Shadow of Things to Come Lesson #12 July 25, 2017

We now proceed into the next phase of Joseph’s life, overseeing the fulfillment of everything which he had prophesied to Pharaoh in the context of interpreting the Egyptian ruler’s dream.  Keep in mind that Joseph’s interpretation was very specific and the Pharaoh’s response was equally specific.  He put everything on the line to support Joseph’s interpretation and implement his advice.  If Joseph had been wrong, Pharaoh would have been in big trouble!

But Joseph wasn’t wrong because the LORD had given him the interpretation, a fact to which he himself testified. During the first seven years of abundance, Joseph gathered up food and stored it in large silos in the various cities of Egypt.  He gathered so much corn that after awhile he stopped keeping records of how much it was for it was beyond measure.  Gen. 41: 49 puts it this way: Joseph collected so much grain – it was like the sand of the ocean – that he finally quit keeping track! 

The seven years of plenty came to an end and the seven years of famine began.  The earth would not produce; there was no rain for the crops. The famine spread throughout the entire Middle East but ‘in all the land of Egypt there was bread.’ Gen. 41:54  The seven years of abundance were a demonstration of God’s mercy; the seven years of famine to follow were a demonstration of God’s faithfulness.  Those under Pharaoh’s charge did not suffer hunger because the king had trusted the prophetic word, listened to wise counsel and implemented what he heard.  This reminds me of a verse in Proverbs:  A prudent man foresees evil coming and prepares himself; but the foolish ignore to their own peril.  Proverbs 22:3  Pharaoh had shown himself to be a prudent man and his entire nation benefited.  He had also exhibited the humility necessary to any good leader: he was willing to listen to advice, recognize its wisdom and put it into action.  Joseph was given absolute authority over the entire land of Egypt.

Meanwhile, God was about the business of bringing Joseph’s brothers face to face with their sin and calling them to account.  Neither they nor Joseph realized what God was up to until much later.

It is a great blessing when God uncovers our sin.  Yes it’s very painful for the last thing we want is to get caught for having done wrong.  We think it’s a “blessing” to get away without getting caught.  The truth is that it would be utterly horrible for God to let us go our own way and do nothing about it!  Despite any discomfort at ‘getting caught’, we must thank God for doing so.  Far better to deal with our issues in the here and now than later before the Judgment Seat.  Now we have time to repent, be forgiven and make things right and by so doing avoid being ashamed before the Throne of God.

It had been twenty two years since his brothers betrayed him.  Joseph had been waiting a long time for vindication but those were not wasted years for it was during that time that Joseph had gotten right with himself.  He’d gotten over any personal grudges and learned to forgive – his brothers who betrayed him, Potiphar’s wife who lied about him, Potiphar for throwing him into prison though he was innocent and even the butler who forgot all about him.

During those same twenty two years, it seemed as if ten of his brothers had gotten away with a heinous act of betrayal, selling their own brother into slavery.  That sin had led to another one: they deceived their father by dipping Joseph’s cloak in goat’s blood which caused Jacob to conclude that a wild animal had killed his beloved son.  When Jacob said, ‘I will go to my grave in mourning’, did the ten breathe a sigh of relief?  Did they actually believe that their father would never know?  They may well have.  For years, their sin went unpunished, unconfessed and unnoticed.  That was about to change.

The famine had reached Canaan where Jacob and his family lived.  As things got progressively worse, and news spread abroad that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob sent his sons to buy food for his large family.  Their journey culminated in the presence of the Prime Minister of Egypt who was in charge of all of Egypt’s provisions.

They didn’t recognize him.  He was twenty-two years older, dressed in Egyptian clothing, clearly the Governor of all that went on in Egypt and speaking to them through an interpreter.  And all the while, God was very much involved in what was happening though the brothers had no clue that He was!

We humans have a defense mechanism called repression; we sometimes do it voluntarily, more often involuntarily.  We push down into our subconscious what we don’t want to think about – like a major failure or sin of which we are deeply ashamed but which we’ve never resolved with God.  At the time of His choosing, God will bring it up again in His inimitable way, not to harass us but to give us opportunity to repent and be set free of the guilt and shame.  This is exactly what God was doing with the ten brothers.

Though they didn’t recognize him, Joseph recognized his brothers.  Holding his own emotions in check, he accused them of being spies, to which they protested, ‘No, Master, we have only come to buy food.’ (Gen. 42:10)  Joseph continued pressing them and finally said, ‘This is how I’ll test you.’ (42:15) He commanded them to send one of the brothers back to fetch their only brother left at home with Jacob and threw the rest of them in jail for three days.  Can you imagine the discussions those men had during those three days???  Do you see the wisdom of Joseph in giving the brothers time to think?

On the third day, Joseph brought them out with this proposition.  One of the them was to stay in prison while the rest took food back for their hungry families and then return again bringing their youngest brother with them.  That would prove that they were telling him the truth.

Of course, the youngest brother was none other than Benjamin, the only other son of Jacob born of the same mother as Joseph.  The rest of them were his half-brothers from different mothers.  At that point, the brothers started talking among themselves, thinking that the ‘Egyptian’ before them wouldn’t understand what they were saying.

‘Now we’re paying for what we did to our brother – we saw how terrified he was when he was begging us for mercy.  We wouldn’t listen to him and now we are the ones in trouble.’ (42:21)

Joseph had been speaking to them through an interpreter but understood perfectly what they were saying. When he heard their words, he turned away and wept. After composing himself, he made Simeon stay behind as a prisoner and sent the others off.

We’ll pick up the story here next week.

Application:

Before God created the heavens and the earth, He created Repentance.  Before He ever made man, knowing we would need mercy, He had already provided the means for forgiveness, mercy and relief from the burden and shame of sin. He never intended that we should live under the heavy load of shame and guilt but that we would turn to Him in sincere repentance and receive His forgiveness.  Psalm 103:12 tells us As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  What an amazing and thrilling promise from God.

If you’ve carried hidden guilt and shame, the good news to you today is that forgiveness and freedom from that burden is available to you – right now, this moment.  Confess that failure to Him, receive His forgiveness , forgive yourself and let Him remove it from you as far as the east is from the west so you can go on and live your life in peace.

Shadow of Things to Come – Lesson #11 July 18, 2017

Thus far in our study of Joseph’s life, we have looked at events through his eyes.  This week I’d like us to take a different perspective.  Let’s look through Pharaoh’s eyes.

Pharaoh was the most powerful leader in that day, a man who was revered but also feared. He was considered unreachable and untouchable, but somewhere under all that external power there was a man with a soul who found himself in a desperate situation.  He’d had two deeply troubling dreams and was frantic to find someone – anyone – who could interpret them.  You see, the most powerful men are still men and have needs like everyone else. Thanks to his Cupbearer, Joseph was brought out of prison, presented to Pharaoh and after giving God due honor, the young man interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and followed the interpretation with profoundly wise advice.

Pharaoh'sdream

Pharaoh watches and listens to this ex-prisoner.  What was going through his mind?

He’d probably never heard of Joseph; didn’t know the young man existed! But God, when He is about His plans being fulfilled, will surprise even the greatest of men.  We must conclude that the Spirit of God was at work in Pharaoh even though he did not know the true God at that point.  Why do I say that? First of all, he rejected the interpretations of his magicians.  It takes a certain inner perception to know when you have not received the right answer.  It also takes the same to recognize true wisdom.  That kind of wisdom comes from the Spirit of God.

There are three men who put themselves on the line, who risk everything in this event.

First, the Cupbearer.  Remember that this man had already been imprisoned once before so you can be sure that he was very careful with his words.  Once was enough!  But seeing the distress that Pharaoh was experiencing, he came forward to inform his employer that a Hebrew prisoner had the gifting that Pharaoh needed.

And Pharaoh listened!  It takes a measure of humility to listen to a servant.  It also takes a serious measure of humility to acknowledge the wisdom that emerged from a prisoner just released from Pharaoh’s own dungeon!  When God is at work, and you have a measure of humility like Pharaoh, you will listen to someone you otherwise would pay no attention to.

Pharaoh exercised a simple form of ‘faith’, if you will, by doing what his Cup bearer recommended and he was greatly rewarded.  His best decision that day was to agree to the release of the Hebrew prisoner.

Secondly, Joseph risked his own life – literally – by giving the interpretation and following it with unsolicited advice.  Pharaoh could have had him instantly killed if he was displeased in any way with Joseph’s words.

Instead, hearing the interpretation of his dreams and the wise counsel that followed, Pharaoh put all his eggs in one basket.  Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?  Gen. 41:38  He promptly elevated Joseph to a position of great authority and responsibility.  The very one whose wisdom he recognized, he appointed to bring that wisdom to fruition.

There are several ways by which we can recognize when the Spirit of God is at work.  First of all, His activity produces peace.  Pharaoh’s troubled mind was now at rest. He understood the dreams, their meaning and the appropriate way to apply them.

Another evidence of the Spirit of God at work is an unhesitating authority.  Joseph listened to Pharaoh and then responded in a calm and clear manner.  Pharaoh could tell that Joseph was fully confident that God was speaking through him.  That gave Pharaoh confidence which then produced trust.

The Spirit of God at work is also simply straightforward – no manipulation or mental gymnastics.  In other words, Joseph basically said: ‘this is what God is saying and this is what to do about it.’

Keep in mind that Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph but he didn’t ask for any credentials, nor inquire about his track record of success.  Pharaoh heard, his inner man recognized the truth of what Joseph was saying and he acted on it immediately.  That, my friends, is faith.

Thirdly, Pharaoh put himself and his own reputation on the line before everybody!  He had rejected the “experts” but took the words of an “unknown” with full confidence. If Joseph was proven wrong after a year or two, Pharaoh would take the heat for it.  Clearly his conviction of Joseph’s authenticity was profound.

Rarely do we think of Pharaoh’s perspective when we talk about Joseph’s life, but we must take encouragement from how Pharaoh, a pagan, received the work of the Spirit of God and acknowledged the same without apology? No political correctness here!  Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?

Political correctness has become an issue in our day that has affected individuals, congregations and groups. It is stunning to see how totally absent it was from this scenario in Joseph’s life. Not one of the key players bowed to political correctness, but chose instead to listen and heed the Spirit of the Living God.

Application:

Fear of criticism and rejection weaken the strength of our commitment to God, to His Word and to His ways.  It is time to learn once again that when all is said and done, it is to HIM that we owe all our allegiance.  Fear has no place in the one who professes to love the LORD.  The times in which we live demand that we stand strong in our faith and courageous to live and speak the truth of God’s Word in our day to day lifestyle.

Shadow of Things to Come – July 11, 2019 Lesson #10

When God’s time has come for something to happen, there is no stopping it.  And when His time has not come, no begging, pleading or attempting to manipulate will work.  We fit into God’s timetable; He does not fit into ours.

Had God’s time for Joseph finally come?

Called into the presence of the Egyptian ruler, Joseph interpreted his dreams and declared that seven good years would be followed by seven years of famine.  He further advised the Pharaoh to appoint overseers in charge of the land and have them gather one-fifth of the produce during the seven good years and store it up for the years of famine.  Pharaoh was impressed with the young prisoner’s ability and his wisdom and turned to his servants, saying ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ (Gen. 41:38)   He immediately appointed Joseph to a position akin to Prime Minister, clothed him in fine garments and put his own signet ring on Joseph’s finger as a sign of the all encompassing authority bestowed upon him.  He gave Joseph an Egyptian name and a young woman named Asenath to be his wife.

God’s time for Joseph had surely come!  From the prison to the palace in the matter of a few minutes!  Can you imagine the thoughts that went through Joseph’s mind at this sudden turn of events? When he woke up that morning, little did he know what the day would bring and how his entire future would be dramatically launched.  Can you visualize him in your mind’s eye being escorted to a luxurious bedroom with servants ready to wait on him? He, who the night before had slept in a dark and gloomy prison cell? If ever there was an example of a ‘Suddenly, God…’ this surely was it!

We learn from the text that Joseph was 30 years old at the time that he was made ruler over Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself.  That means thirteen long years had passed since that traumatic day when his brothers had sold him into slavery.  Thirteen long years with no information about his father, his brothers, or any of his family.  Thirteen long years in which he could choose to believe in the dreams God had given him or give up in despair.  Perhaps somewhere along the line, Joseph had learned the principle that it’s never too late to become what you were created to be.

So Joseph traveled the length and width of Egypt during the next seven years, overseeing the bounteous harvests of the land, making sure that one fifth of all that was produced was put aside for the coming famine. And during those years he placed food in the cities lest the people starve during the time of famine.  Thus Joseph stored up grain in great abundance like the sand of the sea, until he stopped measuring it, for it was beyond measure.  (Gen. 41:49)

The proverbs tell us: A prudent man foresees evil times and prepares himself; the foolish man goes on his way and is punished for it.  Prov. 22:3  What Joseph did was wise and prudent. But notice that he was not just storing up food for himself and his own family.  It was for the entire nation, lest they starve.  That’s an important point: to store up food, water, clothing, bedding, etc. just for oneself, with no thought to the welfare of those around you is the furthest thing from what Joseph did.  He carefully laid up provision for the people over whom he had authority.  Little did he realize at this stage that the very famine he was preparing for would result ultimately in a reunion with his family.

But think with me for a minute.  Surely his elevation to such a high position in Egypt came as a complete surprise. As a young boy in his father Jacob’s tent, he couldn’t possibly have dreamed that such an unusual future beckoned him; and not only beckoned him but was actually the plan of the God of Israel in whom he trusted.

How many of us have thought we knew what our lives would be like only to be surprised by God? Our carefully thought out plans took a detour we never expected and may well have startled or confused us.  Yet months or sometimes years later, we can look back and recognize the hand of God in all of it.

Years ago there was a popular television series entitled “Father Knows Best” – (perhaps I’m giving my age away !) The truth is that Father DOES know Best – our Heavenly Father knows what is best for each of us and because of His love ordains the path on which we walk through life.  We can choose, of course, whether to follow Him or not.  As I ponder the young Joseph and all he went through, I’m thankful that he reached his destiny, aren’t you?  And we’re not anywhere near the end of the story yet!

Application:

Joseph exhorts us to hold on to our faith in God; to embrace any dreams the LORD may have given us, even when we think there is no possible way they could ever materialize. It’s never too late with God. Faith is the key that helps us understand that God’s timing is perfect.

Are you frustrated today – still waiting for something to happen? To find your soul mate? To get into your dream job? To enter into the purpose of God for your life?  Let Joseph’s example comfort and encourage you that God’s timing is perfect.  No delay is wasted time; it’s all preparation for ultimate success in God’s eyes.  For you see, God doesn’t just want you to fulfill the task He has assigned you to on this earth; He is just as interested that you become the person He wants you to be.

We are after all human ‘beings’ – not ‘human doings’!

 

Shadow of Things to Come – July 4, 2017

NOTE:  My apology that last week’s post did not go out because of technical difficulties. We pick up today where we left off two weeks ago.

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Now it happened that at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream. Gen. 41:1 You will remember that two years earlier, Joseph had correctly interpreted the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer and his interpretation came to pass exactly as he had spoken it.

Yet Joseph remained in prison two more years for the cupbearer forgot all about his benefactor after being restored to his position.  Some have opined that the LORD caused him to forget because Joseph’s spiritual training required these two more years.  Yet I often wonder how Joseph felt, what new prisoners may have joined him in the dungeon, how did he get along with them and did he wonder – perhaps frequently – if the cupbearer would ever remember him again.  Two years can be a very long time when you’re waiting for something to happen.

We humans tend to have a difficult time with patience, particularly in our modern society which is so geared towards “instant” everything.  Yet the scriptures teach us that God Himself is incredibly patient with us, remembering that we are but dust.  Can you imagine where we’d be today if God had not had patience with us?  We do well to thank Him for His long-suffering with His children, ourselves included.

Why is patience such a problem? Bottom line: we want what we want when we want it! There’s something of a two year old that lives on in each of us; that toddler who used to stubbornly insist, ‘I want it NOW!’ Remember him or her? We all did it in one way or another, didn’t we? It’s a bit embarrassing to realize that when we lose patience with others, the two year old is poking his ego out for all to see!

What’s more important is that when we lose patience with others, we are far from being God-like.  When He has graced us with so much patience throughout our lives, should we not do the same towards our family and friends?  We are taught to forgive others in the same manner that we have been forgiven.  Well, the only reason we are forgiven when we repent to the LORD is because He is patient and kind towards us!  Therefore, the same principle that applies to forgiveness, applies to patience: Do unto others as the LORD has done unto you!

So after two full years Pharaoh has a dream and none of his wise men or magicians had a clue what it meant but the dream was vivid enough that Pharaoh was disturbed and couldn’t forget it!  It was then that the cup bearer recalled his fellow prisoner and informed Pharaoh that Joseph had accurately interpreted not only his dream but that of the Pharaoh’s former baker.  Pharaoh was impressed and sent for Joseph.

Joseph_Pharaoh

It would have been entirely against protocol for a prisoner to appear before Pharaoh in his prison garb, unshaven and unclean so Joseph quickly shaved and put on appropriate clothing.  No sooner had he entered Pharaoh’s throne room, but the Egyptian leader said to Joseph, I dreamed a dream but nobody can interpret it. But I’ve heard that just by hearing a dream, you can.  Gen. 41:15

First thing to understand is that the ancient Egyptians fully believed that dreams were messages from the supernatural world. They often attributed them to their so-called ‘gods’ but Pharaoh was about to find out that the God of Israel was not one ‘among the gods’ but the true and only God.

Second thing to note is Joseph’s answer. Not I, but God. It is God who will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease. Gen. 41:16  Before hearing one word of description about the dream, Joseph makes clear to the Egyptian ruler that there is only ONE who correctly interprets messages that come in dreams: God Himself – the One God, the God of Israel.  Joseph seeks no advantage for himself.  His very first declaration is to honor God.  Keep in mind this is after some 12-13 years of imprisonment on a false charge!

Pharaoh details his dream, actually two dreams. (Gen. 41: 17-24) and Joseph answers: Pharaoh’s two dreams both mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh what he is going to do. Gen. 41:28

There are numerous examples in Scripture of God speaking to His servants in dreams.

Have you ever had a dream and wondered if it meant anything?

Did you ever ask the LORD about it?

Some people tend to dismiss dreams as unimportant and many of them are in fact unimportant.  However, there are times when the LORD chooses to communicate with us through dreams.  Usually those dreams are hard to forget and though brief in duration contain a powerful message from the Spirit of the LORD direct to your spirit.

Keep in mind that everything written in the Scriptures is there for our instruction and as examples to us of how God worked with and through other human beings just like us. The issue of dreams is no different.  Sometimes it is only when we are asleep that God can get our attention!

Application:

Please don’t start thinking that every dream you may have is a heavenly message but are you willing to consider that perhaps the LORD has or will communicate something precious to you by way of a dream? Are you open to the possibility?  If so, let me encourage you to look up the dreams that are recorded in the Bible, learn from those passages and open your heart to receive from the LORD in a dream.  Thank God, Joseph did.  It all started with two dreams he had as a teenager, dreams that would come to pass in God’s perfect timing.

Don’t go seeking dreams – seek the kind of faith Joseph had that enabled him to hold on to the promise from God, even through his darkest days.  But should God speak to you through a dream, don’t discount it and don’t ignore it.  Ask the LORD to help you understand His message fully.