Monthly Archives: June 2008

KEY TO THE COMEBACK


THE KEY TO JOSEPH’S COMEBACK. . .  

I found it in the last chapter of Genesis, vs. 17-21:                       

17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?

20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

21 “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

            I’ve really been thinking about this one.  Joseph didn’t know Romans 8:28.  As far as I know, Romulus and Remus had not yet been “adopted by the wolves,” and as ancient as the city of Rome is, it had not yet begun to occupy the seven hills.  All the things Joseph knew, he discovered in the middle of the storms.  The real impact of what he was being taught probably didn’t dawn upon him until afterwards when he had tme to reflect.  As I write and ponder and pray, it seems I need to know this truth more than anyone I know.  Even if it turned out not to be true, I think it makes for a better quality of life to trust God like a little child trusts his father than if I were to give in to doubt.  I’ll let you know what the outcome of this present, extended crisis is for us.  May have to wait until we get to heaven the way things look right now.  But I choose to trust God.  It is a deliberate act of the will.  Even if I don’t always see “deliverance” in this life, I KNOW  God could have done so at any time, and I’ll keep trusting Him and His wisdom even when I cannot confidently say that truth has yet been actualized in my own personal life. Yet.  Joseph made it. He passed all the tests, any one of which could have defeated a lesser man.  And I didn’t hear him complaining or whining.  His attitude must have impressed his superiors and his peers . . .  and it certainly seems that God liked what He saw.

          The immediate context is Genesis 50:15-21.  The idea that struck me so forcefully is contained in just a couple of succinct sentences contained in 19-21.  In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful, profound, and hopeful sentences ever uttered in any language!  It shows me that Joseph has made a complete “comeback.”   Now, at last, he begins to understand what has happened, why it happened.  He discovered  this truth AFTER he’d weathered several storms.  Of cyclonic proportions!  Storms which would have swamped and destroyed anyone and everyone tested this way . . . except for the fact which Joseph discovered and stated.  Don’t miss it below.

          He didn’t have a clue at the time.  But you do.  Because he’s “been there, done that” and discovered a wise loving God at work, you can benefit from his experience and his example!  We can trust the Father’s heart, even when we don’t know His plans.  In one of the darkest moments during the Protestant Reformation, it looked as if everything that could go wrong was going wrong.  At that time, questioning to be sure, Martin Luther is reported to have said: “I do not know the way He leads.  But well do I know my Guide!”  That’s how Joseph felt.

            When you’re reading a really interesting story, do you ever run ahead to see what the outcome will be?

            I confess to having done that on occasions.  This was one of them.   Over the years I’d read the entire story of Joseph’s life several times before, but gave in to the temptation again to be sure what the outcome would be.

            The air has been heavy around Joseph.  As I read of his struggles, and deal with some of my own,  I almost felt as if I needed to catch my breath and wished I could give him some relief.   It seemed to me that he’d had one large, crushing blow after another dealt to him.  One boulder and then another rolled right over him.  During that time, I reminded myself that my original clearly stated purpose for these “studies” was to provide hope, encouragement, reason to continue.  But for what seems to be a long, long time, we’ve been dealing with one disappointing problem for Joseph after another.  I thought he could use some relief and wished I could have told him what he taught me looking at his story from this side of history.  I also didn’t want you to hold your breath till you’re blue in your face and fall out wondering, worrying, hoping for a good outcome, or at least some end to the pain.

            As I searched for the outcome, the “restoration” and perhaps his return, something Joseph said later emerged like a bright ray of hope.  It seemed to me to rise like a Mount Everest from a desert and towering high over the plains.  When the circumstances in that region of the world turned the tables on Joseph’s brothers, he at first played a bit of “cat and mouse” with them.  You can hardly blame him, can you?  He ‘messed with their minds’ for a while until they had their minds and their guilty consciences tied in knots.  Then he pulled the coup de gras and pulled off his mask:  “Hey, guys.  It’s me!  Joseph!  I’m alive and well in Egypt and have the power of life and death.”

            You coulda heard a pin drop!  Then they waited for the hammer to drop.  Or the guilliotine swishing through the air before slicing their heads off!  Or the trapdoor for the gallows to tighten the noose around their necks.  While their Dad’s health was failing, Joseph kept his word to care for the entire brood.  (Who, keep in mind, were the “pillars” of Judaism, the “founding fathers” of the Jewish nation.  We’ll talk about that some more.  You may want to think about it.  Anytime you feel you’ve failed, or aren’t “worthy,” look what God did with a rag tag bunch of nomads who tried to kill their brother and then “chickened out.”  Instead, kind souls they were, they sold him into slavery and told their Dad a cruel monstrous lie to cover their tracks.  Read what happened in the 38th chapter when one of the elite “FF” (Founding Fathers) got his daughter-in-law pregnant and was going to have her executed. . . until she produced some souvenirs to show the “father’s” identity!  I keep telling myself:  This is NOT  a story about “saints” and  good people searching for God.  It is GOD who does the searching, and cleansing, and forgiving, and restoring to value!).

            Here’s the idea that blows me away:  “You meant it for evil.  But God meant it for good.”  Read it again.  Slowly.  Thoughtfully.  As you view your life, and the challenges, disappointments, digest that thought!  Print it in large letters across your consciousness, and burn it into your sub-conscious mind.  Clutch it close to your heart.  You will need it, sooner or later.

          Joseph didn’t know that statement to be true at the time all this was happening.  You and I have the advantage of learning from his experience.  And Paul’s experience (Romans 8:28), Jesus’ words and deeds.  His mighty victory over sin and death! We have a long history of God bringing His people through harsh situations, accompanying them every step of the way. . . and leading them in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

          In my opinion,  Joseph has with this pronouncement completed the requirements to become one of “God’s Comeback Kids.”  He stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and belted a grand slam!  When he crossed “home plate,” I felt like whistling, stamping my feet shouting with joy!!  Honestly.  My problems seem to be so small by comparison, and his great victory through faith thrills me more than I can say.   I’m simply not that eloquent.  I never saw a more beautiful expression of faith, and It probably  wouldn’t have occurred to me if Joseph hadn’t discovered and displayed the truth in his own experience.  I know of no single statement in the Old Testament that speaks more eloquently, more powerfully of hope. 

          If you’ve been cheated, someone meant to hurt you.  Bad. There is evil in this world.  Jesus believed in a powerful “Prince of Darkess,” the Devil.  Because He did, I do, too. If you have not noticed it yet, or suffered from such, I can promise the day will come when some one, or some thing will be determined to destroy you. Or, someone may have accidentaally injured you, not meaning any harm.  Or you (like I) may have done something incredibly stupid with some bad consequences.  Never you mind, God had a higher, better purpose in mind and when you get past the dark trials, you’re going to be kinder, stronger, more compassionate than you possibly could have been if you’d never hurt.

          Perhaps your doctor just told you that you have an incurable illness and it’s approaching its terminal stage.  Someone, or something intends evil for you.  You got caught in a downsizing and the company you served faithfully for years doesn’t need your services anymore?  Someone, or some force, is working against you.  Someone whom you treasured and trusted betrayed you, and it was as deep and painful as if you’d been sliced in two. 

          May I make a suggestion?  Memorize that profound idea.  It is a treasure.  If you ignore everything I’ve ever said or you’ve ever read, don’t miss this!  Write it big and bold in the most prominent place.  Keep it where you can reflect on it when hard times come.  There will be mysteries that perplex you.  Problems which confound you.  Disappointments which have been aimed at your heart and intended to harm you fatally.  Then, think about this and thank God for Joseph, “GOD’S COMEBACK KID!”

 

 

“You meant it for evil. . .but
GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD!” 

 

 His servant, your friend and fellow student



(For the most part, my study has been confined to the Scripture, various translations, but concentrating on the Bible… not a book ABOUT the Bible.   I read some of the things listed here and found them to be thought-provoking and helpful.

The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation, Oxford University Press, 1985.

On the other side of Joseph’s faithfulness to God is God’s faithfulness to Joseph (The Bible for Everyday Life, by George Carey), Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

A NEW FOUND “FRIEND”

(Author’s note: I explained to a friend that I’m involved in some personal things right now and haven’t been able to use my laptop.  Told him I was draining a swamp filled with alligators.  He said: “Be sure you keep your hands in your pockets.  Them things are always looking for a hand-out.”   Arrrgh!  Do I have some witty friends, or what?!!  By coincidence, the alligator comentator is the gentleman about whom I’m writing the post below.   I’m still thinking about Joseph.  Most of what we know about him is recorded in Genesis Chapters thirty-seven through fifty.  NOTHING will take the place of your own prayerful, thoughtful first-hand examination of Scripture.  I’ll be sharing some of the things I’m thinking later, but in the meanwhile, I’d like to know what you think about this “Comeback Kid.”   And, as always, I will be grateful for your prayers. ~dk~)

Just recently . . . by chance it seemed at the time . . .  I ran across an article in the weekly newspaper published in the little town where I was born and spent my youth. The town has grown, but is still small by most standards. I can almost remember when the “Welcome” and “Come Again” signs were on the same post.

It is not an understatement to say Graham, N.C. isn’t exactly the cultural capital of the world. Not the citadel of learning or sophistication. Not by a long shot. It outranks some of its nearby neighbors (Haw River, Saxaphaw, Swepsonville, Ossippee, and Altamahaw) in a lot of categories; but you just don’t expect to find world-class restaurants, or sporting events, or remarkable talent here. At least, I haven’t known that to be the case while growing up here.

Interestingly, the article  which caught my attention was about a gentleman who’d come to serve an old, old, quiet Quaker church which I used to attend occasionally (I was “religious, but not overmuch in those days.). It was here when I was much, much younger that I heard “Vonnie” Shepherd sing “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” one sunny summer morning in Vacation Bible School long ago. She became one of my favorite friends back then, and that song remains engraved in my mind to this moment (I mentioned that in one of my earlier “blogs.”).  In fact, as I write, I’m humming that familiar, beloved tune.

Not much, though, ever happened over there at the church. Quakers are usually quiet. I like that about them…That is, not much happened, except that every once in a while some kind of scandal burst like an over-ripe boil, and one of the “Quiet Quaker” brethren went in quest of female companionship outside his home. In one or two cases, it became the “talk of the town,” and the already small, struggling congregation was made smaller and caused to struggle and suffer more. They managed to stay alive, and some still had a vision of what a Church could become. To the Church’s credit, some of the leaders felt it could be better. It should be better. And they sought, found and followed wise spiritual counsel which has led to new life, new growth, and perhaps a present and future ministry which surpasses anything they’ve seen in their first century of life.

The gentleman whom they have called, Mark Ryman, has come in and allowed himself to be used by the Lord to not only heal some of the brokenness and division. . . but also to reach out in love and growing confidence to the community. And to the state. And who knows where else! Among other things, he’s gotten on the Internet! And I mean he’s doing a splendid piece of work sharing Christ, encouraging his flock, reaching out to others and creating an image that even larger, more affluent, more sophisticated Churches can well adopt.

Before I launched my own endeavor, I went “online” and “checked out” a lot of sites. It wasn’t the most exciting adventure in learning in my life. Frankly, with a very few exceptions, I came away disappointed. They were either selling “stuff,” or presenting a denominational, political, philosophical, metaphysical, or other point of view. I told you about a gentleman in Texas whom I sought out, Neil Simpson. If you click on the replies he’s made, you can go to his website.  Neil has been a tremendous encouragement to me personally, and his site is a wide-ranging one that addresses a lot of current events, relevant topics, and does some devotional studies from a consistently Christian perspective. He provides a lot of useful, accurate information and I visit his site frequently.

After I read the newspaper article, I called Mark Ryman to offer encouragement for my new “Friend” for the bold, intelligent steps he’s taking. I also visited his site and encourage you to take a look as well. You’ll get some fresh insights which may give you ideas for your own study of Scripture and Church outreach ministry. You’ll also gain some good information from his messages and studies. His name is Mark. His Church website is www.grahamfriends.org.  His blog is:  www.MarkRyman.com/blog/.

One other reason I’m suggesting that you visit is that he has just posted his comments on Genesis 39 and Joseph’s visit to Egypt, Officer Potiphar, and the Dungeon. When I saw he was at that site a day or two before I was ready to write my own remarks, I asked him to either post that on my site, or tell you how to get to that information, as well as his notes on how to study Scripture. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

I’m still “visiting with Joseph” as we speak. He just got ambushed by a “femme fatale” and is in jail for no reason. Knowing what little I do about ancient Egyptian justice, Joe is probably lucky to be alive! It is simply remarkable to me that he went through all he did and still managed to be one of the best examples I know of “God’s Comeback Kids.” Let that be an example to me.  And to my friends who take time to think.

In my studying, thinking and praying  I’ve come to conclude that ADVERSITY IS NOT YOUR ENEMY.

His servant, your friend and fellow student  ~donkimrey~

Chapter 40 JOSEPH WONDERS (GENESIS 37)

How do you think Joseph felt…when brothers attacked him suddenly?  When they threw him into the well?  How would YOU have handled it?

          All this seems to have taken place in a fairly brief span of time.  Joseph had left home early that morning (I think he lived in Beth el at the time), walked over to Shechem (how far from where he lived?), asked a man about his brothers and was told they’d gone on over to Dothan. ( How far away was that?)  He didn’t have a bike, or a moped.  Everywhere he went it was on foot and in a fairly hot, desert land. Must have been mid-day or later in the afternoon before he  caught up with the band of brothers.  How long did the ordeal between him and his brothers last? Got sold into slavery.  Transaction was brief, cruel and simple. Twenty pieces of silver. 

           How do you think he traveled to Egypt? How far was it?  After the deal is sealed, Joseph begins that journey. Once again, on foot. Keep in mind, it’s already been a long day.  And the ordeal when his brothers ganged up on him must have taken a heavy toll.  He has no idea why they did it.  Or where he’s going now.  Or who his captors are.  Do you think they had him make the trip on camel’s back??  Probably not.  That was to carry precious cargo.  Goods.  If anything, the traders may have unloaded some of the camels’ cargo onto Joseph to lighten their load.  I’ve seen pictures of camel caravans with prisoners trailing along in the procession.  Usually tied together by ropes around their necks, hands  tied behind their backs.  He has been kidnapped.  He is enslaved. Could you put yourself in that place? 

          I don’t believe you can understand Scripture until you begin to understand how the events took place, and how the human beings in the story dealt with the challenges.  And I think we miss the point entirely if we slide casually over these incidents, or view them only with a detached curiosity.  These were real events, real people.  And their experiences can be a source of strength and occasion to renew your faith…If you understand the same God is alive, well, and at work today.

           Before I get discouraged and give up, or begin to feel to sorry for myself for being “tempted and tried and oft made to wonder, why it should be thus all the day long . . .” I might consider what I face in comparison with what someone like Joseph dealt with.  My “problems” seem so small by comparison.  I honestly think, if we could “place ourselves” in such situations we could draw a more objective perspective on our own situations.  We’d probably be ashamed at our “pity parties,” and how we spend so much time mountain climbing over molehills. Then came the traders.  It appears to have been two separate groups who passed by that day. Ishmaelites came by first in a caravan.  By the time the “Brothers” had decided what they were going to do, they’d left and here comes another group.  Midianites.  Who were these guys?  Iranians? Arabs.  Certainly not Muslims at this time.  But they were people of the desert. Always Rough.  As tough and demanding, cruel and unforgiving as the desert over which they traveled.  What was Joseph thinking by this time?  If he were needing and searching for sympathy, he certainly wouldn’t get any from these guys.

           Elsewhere, Jesus spoke of how the Lord cares for even the tiniest, most insignificant creatures.  And then, by inference, he said:  “Shall he not also take care of you; Oh you of little faith?” 

           In my study of Scripture, I’ve made it a practice to answer a question when it is asked.  Sometimes the answer is inferred by the way the question is asked.   PERHAPS IT WOULD BE WISE IF YOU ANSWERED THAT QUESTION.   DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE HE CARES?  FOR YOU?  If you really believe He cares for you and is with you, and will make even evil things serve a good purpose, what does that do to your thought processes?  If you make study notes, may I suggest that you write that question down somewhere?  Then write your own honest answer.  In bold, red letters!

           If I have any understanding at all of Scripture, I am convinced that the same God, who dealt with Joseph and got him through those awful ordeals, is with us today.  And, no mater how difficult and painful and perplexing your situation may be. . . HE IS WITH YOU.   IN HIS TIME HE WILL DELIVER YOU.

            In my reading and thinking, I believe logic drives you relentlessly to that conclusion.  Trials to be sure.  Pain to be sure.  But “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”  In spite of painful uncertainty, one fact seems to keep emerging throughout the length and breadth of the Bible:  THE LORD YOUR GOD IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO! And in His infinite wisdom and love he has determined that “All things work together for good to those who love Him” and seek to do His will.

 How do you think Joseph felt when the traders got possession of him?

            How would he react when he got to Egypt?  Remember, he’d probably never been “out of town.”  Never saw a chariot.  Or even a horse.  Much less the thoroughbred steeds, high-spirited, chomping at their bits, pawing, stomping and snorting fire. He’d never seen pyramids.  Probably his “home” was built of mud and whatever raw materials were available.  It was certainly not an architectural masterpiece in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.  And he’s coming into a huge metropolitan area with great structures framed against the horizon and even today featured in books about the marvels of ancient civilizations.  Think like Joseph.  Put yourself in his place.

          And when Joseph had time to clear his head, what do you suppose he thought about his Dad?  Think about that poor old guy.  Didn’t know the truth for years.  He not only had lost a son.  He’d lost his sons.  They pulled a cruel hoax on him and apparently the truth wasn’t known until years later.  Think of his grief. Even today when I see the black flags waving in the wind in memory of our sons who were listed as MIA or perhaps KIA and whose fate is still unknown, my heart hurts for the parents who never knew.  And perhaps my never know what happened to their sons or daughters.

          The uncertainty was, itself, an indescribable almost unendurable agony.

           Think for a moment, too, about how Joseph’s dad, Jacob, was told the lie about Joseph’s “death.”  It appears that his brothers were so ashamed and cowardly they had someone else tell their Father what had happened.  John Walsh wasn’t on the scene to help locate the missing boy.  Those who weren’t guilty didn’t even know he was “missing.”  The brothers bit their tongues and hid their shame.  What about the goat’s blood?  There was no DNA test to confirm if it were animal or human blood.  No search teams were sent out.  No round the clock coverage on the media.  No cadaver dogs.  The brothers (who were the pillars, the “Founding Fathers” of Judaism,) looked as if they’d pulled off their plot successfully.

 

          As I reflected on this first study of “God’s Comeback Kids,” I couldn’t ignore the repeated occurrence and significance of dreams. . . especially Joseph’s early dreams.  Probably he was unwise to reveal that to his brothers.  In fact, in one case, his Dad got upset with him.  While we’re told the brothers became envious and enraged, the comment made about Jacob is simply that he was “thinking about” what Joseph had said.”  Probably didn’t know what to make of such a thing, and wished Joseph had kept it to himself.   He may have thought it would have been better to wait and let them find out for themselves.  But Joseph was young.  Impetuous.  Unwise, and just blurted it out. You know now how the brothers felt by the way they reacted.  I don’t honestly know how I’d have reacted in any role in this drama.  Most of the dreams I have make no sense at all, and they’ve usually fled my consciousness by the time I get the cobwebs out of my brain.  I’ve never felt any were important enough to mess with and certainly haven’t gone to a fortune teller to have them try to figure out what they may have meant.

       But he’d had a dream.  When I wondered how that young man kept hope alive, kept his sanity, or his integrity. . . I finally figured it must have had something to do with those early dreams.  They were so vivid and so real that he must have believed them.  He never forgot them.  Maybe that was what kept him sane and tough in the dark days in the dungeon.  How could you explain his survival otherwise?  Men in those circumstances went stark raving mad.  They died.

       I’ve an idea that some who read this have at some point in their lives had encounters of a similar nature.  Maybe not exactly the same thing.  Perhaps there have been times when you felt God was near, and speaking (not audibly, necessarily), but the closeness was unmistakable.  And seemed very real.  And it left a lasting impression which you can never forget.  Because of that early “encounter,” you  probably can understand something about Joseph’s early experience with God. . . and the lasting impact it had upon him.

         When he got down to Egypt, wonder what it was like?  You know he was homesick.  I remembered the “summer” I spent in New York.  I was homesick by the time I left town.  It got worse.  I got to see the Yankees and the Giants and watched the old Brooklyn Dodgers play in Ebbetts Field.  I got to see Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio, and Phil “Scooter” Rizutto, and Johnny Mize and Yogi Berra play in Yankee Stadium.  And I almost died I was so homesick!  Years later I heard Jim Croce lament in one of his songs about N.Y.  “I lived here ‘bout a year and I never once felt at home.  Thass th’ reason why I gotta get outta heah, Gotta get outta heah cause New York’s not my home!”   And I was among friends and family members! 

 For Joseph there had been no time to pack.  No time to say “so long” to anyone.  Didn’t even have his toothbrush!  In less time than it takes to say it, his life was changed. Forever.

            Imagine being taken against your will, by total strangers, who roughed you up and you couldn’t understand a thing they said.  And you got where they were going and they sold you to some other strange guy, pocketed their profit, and went about their business.  From the pit, into the frying pan, and now into the fire!  Now you’re in the hands of another who feels he’s made a pretty decent transaction and purchased some fresh flesh for his stable of slaves.  And you’re hungry, thirsty and lonely, and tired, and afraid and no one gives a rip.

         Abruptly, he becomes the possession of a high ranking military officer in Pharaoh’s army. There’s a brief “break in the action” in the next chapter before the story of Joseph’s life picks up again.  As bad as it seems as we leave him here, and just when you think things couldn’t get worse, they do!

 A servant, a friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey~

WHY BOTHER? JOSEPH OF EGYPT


 

       (I’m continuing to study the life of Joseph of Egypt.  The concentration has been on the thirty seventh chapter of Genesis.  I’m counting on some who’ve joined me in the study to add their own observations.  Let’s learn what we can, live by the truth we consider, and share it with others who may need just the kind of encouragement you discover.  –dk)

        One of the reasons I feel compelled to deal with this kind of study is that so much of what I see, read, hear, and understand about human experience is so much like what happened to these Biblical figures so long ago and so far away.  I’ve seen glimpses of my self in some of these lives, as I honestly tried to view my self in the mirror of Scriptural truth.  

          Ive spent quite a bit of time considering “God’s Comeback Kids.”  I consider myself to be becoming one of them, and I’m trying to learn what I need to know about:  How did they get “off course?”  Who caused it?  How did they handle the adversity?  What effect did that have on their “comeback?”

          Almost everyone I know has, at some point, been driven off course by life’s events.  For myself, I confess it has taken place sometimes publicly, too frequently, and always to my shame and regret.  Sometimes it has been some dumb or selfish mistake or choice I made.  Occasionally, others may have participated in or contributed to my dilemma.  Even while I acknowledge with regret that some whom I’ve loved and trusted betrayed my trust on occasions, I’ve seldom been an “innocent bystander” in any of the fiascoes in which I figured.  And I have to acknowledge I’ve caused my share of pain and suffering on the part of those who should have received better treatment from me.   Sometimes circumstances over which I had no control had something to do with my feeling “lost” or “forsaken.”  But, in retrospect, I know I could (and should) have reacted with more wisdom, faith, and courage.

          Another reason for my looking so closely at God’s “Comeback Kids” is that, no matter how often or far they fell, or got knocked down, or strayed away, they never stayed there.  They did not luxuriate or wallow or whine in a puddle of self-pity.  They learned the lesson(s) God knew they needed to know in order accomplish the tasks for which they were created and prepared.  And He was faithful to them in all their trouble.  Even in darkest, deepest, most trying circumstances He kept His promise to never leave nor forsake His children.  Their emergence from the dungeons and their lives of service after their ordeal speak eloquently of those facts.  Somehow (even without the aid of written Scripture, the records of their own tragedies, trials and triumphs, and the mountains of evidence and testimony by others who were delivered and declared it so . . .) they knew.  By Faith, they knew.  And time proved it to be true. 

          I have no way of knowing what difficulties you’ve had to face.  I certainly can’t tell you why God is causing or permitting things to happen which you don’t understand at the present.  And I don’t know why it hurts so badly.  God knows, though, and that is what matters, isn’t it?  I don’t even know sometimes what He’s doing in my life, much less someone else’s.  I don’t know what He’s got in mind for you, or where He may be leading you.  The important thing is that He knows.  If He has work for you to do, He certainly should know what it would take to get you ready for that. 

          As difficult for you as a trial of faith may be, I believe you can draw comfort from knowing God really does know who you are, where you are, why you are in that place, and what His plan is for you once you emerge. 

          For a while, I’m considering Joseph.  He was just a “kid” when we first meet him.   I would have figured him for a “goner” once the brothers turned on him so suddenly and brutally,  and threw him away the way they did.  I’d never have counted on his becoming one of the “Comeback Kids.’ 

      We’ll look more closely, more carefully as this drama unfolds.  Chapter Thirty Eight of Genesis is an “aside” which looks at some other internal matters in one of Scripture’s most famous “First Families.”  As Chapter Thirty Seven closes out, and the sun sinks over the desert sands at Dothan, a caravan of merchants and camels is silhouetted against the sky.  With them, perhaps trudging wearily is a battered, beaten young man.  His heart is broken.  His future looks bleak, to say the least. The odds are that he’ll wind up forgotten by history, buried with other slaves in unmarked graves in Egypt.

 A servant, a friend, and fellow student, donkimrey

37 GOD’S COMEBACK KIDS

 

HERE’S MY NEXT POST:

 (Personal Note:  As I’ve indicated, these days have been sort of taken by my wrestling with some personal problems.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think sometimes the “alligators” and lions win.  But I’ve read the final chapter, and I know the Author and outcome of this story.  And no matter what happens in my little corner of the world, or on an increasingly grave international scene, I am confident of this fact:  “THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS.”  -dk)

I’m not yet finished with the “Shepherd Psalm,” but feel a couple of compelling thoughts:  One is a strong impression to share some things which have been giving me hope and encouragement.  Perhaps it is only out of a desire to verbalize and confirm this for my own benefit.  Then, too, since God knows who reads this (or shall someday), and what their own needs may be, He may have been the “author and finisher” of this thought.  It would fulfill my greatest ambition if something you read here helps lift your heart, renew courage and commitment, and strengthen your faith.   Another thing on my mind is a need to ponder further on the final lines of the Psalm.  I’ve not yet come to what I view is an accurate and honest assessment of those concepts, so I’m going to take some more time to meditate.  Hope you will, too, and share your insights. I just have this notion that I don’t want to serve a “half-baked cake.”

              Now, I’ll turn away from self-centered thinking and work on “God’s Comeback Kids.”  We’ve been studying selected verses, or texts.  For a pretty long time, I’ve been thinking about some people whose lives and examples I admire.  Specifically, I’m thinking about some people in the Bible whose lives provide help and hope for me personally.  If you “hang with me” in this, it will probably involve your reading about them in a broader context.  And then drawing your own conclusions. 

Thus, I begin to study:

GOD’S COMEBACK KIDS

The first one to come to my mind is Joseph.  I’m re-reading the story of his life, but I’m also remembering some of the things that happened to him:  The conditions under which he lived.  The ways he got kicked around, used, and knocked down repeatedly.  Perhaps more importantly for us, is the way he handled the way he was treated.  And how he dealt with those who “done him wrong.”  Ask yourself:  “How in the world did he overcome obstacles that could and probably should have overcome and overwhelmed an average person?”

And, for your consideration these questions: What did the way he handled adversity have to do with his restoration and return to prosperity and a life of service which earned him a place in the “FAITH HEROES HALL OF FAME?”  How did his immense suffering affect the way he behaved when he got through his “trials of faith?”

I’ve also tried to imagine how the family dynamic ever deteriorated to the point where his brothers turned on him.  Not only were they jealous and resentful.  They were going the kill him.  (That, itself, should be a lesson against hatred.  It is nothing in the world if it isn’t the seed of murder.  Murder is the final, fatal fruit of hatred which is turned loose to run its course.).   As the gravity of what they were doing weighed heavily upon them, the brothers had a change of heart.  Then they did the next worst thing:  They tortured Joseph.  They gave him away to a straggling band of nomads heading out of the country.  And when they went home later that afternoon, with “sorrowing: heads hanging down, they handed their Dad the fabled “coat of many colors” with yet another added…the color of blood.

I wondered how it came to that.  It appears that Jacob clearly was partial to Joseph.  Spoiled him, perhaps. Did you ever see the “Smothers Brothers” on television?  I used to laugh at how Tommy always used to explain any deficiency on his part by saying: “Mom always liked you best.”  Even if it’s just a perception,  parental favoritism does exacerbate sibling rivalry.  Perhaps it’s a good lesson for parents to try to be even-handed and distribute affection evenly.

There’s also the very evident fact that Joseph wasn’t a “humble little guy.”  He strutted in his new sport jacket and was boastful in letting the other brothers know his dad had it made “special” for him.  Tailor made.  He flaunted his special coat and special gifts and taunted the older other brothers with his revelation that he’d someday be in charge of them.  “Yeah, right.”  I can hear the brothers muttering and cursing under their breaths.  “ You little jerk.  You spoiled brat!”

Their resentment had long lingered and grown and boiled and seethed beneath the surface, and that hot day out under the desert sun, it boiled over.  Joseph was caught completely off guard. He was innocent, young, naïve, perhaps. . . but must have been terribly annoying at the very least.  They’d had enough.  “You little twerp!”  Talk about being “blind-sided?”  From out of nowhere, like a bolt of lightning and a deafening clap of thunder, his life was completely changed.

I’m not sure who caused it, but you don’t have to be a certified genius in human relations to understand some of the family dynamics and mechanics going on here.  From the time of Cain and Abel we’ve known that sibling rivalry can sometimes turn deadly.  That there is a “mean streak,” venomous, vile, violent and deadly as a cobra, in some people.  That otherwise cowardly, selfish, unthinking people can find bravery in a crowd which they could never possess individually.  This was not a new thing under the sun that day in the desert.

So, the brothers ambushed Joseph.  In my imagination, I can almost recreate the scene.  Out in the middle of nowhere.  No one heard his cries for help.  Nobody took up for him.  The incredible odds against him left him without even the chance of a snowball in the blazing heat.  It was anything but a fair fight.  Joseph didn’t have a chance to defend himself.  And they dropped him into a well.

I don’t know how deep or how dark it was.  But I’ve read stories of little guys who fell into wells.  Entire communities came to a halt.  And combined their energy and resources and worked together tirelessly for days to try to rescue the little one from a well.  Television and news reporters, and lights, rescue crews and helicopters. . . just to find and rescue one little life.   Along with many others glued to their tee vee sets, I watched and waited, and hoped, and prayed.  And always joined the excited celebration when the little one was rescued.

No such thing happened for young Joseph.  I could almost hear the wails echoing up through the walls in the well.  I could envision young “Joey” looking up, seeing the silhouettes of the heads and shoulders of his brothers as shadows against the light of the afternoon sky.  Screaming up to them for help.  Hearing them taunt him and then watching as they turned away and left him there.

Do you recall reading Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in school?  Remember the plot to kill the ruler?  Do the lines “Beware the Ides of March,” and “Et tu, Brute,” still sound a bit familiar?  When the plot to assassinate him was pulled off, perhaps the biggest surprise and pain was when a fatal wound was inflicted on Caesar by his faithful friend: “You, too, Brutus” Julius cried in disbelief as he died.  Betrayal at the hands of a loved, trusted friend?  I know that sounds familiar to some who will read and ponder these lines.  If it hasn’t happened yet, you may consider this a warning.

Have you ever been hurt by anyone?  By someone this close to you?  By anyone as badly as this must have hurt?  Were you angry? Afraid?  Horrified?  You bet your life!  It must have seared Joseph’s soul and left scars that lasted a lifetime.  Talk about trauma? Disappointment?  How’s that just for starters!?  This may have been the first, but certainly wasn’t the last or the worst of the calamities to befall the young man who emerged later as a spiritual giant and became known to history as “Joseph of Egypt.”

Now, if you understand anything at all about Scripture, I hope you will grasp this fact and clutch it forever closely to your heart:  These stories are not recorded just to add to your bank of information.  They’re not there to entertain or excite your imagination.  They weren’t told simply to have you admire great “saints” and their accomplishments.  The truths are universal and eternal.  As timeless and certain as the love of God.       

God knew when this kind of thing happened again that someone, somewhere, someday  (me?  or YOU?), would face similar challenges.  He wanted us to know about this so we could learn how to deal with it.  We don’t need to be taught how to just QUIT.  Or hate.  Or how to whine and complain.  Or how to blame others for our problems.  We can do that automatically.  What we (especially this writer) need are lessons in Courage.  Hope.  Faith.  Forgiveness. Determination to continue … no matter what reasons may arise for us to use as excuses.

Joseph is a great example of what I’m calling “God’s Comeback Kids.”  You want to know him better.  I think he can cure me of self-pity or envy.

                    His servant, your friend, and fellow student    -donkimrey

This one won’t count

I cannot believe I’ve done twelve posts on Psalm Twenty three.  And have not come close to exhausting the possibilities packed into this beautiful poem.  Several things have struck me as I’ve reflected on this bit of writing.

One is the Value of Solitude.  Can you imagine David. . . or anyone. . . coming up with such thoughts without taking time to think?  It’s obvious, even if you observe casually, that the writer spent quiet moments away from the clang and clamor and distractions of most of our lives.  Can you imagine what truths God would make clear and real to your mind. . . if you simply took the time to listen?  And think?  And pray?

Another is the Beauty of Simplicity.  When most of our “scholars” are concerned with complex thoughts and use words and ideas that tie our mind in a tangle of knots. . . Here comes a little shepherd boy who uses common words, common images that common people understand easily.  And he uses such ordinary language and ideas to express truth which is absolutely profound.

Another is that the “Good Shepherd” loves His sheep. I don’t have the ability to put that in language more clearly than this young, uneducated shepherd boy did.  And, just as the sheep don’t have the ability to understand the concern the Shepherd has and the way he leads, we don’t begin to know how much our “Shepherd” cares for us. 

I told some friends today that I may have to be “out of the loop” for a few days.  Got some personal items to attend.  Hopefully, I can get on some kind of regular schedule.  In the meanwhile, some alligators invaded my “swamp” and I either gotta drain the swamp or kill them alligators! 

Let’s keep studying.  Let’s keep praying for each other.  If you do that, you will certainly discover reality that  will refresh your spirit.  And, once you are blessed, please keep in mind blessings are not given to be stored.  They must be shared.

His servant, your friend and fellow student   -donkimrey

 

36 FILL MY CUP, LORD

FILL MY CUP

(Introductory comment:  The context is still Psalm Twenty-Three.  Admittedly, the “study” has perhaps been a bit protracted.  I had no idea it would last this long, but it has seemed to me almost every corner has offered fresh, new opportunities for thought and growth.  Please forgive me if I’ve been selfishly pre-occupied.  The ideas and words the Psalmist selected are so wise, beautiful, and well chosen they just seemed to me to merit close, careful attention.  I’d really welcome your sharing your own insights into the Psalm and considering the responses which have been offered. –dk)

          Last time we visited this site, I told you what I felt the Psalmist meant when he said his “cup” was running over.  Almost anytime you’re trying to define anything, it seems to help if you see by contrast what it IS NOT.  I hope you noticed that I don’t dismiss material “blessings.” I’m simply saying I don’t believe in God’s mind it is a primary consideration, or some way of determining who’s “blessed” or not.  And it is most surely NOT a standard by which we should (or can) measure ourselves in comparison with others. And, equally, it provides no basis upon which we can judge (look down upon them) or be “awed” by the status of their “cup.”

          For years I kept a copy of “Desiderata” framed on the wall in my office.  Embedded in that great piece of thinking was a comment that helps me keep a proper perspective:   “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter.  For always there will be greater and letter persons than yourself.”   In other words, there are always people who have more. . . or less. . . of anything than I do.  So reason tells me that the criteria we often use to judge success or failure in God’s sight, are simply not valid criteria.  That served to remind me that everything I may have is more a gift than an achievement.   Like the Apostle Paul, I find no cause for boasting. . . except in the marvellous Grace of God and the supremely magnificent Gift of His only begotten Son!

          With that out of the way, now I’ve been trying to come to terms with what it means to have your “cup” running over and put it in words that haven’t been “worn out.”

          You don’t have to be real smart to figure out that, in a context such as this, having your “cup” running over simply suggests having more than enough.  More than you actually need.  Now or ever.  Christ said He had come in order that we “might have life. . . and have it more abundantly.”  In a dry, desert land which seems always parched and thirsty, He once told a lady with a dubious reputation: “If anyone drinks the water which I give him, he will never thirst again.  Out of his belly shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATERS.” 

          When Paul spoke of the generous grace of God, he said God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”  Try taking that sentence apart and notice how the apostle stacks adjectives on top of each other trying to express a lavish love that is inexpressible in any language. If God were simply able to do something we ask, wouldn’t that would be a good thing?  But, all that we ask or even think!   You can’t even encircle that enormous possibility in your wildest, widest imagination!  And elsewhere he declared: “Eye has not seen, neither has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of man” what God has in store for those who love Him and whom He loves.

          The “contents” of the cup strike me as being of a spiritual nature and have to do  with something which provides deep, lasting, meaning and satisfaction.   Contentment.  It’s interesting to note that the “things” which seem to be most important to God are never “things.”  They seldom, if ever, have to do with anything which can rot, or rust, lose value, wear out, or get broken or stolen. They are almost always in the area of ideas, or concepts like: Love, Hope, Eternal Life, Peace, Joy, Justice, Righteousness. 

           In my mind I’ve been constructing what I’m calling a “thought Garden.”  I just plant “seeds” as they occur, make notes as I’m able, and let them develop.  One of the ideas on which I dwelt not long ago is: “What’s Left?”  As my thoughts unfolded, I asked myself what would happen (hypothetically, hopefully) if I lost everything and everyone of value to me?  There’s always that possibility, you know?  If my world caved in or went up in flames, what would be left?

          The Apostle Paul certainly must have had something like that in mind when he spoke to the young Church at Corinth about what really matters.  And what may not be so important after all in the long run.  He wrapped up a brilliant “sermon” about what will last and what will “pass away” saying: “Now abides (that means it stays after everything else has lost its value, been destroyed or forgotten) Faith, Hope, and Love.”

          There.  That is some of the “stuff” with which I’d like to have the “cup” of my life filled and overflowing.  If that is what God values most, I expect I’d be wise to pay at least as much attention to what they are as I do to what I eat or drink or wear. Or what I make, or how I spend it, or how I invest.

          While I’ve been wrapping up my thoughts on this post, I’ve been humming some lines from Richard Blanchard’s beautiful song:

Fill my cup, Lord. I lift it up, Lord
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole

          I’m still working on this.   What do YOU think?

                                 His servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey