June 17th, 2018

Until Ephraim Comes
Genesis 41:50-52

The serenity of that early morning quiet was abruptly broken by shouts of "fire – fire!" Within minutes, every available resident in Menlo Park became involved in the frantic effort to save that well-known building. But despite their best efforts, the building quickly became little more than smoldering ashes and drifting soot.

The famous building was an old inventor’s laboratory. Perhaps you’ve heard of him - Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb and a host of other world-changing innovations.

In the light of dawn, Edison and his son, Charles surveyed the damage. Nothing was salvageable. All his inventions, his notes, and his journals were completely destroyed.

As Edison kicked through the ashes, he looked at his son and said the strangest thing. "There is great value in this disaster, my boy,” he said. “For now, all our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."

Is it any wonder that Thomas Edison was such a successful person? He had that uncanny ability to take life's adversities and turn them into assets.

What do you do when life does not go your way? Do you turn life's adversities into assets, or do you let life's adversities control the day?

One thing is certain. Life is filled with adversity from the cradle to the grave. Hard times come to us all; but let us remember; adversity doesn’t have to be a prelude to failure. To the contrary, some of the most successful people in history have ridden to success on a wave of adversity.

Today’s text speaks of one such person. His name was Joseph, and though he faced more than his share of adversity, he found a way to turn those adversities into success.

Before I read today’s text, let me briefly review the events of Joseph's life. If you remember, Joseph was born one of twelve brothers. Even as a child, his family realized he was different. Joseph was always a dreamer with aspirations of becoming a great leader.

Unfortunately, his aspirations caused his brothers to be jealous of him and to hate him. Eventually, the brothers came up with a plot to kill him but, right at the last minute, decided to sell him into slavery instead.

After being sold as a slave, Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to Potipher, one of the high ranking officials of Egypt. As a slave in Potipher's house, he excelled and was given the position of household manager. Unfortunately, Potipher’s wife took a liking to Joseph and tried to seduce him. When he refused her advances she accused him of attempting to seduce her and Joseph was thrown into prison.

While in prison, Joseph excelled as a prisoner and quickly became manager of prison operations. Eventually, the Pharaoh of Egypt had a dream that no one could interpret and Joseph was brought to the king’s court because he had the reputation for interpreting dreams. After Joseph successfully interpreted Pharaoh's dream, he was released from prison and appointed by Pharaoh to be second in command of all Egypt.

Today’s text picks up the story of Joseph as he flourishes in Egypt. While in Egypt, Joseph was married and fathered two sons. Listen carefully to the names Joseph chose for his sons as I read from Genesis 41:50-52.

Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Did you catch the names of the sons? Manasseh, a name that means, “forgetting all our trouble,” and Ephraim, a name that means, “becoming fruitful in the land of one’s affliction.”

The name I want us to examine today is the name of his second son, Ephraim. What an appropriate name for the son of Joseph - Ephraim, a name meaning, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Ephraim - isn't that what all of us what? Don’t we all wish we, like Joseph, could become fruitful in the land of our affliction? Don’t we all wish we could have our own Ephraim?

As we look at Joseph’s life, let’s see what he did to survive his adversities until his Ephraim came, until he became fruitful in the land of his affliction.

The first thing we discover is this. We need to keep on dreaming until our Ephraim comes.

Joseph began his life motivated by dreams of greatness and though he faced years and years of adversity, he never lost sight of his dreams. He never lost sight of his dreams even though he was:
- thrown into a pit in the deserts of Palestine,
- sold as a slave by his own brothers,
- falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit and spent a decade or more in prison.

Yes, this dreamer faced a life so adverse that most people would have forgotten their dreams - but not Joseph. Despite the hardships, despite the inequities, Joseph never lost sight of his dreams.

When we read Genesis 42:8-9, we hear Joseph – now second in command of Egypt - talking about his dreams. The passage states,

But Joseph recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed.

Yes, Joseph kept on dreaming until God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction. Joseph kept on dreaming until his Ephraim came.

Jim Borden was a dreamer. Borden's dream was to break the two mile track record at New York State University. Unfortunately, early in his freshman year, Borden was diagnosed with an unusual disease called Ichthyosis. Ichthyosis is a disease that forms scales over the body's sweat glands, making it impossible for the body to perspire.

The team doctor immediately disqualified Borden from competition, knowing that, without the ability to perspire; his body would overheat during any kind of athletic exertion. But Jim Borden had a dream, a dream he was not willing to give up.

After several days of planning, Borden and his friends came up with a way to overcome Jim's problem. During the track meet, Jim’s friends stationed themselves along the route with buckets of water, and when Jim ran by they would douse him with the water. This bucket brigade provided the cooling effect of the evaporating water which enabled him to compete without overheating. Finally, in his senior year, Borden achieved his dream, setting a new school record for the two mile run.

Yes, when a person has a dream their dream finds a way. So despite the adversities you face in life – keep on dreaming; because those who keep on dreaming find a way to be fruitful in the land of their afflictions. Those who keep on dreaming find a way to survive until their Ephraim comes.

But there's something else we need to do until our Ephraim comes. When we look at Joseph’s life we realize that we need to keep on believing until Ephraim comes.

Belief is easiest to maintain, when life deals us the cards we want; but when adversity comes, many find it difficult to keep on believing. Surely Joseph’s faith must have been tested during those difficult years. But despite his many adversities, Joseph never stopped believing. As we read the story of Joseph, we realize that Joseph hangs on to his faith, even when facing life’s most difficult adversities.

So how did Joseph survive until God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction? Joseph survived because he kept on believing until Ephraim came.

We, too, can survive until our Ephraim comes if we resolve in our heart to keep on believing. I like what the poet says.

When doubt sees the obstacles, faith sees the way.
When doubt sees the darkest night, faith sees the day
When doubt dreads to take a step, faith soars on high
When doubt questions, "Who Believes, Faith answers, "I."

So how do we survive until our Ephraim comes? We keep on dreaming and we keep on believing until our Ephraim comes.
But there’s a third thing we must do to survive until our Ephraim comes. We must keep on working until our Ephraim comes.

I think it’s interesting to note that Joseph excelled no matter where he was. When Joseph was a slave in the house of Potipher he was quickly put in charge of the entire household. When he was unjustly imprisoned, he was put in charge of all the other prisoners. Why? Because Joseph did his best even though he faced adverse circumstances. Yes, Joseph kept on working to do his best wherever he was.

After school each day, young James went to the butcher shop to assist the butcher in the day's work. He was a hard working boy and upon high school graduation was given a full-time job in the butcher shop. For several years he worked with the butcher and was promised part ownership if he continued to excel.

As the years went by, the butcher became greedy and began to cheat his customers by substituting cheaper meats for the more expensive cuts. When James discovered what was happening, he confronted the butcher. The butcher became angry and fired James on the spot.

It looked as though James’ dreams had gone down the drain. No longer could he dream of owning the butcher shop. Instead, the only job he could find was that of a stock-boy in a neighborhood department store. The hours were long and the pay was considerably less, but James resolved to do his best work regardless of the situation.

Within months, he was moved from stock-boy to cashier. Within a year he became assistant manager, then manager. Finally, he bought the department store. Decades later, his department story was franchised into a chain of stores, and now these stores bear his name all over the world. Yes, this young man who kept on working, regardless of his adversities, was none other than James Cash Penney – J. C. Penney.

J. C. Penney knew what Joseph knew. Penney knew that when adversity puts you in an undesirable situation, you have to keep on working until your Ephraim comes.

So what do we do until our Ephraim comes? What do we do until God makes us fruitful in the land of our adversity? We keep on dreaming until Ephraim comes. We keep on believing until Ephraim comes, and we keep on working until Ephraim comes. And if we do, like Joseph, God will make us fruitful in the land of our affliction.