Monday, April 14, 2008

When All Hope Seems Lost - Genesis 39:21-30

Considering the length of the war in Iraq with no peaceful settlement in sight, how do you think the President of the USA feels each morning when he arises? With the war in progress, the national debt climbing, the rapid decline of morals in America, and growing unemployment how do you feel and what are your overriding thoughts? There is an old saying that depicts ones condition when existing conditions make life miserable; it is like being between “a rock and a hard place.” I think America is standing in the hard place and the rock is rolling down the hill. In addition to the above national problems, and especially without God, each one of us has our own personal problems to face alone. I sometimes wonder how anyone can maintain their senses and any kind of hope for the future without knowing the promises God has made and faith to believe he will fulfill his promises. Joseph and the three Hebrew boys are examples for us to follow.

Jews and soldiers held in German prisons were sometimes tortured by placing a thumb or the whole hand in a vice that was tightened slowly until the pain became unbearable. Whether pressure is physical or mental, when applied to the point of causing pain it brings out either the best or worst in any man. At some point [maybe even more than once] in our lives, most of us have felt as if we were held tightly in a vice that is relentlessly closing. Do you ever have experiences like this? The only way out of our turmoil today is for every believing citizen, including the President, to exercise the use of our abiding faith.

Sometimes through no fault of our own we may be surrounded by difficulties that seem hopeless. I started above with problems of the world but more often they are individual and personal. For example it really gets personal when there is a family relationship gone bad; when you are the one out of work; when financial security is lost; or one has a bad health problem. Some of the normal reactions are such as depression, apathy, hostility or all loss of hope. Our lesson today proves that believers have a better way and that is to learn to practice our faith even WHEN ALL HOPE SEEMS LOST.

In a short review we will be reminded that Joseph has already experienced what it is like to be between a rock and a hard place. On his last visit into the country to check on his brothers he found that they were willing to kill him because of their jealousy. They threw him in a cistern from which he could not escape without help, and then decided to sell him to a slave trader. God saved his life. He started as a purchased slave [not a man but property like a horse] working for Potiphar and soon worked his way into great favor and was made the king’s head butler with total responsibility for the kings holdings, and Potiphar trusted him. God is still working in his life. Then he had the experience with the wife of the king wherein he was falsely accused; and this is equally as frustrating as being sold by his own brothers. Potiphar had prospered from the day Joseph arrived and realized that God was with the young man. He was imprisoned, but by holding on to his faith, he found that God had soon brought relief from being imprisoned by his being placed in charge of the prisoners. Not only he, but the warden was experiencing great rewards that were the results of his believing in and favoring Joseph. It is easy to conclude that even in difficulties, Joseph by faith never wavered.

I think that it is most interesting that Joseph was not executed for the charge of rape. It was law in Egypt at this time when any commoner raped a woman of royalty it meant sudden death. Since Potiphar was the judge and jury, why didn’t he have Joseph hanged? I can only think of two possible reasons. Most likely he did not believe his wife was truthful. Or, he may have already begun to see the hand of God working through Joseph and did not want to kill the goose that was laying the golden eggs. Both of these reasons could have been true. What do you think?

To the fathers and grandfathers who read this lesson I speak now and remind you that the successful life of Joseph was made possible only because of the teaching of his father, Jacob who had taught him the basic truths about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was taught that he was a chosen vessel and that God would bless him and his people through him. Though now in prison he was maturing physically, mentally and spiritually. God was not punishing him, but was polishing him for even greater service. Now I ask you dad, or granddad have you taught your sons what it really means to fully depend upon God? It is never too late, and you will never be prouder of anything you ever do. One more reminder, the Bible is not written as a piece of literature to be read for pleasure even though it can be just that. These are real life circumstances to show us what we should do when confronted with life’s problems. If we learn from their experiences then our lives can be saved without having to invent the same wheel.

Another experience is recorded in Daniel 3:17 that is as crucial as this one in Joseph’s life. Remember the Hebrew boys that were thrown into the burning furnace because they would not bow down and worship a golden image? You talk about ‘living faith’ theirs was. These boys were valuable to this king; he really did not want to see them die but his own men had put him between a rock and a hard place and he had no choice. He gave them every chance to relent and they refused. We should always remember their reason. They said, “Our God can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire….But even if he does not rescue us.….we will not serve your gods or worship the golden statue.” Even if God does not remove the thorn in our flesh, we must still praise him and worship him because he is our sovereign.

In prison Joseph was placed in charge of the king’s cupbearer and a baker. The baker was in charge of preparing and presenting food for the king and the cupbearer chose and presented the wine and he tasted of everything to make sure that it was not contaminated. The Book does not say, but my guess is that they had tried to poison someone in power and got caught. The Pharaoh had personally placed them in prison. One morning when Joseph greeted them he said they looked distraught—he knew they were worried about something more than just being in prison. Remember the two dreams that Joseph had about his rise to power? The meaning of his dreams was that he would become ruler over his brothers. That was the start of his experiences with dreams and interpretation of dreams. The prison guard did not know about Joseph’s dreams, but he had assigned these two dreamers to Joseph. Was this a coincidence? I think not. It was a part of God’s overall plan. Nothing is happenstance when God is the perpetrator.

Joseph found that both of these men had dreamed strange dreams, both the same night. He told them that dreams belong to God. This is important; don’t miss what I am saying. This proves that he wanted God to get all credit for anything he did—he did not want the Egyptians to misunderstand and start thinking that he had any kind of supernatural powers. Joseph is acting as a witness for God. You and I are God’s witnesses here and now. You can see from this that one aspect of good witnessing is being able to recognize opportunities when they are present and being able to relate God to the other person’s experiences. It always requires great courage to speak to others about their problems. The cowards way out is to rationalize that this is none of my business; I’ll be quiet!

There is no doubt that God used dreams to convey messages and therefore there was no witchcraft involved. Joseph asked what their dreams were. The cup bearer told Joseph his dream first. Joseph told him that his dream meant that he would soon be released and restored to his cupbearer’s position serving the king. Then he asked the cupbearer to tell the king about Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams.

The baker liked what he heard about the first dream and told Joseph his dream about the three baskets of bread on his head with the birds eating the bread. He was not as fortunate as the cupbearer, because Joseph told him that in three days he would be beheaded and hanged to a tree for the birds to eat. Read about the dreams and you will know that the interpretation was supernatural—God at work through Joseph, his chosen vessel. You are a chosen vessel with a job to do.

Three days after Joseph had explained the meaning of the dreams, it was the king’s birthday and he threw a big party and invited all of his officials to attend. The main event of the day was witnessed by all present at the feast. The cupbearer was set free and returned to his original position as the taster for the king. The baker was hanged as Joseph had predicted, in public for all to witness. If someone does you a great favor do you remember him for it? Wouldn’t it have been the Christian thing to do in this case? Wonder why the cupbearer forgot Joseph’s good deed? He did. Has anyone ever befriended you? Did you repay by befriending him? God had a reason to see that the cupbearer forgot and we will find that reason in the next few chapters. Let us sneak ahead just one verse and look.

God must get pleasure from watching his children who are willing to hold on and depend on their faith in God and his promise not to forsake us. Sometimes he will wait years to answer our prayer that requested him to act yesterday. It was two years before Joseph got another chance to be set free. Friends, 730 days and nights in prison seems like eternity to a young man who is not guilty of any crime; he was not only completely innocent, but he was God fearing, and Christ like.

Do you have a sustaining problem of some kind that you have prayed about asking God for help? Do you pray for Him to remove the problem? Or, do you pray for faith and strength to endure the problem? You may pray for both. God will answer the prayer. His answer may be NO. If you don’t get an immediate positive answer I beg you not to blame God. His will shall prevail. Just remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace; it was impossible for them to live—but they did. Remember Joseph—he did succeed. Remember Paul, in my opinion he was the greatest laborer God ever had in his field of harvest, but he was martyred with the thorn still in his side.

On April 15, Dr. McCoy replaced a worn-out metal hip with a new one. Then I will have two metal hips and one metal knee. My prayer is that my little faith will grow just a little bit. Who knows, I may be able to move mountains! Pray for me.

1 comment:

Provident 360 said...

The sin of forgetfulness happens when we become overly preoccupied with our own affairs which overshadows the interest of others. However, in the larger scheme of things, it was all part of God's plan to set the stage for Joseph to interpret Pharaoh's dream.