21 February 2021
Joseph and Asenath
Our series right now is called Stronger Together, and we’re looking at how people
really were made to be in relationship. And not romantic relationship, but in
relationship, originally in relationship with God, and then He said its not good for man
to be alone. And we have all these examples from the Bible of people who were better
together. Look at David and Jonathan, Jesus and his disciples, Moses and Aaron,
there are so many. And today I’d like to look at Joseph from the Old Testament, and
his wife Asenath.
Now first off, I just have to say that Asenath is only mentioned three times in the Bible,
but there is a wealth of Jewish history and tradition that speaks of her and Joseph.
What we’re going to look at is how Joseph flourished, and the blessings and
providence of God that we can see in the story of Joseph and Asenath.
Just background quickly, Joseph was the son of Jacob, by his second wife Rachel. He
was his father’s favourite, and he knew it, and it made his brothers hate him. To the
point that they beat and sold him. He was a slave in Egypt, where he attracted the eye
of his master’s wife, but he refused her, and she had him thrown in jail. In jail he
interpreted some dreams, and then later when Pharaoh was struggling with dreams
he was called up to interpret them. And that’s where we start, Genesis 41:25-45.
Okay, there’s so much that is beautiful in this story, I have to pick out only a few.
Aserath. Aserath was the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh, who are the fathers of
two of the tribes of Israel. According to the Jewish histories and tradition, Asenath was
a princess, a beautiful Egyptian women, who was the daughter of an influential.
Egyptian priest. She is offered to Joseph in marriage, but she doesn’t want to marry
him. Joseph also doesn’t want to marry her, because she doesn’t worship God. But
they meet, he prays for her, and God works an amazing transformation in her life, she
is renewed, she begins to worship God, and she happily marries Joseph.
Joseph accomplished amazing things while carrying out these plans, while preparing
for this famine. And we can see how God works in Joseph’s life, and how God uses
Joseph to accomplish His plans.
Firstly, we see that Joseph found favour amongst foreigners. God put him in their way,
as it were, and he rose from being a lowly slave, to being the second most powerful
person in all of Egypt. That’s quite a promotion. He served under powerful people,
and the presence of God with him was so very clear to them that he almost couldn’t
help but rise. So much so that Pharaoh gave him Asenath in marriage, who was the
most sought after princess in Egypt. And although we don’t know much about
Asenath, we can safely say that having an Egyptian wife, who was raised there, who
understood their ways, and who was herself quite influential can only have helped
Joseph’s popularity with the Egyptians, and allowed him to carry out his plans more
effectively. And truly, do yourself a favour and go look on YouTube at videos of the
grain silos at sadaqqa, they are magnificent, they’re breathtaking. Joseph, with God
on his side, and with the favour of powerful people, accomplished wonders. And he
saved so many people! He saved the whole future nation of Israel for one thing, but
he also saved Egypt, and all the nations who came flocking to them, because they
were the only ones with grain.
If I may, for a moment, interrupt myself, there’s an important lesson here. Once the
drought had hit, it was too late to prepare for it. The same as with Noah, once the
rains started it was too late to think of building an ark. And people laughed at Noah,
as I’m sure they laughed at Joseph, for preparing for famine during years of plenty.
I’m sure they thought that’s like going to the beach on a sunny day and spending the
whole time setting up umbrellas for when it rains. Except that the famine came, and
they survived, because Joseph prepared. No one in the world was ready for COVID,
and even now, so many people, countries and institutions are still not ready. And that’s
the lesson, once the disaster hits, its too late. Plant, grow and harvest while the sun
shines. It’s not setting up umbrellas at the beach, its taking a rain jacket when you go
Back to finding favour, the message her is not that everything will be smooth sailing,
or that things will be easy, but that when God sets a task for you, He helps. And so
don’t be daunted by the dreams you have. God knows how He will bring them about.
Second, we see that God used foreigners to fulfill his plans, and the same way that
He put Joseph into the lives of foreigners, so also did he put foreigners into Joseph’s
life. Asenath, his wife, was an Egyptian. Pharaoh, the. Cupbearer, even Potiphar,
these are foreigners, who God used to further His plans. Even Egypt. Even the place
that would become like a swear word, like a monster story to frighten children in Israel
later, even them, God used. He used them to save His people, to save Israel. He used
those slave traders that brought Joseph to Egypt. And that is such a good thing for us,
because unless you can trace your lineage back to one of the twelve fathers of the
tribes of Israel, you’re a foreigner. Most of us are foreigners, Gentiles! And God uses
us! But also, the point here is that He uses those we least expect. And He does it again
and again and again throughout the Bible. He uses the outcast, the downtrodden, the
slave, the exile, He uses prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners, He uses the
voiceless, He uses those who appear to us to not be worthy of being used. Even in
the family line of Jesus, we see Ruth, a Moabite, we see Rahab, a prostitute. And
what a blessing that is for us. How extraordinary. How lucky! Because if He only used
those who were qualified, I don’t think anyone on this poor fallen Earth would ever
make it. God uses who HE wants to use, not who we want Him to use.
And lastly, God accomplishes things in mysterious and unexpected ways. If you start
reading the story of Joseph, and you get to the point where his brothers sell him, I
don’t think anyone can predict that that is the start of God’s plan to establish Israel by
saving them from famine in Egypt. When Joseph gets arrested, there’s no indication
that he’s going to end up as Pharaoh’s right hand man. God’s plan is so far beyond
us, that most of the time we can’t even see it coming.
Something that’s really amazing about this story is the difference between Joseph’s
perception of his dream, and how it actually played out. Earlier, Joseph had a dream
that his brothers would bow down to him, and it made him quite prideful, and arrogant.
Its good to remember that Joseph comes from a very broken family background. His
father, Jacob, wanted to marry Rachel, Joseph’s mother, but was tricked into marrying
Leah first instead. He then married Rachel afterwards, but then Rachel struggled to
have children. So, Leah knows Jacob never wanted her, and Rachel knows that Jacob
wants children. Into this mix we throw a few servants with whom Jacob also had
children, and a group of sons who are incredibly competitive, to the point where they
would strongly consider murdering their brother. This is not a healthy environment.
There is insecurity, and jealousy, and just all around not wonderfulness. And we see
this in Joseph. He’s very proud, because he is the son of the wife that Jacob wanted.
In essence, he is the son that Jacob wanted. And he comes all lordly to his brothers
and he informs them that they will bow down to him. And they’re furious, and they
eventually sell him, he goes through slavery and prison, and his dream is fulfilled
eventually, but when his brothers bow to him he weeps, and he is joyful, and its not a
case of superiority, its so different from how he perceived that it would go. And all of
what he went through brought him to that reaction, built him up to the point where this
is how he would react. I think its very important for us to remember, especially now,
that just because we think God will carry out His plans in a certain way, doesn’t mean
He will. He will do it His way. And just because its not fulfilled in the way we thought,
doesn’t mean its not fulfilled.
And this interesting story of brokenness and pride and jealousy and famine and
foreigners and favour is a small part of the larger plan to fulfil a covenant made to
Abraham, which itself is part of a larger plan to fulfil a promise made at the Fall, which
itself is part of a larger plan to reconcile all the world to God.
It’s bigger and bolder and more complex than we could imagine, and all the way, we
are together. Like Joseph, we are together with those around us, with those God puts
on the oath with us, like Asenath, like Pharaoh, and we are together with God. His
favour and blessing go before us, like they did with Joseph, to bring about the fulfilment
of His ultimate plan.
21 February 2021