Friday, March 14, 2014

Not merely another freed slave...

I am sure you have heard it said that God often denies your request because he wants to give you his best. The would be comforter means well, but nevertheless you are left with a bitter taste in your spiritual mouth as you wonder, "How long, O Lord?"

One of the many things I love about the Bible is the fact that it tells the stories of men and women just like you and me, who struggle and stumble through life, seemingly making more bad decisions than good ones, and yet being carried through it all by an infinitely patient, loving, compassionate God whose thoughts towards his people is ever for good and not for evil. In the Daily Morning Prayer Service we remind ourselves every day that we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. He is the Good Shepherd who still leads his people into green pastures and causes us to rest by still waters.

This morning I read about Joseph in prison. This is a rich passage that deserves to be examined at a far deeper level than what this blog has space for, but in the light of the perplexing question of unanswered prayer and the glib cliches offered for comfort I thought we could look at a single verse which I believe speaks into our dilemma.

"Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him."

Before you read on, meditate on that verse. Try to put yourself in Joseph's sandals as best you can. Tell me, what stirs in your heart? Profound disappointment? Indignation? Resignation?

Think on this. Joseph...the boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth...the boy whose golden destiny was foretold in dreams...the boy favored by his father. Joseph...betrayed, enslaved, falsely accused, unjustly sentenced, imprisoned, and forgotten. Tell me, what stirs in your heart?

Look at Joseph's petition. "Remember me when it is well with you, and please make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon." Is there anything wrong with this request? Was Joseph putting his trust in man rather than in God? Was his faith perhaps not strong enough? Why did the Lord not prompt the cup bearer to remember him? Was there yet a task for Joseph to complete in the prison? Was this not the 'right time'?

At this point, we might do well to remember another like Joseph who was destined for greatness and who was yet betrayed, falsely accused, unjustly sentenced, imprisoned, and forgotten. His request too was denied. 

It was a full two years before Joseph was released, but when he emerged from prison, he rose from the dark dungeon and entered the throne room of the most powerful king in the world at that time. Had he been released two years earlier he would have been one among many other freed slaves. But God had destined Joseph to be more than merely another freed slave for reasons the dreamer and diviner of dreams could not possibly have envisioned. Tell me, what stirs in your heart?

A Collect for Fridays
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen. *

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