Saturday, October 22, 2016

TheLifeOfJoseph : Genesis 41:50-57

In Donald Miller's book StoryLine 2.0 he makes a statement that all stories (our stories included), need to be about saving many lives:

"At the end of the story Joseph says something interesting. He says all the hard events in his life were given him so God could use him to save many lives (Gen. 50:19). In fact, there are two other places in the story where Joseph makes it known the point of his subplot was to save many lives. While Joseph may have had no idea why the things that were happening to him were really happening, he figured it out by the end. He was participating in God's effort to save many lives (emphasis mine). Even poor Jonah is used by God to save many lives. God never turns Jonah into a puppet on a string, but he makes it hard to say no. God is going to use Jonah to save the people of Nineveh whether Jonah likes it or not. Abraham is used by God to save many lives and so is Moses. David saves lives (when he cooperates with God) and so does Solomon with all his wisdom. The Apostles who built the early church were single focused: save many lives! If we would like to participate in what God is doing in the world, we must help Him save many lives".

Interesting isn't it. I have benefited greatly from walking through this book of Miller's and I highly recommend it. Miller, I think, makes a very valid point. But it's almost too simple, isn't it? In order to live the life the LORD would have us live, we need to be about saving many lives. It's a pretty broad term when we first look at it, but when you get to the heart of the matter (and meet the heart of God in Scripture), you'll discover that this truly is the theme of God's story; He has been in the business of saving many lives from eternity past to future. You and I are alive because He is the CEO in the company of saving many lives. We have all benefited from His passion to give us the greatest example of saving many lives. 

But as I sit here writing this entry today, as the sun is coming up over the horizon, I look back on my life and believe that I haven't really been a part of this kind of story. But then I disagree with my own assessment. Here's my problem. Rather than doing what Joseph does when he looks back on his life (see Gen. 50:20), I am only focused on the conflicts, the boulders that needed to be removed, the barriers that caused my story to slow down, etc. and I view all of these as distractions or means by which my story of saving many lives had been thwarted. But one of the amazing aspects of Miller's book is that he addresses these conflicts/barriers too. He simply says that we need to see them not as distractions or complications, but as real, necessary, integral parts of the stories we are living. In short, they are necessary. Put better, they give an amazing definition of the LORD's Sovereignty in our lives! So what if my story (and yours) has a lot of twists and turns, not unlike Joseph's, in the end, it will all be worth it. Do you believe this?

Notice what Joseph says about his two sons that are born to him and his wife Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (Heliopolis). Joseph names is two sons Manaseth and Ephraim, because "God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” and "...has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (vs. 51, 52). He will forever look into the eyes of his sons and remember what the LORD did within his times of trouble and through those times of affliction. It's a curious statement that he named one of his sons because God had 'made him forget'. May I suggest that there needs to a footnote in this section (as well as next to the words we are writing in our stories): Note that his namesake was about forgetting all his trouble. I don't believe that we are meant to forget everything that has happened in our lives. If we did, we wouldn't be able to assist others. The clearer the experience is to us, the better we are to walk others through similar circumstances. It's easier to walk with a candle through a dark tunnel. It is through the conflict that Joseph now has a son that has 'made him forget' his troubles, and it is within the affliction that he has been made fruitful.

If we do what I did this morning, and only focus on what has gone wrong with our stories, dwell on the obstacles and get caught up in the supposed conflicts with no resolutions, of course we'll lose our focus for what God had planned for us through them (reminiscent of Peter on the Waves). But if we see these conflicts as integral parts of what God is doing in our lives to guide our lives to become life-changers, all of a sudden, we can say with Joseph that it was within these things that we saw the hand of God. 

Through one decision to keep back a fifth in the seven years of plenty, Pharaoh saw as a very wise statement Egypt thrived while all other lands were in poverty. Joseph, literally, was in the business of saving many lives. People flocked from all over the earth, we're told (see vs. 56), and Joseph became the conduit by which people were saved. This is a fantastic example of someone who had the talents and gifts to provide. But then we come to us, don't we? No maybe we're not keeping back a fifth seven years ago because we're in famine today. But may I make an application that, I hope, would be accepted: Let's take this 'fifth business' to a whole other level. If we want to be story-makers with the theme of saving many lives and if we believe that this is a valuable thing to build our lives upon, then I can't help but wonder what we're doing with our time. Maybe it's time to cut our schedules into fifths and maybe we're supposed to use that fifth of our day to invest in people's lives. Maybe we're the seed that has been kept back by God in order to save many people's lives today, this moment, this day. Maybe today, this very day, you have been woken up by God to go and save someone's life with the life-giving message of the Gospel. 

You can be a part of saving many lives because there was One who saw the necessity to give His own life in order to save many lives. Jesus is the best example of this kind of story. He gave his life as a ransom for all of us, in order that we might be in the business of saving many lives. That was the Apostle's goal and they, through their actions after the resurrection of Jesus, went and spread the Good News of the Gospel and saved many lives. Maybe, today, we can receive the 'Go' from God and make a difference and save one life (see Matt. 28:19, 20).

I'll close with one of my favourite stories by Loren Eiseley (1907 - 1977): 

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean.

As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one." 

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