Sunday Sermon: ‘Joseph – Lord Prepare Me to be a Sanctuary’


(audio version)

We can’t control many of the circumstances of our lives, but we can control how we respond to them.  How we respond to difficulty is very important to God. Note what we read from the book of James.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: (trials) for when he is tried, (tested and approved) he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The key word here is ‘endureth.’ He who continues to love God and perseveres in his faith, even in the face of trouble, shall in the end shall receive a special reward from the Lord.

“The idea of persevering is not just to ‘grin and bear it’ but to remain under trials in a such a way that we glorify God as we learn the lessons the trials are meant to teach us…”   (Robert Louis Stevenson / / James)

Last week we saw how Joseph was faced with yet another trial.

Genesis 39:19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how long Joseph was in prison. Taking the details we are given and doing some calculating, we can estimate that it was probably around three years. That may not seem like a long time, yet try to imagine spending the next three years of your life in prison. Even more so, add to that the fact that you are completely innocent of any crime and you don’t know if you will ever get out.

James tells us that God uses trials to examine the validity of our faith. We learn also from the books of James, Peter, and Hebrews, that God uses trials to develop our faith and to make us stronger.

How did Joseph view his trials? I can tell you one thing – he didn’t enjoy them. He wasn’t oblivious to what was happening. It hurt him just as much as it would hurt any of us.

Genesis 40:14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 15 For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Joseph did not enjoy his trials anymore than any of us would. Paul Freed, founder of Trans World Radio, once wrote – ‘A trial is not a trial unless it makes you want to quit.’ God will sometimes allow us to be taken to the point of breaking in order to determine whether or not our faith in Him is genuine and real. Read the book of Job and you will see just that. Job became very discouraged and at times wished that he had never been born; yet he also said – Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…

Joseph had three options for how he would view his difficult circumstances:

1.     Prison of Self-Pity
2.     Dungeon of Despair
3.     Sanctuary for God’s Presence

I.  Sanctuary for God’s Presence

A. What is a sanctuary?

As you well know, the word sanctuary is sometimes used outside of the Bible. For instance, we often see signs that signify a Bird Sanctuary. Or, someone may say – ‘This is my sanctuary.’ Whenever the word sanctuary is used in that type of context, it is referring to a place that has been set-apart as a refuge and as a place of protection.

The word sanctuary is also used extensively in the Bible. It’s first used in the book of Exodus to refer to the Tabernacle that later became the Temple. When the word sanctuary is used in the Bible, it is referring to a place that has been set-apart specifically for God. In the Old Testament, the building became the sanctuary as well as the various altars and other items in it. It all became a holy place that was set apart for the glory of God. Other words associated with this thought are: consecrated, dedicated, sacred, hallow and holy.

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle and the Temple were the holy places. In the New Testament all of that changed. No longer did God dwell in a physical building, but now, by His Holy Spirit, He indwells in the spirit of every born-again believer.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Paul refers to God’s children as being His ‘saints.’ Whereas a building might be called a sanctuary, referring to the fact that it is a holy place; believers are referred to as ‘saints’, indicating that they are holy ones. A saint is sinner that has been saved by the grace of God and thus set-apart for His eternal glory.

Another word found in the Bible that is very similar is the word ‘sanctification.’  What is sanctification? Sanctification is the process whereby God sets us apart for Himself. There are two parts to our sanctification.

1)    We are Positionally sanctified (set-apart) unto God at the moment of our salvation

1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

2)    We are Practically sanctified (set-apart) unto God through our maturity as a believer

2 Timothy 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

We are sanctified, or set-apart unto God, the moment we receive Christ as our Savior. Being ‘in Christ’ sets us apart unto God and enables God to declare us ‘justified’ – (Just as if we had never sinned.) Yet we must also make choices each every day as to how we will live out this sanctification. Sanctification becomes a practical part of our lives through our choices.

B. Corrie ten Boom ( )

Many of you are familiar with the story of Corrie ten Boom. She was a Christian of Dutch ancestry who lived during the time of Hitler’s regime.

In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. According to Corrie ten Boom’s website –

“The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need. During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis.”

In 1948, Corrie, sister Betsie, and their father were all arrested for harboring Jewish fugitives. Her father, who was 84 years old, died ten days after being arrest. Corrie and her sister Betsie spent the next 10 months in three different prisons, the last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp located near Berlin, Germany. Corrie’s sister Betsie, died in that concentration camp. It is reported that before Betsie died she said – “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Concerning Corrie ten Boom, John Phillips wrote in his commentary  –

“She decided that if she had to live the suburb of hell, where the only means of exit for a Jew or a Jew-sympathizer was up the smokestack of the crematorium … she would be a Christian. So there, in barracks number 28, she held… Bible classes and taught her wretched fellow inmates how to face life and death with Jesus Christ.”

C. Joseph’s Sanctuary

Joseph was in a very difficult position. He was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. As far as he knew, he might die in that prison. He could view his difficulty as:

1.     Prison of Self-Pity
2.     Dungeon of Despair
3.     Sanctuary for God’s Presence

Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

D. Our Sanctuary

Regardless of whether it is a pit, a prison, or a palace, God can still dwell there. Note these words from the prophecy of Isaiah –

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite {crushed} and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

II. Sanctuary for God’s Purposes

Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. 23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

As the story of Joseph unfolds, it becomes more and more evident that God had a divine purpose for every detail of his life.

Genesis 40:1 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. 3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. 4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

Though at first the prison looked like a useless detour, it was actually God’s pathway to the palace. How concerned is God over the minute details of our lives?

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

III. Sanctuary for God’s Praise

Genesis 40:5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.

6 And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. 7 And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly today? 8 And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

First of all consider the use of dreams in the life of Joseph. Most of us dream according to what we last put into our stomach. I have some terrible, crazy dreams sometimes. Yet the Lord used dreams in a very significant way in Joseph’s life.

Dreams were a part of the problem Joseph had with his brothers.

Genesis 37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

Joseph’s dreams were that he would one day rule over them and they would bow down to him. As we will see later in our study, that’s exactly what happened. Yet as you might imagine, that was the last thing Joseph’s jealous brothers wanted to hear. Scripture says that they hated yet the more for his dreams.

Genesis 37:18  And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

We might say that dreams were a big part of the reason Joseph was in prison. Therefore Joseph could have hated the thought of more dreams. Joseph could have been pouting in prison and said –“Dreams!? Don’t talk to me about dreams! I’ve had enough dreams to do me the rest of my life!”

Yet because Joseph viewed his circumstances as a Sanctuary for God’s Presence and a Sanctuary for God’s Purposes, he was able also to see it as a Sanctuary for God’s Praise.

Genesis 40:8 And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

Little did Joseph know it that day that dreams were going to be his ticket out of prison and into the palace.


Let’s conclude where we began this morning. Look once again at James 1:12 –

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

What James is saying is –

Blessed is the man who continues to faithfully love God,
especially when he is going through a trial.
In the end, his faithfulness will be rewarded!

For additional spiritual help –

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