The Trouble With Perfection
Text: Genesis 40
Proposition: The trouble with perfection is that it only belongs to God and yet often He uses it through us.
Introduction: Have you ever met someone who’s a perfectionist? Generally perfectionists are people who are difficult to be around, they tend to need to be endured because perfection takes enormous effort, correction and time and even then it’s not perfect. Perfectionists fail to see that despite their efforts to control people, events, things and time, peace eludes them. It’s said that when the craftsmen who made the early Persian rugs were weaving the intricate patterns that repeat again and again and create the beauty that we see in the rug, that they would purposefully weave in one flaw somewhere in the pattern of the rug. They would say their reason for doing so is that perfection belongs to God alone! Perhaps that is the drive behind all our perfectionist efforts, the need to create order in our world, an order that God alone provides. This morning we are going to read a perfect story, a history written by the sovereign hand of God. Writers say that a good story must have tension, forces of good and forces of bad, heroes and villains. When you read this story in just a moment or two I would like you to ask yourself just two questions… what went right in this story and what went wrong. That is not only where we see the tension, but we also see the apparent lack of perfection that God perfectly uses. The trouble with perfection is that it only belongs to God and yet often He uses it through us. Turn with me Genesis 40.
I. When the Wrongs of Your Life Overwhelm the Rights, God is Still Perfect. On the score card of right and wrong Joseph did a number of right things. He was used by the captain of the guard to care for the butler and baker. The captain of the guard was of course Potiphar, which must infer that the truth eventually became evident to Potiphar regarding his wife’s advances towards Joseph, the very issue which landed Joseph in jail. Joseph shows compassion to these two fellow prisoners, that too is a right effort on Joseph’s part. They both have dreams and Joseph directs them to God as the only One who can know the meaning of dreams, again a right response. Joseph is used of God to rightly interpret the dreams for these two and the interpretation is right on the mark. Joseph rightly believes that this interpretation is true, so much so that he asks to be remembered when the butler is released and restored to his position before Pharaoh. All these were right actions and right expectations, you could even say that his faith is what guided those right actions and expectations. Then comes the creation of tension, that which pulls on us like the way a fisherman gently pulls on the fishing line in order to catch what lies beneath the surface. There is the wrong of Potiphar knowing Joseph is innocent yet keeping him in prison. There is the wrong of caring for others and not having them care for you in the same way, the wrong of being used of God and then being used by men. The baker is restored and stands in a position of influence before Pharaoh but he forgets about Joseph. The next chapter begins by telling us that this oversight cost Joseph two years of his life. God’s use of perfection has a far different path and sense of timing that what we would prefer, yet despite the tension and even disorder, God is perfect in character and action.
II. When God Touches Our Lives with Perfection, Truth Is Like an Incision. One dictionary defines the word ‘incision’ as, “A surgical cut for entering the body to perform an operation.” Sometimes God will cut through the fabric of what we know and believe in terms of who we are in order to enter in and perform an operation. In the story before us God uses dreams, two dreams on the same night in two individuals, the butler and the baker. When Joseph sees them the next morning it is evident these were no ordinary experiences, both men know they have seen something but they can’t understand what. Joseph hears their concern over these dreams and tells them that the interpretation of these dreams belongs to God, inferring that God is the One who caused the dream, who used the dream to cut or penetrate into the reality of their lives. Joseph is no stranger to dreams, it was his dreams which he told his brothers and father that caused their jealousy of him. In Scripture God has used dreams a number of times, in Gen. 20:6,7 Abimilech is warned in a dream not to touch Sarah, Abraham’s wife, in 28:12 Jacob dreams of a ladder going to heaven, in 31:24 Laban is warned in a dream as to how he should speak to Jacob, three times in the New Testament the husband of Mary, Joseph was warned by God through a dream (Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 2:22). In the case before us two men have a dream and Joseph is used of God to interpret them. The butlers dream is unusual in that it is like time lapse photography, a vine that puts out three branches which rapidly bud, blossom, produce grapes and they rapidly ripen in just a matter of seconds. The butler sees his own hand reach out and press the grapes into a cup and then he gives it to Pharaoh. The bakers dream also was one in which he saw himself except as he carried three stacked baskets of bread on his head the birds of the air swooped down and took what was in the uppermost basket. The bread never makes it to Pharaoh. Without hesitation Joseph tells them the interpretation, he tells them the dream has a time frame, three days from then. He tells them both will be released from prison, he tells them one will be restored to his position and the other will be decapitated and his body hung for the birds to consume. The details and timing leave no room for error, they are like an incision of truth coming into the lives of two men. Several things catch our attention:
1. Joseph tells the good news as well as the horrific news, God’s truth is like that as it penetrates our lives. Jesus put truth out there in the same way. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The good news is that man can be right with God, there is a heaven. The horrific news is that apart from Him there is no way, truth or life with God for only through Jesus is our sin removed. There is a hell, that too is a reality that God wants us to know about, it too is a truth revealed.
2. Both the butler and the baker have been given the truth but both must wait three days before it takes place. The certainty of the outcome is awaiting them.
3. The incision into their hearts and minds is by the truth of God’s word and it is meant to separate and enter into the body. It’s truth because it proceeded from the perfection of Who God is. Remember the words of Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
You have to ask yourself, ‘Why did God give these two men these dreams?’ Perhaps you need to back it up even further, ‘Why did God have these two men thrown into the very prison where Joseph was?’ The answer to both these questions seems to point to Joseph, that God was in some way using these events to endorse Joseph, to make him standout, to set Joseph apart for a much greater role that was just around the corner of time and event. However, when you pan the camera out even further you begin to see that this story is not about Joseph at all, it’s really about an older brother that is not even on the stage. This is a story about the preservation of Judah and his other 11 brothers. The word of God had penetrated into the heart of Joseph and God would use him to ensure the safety and survival of all his brothers, from which came the nation Israel. Of all these brothers, Judah would be the one most important for from him would come the line of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Has God penetrated your life with truth, with His word, has He used perfection through you to set you apart for much, much greater things to come? The Bible, the living Word of God that you hold in your hands, the Spirit of God that earnestly seeks to dwell within you, the body of Christ the church which you are a member of, the Son of God Who is over all, through all and in all, that is the perfection of God visiting you here this day. Though we may identify most strongly with Joseph perhaps we are more like the butler, set free yet forgetting the One who proclaimed our freedom to us. Let’s use the word ‘holy’ as a synonym for perfection. He touches us with that which is holy. His intent begins at drawing us towards holiness but it does not end there. He knits us together with so many other lives, lives in other lands and times, to bring us to Himself through Jesus. He is the Father’s Way, the Truth that cuts into our hearts, the Life that with a certainty is awaiting all who will believe in the forgiveness of sin that Jesus alone has offered through His death on the cross. If you have not, will you today, even this hour, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved! It’s His perfect plan and He is offering it to you.