Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TheLifeOfJoseph : Genesis 39:19-23

Well, if you haven't discovered yet, Joseph's life is full of turns and twists. We first see Joseph thrown into a pit by his brothers, and now we see him thrown into a prison by his master. If I were Joseph, I'd sure be questioning those dreams I had while I was around my family. But for some reason, even in the midst of outward trial and supposed defeat, we see the LORD working.

Notice in Gen. 39:3 that we have these words, "Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand'. Somehow, someway, his master saw that Joseph was gifted; he was a young man who knew how to lead. But that all changed with his wife accusing Joseph. As a good husband, his master had no choice but to believe his wife and throw Joseph into prison for this supposed unrighteous act he did towards his wife. He had every right to do this as his wife told him it was true. Even if it wasn't true, there is still a measure of, what I'll call, 'righteous behaviour' that Joseph's master seems to live by. By the information that he has been told, he acts righteously. But read these words, in the face of the 'righteousness' of Joseph's master: 'But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer' (Gen. 39:21).

Funny how that happens isn't it? You would think that Joseph would be rewarded for his actions. We have been told as men that we should flee all places of temptation and cling to the LORD. But what we also, subconsciously, say to ourselves is that we will be rewarded for our actions if we do what is right - we believe that if we make the right choices, there will be rewards waiting for us. Unfortunately this rule doesn't come to be for Joseph (and I would argue, normally does not get applied to us in this 21st Century world we live in either if we have the wrong perspective). Joseph does succeed. He is rewarded. Yes, in a jail-cell with fellow jailers, but again, the perspective of God and His plans for Joseph seems to rise to the surface like a tulip in spring. I hear the LORD saying to Joseph (and to us), 'Don't worry. I've got you. I know exactly what I am doing. Those dreams will come to be, but you just have to trust Me and know that I Am - even in a jail-cell'. We read that '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' (Gen. 39:23). What is your jail-cell that the LORD has allowed but gives you blessings along the way in it?

As Wiersbe writes, 'Joseph would learn that God’s delays are not God’s denials'. I wonder how many of us struggle with this text, but aren't willing to say that we do. We do need God's perspective in everything we do and how we lead our lives. I contrast this with other stories in Scripture (namely in the Old Testament) where the LORD chooses to show Himself to His people and assure them that He can be trusted. Something to meditate on is why the LORD seems to so very clearly show up in our lives and how, sometimes, He chooses to allow Himself to look aloof. Nowhere in the story of Joseph do we hear the LORD speaking directly to Joseph. As I wrote in the introduction to this devotional, this story is much like the Story of Ruth. God isn't spoken of very much, but we know He's there. I believe the LORD is the main character and that everything Joseph set his hand to prospers because 'the LORD made [it] prosper' but how do we wrap our minds around the fact that it is within, literally, a prison where the LORD seems to work? Do we believe that the LORD, in us trusting Him, would deliver us, every time, from the clutches of prison wardens?! Or is there some other plan that we can't see because we're blinded by the cell-bars?

The truth of the matter is, we may never truly understand what the LORD is doing in our lives. We may get a book written about our lives and the readers, as they re-read it long after we are dead and gone, smile because they know the end of our story and how it ends in rejoicing because God did, and always will, know what He's doing with us. It's just us with the problem, isn't it? Here we are, in our prison-cells, asking the LORD, 'Do you really know what You're doing?' 

It reminds me of John the Baptist. A trusted follower of the LORD and 'paver of the way' for Jesus. But he, too, was sent to prison by a man whose wife was conniving, and he, too, was asking questions: When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?' (Matt. 11:2) Here is a man who trusted the LORD who did drastic measures to show how trusting he was of the LORD. But to be greeted by nothing but prison walls for your remaining moments of your life, you tend to begin to ask questions. So John does this and Jesus responds - but in a way that John would understand: Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me (Matt. 11:4-6). Just like a trusted friend, Jesus shares with John words of comfort, but shares with John right out of the book of Isaiah (see Isa. 35), a book that John hangs his life on. He tells John that He is the Messiah and He really is the One - and the actions that He's been doing is proof. But Jesus (in a round about way) also tells John He's not going to release him from prison. John is going to have to trust Jesus. The proofs of His Messiah-ship is there. But John can't lay his faith on this truth based upon his own circumstances. 

So I guess we're left with one question: What are we to do in our prisons? We all have them, but we all definitely need to have the right perspective in them. We either distrust the LORD while banging our heads against the prison bars, or release our anxious thoughts to the LORD and ask very simply, 'What is Your will for me here and now?'

I came across this poem in my reading through Streams in the desert, and I think it gives a good summary of what I'm attempting to flesh out in this devotional today:

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My soul is at liberty;
For prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Prison walls cannot control the flight, the freedom of the soul. Do you believe this? Will you rest in this truth today? Will I? May we see the Light shining into our prison-cells today and believe that the LORD, Who seems to be aloof, is doing exactly what He does best - pointing us to Him, even in the midst of a prison-cell.

I have learnt to love the darkness of sorrow; there you see the brightness of His face.
—Madame Guyon

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