HONESTY (LESSON 3)
In tonight's lesson on honesty, we will take a look at one honest man named Joseph and show you how he was hated and treated badly by his ten dishonest brothers. There is so much to be learned from this account found in the Bible, that it will take two lessons to go through it. This will be Part I, and Part II will be concluded in Lesson 4 on honesty.
In this lesson we are going to show that many people (perhaps yourself?) share the characteristics and lifestyle of the ten dishonest men.
But before we get there, we want to put this question on your mind: Are you ready to face God and be judged? Does the thought of dying and bowing down in the Lord's presence cause you joy and gladness because you know that you have been living in a way pleasing to the Lord; or fear and trembling because you know that you have not obeyed God's commandments to live honestly and that you will face His wrath?
Well, with that thought in mind, let's show the first similarity between Joseph's ten brothers and many of us. Joseph was the favorite son of a man named Jacob (also known as Israel), and Joseph's brothers were very jealous of him. Joseph was an honest man and a person who told the truth. When Joseph was 17, he told his family of a dream he had in which God had shown him that he would one day rule over the land and that his brothers would bow down to him. This made his already jealous brothers hate him even more. Let's read of this in Genesis 37:3-11. (Click for verse)
Now, what does this have to do with us? Well, the "Joseph" in our lives is Jesus. When Christ walked the earth, He told people that He is God and that the people would have to turn from their sins, live honest lives, follow The Commandments, and people hated Jesus for saying this. People want to steal all they want, lie all they want. They don't want to be told what to do. And just as Joseph's brothers had the attitude of, "Who does Joseph think he is?" by your dishonest words and actions, you have that same attitude towards the Lord. But just as Joseph told his brothers that they would one day bow down to him, the bible tells us that all will bow down at the name of Jesus. Philippians 2:10 tells us this. It reads, "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father." The question is: will you bow now willingly and obey the Lord, or will you bow later, after you have died in your sins, when it is too late? We'll talk more on that at the end of the lesson.
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Now, I bet someone here doesn't like hearing about death and the consequences of being disobedient and dishonest. It makes them uncomfortable. Well, Joseph made his brothers uncomfortable too. So uncomfortable, in fact, that they wanted to get rid of him. Let's read that. (Read Genesis 37:12-20).
Can you imagine hating your own brother so much that you want to kill him? Joseph never did anything to his brothers. But to them he was Mr. Goody-two-shoes. He was their father's favorite. And they probably thought, "He can't be ruler over us if he's dead." So they plotted to kill him and thought up a lie to tell their father.
Now, how is this similar to the way we treat Jesus? Well, when Jesus walked the earth, the Pharisees and chief priests plotted to kill Christ. They came up with a lie and brought false charges against Jesus so that He would be falsely accused, beaten, and ultimately crucified. They wanted to get rid of him so they could go back to their evil ways and not be disturbed.
Sadly, how many of us would have been part of the crowd yelling, "Crucify him"? Perhaps you wouldn't have had the guts to hammer the spikes into Jesus' arms and feet, but maybe you would have remained silent and not tried to stop it. And you even try to get rid of Jesus now by not listening to His word, not reading your bible or obeying His commands. Instead of being thankful that He gives you a chance to be forgiven and born again, you add sin on top of sin, stepping all over His crucified body. Maybe just like Joseph's brothers were plotting evil, you are spending your days plotting ways to sin when you get out of this institution.
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Let's read some more. (Read Genesis 37:23-28).
These brothers betrayed Joseph for 20 pieces of silver. That was their "gain" for being hateful and dishonest. They didn't care about Joseph's cries for help. They just wanted what they wanted. So now they've gotten rid of him, or so they think, and they even have some extra money. Was it worth it? Do you think they really would enjoy that money, knowing that they had broken God's commandment to get it? Will they be able to live with the lie they are going to have to tell their father, seeing the hurt and sorrow in his eyes? Again, was their dishonesty worth it? Will they get away with it?
Now how does this relate to you and the Lord? Well, they betrayed Joseph for 20 pieces of silver. How much have you sold Jesus out for? Have you in the past been disobedient and sold Him out for material gain? Have you lied and cheated and sold Him out so that you could fit in with your friends? Have you hardened your heart to His calling and telling you to do what's right, instead giving in to temptation so that you could have some temporary fun or quick thrills? Well, let's see some other verses that warn us about dishonest gain. Psalm 37:16-17, "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Mark 8:36-37, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Sinning and doing what is wrong is pleasurable for a season. I'm sure Joseph's brothers were laughing their heads off as the slave traders left with Joseph. I'm sure their pockets felt fat for a minute as they thought about what they would buy with their money. But even though they had not yet been caught, it wasn't over. It's not over until God says it is over. You guys need to really understand that disobeying God is a serious matter. God always has the last word! Maybe you can fool your mom or lie to your dad or even put on a sad face in front of the judge, but the truth will come out in the end.
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Let's see what happened next. Joseph's dishonest brothers have gone from plotting murder to throwing Joseph into a pit to selling him as a slave to some traders on their way to a far off country. What next? How will they explain Joseph's disappearance to their father? Well, they are dishonest, so they will lie, of course. (Read Genesis 37:31-35).
The brothers lied to their father about what happened to Joseph. And the interesting thing is that these brothers got rid of Joseph because they wanted to be closer to their father and, also, because they didn't want Joseph's dream to come true. They didn't want Joseph to rule over them. But instead, just the opposite happened. For one thing, their father became even more distant, because he mourned for Joseph. And Joseph, after going through a whole bunch of stuff in Egypt, does later become a man of power and the brothers do ultimately bow down to him just like he said they would.
We don't have time to read everything that happened to Joseph. Hopefully, you will read it for yourself when you have time. But we can tell you that through all of Joseph's trials and tribulations, he remained an honest man, a man who put God first. And God was with him and kept him and even blessed him so that he became the second most powerful man in the land. Joseph eventually was made governor. And when there was a famine in the land, all people had to stand before Joseph, even his brothers. The brothers thought that all those years ago they had gotten rid of Joseph, but Joseph was later the man that had the power to give them life (food) or death (starvation). Just like Joseph told them, the brothers ended up having to humble themselves before him.
And that takes us back to what we said at the beginning: what's going to happen to you when you die and face our greater than Joseph, Jesus Himself? You can run, you can hide, you can try to keep the Lord out of your life, but ultimately you will have to face Him and account for the things you had done in your life, whether those things were good and honest or sinful and dishonest. The world tried to get rid of Christ by crucifying Him, but He rose on the third day. And, guess what? You have an appointment with Him. You just don't know when it is. Will He be your Savior, or your Judge?
The bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27 "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." And Revelation 20:12-13 reads, "And I saw the dead, small and great stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." And Numbers 32:23 warns, "Be sure, your sin will find you out."
We all will one day come face to face with the person we sinned against when we were dishonest. I'm not talking about the person you lied to or the person you cheated on or the person you maybe stole from. Whenever we are dishonest, we are sinning against God. He is the one whom we will face.
If you know that you have been living a dishonest life but you want to change, don't wait until later. Do it before it's too late. Just like Joseph forgave his brothers when he saw they were sincerely sorry, if you come to the Lord and you are truly sorry and willing to turn from your old dishonest ways, he will give you a new beginning. Isaiah 55:6-7 reads, "Seek ye the lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
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Be like Joseph. Don't be like the brothers. If you are dishonest and unrepentant, you will be the one ultimately in a pit: a pit of sadness over what might have been, a pit of depression because you will know in your heart that you sold out for meaningless trinkets when you could have had God's true riches, a pit called hell that is fearsome and everlasting.