Monday March 13, 2023 – God’s plan required Joseph to be in prison

Genesis 41:1  When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream.

“Did Joseph spend two more years in prison due to a cupbearer’s faulty memory?”  Isn’t that a great question?  A companion question to it is, “Did God intend for Joseph to be in the dungeon for those two additional years?”

None of the magicians or wise men of Egypt could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.  It was then that the cupbearer remembered Joseph and recounted his experience with Joseph while in prison.  Pharaoh sent for Joseph.  Why did the cupbearer forget?

One of the important things for us to recognize in this situation is that God was working both in Joseph and in the bigger situation that he found himself in.  ‘Stuff’ was going on that he knew nothing about.  The timetable that God was working on involved Joseph, but it also involved a much bigger picture of people and events.  When things were in place, pharaoh had a dream.  Isn’t it interesting that one of the individuals who had been in prison with Joseph was the cupbearer – who just happened to be with Pharaoh when this dream happened?!  Isn’t it interesting that the cupbearer too had experienced a dream with Joseph and had been witness to his interpretation being fulfilled?!

Thus the stage was set for the cupbearer’s memory of Joseph to be turned back on.  In the meantime, Joseph was just faithfully performing the duties assigned to him in prison.  He probably had no idea how God was involved in the orchestration of events until after the events unfolded and he looked back in amazement!

This is such an important principle for us to recognize and embrace.  God is at work in our lives and in the circumstances around us to bring about His plan and purposes.  We are not alone.  We are not left to ourselves.  Many times the issue of timing is vital.  Things don’t happen because they are dependent upon other things, possibly beyond our control, happening first.

It seems clear to me that Joseph spent two more years in prison because that is where God wanted him to be.  He was not subject to a cupbearer’s faulty memory.  If anything, I think God caused the cupbearer to forget.  God was working in Joseph and until the time of Pharaoh’s dream, the Lord wanted him there – in the dungeon. Of course God could have given Pharaoh the dreams two years earlier.  But that wasn’t His plan.

It is critical that we recognize that God is intimately involved in our lives – particularly in the difficult seasons that we go through.  If our prayers don’t bring relief, it could be that God wants us to be exactly where we are, and is going to keep us there – just like He did with Joseph in prison.  Our focus must be upon our Lord.  Hopefully, we will respond as faithfully as Joseph.

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Sunday March 12, 2023 – His trust was in God

Genesis 40:23  The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Today’s devotional is special to me because it describes an insight that became clear to me while writing it, regarding Joseph’s response to his experience with the cupbearer.  Even though I’ve read this story many, many times, my thoughts had been more on how disappointed and distressed Joseph might have been.  Even though Scripture is silent on this issue, his overall life suggests that this different perspective could be a more accurate understanding of Joseph’s response to this event.  The principle involved is one that has proved priceless to me in its impact on my life over the years.

As I was writing, I began wondering about what Joseph’s response was in the days following the chief cupbearer being restored.  I imagine that he had real hope that his situation was about to change – that he would be set free.  Maybe he thought about returning to his father Jacob; or getting married and having a family.  Maybe he thought he might have to stay in Egypt, but at least he would be out of prison.  As the days passed and became weeks, he realized that no one was coming to free him.

Today’s verse explains why – the cupbearer forgot him!  What a disappointment to live with each day – and it would be, if it was his focus.  But I don’t think it was.  Instead of looking at the failure of the cupbearer to do anything or even to communicate that Pharaoh refused to act, I believe Joseph had his focus elsewhere.  His focus was on God!

Yes there would have been disappointment to deal with, but I believe Joseph was encouraged by the reality that God had intervened into his situation by giving him the interpretation of the dreams.  He saw the interpretations come true.  He knew that he could not have interpreted them without God.  The depth of his pain and disappointment were overshadowed by his seeing God manifest Himself in his life.  The fact that Joseph didn’t understand the ‘Why’ of it was irrelevant.  He knew he didn’t have to understand.  God was with him and he would trust his God.

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Saturday March 11, 2023 – Without anger or a desire for revenge!

Genesis 40:14-15  14 “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 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.”

When the chief cupbearer and the baker told Joseph they both had dreams and there was no one to interpret them, Joseph’s response was, “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.”  So they did.

The chief cupbearer told him his dream of a vine with three branches; of grapes forming and him squeezing them into Pharaoh’s cup and putting the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.  Joseph then told him that within three days, Pharaoh would restore him to his position as his personal cupbearer.

The baker heard the favorable interpretation so he shared his dream with Joseph.  Unfortunately for him, Joseph informed him that Pharaoh was going to execute him by hanging him in a tree within three days.  On the third day, things happened exactly as Joseph foretold.

In the middle of this narrative is a real gem that most don’t notice.  The verses for today are where Joseph shares his situation with the cupbearer in a truly righteous appeal for help.  Read the verse again and note the tenor of the words.  The appeal Joseph makes is done without the anger or a desire for revenge that we would typically expect.  Even though at this time Joseph has endured 11 years of slavery and prison, he is simply stating things that are true—and doing it in a way that is acceptable! On top of that he was betrayed by family.  All these years he has been able to righteously carry the wrongs that have been done to him.

What an example for us!  We all have had wrongs done to us.  Joseph demonstrates that it is possible to righteously carry the knowledge of wrongs done in a way that is pleasing to God.

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Friday March 10, 2023 – Why was Joseph there?

Genesis 40:8    “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? Tell me your dreams.”

**********                                                                                                                                                A Day to remember:  Seven years ago today, our 7 month pregnant daughter-in-love Stephanie (Michael’s wife) went to be with the Lord in the wee hours of the morning.  Their newborn son, Declan Parker, was in the local NICU for 67 days before joining his mother.                                                                                                                                             **********

Joseph asked these two men, “Why are your faces so sad today?”  They responded by telling him that they each had a dream and they didn’t know what the dreams meant and they thought there wasn’t anyone to interpret them.  Because Joseph asked the question, he was in a position to address their concern.

This event of Joseph interpreting their dreams would later play a crucial role in Joseph becoming Governor of Egypt.  But let’s take a moment to reflect on the sequence of events that were responsible for Joseph being there.

Joseph encountered these two prisoners because they had been assigned to his care.  He was able to ask them his question, because he was in prison with them.  He was in prison because Potiphar’s wife lied.  She lied because Joseph refused to sin with her.  He was in her house because he was a slave purchased by Potiphar, her husband.  He was purchased by Potiphar because his brothers sold him into slavery.  He was sold into slavery because God sent him ahead.  Joseph was God’s man to deal with the coming famine.

God chose the path that Joseph needed to take – with all its pain and difficulty.  God was with him, blessing him – helping him.  Each step of the way, Joseph was exactly where God wanted him to be – and was faithful in allowing God to make him the man he was destined to be.

We have the same opportunity, just much different circumstances.  There are all manner of challenging and difficult things that God will take us through in accomplishing His purposes and transforming us into the image of Jesus.  Our focus must be on Him and not on ourselves or our difficulties.  By responding to the Spirit working in us, our lives increasingly speak of the love and wonder of our God.  We are able to joyfully follow Him, wherever He leads, and endure any difficulties in order to become the men and women He wants us to be – and to be His hands extended to those we encounter.

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Thursday March 9, 2023 – Being a slave and a prisoner were irrelevant

Genesis 40:6-7  When Joseph came to them the next morning, he 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?”

Have you noticed how nice it is to work with thoughtful people who do their jobs well?  They are good examples to emulate in terms of their work habits, but their thoughtfulness is something special.  They are the ones, who notice things; who go out of their way to help or cheer people up.  They care about their jobs but they care about those around them.

This verse today has always blessed me because it speaks of such quality in Joseph.  The Lord was blessing Joseph in prison just as He had in Potiphar’s house, giving him success.  The warden had put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there (Gen 39:22).

Joseph was in charge – basically running the place, but he wasn’t bitter about all that had happened to him.  He wasn’t inwardly focused so that he was blind to what was going on around him.  He noticed that two of the prisoners were dejected and asked them why.  He cared – and he didn’t keep it hidden.

Earlier when he refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, it wasn’t just because it was a sin against God.  Joseph saw it as wickedness because it was also a betrayal of the trust that his master had in him.  Joseph had honor and integrity.  The fact that he was a slave and a prisoner was irrelevant.  The quality in Joseph just continued to shine.

The Lord gives us opportunities every day to let His light shine through us to bless others.   What a privilege that is.  Giving someone an encouraging word, being kind or helpful is like giving a thirsty person a drink of water.  Remember Joseph, that he did it in the context of doing his responsibilities well.  Integrity and thoughtfulness – may our lives have them in abundance.

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Wednesday March 8, 2023 – The lesson of shackles and chains for us

Psalm 105:17-19  and He sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave.  They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true.

Prior to being sold into slavery, Joseph was given two dreams by the Lord.  In the first, Joseph and his brothers each had a sheaf of grain.  His sheaf stood upright, and the sheaves of his brothers gathered around it and bowed down to it.  Upon telling his brothers this dream, they hated Joseph all the more.

In the second dream, the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him.  He shared this dream with his father, Jacob, as well as with his brothers.  Jacob rebuked him asking about the dream, “Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”

Twenty years before the famine would arrive, God gave Joseph these dreams.  I wonder what he thought about them.  Did he think they would come true sometime soon?  Joseph had no idea what was coming.  Instead of a life of blessing, growth and prosperity with his family – he experienced the opposite: betrayal by his brothers, sold as a slave, taken to Egypt, harsh treatment, blessed as a slave for an Egyptian master, and then imprisoned because he wouldn’t sin.

We tend to overlook the shackles and bruises on his feet, and the irons around his neck.  He wasn’t politely taken to Egypt – he was forcibly and painfully taken.  All of this was done because of God’s plan.  Joseph’s dreams were going to come true – his family was going to bow before him.  But first would come this path of preparation that God had for Joseph.

It’s so important that we recognize that God has plans for each of us – plans that require preparation.  While we probably won’t encounter anything like Joseph did, God will do whatever it takes to prepare us and enable us to do what He wants us to do.  Many things might be hard, but we must learn to embrace them – looking to the Lord to accomplish His plan and purpose within us.  Hopefully we will emulate Joseph and walk faithfully through all we encounter, being conscious of God’s presence with us – leading us on.

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Tuesday March 7, 2023 – When temptation comes…

Genesis 39:9  “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

The story of Joseph has such amazing twists and turns.  He’s a young man of 17 loved by his father Jacob, who gave him a richly ornamented robe as a sign of his love.  This provoked hatred in his brothers because they saw that Jacob loved Joseph more than he loved them.  Then Joseph received the two dreams in which it appeared that his family was bowing before him.  This made his brothers hate him even more.

Shortly thereafter, the brothers sold him into slavery, instead of killing him.  Once in Egypt he was purchased by Potiphar, captain of the guard for Pharaoh.  God proceeded to bless Joseph in everything he did and Potiphar recognized it.  So Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household and everything he owned.  Everything Joseph did was being blessed.

Into this success came serious temptation in the form Potiphar’s wife, who was attracted to this handsome young man.  Day after day, she repeatedly tried to get Joseph to sleep with her.  Joseph recognized the temptation for what it was and is – a wicked thing; a betrayal of Potiphar’s trust; and a sin against God.  When she finally grabbed his cloak to get him to come to bed with her, he fled and ran out of the house.  He refused to yield to sin.

What an example for us!  In Christ, we have the opportunity to be a blessing to all around us.  But in the midst of it, temptations will come.  Pray that we have the eyes to see them, as Joseph did – and also the firm resolve to resist them, no matter what.  Sin is sin.  The enemy of our souls wants us to sin against God – who allows the temptations to come.  God wants to see us stand firm against them – and flee if need be, in order to affirm who we are in Him – to demonstrate the quality of His workmanship in us.

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Monday March 6, 2023 – How do we or how will we respond?

John 15:18  If the world hates you, keep in mind in mind that it hated me first.

Have you ever been bullied?  Have you ever been one of those people that a bully looked for and as soon as he saw you he came running to mess with you?  Fortunately such things typically only happen to some of us when we’re children.  Plus we live in a western culture where such behavior is generally disapproved of.

But think of being in a culture where this type of behavior is a way of life and instead of the bully being an individual, it is a group, or mob or even family.  Worse still consider the reality that all ages are affected by such groups – not just children – and it includes anything from beating to burning to killing.  Becoming a target, results in the reality that it could cost you your life.  So, what makes a person a target of such groups?

In many places in the world today, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ makes one a target of such groups, resulting in severe, often bloody persecution.  Conversion to Jesus Christ requires a price that many in the West just don’t realize.  Fortunately Jesus is more than worth the price!

We encounter discrimination and persecution but it is more in the context of Christian activities being excluded from all manner of places where they have always existed: Merry Christmas becomes Happy Holidays; Christmas vacation becomes Winter break; no prayers at graduation ceremonies; situations in the military where Chaplains are ordered not to pray in the name of Jesus.  There is also a growing perversion of the rule of law where Christian beliefs are not protected by the 1st Amendment (Freedom of Religion).  Think of bakers and same-sex weddings or requiring abortion coverage by all.

We have had a rule of law here that has protected us.  But in too many other parts of the world that law doesn’t exist or is ignored.  There, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ often results in disowning, disinheritance, expulsion, arrest or death – by stoning, beheading, burning or even crucifixion.  The hatred that Jesus spoke of (today’s verse) is alive and well in the world.

People all over the world – today – are being tortured, beaten, enslaved, imprisoned and broken because of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Recognizing the love of God and Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior, triggers a hateful revenge in so many places that we in the west are often clueless about.  But this is what so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing and experiencing.

We must remember the spiritual reality that exists in all this.  Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Fortunately, Jesus has equipped us all to face and overcome such opposition, “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4b)

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Sunday March 5, 2023 – Avoiding being a lemon

Staying with – I Corinthians 7:19b  Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

What really matters in our lives, overall?  What are the main convictions/values that drive us?  If one of our answers is our faith, what is it about our faith that is at it’s core?  How does our faith impact our lives and those around us?  Although this verse is in a particular context, it can really stand alone.  It’s telling us that it isn’t enough to just talk the talk.

Think of buying a product with a brand name and then having nothing but problems with it.  Or maybe it’s okay most of the time, but it has a knack of not working when we need it most.  If someone asked us if we would recommend it, we’d say NO.  Although the product might look good, and it might perform well much of the time – that’s not enough.  The issue is that it’s lacking in quality and reliability.  It’s subpar.  You might even call it a lemon.

In light of this illustration, consider the verse again, “Keeping God’s commands is what counts.”  I’m reminded of a major manufacturer whose corporate motto was, “The quality goes in before the name goes on!”  We were bought at a great price.  We are new creatures in Christ Jesus.  We have His Spirit within us.  We are freed from the power of sin.  God has expectations and requirements of all of us as His sons and daughters.  They are not optional.

As believers, the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to teach us how to live.  He also convicts us of sin in our lives.  He shows us our wrong motivations, our frailties, weaknesses, shortcomings and all manner of things in order to help us to obey – to become more like Jesus.  He convicts.  We repent.  He empowers and transforms us.  We co-operate with Him.  Our lives become testimonies of keeping His commands.

A portion of this verse is a very important definition (1 John 5:3).  Keeping God’s commands is the Biblical definition of loving God.  Why is obeying His commands so important?  Paraphrasing today’s verse sums it up really well: “Loving God is what counts.”

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Saturday March 4, 2023 – A marvelously redemptive continuum!

I Corinthians 7:19b  Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

Have you ever noticed how doing the right thing is a whole lot easier when you have a right attitude/good motives?  Obedience just seems to flow out of a right attitude, when our motives are good – even when the circumstances are difficult.

Your spouse or kids or parents need help with something and you just got home and have just collapsed into a chair exhausted.  All you want to do is relax.  But when your heart is to help them, getting yourself up isn’t that difficult to do, in spite of how you feel.

But what happens when your attitude isn’t right? Doing the right thing can be made a lot more difficult if our wrong or bad attitude prevails.  Another trap is to disobey because we wrongly focus on our motives rather than on repentance and obedience.

Picture this:

Godly Motives & Attitudes <—————Faith—————- > Obedience

Right motives and attitudes coupled with faith lead to obedience. The great news is that the opposite can happen!  Obedience, coupled with faith (honesty with God) can lead to Godly motives and attitudes! This continuum can go either way!

When our attitudes/motives are less than they should be (or are awful), our obedience can become the framework for God to use in shaping and transforming them.  Think of cement forms for laying a walkway.  The forms are put into the correct shape and the cement is poured in.  Once it hardens the forms are removed.  Our obedience is like the concrete forms.  It, coupled with our acknowledgement of our sin, provides the framework for God to use.

We cannot avoid obeying God because of a bad attitude.  When I am in situations like this, I find myself confessing my sinful attitudes/motives to God and asking Him to transform them as I obey and do the right thing.  Through my continued obedience and repentance, God transforms my heart moving it to the Godly end of the above continuum.

It is a marvelously redemptive process that we can confidently use whenever our attitudes and motives are less than they should be.

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