Joseph so Blessed; Brothers Blessed-Anyway

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Joseph, favored son of Jacob, had a hard life. His brothers were jealous of him and almost killed him. Instead, when he was 17, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They thought they were done with him.

In Egypt, Joseph soon rose to the top of the totem pole in the house into which he was sold. God showed favor to Joseph, and the man of the house (Potiphar) trusted him with everything. Joseph must have been trustworthy, smart, kind, respectful, creative, and gracious. He must also have been good-looking, because the wife of the house lusted after him and did him wrong. Joseph refused the wife’s advances, the wife lied to her husband, and Potiphar had him thrown into prison.

As an aside, the verses dealing with this are Genesis 39.19, 20: And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. My personal perspective is that Potiphar’s wrath was kindled against his wife. I’m guessing that he knew his wife’s heart, but could not publicly cross her. I think he was intensely upset that his wife had messed up a very good thing.

As in Potiphar’s house, once Joseph was in prison, God showed favor to him, and Joseph rose to the top of that totem pole. Genesis 39.21 – 23: But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And 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.

Keep in mind that there is no record of Joseph being whiney or disobedient, or of his giving up or being subversive. We can assume that Joseph was obedient in all he did, as evidenced in his dealings with the king’s cupbearer and baker (Genesis 40). Again, even though Joseph was obedient, the cupbearer forgot about Joseph, and Joseph remained in prison for another season.

God caused Pharaoh to have dreams. Aha, says the cupbearer, I do remember my faults this day. And he led Pharaoh to call for Joseph to interpret the dreams. Joseph was candid about the interpretation of dreams being God’s hand, and was obedient to correctly divine the dreams. Pharaoh immediately discerned Joseph’s gifts, and promoted him to the top of Egypt’s totem pole, save only for Pharaoh himself. (Gotta wonder what Potiphar thought about that!)

The dreams foretold great abundance in the land for seven years, followed by seven years of great famine. Joseph arranged all so that Pharaoh prospered. And God arranged all so that His people prospered.

Meanwhile, back in Canaan, the brothers were miserable. They got rid of their insipid brother, but their father was suffering. There was no consoling Dad over the loss of his favorite son. Jacob’s only consolation was Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin, whom Jacob smothered with protection. The saving grace for the brothers was that they daily lived with the guilt of their actions, and were evidently repentant.

Came the time of dearth in Canaan, and the brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food, else they die.

Joseph put them through some pretty tough paces before he revealed himself to them. He had to make sure they repented, and that they had not been treating Benjamin poorly. Joseph was satisfied, and revealed himself to his brothers.

The brothers, of course, were aghast. They believed Joseph to be dead or a poor and harshly-treated slave. They could not have conceived that he would be second in power to Pharaoh. All Joseph’s long-ago dreams came true, and the brothers bowed down to him, along with their father.

Granted, there are numerous applications and lessons to be derived from God in Joseph’s life. Mine are this: obedience, and God’s blessings. Joseph saw that at once. Look at what he thought was most important for his brothers to know first, in Genesis 45.4, 5 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. Joseph’s understanding was that it was GOD who sent him into Egypt, so that Jacob’s family could thrive.

In all that happened to Joseph, he remained obedient to God. He did not fight against his slavery or imprisonment; he didn’t try to escape. He could have become disgruntled, he could have developed a lousy attitude toward God. It might have been easy to think, “Well, if this is how God treats His obedient children, then I want out.” Joseph could not have foreseen, any more than his brothers could have, the future that God had planned.

And Joseph and his brothers would never have seen that future had not Joseph remained obedient.

At any point, if Joseph had rebelled, he would have taken his own life on a different path. And God could not have blessed it. God does not bless disobedience, but He loves to bless obedience. Granted, God will still bless those who are disobedient: look at the brothers. They were disobedient, but they were God’s children, and God blesses His children. Look at the nation of Israel: they were continually disobedient, and God still blessed them, even though they didn’t appreciate it. Look at America: as a people, as a culture, we are in full-blown disobedience to God. But He hasn’t annihilated us, and we aren’t eating worms as we deserve.

But the blessings of obedience are different from the blessed-anyway blessings. Disobedient people receive the fringes of blessings, like the dog eating crumbs under the table. Obedience brings full-on blessings, like a father beaming proudly at His beloved children, feasting at the table; like those children knowing they are fully loved and appreciated and respected; and blessings like living in peace, knowing they are fully taken care of.

Please: be consistent and single-minded about obedience to God. Obedience puts you in the palm of God’s Hand. It brings you into His protection (even though it might not feel like it sometimes). Obedience positions you to receive God’s full-on blessings.

And one of the greatest blessings is simply knowing you are pleasing your Lord.

How many Christians today are walking around, just being blessed-anyway? Missing out on God’s greatest blessings that He wants to shower on us? Thinking we’re doing okay with our own plans, doing it our way? How many Christians believe their way looks like a better plan than whatever God has? Can’t we just wait and see what God has in mind?

Please: be patient. Fall on your faces before God and commit to obedience, no matter what everything around you looks like, no matter what other people are saying or what their faces look like. God’s opinion is the only one that matters. Eternity belongs to Him, after all. You’re not just living for what you can get right here and now. You are living for God, for eternity. And when you live for God, your right-now is protected and blessed. We cannot comprehend what God has in store for us; and we will never see it unless we are obedient.

Ephesians 3.20, 21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

God is Perfect

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I like to take pictures around my yard, neighborhood, and traveling. I put some of them into a folder on my computer, and my desktop app scrolls through them.

This one showed up this morning when I opened my laptop, and my first thought was, “Isn’t God perfect?”

I mean, look at the perfection of the blossoms; the individual blossom attributes; the branches; each color and how they blend and mingle with the other colors; the sky; and how they all go together in blissful beauty.

And the camera can’t even capture the essence of the perfection!

God does all this for His glory and for our blessing.

I am blessed. How about you?

A Pruning Perspective on Blessings

October 3, 4, and 5, 2013, Winter Storm Atlas struck Rapid City, SD and surrounding areas and states. The devastation was horrible and widespread. After the tallies were made, it was estimated that at least 14,000 cattle, 1300 sheep, 300 horses, and 40 bison were killed, with South Dakota ranchers reporting losses of 20 to 50 percent of their herds.

I lived in Rapid City at the time. We were without power for three days, a result of the driving wet snow (over three and a half feet) and 70 mph winds. (Fortunately, we had a huge, nature-provided refrigerator right outside our back door – aka snow bank – , a camp stove, and a kerosene heater.)

We’d hiked up Crazy Horse, in the nearby Black Hills, just the week before. It had been a balmy autumn up to that point, with above-average temps. All the trees were still vibrant and green, full of their leaves.

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And that was their downfall.

As the snow built up on the leaves of the trees, the branches simply couldn’t take the weight of all that moisture, plus the battering winds.

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When we were able to go outdoors, no one could drive anywhere. We had 51” of snow in our driveway.

Wading over to the street, all anyone could see was snow and branches and green leaves piled on lawns and crowding the streets.

It didn’t look like God’s mercy or blessing.

Why do I post this now?

A memory came up on my Facebook page, from September of the next year, 2014. I will let that post tell the rest of the story…

 

Last March, on the first day of spring, I walked around our neighborhood in Rapid City and took pictures of the trees. As anyone who lives in Rapid can tell you, the trees had a sad story to tell, and they wore it on their sleeves, so to speak; except that most of them had no arms, due to the blizzard last October, which killed and maimed thousands of our green, leafy trees. Some of the trees simply didn’t make it, and had to be cut to the quick.

But others were pruned. I took pictures, last spring, of the trees, forlorn as they were; but radiating the hope that pruning represented. These trees were not cut down, assumed to be useless. Every vestige of life was spared, in the hope that they would return.

Did they? Please click through the pictures and see the hope revealed. I took new pictures this Labor Day weekend, summer’s last hurrah as it fades away into the sunset. The lush greens of summer are still in full view, and we may yet have a few hot days ahead. Even as whispers of cooler air and changing seasons bow in and out, most of us have felt autumn on the way.

These trees are reminders that God prunes us, in order to produce something beautiful. As I look at these trees, their scars are still evident, reminders of hardships endured. But, they are beautiful to behold, vibrant, giving, and full of promise.

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God is Great

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So this was our view on our walk last night. We are blessed to have arrived at our family reunion, this year at the NC Outer Banks.

It’s been quite a week. We started a week ago with the death of a friend; a funeral on Friday. That put us two days late to our family reunion. God is good to allow the timing to be able to do both.

It was a hard three-day drive to get here from South Dakota (12 hours, 12 hours, 10 hours). My husband did all the driving (he’s the road warrior); I am the navigator (we use the real, paper maps, the kind that fold out). America is a beautiful country.

All the stress started melting away after dinner when we walked barefoot along the beach. We were awe-struck, gazing at the moonrise on the east side, and the sunset on the west.

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We talked about God’s amazing handiwork. About God’s people. We walked along the sandy beach, thinking about Genesis 22.17, That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.

And that we are now Abraham’s seed, because we have been grafted into God’s Family through Jesus Christ our Lord. We shall be blessed; we shall possess the gate of our enemies.