Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 20 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 39:2, 3 – “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…. His master saw that the Lord was with him.” Joseph was successful because the Lord was with Him, not because Joseph was lucky or talented. God’s activity in Joseph’s life was apparent to Joseph’s master. There are many talented people in the world, but being empowered by God is a totally different thing, revealing a power far beyond human abilities, bringing glory to God rather than the person. Is God’s activity in your life apparent to those around you?
2. Genesis 39:6 – “So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.” In captivity, Joseph worked so diligently for his master his master put him in charge of everything and worried about nothing. How does this compare to how you do jobs you don’t want to do for people you don’t want to do it for?
3. Genesis 39:6, 7 – “So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge…. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’” Character is who you are in the dark, what you do when you have no restraints or no repercussions that concern you. Ethical failures, usually involving sex and money, have destroyed many high-level leaders. God allowed Joseph’s leadership to be tested in a big way. Here is where we see the truth of Joseph’s heart – he is truly a man of integrity and fidelity. Here is a leader you can trust. Today, society often overlooks the ethical failures of leaders and then wonders why they can’t seem to be counted on to make good policy decisions. People act as if character can be compartmentalized, as if a person can be untrustworthy in one area of their lives but trustworthy in another – nope. Character is what you repeatedly do – if you almost never murder, you’re still a murderer. If you hardly ever steal, you are still a thief. If you rarely lie, you are still a liar. A habit or trait doesn’t define you until it becomes who you truly are. Joseph acted faithfully because he WAS faithful. Who are the Joseph leaders today?
4. Genesis 39:7 – “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” Few people can handle the temptations that come with being attractive.
5. Genesis 39:9 – “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Joseph saw sins committed against others as, more importantly, sins committed against God.
6. Genesis 39:16, 17 – “Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, ‘The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me.’” The light of the Christian life will expose the darkness in the lives of others, and the response of those who live in the dark will often be to extinguish the painful light. When Christians refuse to condone sin and participate in sin, they will be hated and silenced. Unfortunately, too many Christians respond to attacks from sinners by dimming their own light, by either compromising or remaining silent before sin. Had Joseph surrendered to sin, he might not have gone to prison, but he would have missed out on the great things God had intended for him along the path of fidelity and obedience.
7. Genesis 39:21 – “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” A Christian following God is never a mere victim of circumstances, and God will bring all things together for good for them, even those things that seem so terrible at the time.
8. Genesis 39:23, Genesis 40:23 — “The Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed…. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Genesis 39 and Genesis 40 end very differently and, together (intentionally), describe the challenge of faith both Joseph and Christians today will go through – apparent victories and agonizing defeats. Genesis 39:23 points out that God was in control of Joseph’s life; yet Genesis 40:23 seems to imply that Joseph’s fate was at the mercy of other people, circumstances, or even his own failures. No doubt, at times Joseph struggled with the question: “Where is God now?” Despite all of Joseph’s efforts to obey God, it seemed like he was just a helpless victim. Perhaps, like so many of us do, Joseph felt like God was blessing him when there was obvious success and then ignoring him or punishing him when there was apparent failure. Surely, it is hard to feel loved, blessed, and protected by God when you are wrongly accused, abused, and forgotten in prison. At times like that, you are tempted to doubt. You may have even made a lot of personal mistakes that caused you to create your own personal ‘prison’, but “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” not even our own buffoonery. (Romans 8:35-39) We will experience consequences of sin in a sinful world, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Throughout the Bible we have seen and will continue to see how God uses both good and bad circumstances, intentionally, to accomplish His purposes in both the lives of individuals and in the world. In Joseph’s case, the chief cupbearer’s forgetfulness was no surprise to God. God took Joseph through exactly what God wanted Joseph to go through as He prepared Joseph for a greater experience with God. Of course, it would be impossible for Joseph to know exactly what God was doing; that takes FAITH. It takes both endurance and perseverance. The Second Marine Regiment’s motto is “Keep moving,” derived from the WWII Battle of Tarawa where during the amphibious assault on the heavily defended island, Marines found themselves stuck on coral 500 yards from the shore, forcing them to wade/swim to the island under intense bombardment and machine-gun fire – hard to imagine a worse scenario. What do you do in a time like that? Keep moving! Sometimes in life, that is what the Christian must do. Keep pressing forward in faith, even joy. Faith is trusting God right now at His word, and hope is trusting God with the future from your foundation of faith. The God who IS love, loves you always and continually. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive bad?” (Job 2:10) “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Spoiler alert: After Joseph had gone through so much abuse by so many people, he understood that it was all simply part of God’s plan – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20) Just a Moses had to go through the Red Sea; just as Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego had to go through the fiery furnace; just as Daniel had to go through the lions’ den, Joseph had to go through his great test in order to become the leader God intended; and we must go through our trials too. Through trials or tests, God is doing five things: Revealing Himself to you in a greater way; revealing you to yourself in a greater way (He already knows everything about you, but you don’t); revealing Himself to the world through your life; using your life to effect change in the world; and preparing you for greater things. See how God does these things in Joseph’s life. See how He does these things in your life. God is Good!
9. Genesis 39:23 – “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” Again, Joseph was successful because God enabled him. Joseph wasn’t a ‘natural’ leader but rather a God-empowered leader. Therefore, he was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Joseph was usable because he did not simply surrender to his terrible circumstances but relentlessly trusted in God. Joseph didn’t take on a victimization mentality, wallow in self-guilt, seek some form of escapism, or even complain – he just sought to faithfully put his 100% into his current situation and wait upon the Lord. What do you do when life doesn’t seem to work out for you?
10. Genesis 40:15 – “For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” God was “with” Joseph, but God did not protect Joseph from terrible injustice and hardship. On the contrary, God allowed Joseph to go through seemingly hopeless situations so that God could prepare and position Joseph for greater things. Joseph accepted good and seemingly bad from God (which was really good). Do you?
11. Genesis 40:19 – “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” Joseph did not sugar coat the word revealed to him by God but rather told people the straight truth. We too are called to communicate the unadulterated truth of God’s word to others, in love, regardless of whether they want to hear it or not.
12. Genesis 40:23 – “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” How do you respond when people let you down? How do you respond when you never seem to get a break?
13. Proverbs 20:3 – “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Again, being ‘right’ is not nearly as important as being loving.
14. Proverbs 20:6, 9 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find…? Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” Pride is the worse form of blindness. If you ever catch yourself proclaiming your best attributes, repent, and return to humility. If you catch yourself comparing your ‘righteousness’ to that of another person, repent, and return to humility.
15. Proverbs 20:14 — “’Bad, bad,’ says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts.” God’s economy does not allow for a person gaining wealth at the expense of another. There is a way to gain wealth while genuinely adding value to others. When you do things God’s way, you earn your wages in ways that give more than you get. Others get more than what they paid for. This brings glory to your God.
16. Proverbs 20:22 – “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” When offended by others, you can only handle mercy and grace, not justice. Only God can handle justice because only God is just, and you will likely ere in your favor. Never try to seek justice for yourself against others. When offended, show mercy and grace as shown you by/through Jesus, and leave it to God to settle the score. If you try to be the judge, you sin.
17. Proverbs 20:27 – “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.” You cannot be adequately self-aware, self-controlled, or self-disciplined apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. This should make sense to you: if self is the problem, self can’t fix the problem. You need a power that is beyond self, a power that can see what you can’t see and control what you cannot control. You need something beyond your limited natural abilities, you need the supernatural. Today’s culture promotes humanism, the notion that humans are the answer to human problems. Secular humanistic concepts have crept into the church, and many churches seek to validate these concepts by attaching out-of-context scripture verses to them. Yes, it is important for Christians to be self-aware and self-controlled, but the Bible is clear that only through the Holy Spirit can this be achieved. See Galatians 5. The Bible says that we should constantly have within our decision-making calculus three awarenesses — awareness of God, awareness of self, and awareness of others. We can only have true awareness of all three as God enables. If we seek awareness of these three merely from our own intellect, we will be deceived and constantly in error. You will read many Bible verses this year which will clarify this point.
18. Psalm 7:9 – “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!” God knows your mind and heart, and He uses circumstances to reveal your mind and heart to you. He knows your heart and knows you don’t. You can’t fix what you can’t see or what you are not willing to be honest about. Your spontaneous fit of anger is God’s revelation to you that your heart is not right. So, what are you going to do about it?
19. Psalm 7:12 – “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow.” The first word of Jesus’ message was “Repent”. The message hasn’t changed, though fewer and fewer churches are proclaiming it.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Jan 18: Today, seek to be like Joseph when things aren’t at all going your way – remain faithful to God and wholly obedient to God’s word. Trust God’s unfailing power and love through your circumstances and with the future. Make the most of whatever you have; make the most of your circumstances – if you wind up in prison, then run it and make it great. Never give up! Don’t worry about the score on the scoreboard (Genesis 39:23)