For the week of November 27, 2021 / 23 Kislev 5782
Torah: Bereshit/Genesis 37:1 – 40:23
Haftarah: Amos 2:6 – 3:8
And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. (Bereshit/Genesis 39:20-21)
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In my message two weeks ago (Say the Words), I shared one of my concerns about how I was first introduced to trusting in Yeshua as Messiah. At the time, it was framed as just say the words and my life would change. As it turned out, that’s what happened, though I have realized that there was much more going on than simply reciting a formula.
There was another aspect of that day’s interaction that I have struggled with. Before I continue, let me be clear that, again, there was far more right about what happened that day than these two questionable items. The second issue is I was promised that if I said those words, I would be happy for the rest of my life. The person who told me about Yeshua that day, whom I just met, had no idea the depths of depression and anxiety in which I was trapped. So, such an offer was most enticing.
Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed. Almost immediately after asking God to forgive my sins and inviting Yeshua into my life, I went on an emotional high that I had never had before and haven’t had since. I therefore assumed that this is what my newfound faith was going to be like forever.
I didn’t start reading the Bible for myself until about two weeks after praying to receive Yeshua. Even then, in my euphoria, I didn’t notice that the Bible doesn’t make such a promise. Rather, the actual truth is more along the lines of: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Tehillim/Psalms 46:1). I eventually learned that God’s security in the midst of life-threating disaster is far more meaningful and helpful than the superficiality of a permanent residence on cloud nine.
I wonder if Jacob’s son Joseph went through a similar shift in things as I. I am not claiming for one moment that our lives are in direct parallel. The only point of connection between my story and his is we both share an original misinformed positive expectation. Joseph, like myself, underestimated the positive. All he had was a glimpse of his eventual leadership role in relation to his family. He didn’t know that would be only one aspect of his role in saving the entire region from starvation as Prime Minister of Egypt. While there’s no comparison between my impact and Joseph’s, I too underestimated the positive as God’s faithfulness has proven itself in my life over and over again.
Joseph and I don’t only share misinformed positive outlooks, we didn’t foresee the hardships either. Here too, I in no way compare my life challenges to Joseph’s. But that takes nothing away from the lesson to be learned.
All through Scripture we see people of God go through exceedingly difficult times. Sometimes due to their own foolishness, other times simply because they are doing exactly what God wanted them to do. Joseph was a victim of his brothers’ jealousy, not that he did much to alleviate that. But through it all, God was accomplishing his purpose in and through him. Torah doesn’t comment on how Joseph managed to not break under unjust circumstances. But he didn’t. God sustained him all those years as he prepared him to become the leader he was destined to be.
People love to quote Yeshua’s promise of abundant life (see John 10:10), but fail, as in my experience years ago, to mention that he also said, “In the world you will have tribulation (a fancy word for trouble)” (John 16:33). That’s not the last word, of course. The Messiah continues in that same verse: “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I may have been surprised to learn that I wasn’t going to be happy all the time. Instead, I received something much better. Knowing that God is with us in trouble, working to fulfill his purposes, is the greatest stabilizing force in the universe.
Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version