THE NEW EWE
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 23, 2008
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Genesis 50:20 says, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” In order to truly understand what Joseph meant when he made that statement, you have to go back and read about his life.
The story of Joseph begins in Genesis 37, when he was age seventeen. We pick up the story now in Genesis 40.
Joseph had been placed in prison by Potipher because of a lie told by his [Potipher's] wife. But the Lord was there with him, and he was blessed. The warden saw that God was with Joseph, and put him in charge of the other prisoners.
After some time, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended Pharaoh. Pharaoh was angry with them and had them thrown into prison.
Scripture doesn't say how much time passes, but one night both of these men had dreams. The next morning, Joseph came in where they were and saw that they were sad. He asks why they are sad. They tell him they had dreams, but there was no one to interpret the meanings.
Joseph's reply was, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”
The chief butler told Joseph his dream first. Afterwards, Joseph gave him the meaning of it.
Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it; The three branches are three days. Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler. But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he then told Joseph his dream. But the outcome was much different.
Joseph's reply to his dream was, “This is the interpretation of it; The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”
Don't you know that the baker was on pins and needles for the next three days, hoping that Joseph was mistaken?!
Pharaoh's birthday was in three days, and he made a feast for himself and all his servants. He restored the chief butler to his position, just as Joseph had said. But he hung the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Yet once the chief butler was out of prison and back in his former position, he did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
I imagine that Joseph had seen this as perhaps his one chance of getting out of prison. Each day he may have waken with the thought, “Is this the day that I will be freed from this dungeon?” Joseph more than likely didn't know whether the butler had forgotten to mention him to Pharaoh, or if the butler had mentioned him and the request was denied.
When we place our hope and trust in people, they can disappoint us and let us down. They may not follow through on their promise. The butler probably had good intentions when he left the prison, but he got wrapped up in his own life and forgot Joseph. Pharaoh's birthday celebration may have been an event that lasted for several days, with important guests present. The butler was probably kept busy those first few days that he was out of prison. He may have had a family and was enjoying being reunited with them.
I'm sure that we all have been in the position of either being let down by someone, or by forgetting to keep our word and disappointing others. But we can know beyond all doubt that God will never forget us and He will never disappoint.
Chapter 41 begins that “at the end of two full years” Pharaoh had a dream. I'm not sure whether the two full years is the total time that Joseph spent in prison, or if that is two years from the time that the butler was restored back to his position. But regardless, Joseph had spent at least two years in prison for a deed that he did not even do. That seems like a long time for someone to be unjustly punished. Most of us would have become very bitter and disheartened during that time. We would have started blaming God for not answering our prayers and delivering us from captivity. A lot of people's faith is destroyed when it is tested; especially in a situation where they feel they are being treated unfairly.
Many times when we pray for something and it doesn't happen like we want or think it should, we try to begin manipulating events to try and get our own way. It's difficult to stand back and give God complete charge and wait for His timing. At times, God may let us have our way, even though it's not His way or His timing, and it may be good; but we find ourselves missing the joy and peace that we thought would come with it.
For example, I enjoy playing piano and would really like having one in my home. (This scenario is only an example, not a true story!) Let's say that I decide that I really need to have one and want it so badly that I can think of nothing else. I begin telling my husband all the reasons why he should get one for me. That's all I talk about and all I think about. I do research on the best brands, check out prices, and arrange a spot in my living room to put it. I promise my husband to cut corners in other areas of spending and show him where we have enough money in savings to purchase one. I wait a while, and he doesn't go out and buy it for me. I consider going ahead and purchasing it for myself, but really want it to be a gift from my husband. So I begin to nag him about it. It causes strive in our relationship because he sees the wisdom in waiting until we are more financially secure. But I really, really want it now! So I begin to try to manipulate him into giving into me. Eventually he throws his hands in the air and says, “Fine! You want a piano, you can have it.”
We buy it and bring it home. I set down and begin playing and it sounds wonderful. It's everything I had dreamed of. I tell everyone how great my new piano is and how wonderful my husband is for getting it for me. But wait! Something is missing inside me. I don't have the peace and joy that I thought having it would bring. I know in my heart that I had the wrong attitude in getting my way, and I feel guilty. My husband and I still love each other, but I didn't show him the respect I should have, and it's causing strife between us because I know that I nagged and manipulated him. Therefore, whenever I play the piano my conscience bothers me and I don't enjoy it like I could have. The gift is not bringing me the joy that it could have, had I only listened to my husband and waited for the right timing in receiving it. Now I have a choice to either humble myself and apologize, or allow my guilt to build a wall between us.
Think of the difference in the outcome, had I let my desires and wishes been made known to my husband, then let it go; trusting him to make the right decision, and know the timing of when we could best afford to make the purchase. Let's say that one afternoon I'm waiting in the house for my husband to get home from work, like normal. Nothing exciting had happened that day, and it was a day like most others. Then in walks my husband with a huge smile on his face, telling me that he has a surprise for me. He has me go upstairs and wait until he calls for me. A few minutes later, he calls my name and I walk into the living room to see a brand new piano sitting there. Imagine the joy and excitement that unexpected gift would bring! Each time that I sit down and play, I remember the love in which the gift was given. I have a deep joy and peace, knowing that I trusted my husband. All I did was ask, then I waited for the right timing, without nagging and manipulating. My conscience is free from guilt. And the relationship between my husband and I is strengthened and filled with complete trust and respect. The gift would be like a treasure and how precious it would be to me!! (Remember, this has only been an example.)
We can apply that same principle to requests we make to God. When we are patient, regardless of how long it takes, and wait on God's timing; the outcome is always so much better than anything we could have dreamed or thought of. And afterwards we can go to God with a clear conscience, free from guilt, knowing that we waited for Him.
God had a purpose and plan for Joseph, and His timing was perfect. It may not have happened when Joseph wanted, but God knew what He was doing and was in control. All this time, God was watching over Joseph and knew exactly where he was. He didn't just suddenly one day realize, “Oh no! I forgot that Joseph was still in prison. I need to hurry and get busy and do something to deliver him.” No. God knew where Joseph was that whole time, and was taking care of him.
Pharaoh had a dream one night, which caused his spirit to be troubled. He called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but there was no one who could interpret the meaning of his dream for him. Then the chief butler remembered Joseph.
He spoke to Pharaoh saying, “I remember my faults this day. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody of the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, we each had a dream in one night. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. I was restored me to my office, and the chief baker was hung.”
Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.
As we will see in next week's devotional, God's timing for Joseph was perfect. He worked all things together for Joseph's good, according to His purpose. There was a position becoming available, that only Joseph could fulfill, in order for God's will to be completely accomplished.
We may be “locked” in a place for months or years, waiting for God's intervention. But that time shouldn't be wasted and lost. It can be a time of growing and maturing spiritually. We see that Joseph didn't spend those years just sitting around in a cell, wasting away. The Lord was with him, and he was in charge of the other prisoners. We don't know how many people he prayed with and ministered to during that time. He may have been the only person who had ever shown any type of kindness or consideration to the men who were locked up with him. Even though Joseph didn't want to be in the dungeon and knew that he was there unfairly, he didn't whine and complain and feel sorry for himself. He served others and spent that time wisely. He didn't just sit around doing nothing, while waiting on God to deliver him and intervene.
From time to time we all go through times where we need God's intervention and help. But that's not the time to sit still and do nothing. If we do, then we open ourselves up to self-pity and complaining. We start wanting to blame someone for our situation, and usually it ends up being God who gets the brunt of our anger. Wherever we are, whatever we do, we can be used of God and can serve others. That gets our focus off from ourself and our situation. God can work in all of our circumstances in order to work all things together for good.
Genesis covers far too many years to give us many details. It doesn't say much more about Joseph's stay in prison that Loretta didn't describe above. The New Testament, however, goes into a lot more detail about times that Paul spent in prison. He wrote a lot of the epistles (letters to churches) from prison. He took the time to minister and witness to his guards. On one occasion, he spent a great deal of time with his guards while he was being taken from Israel to Rome. He got to witness to a whole ship-load of people, and an island to boot.
Paul didn't see his imprisonment as God forsaking him, but as an opportunity God gave him to reach out to other people he would never have met. It wasn't a time to mourn the loss of freedom, but to rejoice in opportunity.
We can practice the same attitude. I hate giving advice, especially when I'm bad at practicing it. But I'll offer a suggestion anyway. The next time you go to visit a loved-one in a hospital, try to mention God to them or someone else. You could tell a nurse that you will trust in God, or ask the doctor for prayer. You could tell another patient that you are looking to God for peace and faith. Some people respond with a polite “O—kay”. But most will respond well. It's a great fellowship to share your distress and need with others.
6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small onion, chopped
¾ cup milk
2 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. Salt (to taste)
½ tsp. pepper
Arrange half of the sliced potatoes in bottom of greased casserole dish. Top with ½ of shredded cheese. Blend together onion, soup, milk, salt and pepper. Pour ½ of mixture on top of cheese. Repeat with remaining half of ingredients. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender.
(This all happened before I was born.) My mom's family loved getting together often, even after all the siblings were married and had their own families. Poppy (Mama's dad) and some of my uncles were big story tellers. They would tell humorous stories, but also enjoyed telling scary stories. The family would sit around outside after dark and listen to all these stories told by Poppy or one of my uncles. One particular night, they had told “ghost” stories about a particular old abandoned house close by. Afterwards a couple of my uncles gathered all the younger kids up and drove them over to the house. Unknown to them, one of my other uncles had slipped away while they were loading up and hid inside the house. When the kids went inside the dark, abandoned house, my uncle, who was hidden inside, starting moaning and making noises. Needless to say, it didn't take the kids long to run outside screaming, only to find the two uncles, who had drove them over, standing out in the yard laughing at them. They realized then that the joke had been on them!
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” - William Arthur Ward
Have we told you thanks lately?! We really do appreciate each of you and thank you for reading our weekly newsletter.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon