Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 17 January 21:
Genesis Joseph saw his brothers and quickly remembered his dreams about them –
Genesis 42:6-9 — “Now Joseph was governor over the land…. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them…. And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.”
You recall when Joseph was seventeen years old, he was chastised and mistreated by his family because of his dream of them all bowing to the ground before him. (Genesis 37:1-11). In fact, Joseph sharing this dream with his jealous brothers was likely the culminating impetus for his enslavement – “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.” (Genesis 37:19-20) Now 22 years after Joseph was left for dead by his brothers, he sees them again for the first time. What would be going through your mind at this moment? Apparently, the first thing which came to Joseph’s mind wasn’t being thrown into a pit but rather the dreams he had about his brothers. This was a revelation of God’s mercy, grace, love and faithfulness rather than a reminder of betrayal.
Joseph was seventeen years old when he had his dream and sometime after that, likely soon after, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers (who had almost killed him). Next, the Bible recounts, “The Lord was with Joseph,” and as overseer of Potiphar’s estate, “he became a successful man….” (Genesis 39:2) However, Joseph was eventually falsely accused and thrown into prison (likely with a life sentence, and this was no white-collar prison) – “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison” (Genesis 39:21-22) – not the resumé bullet most people are hoping to claim. Today, we read how Joseph was miraculously released from prison and immediately commissioned as governor of Egypt. Again, this is certainly not the path to career success anyone would envision.
So, since Joseph was around 17 years old when he was sold into Egypt, and was 30 when he became governor (Genesis 41:46), and since the chief cupbearer (who had “continued for some time in custody”) had forgotten about Joseph for two years (Genesis 41:1, 9), we know that Joseph spent more than two years but less than 13 in a prison the Bible calls, “The Pit.” Since Joseph managed Egypt during its seven years of prosperity, and since his brothers came to visit him during the second year of the famine, we know that Joseph was over 39 when his brothers came to see him. No surprise they didn’t recognize him when they saw him. “And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6) Now, after all these years and after so many trials, the dreams that God gave Joseph are being realized.
God had a great plan for Joseph but a very hard path, a path neither Joseph nor anyone else could have ever imagined. As with so many others we will read about this year (Moses and Job particularly comes to mind), Joseph’s journey includes incredible highs and incredible lows – rags to riches, riches to rags, rags to reward….
Some key points to take away from what we have read so far about the life of Joseph –
1) Joseph’s dysfunctional family didn’t change God’s plan for him. Joseph was born into a family full of strife, hate, deception, bitterness, jealousy, favoritism, rage, and abuse. But God was preparing Joseph for God’s greater, unstoppable plan for reconciliation and redemption. Likewise, your family background doesn’t determine your future.
2) No one else could change God’s plan for Joseph. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph and had him thrown into prison. The cupbearer forgot about Joseph, but God’s plan was unchangeable. No one can change God’s plan for your life either. Don’t worry about what others did, didn’t do, or might do to you. Simply trust in the Lord and remain faithful to Him – “For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27)
3) God gave Joseph a dream rather than Joseph dreaming his own dream. It is God’s plan that prevails, not ours. Faith is not ‘name it and claim it.’ Faith is about being a part of what God is doing and trusting Him through His plan one day at a time. Faith is about being faithful with today every day, making the most of every opportunity God puts in front of you —
- Matthew 6:33-34 -- But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Ephesians 5:15-16 -- Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. - 2 Corinthians 12:10 -- For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - Proverbs 16:9 -- The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. - Proverbs 20:24 -- A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
Never forget, it is not about you! God’s plan for Joseph wasn’t about Joseph, it was about His glory and His ultimate plan for redemption through Jesus. Joseph would never see the final outcome of God’s ultimate plan, but he was a part of it through the grace of God. Joseph was blessed to be a part of what God was/is doing through unworthy people, and his story is an example of faithfulness and perseverance. Don’t pursue your own plans and miss what God is doing in His plan, and don’t let life’s trials hinder your faith or distract you from the prize of Christ’s glory. Rejoice, trust, and live faithfully day-by-day.
4) God’s plan for Joseph included trials and suffering, and God’s plan for you will include trials and suffering. There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there is no growth in the comfort zone. Pain is God’s chisel to shape you more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus, to create in you Christ-like character. How we respond to trials not only shapes us but also others. Our response to trials can bring great glory to Jesus Christ who suffered the cross for our salvation. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
5) Joseph demonstrated that faith can be costly. Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife and landed in prison. Perhaps he could have given in to Potiphar’s wife and continued to live a comfortable life as a slave in a palace. Don’t surrender to sin in order to remain a comfortable slave.
6) Joseph didn’t have a victim mentality. Joseph was no negative whiner, always making excuses, or blaming circumstances for his attitude and failures. When Joseph was thrown in prison, he ran the prison. Be joyful, thankful, and faithful with whatever God has given you. Do all things, big or small, hard or easy for God’s glory.
7) Joseph remained joyful and hopeful though he still had sorrows. What Joseph named his children reveals he still had sorrow over what had happen to him. Yet, he remained positive and continued to trust in God. No doubt you carry sorrows, but remain joyful, and when you feel down, rejoice – re-joy, or joy again. Focus on your many blessings and trust in God’s perfect love and fidelity – “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1, 2)
- Philippians 4:4-7 — Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8) Joseph was successful because God was with him, not because of his own talents, skills, and abilities – “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…. The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…. ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.’” (Genesis 39:2, 21; Genesis 41:38-40) Your greatest asset is your fidelity to God. Above all else, guard your heart….
9) Joseph never ceased to give all glory to God, none to Himself – “Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’” Our purpose is to enjoy God, serve God, and glorify God before mankind as we serve as His messengers of reconciliation. Never attempt to take credit and share glory with God. Our message is one of unmerited grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no room for us to boast in anything. If we are pointing at ourselves, we are not pointing to Jesus. If we are telling people about ourselves, we are not telling them about Jesus. If we are representing ourselves or our interests, we are not serving as Christ’s ambassadors.
You really have no idea what God has in store for you, but you know that His plan for you is perfect, motivated by His perfect love, and greater than you could possibly imagine. Trust, obey, and have peace.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Jan 21: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1) Today, if your problems seem big, focus on the greatness of God, and pray that God will give you the right perspective which results in joy, gratitude, confidence, peace, love, and faithfulness. It is all about perspective. Remain focused on Jesus and not on the waves around you.