Thoughts on Joseph

The story of Joseph is familiar to many. It is an almost unbelievable story of a young man sold into slavery eventually becoming second only to Pharaoh in the great Egyptian nation. Filled with treachery, the story shows the battle Joseph faces with forgiveness and bitterness. But long before he encounters his brothers who sold him, another battle must have been raging in his heart and mind.

Joseph was a man of integrity. He defined integrity. When tempted with infidelity by his Egyptian master’s wife, he repeatedly refused, even fleeing only to find himself again enslaved. While in prison, his faithful decisions led to him essentially running the prison. He assisted other prisons and one day found himself interpreting dreams two men had dreamed. One dreamer fared well and the other did not. Joseph’s only request, remember me when you are on the outside. He did not remember.

Joseph’s statement asking his fellow prisoner to remember him reveals his humanity. He lived life with extreme highs and lows and in this moment, one can only imagine what was crossing his mind. I think many often wonder similar things in the time of waiting. In unfulfilled moments, I think the greatest temptation exists to leave a life of integrity and chart one’s own course. Even without conscience assent, we can easily push ahead before God opens the door He intends.

But only God sees the whole story. And God knows what we need to be ready for the task prepared for us. Joseph desperately wanted to be remembered yet his fellow prisoner failed to remember…until Pharaoh had a dream. After many tried and no one succeeded in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, the cupbearer (former prisoner) remembered some guy in the past interpreting his own dream. He offered Joseph as a possible solution and almost overnight the prisoner Joseph became the most powerful person in Egypt.

Two years had passed between the time Joseph pleaded to be remembered to the time he finally was remembered. We can only guess what God showed Joseph during those two years. We can only imagine what lessons Joseph had yet to learn that would prepare him for the position to come. We will never know of the refining he experienced so that he would faithfully represent the One True God to the Egyptian people. All of us encounter those times of “two years” waiting. May we be patient, understanding that the journey is as important as the destination – possibly more so. In the journey, we become prepared for the task. Integrity must be our heart’s cry – even when feeling forgotten.

The full story of Joseph is found in Genesis 37-47.

Peace, Fear and Comfort

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirt, it multiplied.” Acts 9:31

These verses synopsize an interesting time in the early life of the Church. Contention arose in Jerusalem and Saul was looking to “wreak havoc” throughout the Church all over Israel and beyond. However, an experience with Jesus on the road, traveling to Damascus changed all that. For a short time, the Scripture records that peace settled in on the Church as it was being built up.

I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in my life and that of others. There are periods of time where God provides peace. Yet peace didn’t last long in the church, and frankly, doesn’t last in our lives. Throughout the past 2000 years of Church history, there have been periods of peace but many more periods of difficulty and challenge we might call war. Some “wars” within the Church have been and remain legitimate defense of orthodox theology and appropriate expression of faith lived out. Some “wars” throughout history have tragically been inappropriate having little to do with the Gospel or Christ.

The key to this verse, however, is not peace but instead the challenge that follows. They walked in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. As a result, the church multiplied. These two things seem to almost contradict one another. Fearing the Lord appears to be a lost practice in the 21st century American church. Fear and reverence naturally leads to submission and obedience. A relationship with God should naturally lead our hearts to revere His name and faithfully follow His Word. Living in that reverent fear brings an amazing comfort that the Holy Spirit applies at the most needed times. The story of Scripture iterates the same message throughout its pages. True comfort from God in the face of life’s incredible difficulties only comes when we acknowledge God for who He is and worship. We get a glimpse of the bigger story and find comfort and peace knowing that while storm may be coming – there is One greater than the storm.

When choosing to worship, it seems that the questions of “why” give way to comfort and peace – even in the midst of the war.