Background Scripture: Genesis 39:20-23;40:1-8,20-23
Quotes of the Week:
"You will always feel insignificant if you never do anything to change the world or another person's life, other than your own."
Shannon L. Alder
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Generations change, but when I was growing up, a boy might want to be a fireman, a professional athlete or a superhero. I would have liked to be a superhero, but thought a professional basketball player was much more attainable. I spent hours upon hours shooting at the goal behind my house and tried to play wherever I could, whenever I could. I remember my dad spending time with me, holding a broom up in front of me, and teaching me to shoot over outstretched arms. However, my coaches (and lack of supreme talent) never quite allowed that dream come true. We all start out with hopes and dreams of a life that will go as we desire. Granted, the dreams we have as a child change as we age. I never really thought about the same dreams (with the exception of a superhero, which I still think would be cool!).
Planning for the future is beneficial. It is common to see long range planning in companies, as most of them intend on being around for many years. However, plans change, both in a company and in life in general. We have seen companies that have closed their doors, throwing away many plans they had. There are often snags as some things weren't accounted for. New technologies emerge and economies rise and fall. Some companies forget their objectives and end up on an alternate path, chasing something that they will never find. Planning is good, but if your plan has to be accomplished for you to enjoy life, you may find yourself becoming very bitter in negative situations (which you will have). We all know that life changes and what we may have hoped for can turn into something completely different.
There are some people that preach the power of positive thinking. There is some value in the Norman Vincent Peale quote "We tend to get what we expect", but we can all think of times where that is untrue. Sure, in some cases we can control an outcome (as much as it all totally depends on us (and we are capable)), but there is not a one of us that live a life that is independent of others. We can't control circumstances that are, quite frankly out of our control. Others make choices, we have personal health concerns, the weather changes, our teams may or may not win the game and so forth.
This lesson is the continuation from previous lessons on the life of Joseph. As you may remember, he was sold into slavery by his brothers, who were tired of seeing him treated as the 'favored son'. He ended up in Potiphar's house. It was obvious to others that God gave Joseph success, so Potiphar put him in charge of everything that he owned. Potiphar's wife, however, had other intentions when it came to Joseph, as she propositioned him on multiple occasions. Even after being told that he would not succumb to her desires, due to his allegiance to his master (her husband) and that he would not sin against God, she continued to approach him. Once, when he was alone in the house, she came in and grabbed his cloak and said "Come to bed with me!" Joseph turned to run, but in doing so, his cloak remained in her possession. Not to be outdone, she called for the other servants (who were Egyptians) and said that this Hebrew, Joseph, had tried to attack her. (Notice that she played the race card) Even though she was not telling the truth, she wanted others on her side, including her husband, Potiphar. She changed the story to say that Joseph approached her, and as she screamed, he left his cloak and ran. Continuing, she said "This is how your slave treated me". We read that Potiphar burned with anger.
We know that she was lying. She was trying to win support from others, so that everyone would join her to be against Joseph. It really didn't matter what the truth was. In reality, Joseph had tried to do the right thing over and over, yet she turned it against him. She was at fault, but isn't it amazing how people can be so moved based on emotion, without ever stopping to ask for the truth? You have surely heard of the recent activity in Ferguson, Missouri. Rather than waiting to see what happened, many people were quick to protest and demand justice. They really didn't and still don't want 'justice', unless justice agrees with their desired outcome. While some have protested some legitimate issues that have occurred, many others have behaved inappropriately (from rioting protestors to 'leaders' who have come into St Louis and have effectively stirred up more negative passion). Many people have just been caught up by the crowd and have made matters so much worse than they need to be, which actually works against their issues. As stated, truth and justice doesn't even seem to matter for many people. However, this goes far beyond the Ferguson situation. There are likely many people that you and I know who have been railroaded by others, with little desire to listen to the truth. Unfortunately, some minds are already made up ahead of time and are unwilling to even listen to any conflicting stories (which may be the truth).
Potiphar had Joseph put in prison, along with the other prisoners of the king (Pharaoh). If you were Joseph, how would you feel? Perhaps he thought back to earlier events in his life, when he was with his brothers and his father. Maybe he would have appreciated another chance with them. Perhaps he thought back to the situation with Potiphar's wife and wondered how he could have done anything differently. He was in an impossible situation. For him to do the right thing (as he had), he ended up in prison. For him to do the wrong thing, he would likely have ended up there as well, and would have had to deal with the knowledge that had sinned against God. Sometimes, we seem to find ourselves in a less than ideal situation. If we do something, it has a negative impact, and if we don't do something, it has a different negative impact. Joseph's situation certainly seemed to be no-win.
However, we read that while Joseph was in prison, the Lord was with him. This has been the constant in Joseph's life, despite problems with his brothers, despite being sold into slavery (twice), despite the issues with Potiphar's wife and now even being in prison. In no passage do we read that Joseph was complaining to others about the things that happened. He wasn't seeking the concern of others as much as the presence of the Lord. You may wonder how landing in prison meant that the Lord was with him. Even in prison, the warden noticed Joseph and put him in charge of other prisoners. He was responsible for all that was done there. This is similar to the impression that Potiphar had in regards to Joseph, as the warden didn't have to wonder about things that Joseph did, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Both of these men ended up having a dream on the same night. I'm not sure how much you dream (or how much you remember), but for me, it is rare that I remember the specifics of a dream. However, there have been times when I have woken up and a dream that seemed eerily real impacted me for a little while. However, after the day progresses, I tend to forget nearly every dream I have had. Apparently, this dream must have had an impact on these men, as they were both dejected, because they couldn't understand the meaning of their dreams.
Joseph came in the next morning and saw that their demeanor. I would imagine a lot of people in prison would appear to be dejected, but apparently, these men were much worse off than normal. Joseph asked them why they looked so sad. They replied that they both had dreams, but they had no one to interpret them. These dreams bothered them so much that they could think of nothing else. Joseph told them that dreams and interpretations belonged to God, and he said that they should tell him their dreams, so God could interpret them. It would seem that the others would have associated Joseph's success with being a godly man, or else he never would have asked this question.
When you think about the people that are around you, would you ever think that they would associate you with being godly? What do your co-workers, neighbors, friends and/or associates think about you? It isn't about going to church every time the door is open. It isn't about being perfect. In fact, they often know you are far from perfect, but they still see you seeking God. Would they say you are truthful? Do you foster loving relationships or do you resort to avoiding others that don't think just like you? What is it that would make others think a person is godly today?
The men told Joseph their dreams. The cupbearer had seen a vine with three branches which budded and blossomed and its clusters ripened into grapes. He had Pharaoh's cup in his hand, took the grapes and squeezed them into the cup and put the cup in Pharaoh's hand. Joseph said that the three branches were three days. He would be restored and would put the cup in Pharaoh's hand, as he used to. Joseph asked him to remember to mention him to Pharaoh, so that he would get out of prison, as he had done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.
The baker enjoyed the interpretation, so he told his dream. I feel sure he expected another positive interpretation. On his head were three baskets of bread. Although the bread was for Pharaoh, birds kept eating out of the basket. I am sure he wanted to hear how he would be in Pharaoh's presence again. Joseph said that the three baskets were three days and within that time, Pharaoh would cut off his head and impale his body on a pole, allowing the birds to eat away his flesh. I can't imagine this being something that the baker wanted to hear.
This seems like fairly noteworthy news, right? The cupbearer had to remember that Joseph had interpreted his dream. Actually, I bet he forgot, as he was back to where he was. However, when it was made known that the baker was impaled, that should have rung a bell, right? We read that the chief cupbearer simply forgot Joseph.
Potiphar's had put Joseph in charge of everything he owned, except for the food he ate. However, in not questioning these allegations against Joseph, he showed that he didn't care enough to seek the truth. He allowed what he heard to cause him to make major decisions that would impact not only his own life, but the lives of others as well. Are you like Potiphar, in that you are hands off of what goes on, and not willing to seek the truth? If this is you, you will find yourself following the crowd or someone else, making your own situation worse and taking you further from God.
Potiphar's wife wanted things to be the way that she wanted them to be, regardless of how it impacted others. You would have to think that the other servants that knew Joseph would not believe that he would do what she said he did. While I don't believe that Joseph was the type to "tell on others", I think that they had to see that his lifestyle was inconsistent with the charge. Potiphar's wife cared only for herself, in reality. She didn't care for her husband, Potiphar, as she controlled him by her lies and got him to act on them, at the detriment of others. She didn't care for the other servants who likely saw that she cared only for herself. People that only care for themselves and are quick to lie to promote their positions often find themselves with the person they love the most, themselves. Who wants to be around them?
The chief cupbearer saw who Joseph was. Joseph was there to help him at a time where he needed help, and in doing so, the cupbearer saw that Joseph was legitimate. However, once his life got back to normal, he cared only for himself. Unfortunately, this can be like many of us today when we are willing to accept the help of others (when we need help) but not care enough to help them in return. The cupbearer's issue may seem to pale in comparison to the lies of Potiphar's wife. However, by not speaking the truth when we should speak is nearly as bad as speaking lies when we do. This is especially true when the lies are against someone else. Is there somebody that you need to aid today, so that truth about them can be made known, or are you happy enough as long as things are going well with you?
If we ended the story of Joseph at this point, it would seem that it was all for naught. For Joseph to be locked away in prison, forgotten by those on the outside, you would have to question if God really was with him (at least in a way to be used to help others). However, throughout later chapters in the book of Genesis, we see that God's hand was on Joseph for a purpose. Perhaps the relationships he made along the way allowed him to be more effectively used by God in the future. There will be times in your life where you are treated badly, or when you have been in situations that are beyond what you think you can endure. It does help to have others support you and pray for you in those times, but if our priority is that any and everybody else knows what is going on, we can often make it more difficult for God to use those situations in the future.
As we close, is there any area of your life that you have been driven, based only on emotion? We all are somewhat like bandwagon fans, going with the flow when a team is winning. However, what will you do when the emotions are not in line with the truth? Will you allow yourself to be emotionally pulled to react in such a way as to push someone's agenda, or will you seek the truth in situations? If you disregard the truth, in many ways you are saying that you are complicit with a lie. Even in our heartaches and struggles in life, we should be seeking truth. And, when we are given the opportunity, we should speak truth.