August 2009

Dear Friends,

            {As may be the case with some of you, we are experiencing the impact of the economic downturn and our contributions for 2009 have declined. If you are in a position to help, would you prayerfully consider a donation to our work at this time? We would also greatly appreciate your prayers for God's on-going provision for our ministry. We give thanks to Him and to you His people for twenty years of faithful provision. Praise His Name!}

             "Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined." (Gen. 39:20) Here we see the next link in God's plan for Joseph to connect to Pharaoh through the cupbearer in the king's (Pharaoh's) prison. (And God is at work behind the scenes in all of our lives). "Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard (probably Potiphar) assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them…. each of the two men had a dream." (Gen. 40:3-5) God uses six dreams in Joseph's life to get him to his destiny: two for Joseph himself; one for the cupbearer; one for the baker; two for Pharaoh. "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways (dreams included) but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." (Heb. 1:1-2) God may still use dreams to reveal Himself or His plans but His primary revelation is His Word and the testimony of His Son.

            "He (Joseph) saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?"  First of all, notice Joseph's concern and care for these men. He noticed their sadness and even took the next step to try to help. Here he is sold to slavery by his brothers, away from home and family, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and thrown into prison. And yet, instead of being filled with self-pity and bitterness at God and others, he notices and reaches out to those who are around him. Wow! "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" This shows Joseph's steadfast faith in God in spite of his deep trials and it seems to reaffirm that Joseph still believed in the dream God gave him as a ruler over the people. He held on to God's vision for his life in the midst of a long and difficult struggle. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."  (Probably what is in view in the expression crown of life is a fuller enjoyment of the glories of heaven. -Believer's Bible Commentary – James 1:12)                                                                                          

"But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.  For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon." (Gen. 40:14-15) This is the first time we read of Joseph protesting the injustice in his life. Some commentators say it shows he still had unforgiveness in his heart which he must give up to be God's ruler of men. "The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him." So it is two more years of discipline and pruning before he was ready. Even when we are forgotten by people we are never forgotten by God. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isa. 49:15)                    

In Genesis 41 we see the Lord cripple the economy of the world's most powerful nation to bring about His plan to use Joseph to bring the Hebrew people to Egypt and form the nation of Israel over 430 years of slavery. (God may be doing this now for the entire world economy.) God struck the land (the world; Gen. 41:56) with a severe famine for seven years. Cows and grain represented meat, milk, cheese, leather, bread and food for livestock. Pharaoh, who considered himself a god, was helpless. He was ready to listen to a Hebrew slave and prisoner who believed in the One true God (ha Elohim) and humbly but fearlessly proclaimed Him to Pharaoh who believed he was a god himself. When we rightly fear and honor God, we do not have to fear anyone or anything. He rules over all and overrules all for His purposes in nations and in individual lives.                                                                                             

Joseph gives all the credit to God! "Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."  "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."  The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon."  (Gen. 41:14-15, 32)     

Joseph brought forth God's revelation of His purposes to Pharaoh and we are to do the same today. People without God and believers need to know God and His ways and purposes revealed through His Word and by the Holy Spirit. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Rom. 11:36) (The Almighty is self-contained. He is the source of every good, He is the active Agent in sustaining and controlling the universe, and He is the Object for which everything has been created. Everything is designed to bring glory to Him. Let it be so! To Him be glory forever. Amen. Believer's Bible Commentary)                                                                   

Joseph also was victorious in the trial of prosperity. (See James 1:10-11) "You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you." When he went from the pit to the palace in one day Joseph did not abandon his faith in God even in his meteoric rise to power. "You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."  (Deut. 8:17-18)  Later we see him give Hebrew names to his two sons, both acknowledging God's place in his life. Manasseh means, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." And Ephraim means, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."  We too must never forget where we came from as condemned sinners, captives of Satan, in bondage to sin, to becoming sons of the Most High God and, like Joseph, proclaim His Name and glory to all people.            

"Nothing serves us better in high positions than the lessons we learned in low positions (Joseph's humble submission to authority and steadfast trust in God in the dark)." (Beth Moore) (See Isa. 50:10-11) As in Joseph's life, God's sovereignty and man's free will are to work together for His glory and pleasure. "Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (as Joseph did).  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (as God did in and through Joseph)." (Phil 2:12-13 NLT)

     Questions for reflection and application:

What spoke to you through this message? 

Instead of being filled with self-pity and bitterness at God and others, Joseph notices and reaches out to those who are around him. How do you think Joseph overcame his painful trials and was able to be other-focused instead of self-focused? How can we do the same?

This is the first time we read of Joseph protesting the injustice in his life. Some commentators say it shows he still had unforgiveness in his heart, and God left him in the prison another two years to discipline and prune him to be free of unforgivness and ready to rule righteously over others. How can we learn from God's discipline and be able to live out God's call on our lives? (See Hebrews 12:5-11)

When we rightly fear and honor God, we do not have to fear anyone or anything. He rules over all and overrules all for His purposes in nations and in individual lives.  What does this statement mean to you?    

Joseph also was victorious in the trial of prosperity (see James 1:10-11).  Is growing spiritually through adversity harder for you than growing spiritually when all is going well (the trial of prosperity)? What does your answer say to you?  

                                                        Until He comes,                                                                                  Len and Kristen                                                         


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