Gen 49:24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
Joseph is dead, but the Lord has his Josephs now.
There are some still who understand by experience, and that is the best kind of understanding, the meaning of this passage,
The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him; but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.
There are four things for us to consider.
First of all, The Cruel Attack: "the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him;"
Secondly, The Shielded Warrior: "but his bow abode in strength;"
Thirdly, His Secret Strength: "the arms of his hands were made strong by the mighty power of the God of Jacob;" and
Fourthly, The Glorious Parallel drawn between Joseph and Christ-"from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel."
|THE CRUEL ATTACK|
Though all weapons are alike approved by the warrior in his thirst for blood, there seems something more cowardly in the attack of the archer than in that of the swordsman.
The swordsman plants himself near you, foot to foot, and lets you defend yourself, and deal your blows against him; but the archer stands at a distance, hides himself in ambuscade, and, without you knowing it, the arrow comes whizzing through the air, and perhaps penetrates your heart.
Just so are the enemies of God's people. They very seldom come foot to foot with us; they will not show their faces before us; they hate the light, they love darkness; they dare not come and openly accuse us to our face, for then we could reply; but they shoot the bow from a distance, so that we cannot answer them; cowardly and dastardly as they are, they forge their arrow-heads, and aim them, winged with hell-birds feathers, at the hearts of God's people.
The archers sorely grieved poor Joseph. Let us consider who are the archers who so cruelly shot at him.
First, there were the archers of envy; secondly, the archers of temptation; and thirdly, the archers of slander and false accusation.
|ARCHERS OF ENVY|
He was one who talked with God; a youth of piety and prayerfulness; beloved of God, even more than he was by his earthly father. O! how his father loved him! for in his fond affection, he made him a princely coat of many colors, and treated him better than the others—a natural but foolish way of showing his fondness.
Therefore his brethren hated him. Full often did they jeer at the youthful Joseph, when he retired to his prayers; when he was with them at a distance from his father's house, he was their drudge, their slave; the taunt, the jeer, did often wound his heart, and the young child endured much secret sorrow.
On an ill day, as it happened, he was with them at a distance from home, and they thought to slay him; but upon the entreaty of Reuben, they put him into a pit, until, as Providence would have it, the Ishmaelites did pass that way.
They then sold him for the price of a slave, stripped him of his coat, and sent him naked, they knew not, and they cared not, whither, so long as he might be out of their way, and no longer provoke their envy and their anger.
Oh! the agonies he felt—parted from his father, losing his brethren, without a friend, dragged away by cruel man-sellers, chained upon a camel it may be, with fetters on his hands.
Those who have borne the gyves and fetters, those who have felt that they were not free men, that they had not liberty, might tell how sorely the archers grieved him when they shot at him the arrows of their envy.
He became a slave, sold from his country, dragged from all he loved. Farewell to home and all its pleasures—farewell to a father's smiles and tender cares. He must be a slave, and toil where the slave's task-master makes him; he must be stripped in the streets, he must be beaten, he must be scourged, he must be reduced from the man to the animal, from the free man to the slave. Truly the archers sorely shot at him.
And, my brethren, do you hope, if you are the Lord's Josephs, that you shall escape envy? I tell you, nay; that green-eyed monster, envy, lives in London as well as elsewhere, and he creeps into God's church, moreover.
Oh! it is hardest of all, to be envied by one's brethren. If the devil hates us, we can bear it; if the foes of God's truth speak ill of us, we buckle up our harness, and say, "Away, away, to the conflict."
But when the friends within the house slander us; when brethren who should uphold us, turn our foes; and when they try to tread down their brethren; then, sirs, there is some meaning in the passage, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him."
But, blessed be God's name, it is sweet to be informed that "his bow abode in strength." None of you can be the people of God without provoking envy; and the better you are, the more you will be hated.
The ripest fruit is most pecked by the birds, and the blossoms that have been longest on the tree, are the most easily blown down by the wind.
But fear not; you have naught to do with what man shall say of you. If God loves you, man will hate you; if God honors you, man will dishonor you.
But recollect, could ye wear chains of iron for Christ's sake, ye should wear chains of gold in heaven; could ye have rings of burning iron round your waists, ye should have your brow rimmed with gold in glory; for blessed are ye when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for Christ's name's sake; for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.
The first archers were the archers of envy.
|ARCHERS OF TEMPTATION|
Constantly did he refuse; still enduring a martyrdom at the slow fire of her enticements.
On one eventful day she grasped him, seeking to compel him to crime; but he, like a true hero as he was, said to her, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"
Like a wise warrior, he knew that in such a case fleeing was the better part of valor.
He heard a voice in his ears: "Fly, Joseph, fly; there remains no way of victory but flight;" and out he fled, leaving his garment with his adulterous mistress.
Oh, I say in all the annals of heroism there is not one that shall surpass this. You know it is opportunity that makes a man criminal; and he had abundant opportunity; but importunity will drive most men astray.
To be haunted day by day by solicitations of the softest kind—to be tempted hour by hour—oh! it needs a strength super-angelic, a might more that human, a strength which only God can grant, for a young man thus to cleanse his way, and take heed thereto according to God's word.
He might have reasoned within himself, "Should I submit and yield, there lies before me a life of ease and pleasure; I shall be exalted, I shall be rich. She shall prevail over her husband, to cover me with honors; but should I still adhere to my integrity, I shall be cast into prison, I shall be thrown into the dungeon; there awaits me nothing but shame and disgrace."
Oh! there was a power indeed within that heart of his; there was an inconceivable might, which made him turn away with unutterable disgust, with fear and trembling, while he said, "How can I? how can I—God's Joseph—how can I—other men might, but how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God."
Truly the archers sorely grieved him and shot at him; but his bow abode in strength.
|ARCHERS OF MALICIOUS FALSE ACCUSATION|
Seeing that he would not yield to temptation, his mistress falsely accused him to her husband, and his lord, believing the voice of his wife, cast Joseph into prison.
It was a marvelous providence that he did not put him to death; for Potiphar, his master, was the chief of the slaughtermen; he had only to call in a soldier, who would have cut him in pieces on the spot.
But he cast him into prison. There was poor Joseph. His character ruined in the eyes of man, and very likely looked upon with scorn even in the prison-house; base criminals went away from him as if they thought him viler than themselves, as if they were angels in comparison with him.
Oh! it is no easy thing to feel your character gone, to think that you are slandered, that things are said of you that are untrue.
Many a man's heart has been broken by this, when nothing else could make him yield.
The archers sorely grieved him when he was so maligned—so slandered.
O child of God, dost thou expect to escape these archers?
Wilt thou never be slandered? Shalt thou never be falsely accused?
It is the lot of God's servants, in proportion to their zeal, to be evil spoken of.
Remember the noble Whitefield, how he stood and was the butt of all the jeers and scoffs of half an age; while his only answer was a blameless life.
And he who forged, and he who threw the dart, Had each a brother's interest in his heart.
They reviled him and imputed to him crimes that Sodom never knew.
So shall it be always with those who preach God's truth, and all the followers of Christ—they must all expect it; but, blessed be God, they have not said worse things of us than they said of our Master.
Ah! friends, some now present know this verse by heart, "The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him." Expect it; do not think it a strange thing; all God's people must have it.
There are no royal roads to heaven—they are paths of trial and trouble.
The archers will shoot at you as long as you are on this side the flood.
What is he doing? "His bow abideth in strength."
Let us picture God's favorite. The archers are down below. There is a parapet of rock before him; now and then he looks over it to see what the archers are about, but generally he keeps behind.
In heavenly security he is set upon a rock, careless of all below. Let us follow the track of the wild goat and behold the warrior in his fastness.
First, we notice that he has a bow himself, for we read that "his bow abode in strength."
He could have retaliated if he pleased, but he was very quiet and would not combat with them.
Had he pleased, he might have drawn his bow with all his strength, and sent his weapon to their hearts with far greater precision that they had ever done to him.
But mark the warrior's quietness. There he rests, stretching his mighty limbs; his bow abode in strength;
He seemed to say, "Rage on, aye, let you arrows spend themselves, empty your quivers on me, let your bow-strings be worn out, and let the wood be broken with its constant bending; here am I, stretching myself in safe repose; my bow abides in strength; I have other work to do besides shooting at you;
My arrows are against yon foes of God, the enemies of the Most High; I cannot waste an arrow on such pitiful sparrows as you are; ye are birds beneath my noble shot; I would not waste an arrow on you." Thus he remains behind the rock and despises them all. "His bow abideth in strength."
Mark well his quietness. His bow "abideth." It is not rattling, it is not always moving, but it abides, it is quite still; he takes no notice of the attack.
The archers sorely grieved Joseph, but his bow was not turned against them, it abode in strength. He turned not his bow on them. He rested while they raged.
Doth the moon stay herself to lecture every dog that bayeth at her? Doth the lion turn aside to rend each cur that barketh at him? Do the stars cease to shine because the nightingales reprove them for their dimness? Doth the sun stop in its course because of the officious cloud which veils it: Or doth the river stay because the willow dippeth its leaves into its waters?
Ah! no; God's universe moves on, and if men will oppose it, it heeds them not.
It is as God hath made it; it is working together for good, and it shall not be stayed by the censure nor moved on by the praise of man.
Let your bows, my brethren, abide. Do not be in a hurry to set yourselves right. God will take care of you.
Leave yourselves alone; only be very valiant for the Lord God of Israel; be steadfast in the truth of Jesus and your bow shall abide.