Friday, August 17, 2007

More Than a Promise, More Than a Dream

Difficulty, betrayal, deceit, disaster —we see it in the life of young Joseph, son of Jacob. But we also see the faithfulness of God, His plan of promise, dreams, and blessing.

When you and I take a closer look at this Bible story it brings us hope and joy. If you’ve ever been misunderstood or cheated you’ll feel relieved to see how God’s blessing comes to the man or woman who trusts and obeys the Lord.

Joseph was daddy’s favorite of all his children. At first it almost sounds like he was a spoiled kid, a tattle-tale, an attention-getter. It sounds like he bragged about his dreams and got on his brothers’ nerves. But what was his attitude, his understanding, his behavior?

For many years God prepared Joseph to fill an important role in a family of great destiny.

God taught Joseph in his family.

Father Jacob surely had often gathered his youngsters around him to hear him recount the story of his life. He would have told about his dream of the ladder that reached to Heaven, and of hearing the very voice of God, “Behold, I am with thee . . . I will not leave thee…” (Genesis 28:15).

Years later, Jacob traveling back from Mahanaim with his wives and children met angels of God, (Genesis 32:1), and at Peniel Jacob wrestled with a “man” and Jacob said, “…I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.” (32:28-30). God spoke with him at Bethel (35:7-15).

In those days families might sit out under the starry skies by the burning campfire after the day’s work was done and listen to their parents recite the stories of God’s dealings with mankind. Repetition and memorization of important facts of the family history was of great importance. Surely, Joseph knew that God had a destiny for his father’s family.

Joseph knew right from wrong. His father could trust him to make a truthful report about the brothers and the flocks. Father was grooming him for leadership. God was grooming him for leadership.

God gave Joseph the dreams.

At the age of seventeen Joseph was assured of God’s presence in his life through two dreams. Knowing God made the difference.

Was it the naiveté and self-confidence of a unpretentious teenager that led Joseph to relate his dreams? It well could have been the mercy of God, testing both the family and Joseph, as a way to reveal the condition of their hearts.

When he was sold into slavery, later falsely accused and thrown into prison he would remember those two wonderful dreams, but he must have also had a personal relationship with God, the Father he could always talk to, any place, any time.

Later he’d interpret the dreams of others. God gave discernment and wisdom.

God gave Joseph a robe.

Joseph learned to love and trust God, for he experienced his own father’s love and trust. That beautiful robe (the “coat of many colors”) had probably been presented to him at a family gathering, and Father Jacob would have again recounted important details of blessing and worship of God for all to hear.

Remembering that robe of honor perhaps Joseph later realized it had been a glimpse of another beautiful robe that he’d wear, after God had tested and trained him, and prepared the circumstances for Joseph to become a great and powerful leader.

God gave Joseph what he needed.

When his brothers turned against him Joseph could not be delivered from trouble. God had a greater plan. Joseph later would deliver others with the wisdom God gave him.

God gave Joseph what he didn’t deserve; trouble and disgrace, but eventually great honor and power.

God gave Joseph testing.

For the next thirteen years Joseph was tested to see if he’d fall into depression or confusion or anger.
He was tested to see if he’d take a short-cut to success, taking advantage of an illegal relationship with another man’s wife.
He was tested to see if he could take the stress.
He was given responsibility, and he developed managerial skills.
He was tested in prison, and he mastered leadership skills.
He was tested when he interpreted the dreams for two prisoners.
He was tested when he was called before Pharaoh.
Joseph passed the tests. His heart was right; his attitude was right. He gave God the credit.

More than seven years later when the brothers came to Egypt Joseph was tested to reveal his attitude. He was caring, wise, and mature.

When Joseph revealed who he was to his brothers he declared, “…God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Genesis 45:7).

Joseph was tested in his generosity to the 70 members of Jacob’s family.

Later he assured his family what he had believed, all those years, “What you meant for evil God meant it unto good . . . to save many people,” (Genesis 50:20).

Throughout the life of Joseph he was blessed by God, and he was tested so that his obedience could be a blessing to his family, and then to thousands and thousands of others.

In all of his testing he never denied God or abandoned his family. He did what was right, even when it must have been hard.

God gave Joseph fame.

It’s a fascinating story to read and consider. From weakness to strength. From obscurity to fame. From hard physical labor to a life of great wealth. From ridicule to rulership. From trials to triumph.

His brothers grew up and became the leaders of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Later known as Jews they filled an important role in God’s purposes throughout the Old Testament times. Jacob’s family was in the lineage of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:2 and Luke 3:34).

Five things we learn from the life of Joseph:
1. As God provides ways for us to be a blessing to others we will be tested.
2. God wants us to discover the condition of our hearts.
3. God gives us knowledge and wisdom; we can rely on Him.
4. God wants us to trust Him, no matter what’s going on at the time.
5. God’s time is not the same as our time.

One thing to remember . . .
More than a promise, more than a dream God gave Joseph an awareness of His very presence. God gave him His faithfulness and His love. Throughout his life Joseph developed steadfast courage and determination, hard work and faith. He gave God the credit.

What you and I need is more than a promise, more than a dream. We, too, need an awareness of the very presence of God in our life. We need a relationship with the Lord that endures testing, so we can bring to others great blessing.
Living as we do in these difficult days, let His awesome love mean more than a promise, more than a dream.
by Elaine Hardt ©2004