This month I’ve been working through a Bible study of the life of Joseph. It’s been such timely reading, because there are so many parallels between events in his life, and things that are happening in the world right now.
There are so many truths we can learn about God the Father, Jesus, His Son, and ourselves from reading Genesis 37 – 50, but this morning I want to look at just one of these.
At the age of 17, Joseph had a dream that one day all the members of his family would bow down before him, and he would rule over them. What a fantastic prophecy to receive, right?! He must have daydreamed often about how awesome that day would be, how powerful he would feel, and how right the world would be at that moment (well, that’s what I would be thinking about, anyway!).
But then, for the next 13 years, nothing in Joseph’s life seemed to point him to a life of power and authority: hated by his brothers, sold as a slave, falsely accused of a crime, wrongfully imprisoned, passed over when he could have been up for parole … Did he lie awake nights wondering where the bowing and serving and honour he’d been promised had gone to?!! Had it just been a dream after all? Had he ever really heard the Lord promise him any of it?
So often, we hear or we read the promises of Scripture and they sound wonderful … But our reality doesn’t line up with what the Word is telling us.
* In Isaiah 43:2, I read: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze,” and yet, a loved one lies in a hospital bed, and the doctor has no hope that he will survive the night, and it feels like my whole life has gone up in flames.
* I read in Psalm 34:10 that: “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing,” but my electricity just got cut off because we can’t afford to pay the bill.
* Deuteronomy 31:6 says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you”, but I’m watching men with guns driving away with my car, and I don’t feel like the Lord had my back just then.
Martha Burford wrote: “The Gospel is good news, but there are times that don’t feel like good news. What is the truth about God’s plan in the middle of bad news? Christians are not promised an easy path – in fact, they are promised trials (John 16: 33).”
And it’s in exactly these types of situations that we have to preach truth to ourselves, and not preach feelings! My feelings will lie to me in the midst of the trial, telling me that God has withdrawn His love from me; that maybe I’m not as saved as I thought I was, so His promises don’t apply to me; or that God’s arm is too short, His weapons too weak, His defences inadequate to deal with my particular challenge.
But the truth is that, if we let them, trials will mature us; the truth is that He is creating His character in us through trials because He loves us; the truth is that if we hold on to our hope in Him, through trial and suffering, our hope will not be put to shame!!
Did Joseph’s suffering make sense to him at the time? I highly doubt it. Would Joseph have been the wise leader the entire Ancient Near East could turn to in a time of crisis, if God had fulfilled his dream at 17? No offense to the teens reading this, but I highly doubt it. Would 18 year old, or even 28 year old Joseph have had the intimacy of relationship with the Father to say: “But don’t be distressed or angry at yourselves because you sold me here, because God sent me ahead of you all in order to deliver us” (Gen. 45: 5)? Again, I doubt it. It took 13 years for Joseph to get the royal ring and the royal robe not because God was slow to answer, but because God was kind to answer only at the perfect time – perfect for Joseph, perfect for humanity, and perfect for there to be no doubt about God’s glory and power!!
When I look back at the trials and tragedies I’ve faced, I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is GOOD, He is SOVEREIGN, and He is IN CONTROL, no matter what my eyes and my feelings might try to tell me. Not only are every single one of His promises true, but His timing and His direction for our lives are perfect in every detail.
I want to leave you with a verse to hold onto over the next 21 days (or however long your particular trial may last): “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you by the Messiah Jesus to His eternal glory, will restore you, establish you, strengthen you, and support you.” (1 Peter 5: 10 ISV)
It is not the promise that we cling to in the storm, it is the Promise Keeper!