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