2007-11-07 / Religion

Keep the faith during turbulence

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

There are times when it seems that certain individuals burst upon the stage of human history as if they came out of nowhere.

This could cause one to think that these people have no background, or that there was some kind of fluke in the unfolding of events. However, every person has a history. The fact that their past is generally unknown does not mean that there has not been many years of difficult - and important - preparation. The past prepares one for the present task.

The sons of Jacob - Israel - sold their brother to a passing caravan of merchants. Genesis 37:25-28. When this 17-year-old (Genesis 37:2) arrived in Egypt, "the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah's, and the captain of the guard." Genesis 37:36; 39:1. The record gives us some very important information regarding the life of this young man. "And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian." Genesis 39:2.

This slave was given great responsibility in the household of his master. "And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand." Genesis 39.3. Thus, Joseph became the "overseer" of the house. Genesis 39:4. "...The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field." Genesis 39:5b.

The wife of Potiphar "cast her eyes upon Joseph" (Genesis 39:7) as an enticement toward sexual immorality, which he refused. Genesis 39:7,8. The answer of the young man was, "how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Genesis 39:9c.

This argument that the young man presented did not stop the scheming woman. She "caught him by his garment" in an attempt to get him to commit wickedness. After a time, this scheming woman devised a plan. Genesis 39:10-12. This godly man "left his garment, and fled forth..." Genesis 39:12,13. She used the garment as her evidence against Joseph, and had him cast into prison. Genesis 39:15- 18.

When the mistress of the house related her story to her husband, "his wrath was kindled. And Joseph's master took him and put him into prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in prison." Genesis 39:19,20. Even under these conditions "the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison." Genesis 39:21.

While Joseph was in prison, "the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand: because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper." Genesis 39:22,23.

Two of the prisoners who were under the authority of Joseph were the butler and baker of the king. Genesis 40:1.We are not told of their cries, but each of them had a dream. These dreams were told to Joseph, and this young man gave the interpretation. The dream of the butler was good. Genesis 40:5-13.

After this dream was interpreted, Joseph made a request of this man. "But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh and bring me out of this house..." Genesis 40:14. He, then, declared his own innocence in the situation that had resulted in his present circumstances. "For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here, also, I have done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon." Genesis 40:15. He interpreted the dream of the baker. The butler was restored, and the baker was executed. Genesis 40:16-22. "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph but forgot him." Genesis 40:23.

One can only imagine the things that must have paraded through the mind of this young man as the days turned into weeks, the weeks collected into months, and the months grew into years. However, there is no scriptural evidence that his son of Israel ever lost faith in God.

From the human perspective, all of these circumstances might seem to be unrelated to the preservation of the chosen people of God. However, it is important for us to remember that God sees the big picture. "And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed..." Genesis 41:1a. Since we know "the rest of the story," we can see the hand of God at work as the grand scheme of things begins to unfold rapidly in the divine plan for his people.

The dreams of Pharaoh became a puzzle to this great ruler. He recognized that these dreams had some kind of significance.

"And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all of the wise men thereof; and Pharaoh told them his dream; but here was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh." Genesis 41:8. At this point, "spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day..." Genesis 41:9. The butler related to Pharaoh the prison encounter with the young Hebrew. Genesis 41:10-13.

We are told that "Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon, and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." Genesis 41:14. "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it; and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it." Genesis 41:15.

The answer given by Joseph shows his continued reliance on God. "And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace." Genesis 41:16.

Pharaoh related the dreams to the young slave. Genesis 41:17-24. "And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, the dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do." Genesis 41:25. The dreams showed seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Genesis 41:29-32. Joseph gave some un-asked-for advice to Pharaoh that would prevent devastation of the land and the people. Genesis 41:34- 36.

"And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants." Genesis 41:37. We are told that "Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this man is, a man in whom the spirit of God is? Genesis 41:38.

Thus, Joseph became second in command (Genesis 41:43) in Egypt with the responsibility of providing for the coming famine. This famine would affect a large area. The chosen nation would be preserved by the preparations that were made in Egypt, thus keeping the family line of the coming Messiah.

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