teaching, but where are the wagons?  When he saw all the provision that Joseph had put on the wagons, his spirit revived.  They brought the old man to see his son after 22 long years.  It means loneliness, parting and pain often to get the bread of life from God, but nothing could ever equal a life that is hid with Christ in God.  Joseph was a preserver of life.  He was misunderstood and everything was going against him, but he was one that preserved life.  It would be wonderful if, in your church meeting, God can look at you as one that preserves, one that will go all the way, so that life will be preserved in others.  It is not surprising that he said about Joseph in Genesis 49, that he was as a fruitful bough, because he was abiding in the vine.  In John 15, Jesus spoke about abiding in the vine, and if we do this, we shall bear fruit.  When Joseph's brothers mistreated him, he was abiding; when he was in the pit, he was abiding; when in Pharaoh's house, he was abiding in the vine; when he was tempted, he was still abiding; when he was in prison, he was abiding in Christ and when he was controlling the food in Egypt, he was abiding.  “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall.”  “The archers have sorely grieved him and shot at him, and hated him.  But his bow abode in strength and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.”  We would like to be like him.  We can, and will be, if we are only willing to go through the mill, and willing for any little pressure that God may see fit to bring into our life from time to time.  I hope every one of us here, as God seeks to bring these things clear to our minds, will see willingness in our hearts to go forth and labour on until the end of the journey.  As we do this, we will not be disappointed.