PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THE CONTEXT FOR THE STUDY IS CHAPTERS 37-50 OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS. The current post asks some questions to guide us in understanding what happened and how Joseph handled it. What we learn should be able to shed light on some of the dark paths we have to travel today.
WRITER’S NOTE: Those who’ve visited this site before understand it is a “work in progress.” Nothing is cut and dried. And as far as I can see, no one is in a hurry. For my part, I’m listening carefully and learning as much as I can from men whose “sandals I’m not worthy to kneel down and unloose.” And from their rich experiences, what lessons there are to be learned! What priceless treasures of wisdom are there for us to ponder! I’ve also noted the conclusions I’m drawing aren’t coming in any particular sequence. Certainly not in any logical or chronological order which I can identify. I was in process of following Joseph through his early ordeals and came to the place where Potiphar’s wife attempted unsuccessfully to seduce young “Joe.” My glasses got so steamed over I felt the need to back off and let the situation cool down a bit! I’ve also been dealing with some personal issues which tend to be a bit distracting (“There’s something about the guilliotine,” someone once said just before it fell, “that strangely singularizes the mind!”). At any rate, I felt the need to see Joseph’s situation and my own a bit more objectively, and needed to know something about solutions. I’d already heard more about problems and burning questions than I wanted, so I ran ahead to the conclusion of the story and sought the answer to one of my questions: “How did Joseph manage to come back from such trying ordeals?
So, understandably I hope, the sequence got sort of knocked out of kilter. I should have asked you to consider these questions before I began sharing my own conclusions. Hope you won’t mind.
Also, the “Key to his comeback” is a high mark in the Old Testament. You won’t visit many peaks which even approach that elevation. Much less exceed it. It is clean, fresh air at a lofty peak. Breathe it deeply. Savor it and be exhilarated every time your memory takes you back to this lofty pinnacle of truth. Don’t ever forget the view from that breath-taking summit!
(Please keep in mind that my intention is not to write a “sermon.” It is not to entertain or inform or inspire you with my thoughts. This is intended to be simply a STUDY of SCRIPTURE. At this time, I’m asking that we concentrate on the Life of Joseph. That, not my observations, conclusions, or questions, is what is important. So, please keep your Bible open and nearby at all times. Do your own thinking, and please know you’re welcome to “pitch in and help.”)
When we began this “endeavor,” I said I’d try to employ the techniques of investigative journalism in my attempt to understand Scripture better. Everyone with any slight knowledge of that discipline knows it involves asking questions. Getting at the facts and the truth. Until the current undertaking, we’ve spent our time studying “texts.” That is, I’ve taken some Scriptural selections which have been a source for my own growth in faith. I’d try to “peel off the layers,” and get to the core of meaning. We’ll get back to some of that. Currently, though, I’ve been at work on some biographical studies which I’m calling “God’s Comeback Kids” (It’s kinda convenient for me to have little “pegs” on which I can hang my thoughts, or titles that help me stay focused.).
The first one is Joseph of Egypt. Most of what we know about him is contained in chapters thirty-seven through fifty in Genesis, the first ‘book’ of the Bible. Those chapters are the basis for this adventure in learning (Now, I ask you: doesn’t’ THAT sound exciting!!?). I’ve already posted a couple of my observations and the study will continue. At the present, we find Joseph young, alone, probably very confused, angry and afraid after a good swift “kick in the soul” that he never even saw coming. Swiftly, on the heels of his betrayal by his older brothers, it seems his situation is going from bad to worse. He’s in a mess. Big time. By the time the afternoon at Potiphar’s house is over, he will have given an entirely new dimension to the saying that he’ll “give you the coat off his back!!!”
Before we go further, here are some questions which I’ve been considering as I pondered Joseph’s plight:
(1.) How did he ever get into such a “mess?” Who’s “at fault” here?
(2.) How is he going to respond to adversity? Many have given up in despair and defeat with less cause. Is this the last we’re going to hear about this poor guy whose between a rock and a hard place if you ever knew anyone to be? How does he handle this and the situations, which follow?
(3.) People around him saw (or knew or heard) what happened. Many knew Joseph had every reason to want to knock some heads together. Or sit down in a puddle of self-pity and just cry and wilt and quit. How do these people react when they see how Joseph faces such extreme adversity?
(4.) What has happened, or is happening now, to form the person Joseph is becoming? Have you picked up anything from his early training that could have figured in this? Obviously, he’s in a “battle.” Anyone who’s engaged in military conflict KNOWS YOU DON’T WAIT TILL shells are bursting all around you and the enemy hordes are coming hard at you with guns blazing and bayonets fixed until you decide you better prepare for the fight. They know the value of “boot training.” Where did “Egyptian Joe” get his “basic training?”
(5.) This is the first of the “CBK’s”** we’ll discuss. Each had his own challenges. Was the time spent in the pit, or the dungeon, or on the backside of the desert wasted? How about the man who became perhaps the most brilliant of Christian theologians making and mending tents in obscurity for a lengthy period? Was the time wasted? Did it have a purpose?
(6.) Can you take the list of questions above and apply it to any specific situations in your own life? I know it may hurt, but it may also heal and offer hope you’ve overlooked otherwise. You know we learn by observation and example as much as we do in any other way. If you see something about Joseph’s life that reminds you of how you’ve been treated, can you learn the lessons he must have learned in order to survive and thrive?
I’m not interested in mental gymnastics, or mere intellectual exercise. But I DO want to learn and grow. One of the best ways I’ve ever found to do that is to find someone who’s doing things right, study their lives, and then put into practice the patterns and techniques they’ve already proven will work!
Most of the successful, accomplished and talented artists in the world have learned their craft by studying those who’ve gone before. If a young person were serious about becoming a golfer, I’d say: Study the life and techniques of “Tiger” Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnie Palmer and others, and learn from them. Serious about learning how to play chess? At some point, then, study the games of Spassky, Kasparov, and Bobby Fischer. Learn from the experts. The champions.
And while you’re doing that, understand they weren’t always cha mpions. They had to struggle, and learn… from experience, observation, and their own trials and mistakes.
If life has dealt with you savagely, don’t give up. Draw strength, faith, hope, and determined courage from examples such as this. Don’t believe the lie that God doesn’t love you or that your failures in the past are permanent and doom you to a lifetime in a dungeon of your own making. You can win again!
You can, indeed, become one of “God’s ‘Comeback Kids.’”
His servant, your friend and fellow student ~donkimrey
**GCBK is my abbreviation for “God’s Comeback Kids.” I also want to make it clear that I’m not being frivolous and certainly have no intention of being irreverent. When I call Joseph “Joe,” it isn’t an over-familiarity. I’m not meaning that to be disrespectful. My purpose is to understand these guys didn’t have haloes around their heads and a glorious, glowing aura about them. THEY WERE HUMAN. They hurt and struggled with the same kinds of problems you and I face while living in our skin and in our time. ~dk)