Oh, the places you’ll go

April 4, 2011

This didn’t get posted but was from March 20th.
Read Pages 1-17
What a great book. Here is a confession; I had never read this book before I decided on the series. The other three I had read or had read to me as a child and read them to my children but not “Oh the Places you’ll go.” I had quoted from it but never actually read it. What a great read, I have already read it to our Granddaughter I think everyone who has a kid should have this book in their library and read it to them.
Oh the places you will go was first published in January 1990, making it the last book published before Dr. Seuss’s death on September 24, 1991 at the age of 86. You may or may not know that Seuss, Theodor Geisel was married twice but never had children. He has been quoted as saying, “You have ’em; I’ll entertain ’em.”
Oh, the places you’ll go! Is written in the second person and uses the future tense to describe what life will be like for the main character, a young boy simply identified as “You”. And it really nails it, the ups and downs, the choices that will be made and what life will be like.
One source indicated that the book has become a popular gift for graduates and that sales spike in the spring of each year to about 300,000 copies.
You don’t have to be around Denn very long to come to know that I am a firm believer that we are the sum result of the choices we make. We can make excuses, we can cast blame, but ultimately each one of us is the result of the choices we make in this life.
Our future life started being defined by the choices we made as a child, would we be a good student or a bad student? Who would our friends be? Would we choice the easy way or the right way? Those choices would set us on a path that would ultimately lead us to today. For better or for worse.
It is not a matter of accepting the blame it is simply a matter of accepting the responsibility. Because here is the very essence of what I am saying: If the choices you made yesterday brought you to where you are today. Then the choices you make today will take you to where you are tomorrow. Which means that you have control of your destiny.
Or as William Ernest Henley wrote “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
The story of Joseph is a story of choices, and had Jacob sat down and read his son “Oh, the places you’ll go!” when Joseph was a boy then Seuss’ tale would have seemed prophetic later in life. Because there were times of success, and times of failure, and times of waiting.
The story of Joseph is so familiar that we sometimes never see the roller coaster ride that Joseph was on. His life was a series of disasters and blessings. Some were the result of bad choices he made, and some the result of good choices he made, but they were all the result of his choices. The last thirteen chapters of Genesis chart the life of Joseph, the boy with the coat of many colours.
The story begins in Genesis 37 when Joseph was seventeen, and looking at it as a simply a human story, after all God isn’t even mentioned in that chapter, it is a most unpromising start. Hardly the type of beginning that you would expect for one of the greatest civilisations in the history of mankind. Genesis 37:3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe.
You have to realize that the secret to the entire story is in that last line So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. This was the flowing robe worn by a VIP who did no manual labour. If anyone in the family should have been privileged to wear such a robe it should have been Reuben, the eldest not Joseph who was practically the baby of the family. And the foolishness of Joseph’s father destroyed any chance that Joseph may have had for a normal relationship with his brothers.
Now to be really frank I don’t like Joseph at this particular juncture in history. I think that he was an immature obnoxious little pup and had I been one of Joseph’s eleven brothers I probably would have voted with the majority and been done with the problem once and for all. “That’s a terrible attitude Pastor, after all Joseph was a man of God.” True and as he matured that became evident, but in the beginning he was just annoying.
Let’s look at some of the things that came Joseph’s way and some of the choices he made, how they affected his life and how they apply to our lives.
1) He Chose to do What Was Wrong. There are a couple of things that the Bible records that might help us understand what was going on in the heads of the ten boys who decided that life would be a whole lot easier to live without little brother around. In Chapter 37 verse 2 we are told how Joseph had been tending his father’s flocks with his brother and brought back a bad report about them. Now we don’t know what Joseph finked on the others about, maybe it was important, maybe it wasn’t important maybe he was just being a kid brother. The Bible doesn’t mention what the others had done or even hint that they had done anything. But I can’t imagine that he endeared himself to his siblings over that little incident. And then he had a dream of how his brothers would all bow down to him. Now having the dream is one thing but Joseph rushed right out and told the guys, and then couldn’t understand why they weren’t as excited as he was, as a matter of fact it says in Genesis 37:8 . . . And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.
If ’n that happened to me I think I would have kept my mouth shut after the first incident. But no he has another dream and in this one his parents bow down to him as well as his brothers and do you think that the thought even crossed his mind “you know, the other guys might not be thrilled to hear this.” No instead he rushes right off to let them in on the good news. Just goes to prove the validity of Billy Sunday’s statement “Sin can be forgiven but stupid is forever.”
And so one day Joseph is sent by his father to make sure the other brothers are doing their work properly, and we know that Joseph wasn’t planning on getting into it himself because he wore his fancy duds, you know the coat with the flowing sleeves, ideal work clothes right. And when his brothers saw him coming they decided that they had had enough of little Joe, and we read in Genesis 37:19-20 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
Well had that been the end of the story it certainly would have played havoc with story time in Sunday School wouldn’t it? Instead Reuben gets an attack of conscious and tells the others that they shouldn’t actually kill Joseph instead they should toss him down a well and let him die of natural causes, like starvation or thirst. He actually planned on coming back to rescue Joseph later but while he went walk about the other nine got a streak of capitalism decided to make some lose change and sold Joseph to some slave traders. Joseph was about to learn the truth of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, when Kipling writes: “If you can dream and not make dreams your master: if you can think and not make thoughts your aim.”
Sometimes we bring persecution upon ourselves because we chose to do wrong things. Joseph wasn’t being picked on because he was righteous; he was being picked on because he was being a righteous pain in the neck.
Sometimes I think that because Jesus said in Luke 6:26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. Some people think that they need to be unlikeable to get into the Kingdom of God. The secret though is that persecution should be for righteousness sake not because you deserve it the Lord told us in Matthew 5:10-11 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.
And while murder is never justifiable we do need to realize that Joseph was the author of his own misfortune in round one. Sometimes we don’t need to look any further than the mirror to see who’s to blame for what’s happening to us.
2) He Chose to do What Was Right. Joseph does get more likeable as the story goes on. You’ll recall that when he gets to Egypt that he is sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s attendants and various job advancements came his way until he had worked his way up the ladder until he was head honcho in Potiphar’s house. Everything went well during this time and it would seem that anything Joseph touched turned to Gold, it got to the place that the Bible tells us in Genesis 39:6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!
The young arrogant upstart had made something of himself, perhaps all he needed was humbling, perhaps if Daddy hadn’t made so much out of him out of him when he was a kid and played him as an obvious favourite then maybe he wouldn’t have needed humbling. I do know though that it often takes something to make us humble. We don’t usually become humble just by being told to be, and if we do our “humility” is usually unreal.
And so there Joseph is, a good job, a great future, the word tells us that he was well built and handsome, it looked like he had the world by the tail, until things took a turn for the worse.
 Potiphar’s wife decides that she wants young Joe and so she tries to seduce him, and he won’t be in it. His master has trusted him with everything and he’s not about to betray him by sleeping with his wife and he tells her that. Well you gotta give the lady credit she was persistent and she approached him day after day with the same proposition. A very clear case of sexual harassment, of course if he had of spoken out it would have been very doubtful that anyone would have believed him being a man and all.
So that’s when it happened, one day Joseph was attending to his duties around the house and nobody else was there well let’s listen to the word of God, Genesis 39:12-20 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, she called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said. “My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home. Then she told him her story. “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me,” she said. “But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!” Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.
Doesn’t sound right does it? But I would be willing to wager on the same outcome if it happened today. Joseph had to have known the outcome the first time he said no. After all what is that saying about a “woman scorned”.
Sometimes Joseph made the right choices and they worked out for him and sometimes he made the right choices and they didn’t work out, but that didn’t make his decisions anymore right or wrong.
And so the roller coaster continued, from favourite son to slave, from favourite employee to convict. What was it that Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
Most of us know the rest of the story, how after Joseph had been in prison for a while he became a trustee and proving how valuable he was to the warden he was put in charge of virtually the entire prison system. During that time he interpreted a dream for a man who was the chief cupbearer to the Pharaoh the man was released and after two years spoke up for Joseph who was released from prison and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. In his new position he was able to plan ahead and save Egypt from a famine and then had the opportunity to save his family when they suffered reversals because of the famine as well. How did Joseph handle his setbacks? Good question.
3) He Chose to be Faithful. Whatever Joseph was as a teenager his adversity had turned him into a man of God. On four separate occasions the Bible says “The Lord was with Joseph”. Nobody else in the Scripture gets that type of acknowledgment. We see his commitment to God when Potiphar’s wife makes her advances and Joseph stands firm for righteousness by saying in Genesis 39:9 How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”
Joseph knew what was wrong even when it would appear in his best interest. The laws of God were deeply ingrained in his heart no doubt laid there by his Father’s teaching. He called the action what it was “Wickedness and a sin against God” he didn’t try to justify it or rationalise it, after all the master’s wife would be a valuable friend indeed, she might even be able to secure his freedom for him. He knew it was wrong, he didn’t call it a failing or an illness or a mistake. He knew the truth of Jerry Garcia’s of the “Grateful Dead” words, who said “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”
King David realized the value of having the laws of God etched deep into your being when he wrote Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
. When I was in high school in one of our classes we talked about “Situational Ethics”. What would you do if you were in this situation or that situation? But our commitment to God can’t just be dependent on the circumstances around us.
Too often the message is preached today that if we are righteous and dot all our i’s and cross all of our t’s then everything will be alright. And if things go wrong and if there is illness or set back or problems then it is because there is sin in our life. That isn’t true.
Even when Joseph was in prison the Bible records that “the Lord was with him”. The problem with the name it and claim it philosophy of Christianity is that it make God into some type of celestial Santa Clause or divine genie who makes all of our hurts go away and if the hurts don’t go away and if we have problems then God must not be happy with us. If our salvation and obedience to God was assurance of leading a life without trouble or problems then we would have to bar the door of the church to keep the converts away. It also doesn’t explain away the fact that not all Christians enjoy the privilege of living in a first world country. What do you do with the devout believer in Sierra Leone, or Haiti who doesn’t have enough to eat let alone everything he could possible desire? How do you explain Job who was a Godly man with ungodly troubles?
Joseph remained faithful through it all both in the good and in the bad. And sometimes it’s harder to serve God when everything is going good then when things are bad. Major Alistair Smith of the Salvation Army made this statement concerning the Early days of the Salvation Army, “The world threw bricks at us then. Now they throw bouquets. I sometimes think that the bouquets do us more harm then the bricks ever did.” I believe that will be true of the Wesleyan church as well, as we become more and more respectable in the eyes of the community the easier it is to compromise our message for popularity. Let’s keep our eyes on the cross in the good times and the bad.
4) He Chose to be Persistent. He obviously knew the truth of Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
The secret of that passage is in the last five words, “If we don’t give up”. If we give up we don’t get nothing, Billy Sunday the pro baseball player turned evangelist summed it up by saying “Stopping at third adds no more to the score then striking out.” lot of truth in that. Kipling wrote If you can watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools.”
How about it? Can you stick with it? I love the poster that has the picture of the cat hanging on the end of a rope and the caption says, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
When we lived in Australia Stephen and I were coming back from soft ball practise one evening and as we drove home we could see a storm just ahead of us. Even though we were only getting a few drops of rain the storm loomed like a curtain in front of us. When we finally hit the squall it was pouring rain, the wind was blowing and there was a bit of hail. The wipers could hardly handle the rain it came down so hard. And as we got a little ways into it we saw a man pull over to the side of the road to sit the storm out. He had obviously driven as far as he was willing to go and you couldn’t really blame him could you? The ironic thing was that he was within a hundred yards of driving out of the storm. Because he stopped, he had to wait until the storm had gone by him again, and because he was obviously driving faster than the storm he would have ultimately caught up with it yet once again.
You got storms in your life? Don’t stop, don’t give up, seven times in the Revelation Christ gives promises to His church, but in all seven instances the promise is preceded by the thought “to those who are victorious” In the King James it reads “To those who overcome” In other words it isn’t how you start but how you finish that counts.
Sometimes life may be like a roller coaster with all its ups and downs but there is one more similarity and that is it isn’t safe to get off until the end of the ride.
When should Joseph have given up? When he was tossed in the well? When he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife? When he was thrown in jail? When he was forgotten by the cup bearer? When he became governor?
So let’s take a look at how the story ends.  (Read last two pages of book)