"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!'"
March 2, 2011
I have recently finished reading Genesis. As I was reading the story of Joseph, one thing about his life really stood out to me, and that was his faithfulness, regardless of his circumstances.
It's so easy for us to look at what's happening in our life and gage our happiness by whether or not things are going good. And it's so easy to piously judge others by what we determine is going on in their lives. If things seem to be difficult and perhaps it seems as if they've made bad decisions, we often look at them and think, "If only they would do this or not do that, then they wouldn't have got themselves in the mess they're in." There may be times when things are more complex than we know. We've all dealt with adverse situations, and I'm sure we can all honestly say that at times we've handled them better than others.
It's also human nature to want to cast blame when the decisions of someone else negatively affect us. We want others to know that it's not our fault, and often desire to have their sympathy. And too often, we'll share what happened in order to let others know that we've been the offended party, and that the culprit who hurt us cannot be trusted and needs to be avoided. We feel sorry for ourselves and whine when things aren't going like we expect. And more often than not, we think our circumstances excuse us from taking responsibility for our words and actions.
Joseph was his fathers favorite son, which caused his older brothers to be jealous of him. As a parent, Jacob didn't handle the situation well and showed favoritism. He was wrong in loving Joseph more than his other sons and giving him preferential treatment. He even made Joseph a special coat of many colors to wear. When a parent favors one child above another they are only asking for trouble. Often the other children will either do everything they can think of to try and please that parent to get noticed; or else will do the opposite and get into trouble and be the wild child because even though it's negative attention they're getting, it's still attention.
Joseph didn't ask to be in the position of being Jacob's favored son, but I'm sure he loved his father and enjoyed the special attention. Even though he had a special relationship with his father, he missed out on having any type of closeness or special bond with his brothers. To make matters worse, he dreamed that his brothers were bowing down to him, then told them about it. That only angered them and made them dislike Joseph even more.
The brothers were out feeding their father's flock. Jacob sent Joseph to check on them to see if everything was okay. They saw him coming from afar off and saw their chance to get revenge and immediately began to plot to kill him. Perhaps they felt if he was out of the picture then Jacob would pay more attention to them. They stripped Joseph of his special coat and threw him into a pit. Later they saw a caravan coming and decided to sell him. Jealousy and anger will make people do things that they normally wouldn't consider doing. But I believe these emotions had been building inside the brothers for years and Joseph's dreams were the final straw.
We can look at Joseph's life and see where several times, although he was doing what was right and working hard, bad things happened. Human thinking tends to lean towards the idea that if we are good enough or work hard enough, then good things will come our way. But that's not always the case. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. But regardless of what happened in Joseph's life, he remained faithful to God. And each time, God gave Joseph favor and blessed him.
Upon his arrival in Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard. Genesis 39:2 says, "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. He left all that he had in Joseph's hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate."
Joseph was only 17 years old when he had the dreams about his brothers bowing down to him. I'm not sure how much time passed between the time of his dreams and his brothers selling him. But regardless, he was a young man when he arrived in Egypt. The scriptures also doesn't say how much time between the time that Joseph began working for Potiphar and his promotion to overseer. But more than likely he was in his twenties. He apparently had a lot of maturity and wisdom for his age, and was a hard worker. But more than anything, he was consistently faithful to God and God prospered all that Joseph did.
Probably the most valuable gift that Jacob gave his son was instruction in the ways of the Lord. During the many hours they shared together, Jacob likely told stories of his father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham. He must have taught Joseph about God. Joseph took all that to heart and had a strong faith in the Lord.
Never once does the scriptures say that Joseph was angry at his brothers or tried to get revenge. He never tried to run away from Egypt nor did he feel sorry for himself or whine because he was taken from his father's home. But whatever Joseph did or wherever he was, he served faithfully and God showed him favor.
Potiphar's wife set her attention on him and felt the sting of being spurned when he refused to have an affair with her. To get revenge, she lied to Potiphar and told him that Joseph was the one who had came to her wanting to sleep with her. Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. Yet even then, Joseph was steadfast in his faith and didn't cry out to God, "Please, just let me die!" or question, "Why me?"
God had His hand upon Joseph, even in prison. Genesis 39:21-23 "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper."
Joseph was never out of God's care and protection. God had a plan, and even thought things probably didn't make sense to Joseph at the time, and he had no idea what was going on, God was preparing him for a leadership role that was far greater than anything Joseph could ever imagine. God may be preparing us for something that we never dreamed of. And we can't always see what work God is preparing others for.
The butler and the baker of the King of Egypt offended him, so were thrown into the prison where Joseph was. One night they both had a dream, and God gave Joseph the interpretation of their dreams. The butler was restored to his position and the baker was hung. At the end of two years, Pharaoh had two different dreams one night that troubled him and none of the magicians or wise men of Egypt could interpret it. His butler then remembered how Joseph had interpreted the dreams that both he and the baker had had in prison, and they had come to pass as Joseph had said. Joseph was sent for, cleaned up, then brought before Pharaoh.
God gave Joseph the interpretation of the king's dreams; there would be seven years of plenty, then seven years of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint officers over the land to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land during the seven plentiful years and store up grain. Then that food could be used as reserve for the land during the seven years of famine. The advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and he told Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand; and he clothed him in garments of the line and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had Joseph ride in the second chariot which he had. Joseph was 30 years old at this time. That was quite a promotion in one day; from prison to second in command over all Egypt! When we submit ourself and our plans to God's complete control, He can work in ways that seem completely impossible. And sometimes God brings certain individuals in our path for a specific reason.
And Joseph's dream about his brothers did come true. For Jacob sent them to Egypt to try and buy food when he heard of their plentiful resources. The brothers had to come before Joseph, bowed down to him, and ask to buy food. Long story, but they didn't recognize him although he knew who they were. But through a series of events, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and was reconciled to his father and family once again.
If we took any one event it would look bad; Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers, then later being lied about and thrown into prison. But through it all, God saw the big picture and granted favor to Joseph. God was directing Joseph's steps from the very beginning of his life. He used the brother's jealousy to bring Joseph into Egypt. He caused Potiphar to be in the right place at the right time to purchase Joseph. Joseph honed his leadership and organizational skills while overseeing Potiphar's house. The wife trying to destroy his reputation, then spoke lies about him that ended up getting him thrown into prison. But even then, Joseph was once again place in a prominent position within the prison where his skills were further honed. God placed the butler in Joseph's path. At the right time, he remembered Joseph interpretation of his dream and passed that knowledge onto Pharaoh. Then Joseph was brought into the ultimate leadership position as second in command over all Egypt. His wisdom caused Egypt to have plenty during the famine years, and they had excess to sell to other surrounding countries who were also experiencing famine.
Joseph recognized the fact that God's hand was always upon him; even when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.' When they had done so, he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.'" (Genesis 45:4-8) Joseph wasn't angry, nor did he cast blame on them for their actions; but instead saw it all as God's plan for him.
After Jacob dies, Joseph's brothers are fearful that he would hate them and repay them for their evil which they had done to him. It was difficult for them to believe that Joseph had actually fully forgiven them and loved them, perhaps because they felt guilty and were having a hard time forgiving themselves. We are that same way with God many times. We sin and feel condemned and feel that perhaps God will hate us or repay us for our disobedient acts. It's very hard at times to comprehend God's depth of love and forgiveness that He has for us, because we have a difficult time forgiving ourselves.
Joseph tells his brothers not to be afraid. "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." And Joseph comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21)
If only we could comprehend that even when our circumstances are in turmoil, God is still at work in our lives. He has a plan and purpose for our lives. He continuously loves us and will grant us His divine favor, when we remain faithful to Him. I want to have Joseph's attitude in all situations, and recognize that even if the situation looks evil, God can bring about good and grant me His protection and favor.
I know I've written about this before, but I'll risk repeating myself.
Jesus did say, in Matthew 5:45, "He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." It's not popular. There are quite a few preachers who will preach that if you believe, your life will be a bowl full of cherries, and you'll never have a cold, never be low on money, and never receive a dirty look. But, sadly, that just isn't true. Most of us will be on the receiving end of some rain of some kind. It's just up to us to maintain our faithfullness.
On the other hand, in Revelation 21:4, John quotes a voice from heaven, "And God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying." Isn't that awesome? Even though we can expect the rain to fall in this world, in heaven, God will wipe away our every tear, and we won't feel sorrow again.
(This is super easy and quick)
Salt & Pepper
Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. With a biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut a hole in the center of the slice of bread. Place the bread in the skillet. Crack an egg in the bread hole; salt and pepper. Cook until bread browns and egg begins to cook (probably 2 minutes). With a spatula flip the bread/egg to the other side and cook to desired doneness. Neither Jon nor I don't like soft eggs (YUCK) so after I flip it, I take the spatula and smash down to break the yoke and let the egg cook to over hard -- but if you prefer a runny yoke, you don't have to cook it as long. I also like to cook the little circle of bread that I cut out with the biscuit cutter in the buttered skillet. Sometimes I'll also put a slice of cheese over the top of the egg-in-a-basket after it's done.
Some things I learn because I want to and some out of desperation. Jon and I have begun a remodeling project in our home. We wanted to use wood doors on the rooms, but they are too expensive for our budget. So I went online (isn't it amazing what you can find!) and found a video showing how to stain cheap composite or fiberglass doors to make them look like wood. I found the needed supplies, then practiced before trying my hand on the door. The guy in the "how to" video wasn't wearing gloves when staining, so I didn't think to put some on. Without going into a lot of details, he used a cheesecloth to apply the stain; so I did the same. Afterwards my hands were covered with stain and I couldn't get it off. In case you're thinking paint thinner, I had none. I tried finger nail polish remover, baking soda, vinegar and soap; not all at the same time. None of those things worked. Finally, I looked online and found a page by a construction worker who said he had used cherry wood stain and got it all over his hands and couldn't get it off, so had found a website that said to use vegetable oil. He tried it, and it really did work. Someone had commented that they tried it, and it had taken the stain off their hands also. So I decided to give it a whirl. I poured vegetable oil on my hands and rubbed it in really well, and ta-dah, it came off! I was very happy, but also very amazed!! So the moral of this story is, vegetable oil is not just for cooking!
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. - Thomas Edison
We love you!
Loretta & Jon