There probably isn’t a person alive that hasn’t said at one time or another, “I’m going to do thus and so but in the meantime I’ll do …”
Much of what we plan or want to do doesn’t happen right away but comes about after time. It is what we do “in the meantime” that plays a large part in the future.
Look at the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-42). I love this story because it shows us what God sees in us and not what others see. God saw that Joseph had great potential but others saw a bratty, spoiled, tattletale, protected teenager. He was much loved by his daddy, hated by his brothers, son of a beautiful but spoiled mother who died in his childhood. His daddy was not a particularly good father and closed his eyes to a lot of the “in fighting” among his children.
But GOD. God saw in Joseph what others did not see. He “called” Joseph to a work for Him by giving him a dream of his future. What is so true of youth is that they have little tact. The dream was heady business to Joseph and probably confirmed to him what he already thought of himself … “I’m groomed for greatness!” So he did what came naturally and told his brothers. Not a good idea! They hated him even more after that because it was all about how he (Joseph) would rule over them. Oh my! How that angered them.
I believe that God instills in our children those abilities and talents that He will use later on in life. God also gives callings, dreams and visions to the young as well as the old. Obviously children need to mature in their personalities, minds, attitudes and abilities to be effective and when dreams are shared too early with others our children can become discouraged. Families, unfortunately, are some of the best at throwing cold water on each other to extinguish our dreams.
God didn’t want Joseph to become discouraged so He gave him a second dream to confirm his calling. Some learn the hard way (or not at all!) and Joseph hadn’t learned! This time he told his dream not only to his brothers but to dad also. The reaction this time was that daddy rebuked him and his brothers envied him. I guess the brothers figured there might be some truth in this after all! Daddy Jacob, kept these things in his heart.
God DID have a plan for Joseph’s life but also knew Joseph wasn’t ready for the role planned for him. Joseph needed to be groomed, prepared and his talents needed development.
Ouch! We like to think that when our “grooming” starts it will not involve undue pain or hardship. “Oh, God has called me to (fill in your own blank!) and yeah, I’m gonna’ do great things!” Everyone is going to like us and help us in our preparation!
Ooops … then comes the pits! I don’t know about you but I sure don’t like the pits! I don’t enjoy pain, hardship or difficult times but those are the places of refinement IF we keep God front and center, don’t forget our dreams and callings and realize that God is in control.
Poor Joseph. He is only 17, had a cushy job and was eager to get away when dad told him to go find his brothers, find out how they were doing and report back to him. Official tattling! Perfect setup for brother’s revenge!
The brothers see him coming with his colorful coat and see their chance to rid themselves of this family nuisance. They plan to kill him and blame it on a wild animal. At this point they are thinking only of themselves and certainly not of dad!
Thank goodness for one brother that decided this killing business was not a good idea and pleaded to save his life. “Let’s throw him into this pit …” then Reuben was going to pull him out later and send him on home.
The brothers strip him of his identity (his coat), throw him into an empty pit without any water and sit down to eat while he is pleading for his life! While eating another idea strikes them as they see a caravan of traders coming their way. “Hey, let’s sell Joseph and then we won’t have to kill him! After all, he is our brother and our flesh!”
So they sell him as a slave, Reuben comes to rescue him out of the pit (he must have not been around for supper), tears his clothes, asks his brothers about him and they come up with a story to tell dad … that wild animals killed him, sprinkled blood from a goat that they killed on the coat, returned to dad and asked him if this was “your son’s tunic” (not our brother’s tunic!) and embellished their lie.
Oh the guilt that must have settled over the brothers … the pain of bereavement that settled on Jacob … and the loneliness and puzzlement that must have descended on Joseph.
Joseph was in the pits, then sold, finally purchased as a slave. Oh yes, he had a good boss but he was still a slave. He was given a good job in his master’s household but he was still a slave.
I love the fact that Joseph did not despair. We have no record of his complaining or cursing his brothers. Jacob may not have been the best dad but he did do something right in that he must have taught Joseph a love for God and to stay true to Him!
Here Joseph was in a foreign country, foreign culture, foreign language, no family, no friends, NOTHING that was familiar to him and yet he stayed true to God. He not only excelled in his training in administration, accounting and organization but when confronted with evil and temptation he refused to become involved! Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man …”
Why Joseph must have won the “Best Slave” award! That doesn’t figure with our sense of being “successful”!
But it didn’t end there … we know the story of how he was framed by his boss’s wife (Joseph was one handsome dude and she may have been a spoiled love-starved woman used to getting her own way). Who would have known if he had acquiesced to her demands?
God! Joseph’s answer clearly shows that he knew this would have been a sin against God. So even though he must have known his job was on the line he continually stood for righteousness until the boss’s wife got so mad she framed him and off to prison he went.
Oh my … from the pits to slavery to prison. “God, where are You? I know You called me! You showed me what my life was to become. You confirmed it to me and then all hell broke loose in my life. There is nothing here to let me see how You can use this! I am alone, all have forsaken me and now THIS? GOD, I DON’T DESERVE THIS! I am going to have one grand pity-party!” Ok, I know this was NOT Joseph’s reaction but would it have been mine? Or yours?
How much worse can it get? Oh … it does! But again verse 21 tells us that even in prison he excelled because God was with him. God did NOT desert him! “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
I would hazard a guess that Joseph would have preferred to be OUT of prison to excel, to get on with life and to be about what God wanted to do with him but again he buckled down and did his best to serve. In that place he was now voted “BEST PRISONER”. Still not a fulfillment of the dream though!
Even in prison he used his abilities for the advantage of others. He is now considerate of the feelings of others and when he sees sadness on the faces of two of the new prisoners he goes to them. They tell him of their dreams and now Joseph recognizes that GOD is the revealer of dreams … not himself.
Ahh … he has learned something else … that not only did he have to use the skills God had gifted him with but also acknowledge that God gave them to him!
It is GOD who is the revealer of dreams! Joseph’s interpretations come true and he has asked the cupbearer to “remember me” when he is returned to power. Yes, we all want out of our trials as quickly as we can … but God was STILL in charge and God’s timing was not yet.
Oh how hard it is for us to wait! It was hard for Joseph but he remained faithful. Look what Psalm 105:17-19 says, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: UNTIL (emphasis mine!) the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him.”
I don’t like to think that I will be in God’s school for so many years and that the word He has given me will be so “trying” … but He is the schoolmaster and knows when graduation time is coming!
In a moment of time Joseph’s life turned totally around. Pharaoh had a dream, which no one could interpret. FINALLY the cupbearer remembers Joseph! Genesis 41:12, “There was there with us a young man … he interpreted to us our dreams …”
Pharaoh sent for Joseph. I wonder what he thought. “Oh-oh, I wonder what I’ve done now? Am I going to receive my death sentence?” I don’t think he had any idea it was promotion day!
I love the fact that the brashness of youth was gone. The first thing Joseph says in answer to Pharaoh is “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer …”.
Joseph interprets the dream, Pharaoh knows the interpretation is right on; he elevates Joseph to a position of prominence just below himself in the kingdom.
WOW … from prisoner to position of power in less than a day!
How did it happen? Because Joseph was faithful “in the meantime”. He didn’t give up when the going got rough! He didn’t give up when he found himself in the pits, or as a slave or in prison. But in each situation he excelled. He honed his gifts, he stayed prepared even when there was no one to be accountable to. He did not yield to sinful pleasures thinking no one was watching. We have no record of his complaining or even sulking. I’m sure there where times when he must have wondered “where are you God?” but he continued to do his best wherever he was.
Has God given you a dream? Are you in a “meantime”? How are you handling your disappointments and difficult situations? With complaining or usefulness?
If you don’t handle your pits correctly … you won’t be ready for your promotion!
Thank you Barbara H for your thoughts on this topic years ago which spoke to me when I needed to hear it (I still do!!!). You are a dear friend and mentor and I love you dearly!