Joseph #7 “Feeling The Famine”

Genesis 41:53-57 October 17, 2004


SI: Studying the life of Joseph.


INTRO: We don’t have a clue what it is like to live through a famine.

None of us have, none of our grandparents have, or great grandparents,

or great-great grandparents (unless, perhaps they were immigrants).


Famine is not part of our history or our national consciousness as Americans.

We sing, “O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.”

Many of our heath problems are caused by overeating.

But in other times and places, famine has stalked the land.

People have been driven to desperation to satisfy their hunger.


There was a book published recently titled “Ukraine 1933, A Cookbook”

Book consisted of interviews with people who survived the famine in Ukraine

in 1933 that killed tens of millions of people. (a planned famine by Stalin)

Book about what they ate to survive.


Maple leaves were dried on the stove or in the sun, crushed, put through a sieve, mixed with water into dough from which flat cakes where made.”


Children, delirious with hunger would catch and eat all sorts of bugs, butterflies, and moths. Caterpillars were gathered and eaten with leaves.”


Dogs were caught. The barking of dogs could rarely be heard in the villages—they were all consumed.”

And there were accounts of cannibalism.


We have never known famine like that in America and I hope never will.

But there are people all around us who are suffering famine in their souls.

There are people all around us who are starving to death for peace, love,

forgiveness, purpose, and hope.

They want answers to their perplexing problems, relief from the burdens they carry,

they want to feel alive.

And like the people of Ukraine in 1933, they are willing to devour anything

to make that feeling of famine in their souls go away.

But the things they turn to for relief and happiness aren’t real food for soul.

Some things are more functional and socially acceptable than other things.

Trying to feed your soul with your work, money, and sports are

more acceptable than trying to feed your soul with drunkenness and infidelity—

But it’s all famine food. It leaves you craving more.


When the people of Egypt felt the famine, what did Pharaoh tell them to do?

Go to Joseph.” “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

Go to a Hebrew man who was rejected by his brothers,

who suffered great humiliation but was faithful in that suffering,

and who was then raised up by God to a place of honor and authority.


Does that sound like anyone else you know?

Is there another Hebrew man you know of who was rejected by his kinsmen?

Who suffered great humiliation but was faithful in that suffering?

Who was raised up by God to a place of honor and authority?


You know the man I’m talking about. Jesus Christ.

Just as Pharaoh said to the desperate Egyptians who were feeling the famine—

Go to Joseph.”

The message of the Bible to everyone who is feeling the famine in his soul is—

Go to Jesus.” “Go to the greater Joseph.”


If you are feeling the famine this morning.

If you are starving to death for peace, love, forgiveness, purpose, and hope—

if you are tired of eating dry leaves and bugs and you want real bread—

then there is only one thing you must do—

Go to Jesus and do what he tells you.


He can meet your need if you know that no one else can.

He can lift you up and give you hope when you know nothing else can.

He can make you clean if you know you are impure.

He can make you happy if you cannot break out of your gloom.

He can give you power over forces that darken you life if know yourself helpless.


Go to Joseph.” Word of hope to everyone who is feeling famine in his soul.

Look at this passage—let’s consider two truths.

MP#1 Nothing in this world can relieve the famine of your soul.

Everything people think will make them supremely

happy, content, secure, and satisfied will—in the end—be a disappointment.

Egypt in famine a picture of this.

What was Egypt like in Joseph’s day?


Egypt was the breadbasket of the ancient world.

The country is mostly desert but running right through the middle is one of the

mightiest rivers in the world—the Nile.

Every year the Nile would flood and bring moisture and nutrients to farms along

the banks, but especially the Nile delta.


The grain of Egypt was world famous and Egyptians famous bakers.

There were over 70 varieties of bread made in Joseph’s day.

That’s why Pharaoh had a chief baker—as saw in chapter 40.

The Egyptians were gourmets.

There was a great variety of other food as well.

Remember 400 years after Joseph, when Moses let Israelites out of slavery,

one of their complaints was, “Yes, we have our freedom, but we miss all the

good food back in Egypt—the leeks, onions, garlic.

In Egypt, even slaves ate well.


In addition, Egypt was the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world.

Centuries of tribute and trade had poured into the country—

and even though there were different dynasties, Egypt was never conquered.

Monuments of Egypt’s wealth and power are still with us today.

When tourists go to Egypt today, want to see the pyramids.

Incredible to think that when Joseph in Egypt, pyramids already 3,000 years old!

Egypt was a picture of security and wealth.


Also, Egypt was the greatest center of religion in the ancient world.

The Egyptians had an elaborate theology, and elaborate psychology of dreams.

They spared no expense when it came to spiritual expression and experience.

The temple in Karnak is so large that the great cathedrals of Europe fit in corner.

It takes 11 men to put their arms around the columns of that temple.

Egypt was a place of great religious and spiritual experience.


But when God decreed that there would be 7 years of famine, everything shaken.

The people “cried to Pharaoh for food.”

This is very significant. To the Egyptians, Pharaoh was Egypt.

It was believed that he represented and guaranteed the

prosperity, wealth, security, and spiritual well-being of Egypt.

He was a god-like figure, and it was believed that his priestly rituals

brought about the annual flood of the Nile, on which everything rested.

But Pharaoh was powerless to help against the famine.


Now, I want to take all of these details down to a few simple points.

In the Bible, Egypt is not just a country in North Africa.

It is a symbol of the slavery of sin and the vanity of this word’s treasures.


Egypt of Joseph’s day seemed to lack nothing keep people happy in body and soul,

but when God declared a famine, there was a hunger that could not be satisfied.

The lesson from all of this is one that the Bible makes over and over—

you can feed yourself with the things of this world and be content for a long time,

but when a famine comes, you will feel it. Those things will be dust.


When we lived in Florida we were surrounded by people who were living

the fulfillment of the American dream—They had retired to Florida.

They had money, they had health, they finally had all the time in the world

to do the things they wanted to do—golf, fish, tennis, beach.

What more could body and soul want?


But do you know what struck many of them when they got there? Famine.

Famine of soul. One way you saw that famine was that lives

that should have been full became narrow and petty.

Talk to any Marco Islander and he will have a dozen examples of this.


A friend of mine had the sheriff called on him by angry residents in his beach-front

condo because one evening he stayed in the hot tub 10 minutes after

the official closing time of 9 pm.


Another friend of mine had to confront a man who was running up and down

his seawall and screaming curses at my friend’s 9 year old son because the boy

had made too big a wake with his jet-ski.

A man I knew was bitterly criticized by his neighbors because his boat

trailer was a little too long so he couldn’t close his garage door all the way.

Many people who had retired to this beautiful island, with beautiful homes,

manicured lawns, good restaurants, to live the good life, to be happy—

instead felt famine in their souls.


What about Cullman? We are so blessed here, aren’t we?

We seem have everything to keep a person happy in body and soul.

good neighborhoods, good schools, churches every corner, banks every corner,

a Wal-Mart super center.


But there is famine here too.

Every single one of us here knows people who, in spite of blessings,

are starving for peace, forgiveness, purpose, and hope.

Every one of us knows people who want answers to their perplexing problems,

who want relief from the burdens of guilt they carry,

who want to feel joy, who want to feel alive.


We know people. We are those people.

How many times have you stuffed yourself with something to ease the hunger

of soul only to find that it makes you feel more empty?

How many times have you thought—

If only I could buy this, if only I could accomplish that.

If only I could have this person’s approval.

If only I could look like that person.

And you pursue it, and get it, and eat it, but still feel hungry.


The human heart is a bottomless hole. There is never enough.

Never enough money, enough beauty, enough approval, enough security.

Because we are made, as preacher says, “With eternity in our hearts.”

Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.


Jesus said that in hell the worm will not die.

Hell will be the gnawing cravings through eternity forever separated

from the one who can fill you up and satisfy your soul.

When the people of Egypt cried out to Pharaoh—he was helpless to feed them.

But he said, “Go to Joseph.” “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

MP#2 Jesus alone can satisfy the famine of your soul.

What the Egyptians did not know was that all they needed was God’s man Joseph—

and the connection he had with the living and true God.


When started this series, said the story of Joseph also a story of God’s providence.

God’s providence operates on many levels in Joseph’s life.

One way you see God’s hand is that He arranged Joseph’s life so that it

foreshadowed the life and work of Jesus Christ.


I mentioned this at the beginning.

Joseph was a Hebrew man, rejected by his brothers, subjected to great suffering

and humiliation, but faithful in that suffering. So he was raised to a position

of great honor and power and became the savior of a starving world.


That is a foreshadowing of the life and ministry of Jesus.

He was also a Hebrew, son of Abraham, son of covenant.

He was rejected by His brothers, the Jews.

He suffered great humiliation—all the way to the cross—but he was faithful.

So God raised him to the highest place, from the right hand of the Father,

he carries out the Father’s plan, the salvation of a starving world.


You see this kind of foreshadowing throughout the Old Testament.

God providentially guiding lives so that they would point to Jesus Christ.

Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt with mighty words and deeds.

Jesus led his elect people out of slavery to sin with mighty words/deeds.

David struck down Goliath and subdued all the enemies of Israel.

Jesus struck down Satan and has subdued all enemies of church.

You can go on and on with this.


God did this to prepare Israel for the coming Messiah.

And from our side of the cross—

the story of Joseph, and all the Old Testament saints help us see

the richness of Christ’s redeeming work for us, how much we need him,

what he had done and the blessings that come from trusting him.


Parents—if you don’t read your children Bible stories,

they will have deficient knowledge of Jesus Christ and faith will be weakened.

Because the Bible stories enable us to understand more fully and trust more firmly,

and love more deeply our redeemer Jesus Christ.

If children still young, get a Bible story book and start this week to read.

If older, can read straight from Bible.

It would be a shame if your children left your home, able to name all characters

in favorite sitcom or favorite ball team but know next to nothing about the men

and women of the Bible whose lives God arranged to show your children Jesus.


The destiny and eternal happiness of every single person is determined by his or her

relationship with Jesus Christ or lack of it.

That sounds ridiculous to many people.

How can Jesus, knowing Jesus, believing in Jesus satisfy the deepest longings

of my soul? That doesn’t even make sense. So many other things much more

tangible and immediate that make much more sense.


For the Egyptians who had always looked to the prosperity, wealth, and security

of their way of life—nothing would seem more ridiculous than the idea a Hebrew

man, former slave, would save them when Pharaoh couldn’t.

But it was true. And when they felt the famine, and all the things they had counted

on were empty, the went to Joseph and got food.


The wonderful thing about the Christian faith is that over and over again

you hear the same story told in many ways—I was starving, I was feeling famine,

but I went to Jesus and I was filled.


Read recently story of Adoniram Judson.

Early 1800s college student at Providence College in Rhode Island.

Writings of agnostic Thomas Paine Christianity was ridiculed—just as today.

Judson grew up in a Christian home, when to college, following popular ideas,

rejected faith of parents, struck up a friendship with student who was a leader

of this new philosophy.

In diary, Judson refers to this friend by first initial “E.”


One summer holiday, Judson touring New England on horseback, came to an inn.

Innkeeper said only one room, next door to a man who was ill, dying.

Judson, illness and death didn’t scare, too sophisticated, confident.

But all during night heard groaning of dying man. Despair.

Disturbed his peace—but pulled himself together.

What would college friends say, what would E say if saw troubled conscience.

But no use, all night long he trembled with thought of death.

Next morning, felt better, asked innkeeper about man. Told died in night.

Who was he? College student at Providence College, name was E.


That moment, weeks that followed Judson’s famine.

The thinking he had built his life on, gained peace from like eating ashes.

Death had come close and he had no answer for it.

So he turned back to Jesus, to the faith his parents had taught him.

Spent rest of life as missionary in Burma, spreading word about Hebrew man,

who suffered, rose so that we could have life. Judson suffered terribly in Burma.

But never suffered that famine of soul. Full of fellowship of Jesus Christ.


Remember a retiree on Marco named Mr. Heavner.

Retired for the good life. But felt the famine.

Came to church thinking he would find a social club—found Jesus.

I know that all of you here have own stories, those you have heard.

As implausible as it seems, Jesus Christ, who died and rose 2000 years ago is

alive today can satisfy the hunger of your soul when you are feeling the famine.


Pharaoh said to those desperate Egyptians—Go to Joseph, and do what he tells you.

What does Jesus tell you to do? Repent and believe the good news.

Repent: Means turn. Turn away from everything you have put before God.

The idols you are trusting for security, self worth.

The sins you are clinging to, even in your mind, that give you temporary pleasure.

Confess those to God. Grieve over them.

True repentance may require confessing sins not just to God, to people wronged,

otherwise you keep a little hidden, don’t truly turn away.


Believe the good news: Good news is that Jesus Christ has food for you soul

and he will give it to you if you ask him. He said. I am the bread of life.

He said. The one who comes to me I will never drive away.

Joseph didn’t turn away the Egyptians when the came to him for food,

but Joseph was just a foreshadowing.

He could only help the Egyptians through a temporary crisis.

Jesus Christ himself can feed forever everyone who trusts in him.