Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slaying Giants: Joseph


Genesis 39:20-40:4,23; 41:1 So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.
The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper. Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt.
Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time.
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.

Giant #1: Lost years/time – many times in life we come to a point of evaluation. It happens as we look ahead after high school or college and realize how big the world really is. It can happen after we have worked for a few years and we are not sure if what we are doing is what we want to do for our life. Then there is the “mid life” one where you begin to wonder what your life has been all about, and you panic wanting to leave something of substance behind. Then, as we get older still, we have a long look back and wonder what we could have done differently or better. Every New Years I sit down and reflect what was and what could be.


Here Joseph is sitting in a prison. Can you imagine the thoughts running through his head? It is one of those good news bad news stories. “I am part of a big and wealthy family, and my father loves me best. It is going to be a good life.” Then his brothers grab him and sell him into slavery. “Well, this hurts and isn’t very nice; and they are taking me far away to a strange country.” In Egypt he is bought by Potiphar, the captain of the bodyguard, and things went well. “Well, if I have to be a slave, then this is pretty good.” Then Potiphar’s wife got involved and wrecked everything. He was innocent but got sent to jail anyways. “Rats! Just when things were turning around”. Things go well and he moves into leadership within the prison system, and he interprets a couple dreams. ”Great, this is my chance to get out!” 2 years later and he is still waiting. “How long?” So here is a guy that just on the cusp of life at 17 suffers a staggering setback (sold into slavery). It is not until he is 30 that he is free from his confines, and suddenly finds himself the second banana in Egypt.

Two questions arise: The first is “Could he have handled the 2nd banana position if he hadn’t had his previous 13 years of experience in the prisons and the waiting?” His mission was framed in years, not months or weeks – he had 7 years to store grain for the 7 years of drought. The truth is that God can use the difficult times of today to prepare us for the ministry of tomorrow. If we fight and struggle with God today, though, we may not get the opportunity of tomorrow. Our response to our situation determines in part whether we are in step with the Spirit of God or not.

The second question to consider is this: “Who’s timetable are we on?” Do we have a sense that God is sovereign and in control and leading us on, or do we feel the need to do things in our own strength and timing. This is an attitude and it makes a difference in how we approach problems. If God is sovereign in our life, there would be no question of what it is all about. We know what it is all about. God is in the business of making us like Himself, and life is the context where that happens. It rains on the righteous and unrighteous. The sun shines on both as well, so it is not about the environment, it is about what we are doing with Jesus today. God knows what is going to happen tonight and tomorrow and next week and next year. You and I don’t have to worry about it. As we focus on Jesus in our life, we can get through anything, knowing God has our back, and that we are all headed for a better thing. Paul said to live is Christ, to die is gain. Don’t hold on to stuff too tightly, because there is much better stuff waiting for you and I. Joseph was 30 when he came into his place of public and prominent ministry. It is interesting to note that it was the same timing as Jesus.

Giant #2: Focus on a dead end job - Slave’s don’t have much of a future. You work all day, eat and fall dead tired on to a floor, just so you can do it all again tomorrow. In doing this are you looking at a future without this hopelessness, a future with some rest and peace? As a slave Joseph had no guarantees. He worked hard and his ethics allowed him to keep rising to the top of his class – but he still was in dead end jobs. Have you ever had a job that felt like that? Has life ever conspired to make you feel like that? They have done several studies over the years about hopelessness, and found it was a determining factor in longevity and survival. Joseph had dreams from God. There were things that he knew God was doing that hadn’t been fulfilled in his life. He had a purpose outside of his circumstances that carried him through the tough times. The joke about the light at the end of the tunnel being a train coming to run you down feels all too real sometimes, but the truth is God is sovereign. Joseph stated himself in conversation with his brothers that what they had meant for evil, God ended up turning for the good.

So if you get stuck on that seeming dead end road, remember Joseph and that it isn’t over until God says it is. There is hope. There is a future in Jesus. There are miracles and all kinds of grace that goes before you into the future. Psalm 37 says,

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

These words written some 2,900 years ago in another language, were written for you. Take them to heart from a Sovereign God who loves you more than life.

Two giants that Joseph slayed in his life – wasted years and a dead end job. The truth is this: You never know what is happening in the background, in places even half way around the world. God is going far before and around you with His prevenient grace. He is sovereign and you are never as stuck and the things you think have been wasted have long been redeemed in His own way. These giants are slain by the grace of God. Be still before the lord and wait patiently for Him means that you do what you can and let the Father do the rest. Use your gifts, use the brain God gave you, and live a life focused on Jesus and the giants will fall by the wayside, one after another.

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