Thursday, January 10, 2008


I subscribe to the "Insight for Today" daily emails -- they're excerpts from one of Charles Swindoll's books. These last few weeks they've been talking about lessons from the life of Joseph. One of my New Year's resolutions is to read the NLT cover-to-cover, so I've also recently (re)read Joseph's story in Genesis.

Joseph is a charter member of the original "dream team." (Laugh. It's a joke.) His brothers can't stand him, but his father favors him. He gets special treatment and a special coat. He has strange supernatural dreams, and he is mistreated because he shares them. Later, his God-given ability to supernaturally interpret dreams lands him a "dream job" with high visibility. He winds up in the right place at the right time to save an entire nation (and his family) from a famine.

Back in the 90s, Joseph had a surge of popularity in some circles. It was common to hear folks talk about a Joseph vision, a Joseph project, a Joseph anointing... Everyone saw themselves as God's special servant, treated wrongly, but destined to rule. I'll admit, I pictured myself that way too. When I read Bible stories like this, I think I've always had a tendency to cast myself in the role of the hero--it has only been in more recent years that I've begun to recognize myself much more in the villains.

If I had grown up in Joseph's family, I don't think I would have liked him any more than his brothers did. I would have thrown him in to the cistern too! Serves him right... but then as a slave and later as a prisoner, he shows amazing maturity, restraint, and strength of character... qualities that seemed to be lacking when he was telling his family that they'd bow down to him some day.

The subject of the "Insight for Today" email was "Grace to Endure." It talked about how Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's baker and cup bearer... but then the cup bearer forgot about Joseph for two years. And the Bible emphasizes that it was two full years! There is no record of Joseph complaining. I'm not convinced (as Swindoll is) that this silence means Joseph was at perfect peace and never questioned God during his time in prison. But it does seem clear that Joseph handled himself well, even while he was imprisoned.

I've always secretly wanted to be like Joseph when he was the second in command over all of Egypt... but I can't say that I've ever wanted to be like Joseph when he was the wrongly convicted and forgotten prisoner. That wasn't part of the dream... but it was essential to the dream's fulfillment.

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