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Overcome Being Forgotten                     2 NOV 14

GEN 39:19-20 Potiphar was (Gen 39:1 RSV) "Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there." He was very angry. But what could he do? His wife had charged Joseph attempted rape. In fact, she blamed her husband Potiphar for putting her in such a situation. (Gen 39:17 RSV) "and she told him the same story, saying, "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me;" Joseph’s supposed crime was a death crime.

            The Pharaoh may have been Kamose if the Jewish dating in the Jewish Calendar is correct. Potiphar would have been in the second tier of the government.

Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs suggested that the “keeper of the prison” was Potiphar. Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs in his book The Origin of All Things, Word Books, 1975, page 148 “Naturally Potiphar was angered, and he put Joseph in prison, the one where the king’s prisoners were placed. Potiphar’s actions suggest he suspected his wife’s story. Rather than execute Joseph for his “crime,” he put him in the royal prison. Was this to stop his wife’s tongue and to save his face?... rather than putting Joseph in a common prison, Potiphar kept him in the prison of which he was in charge. This is most suggestive.” Also commentator Clyde T. Francisco in Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs and H. Franklin Paschal, The Teachers Bible Commentary, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1972, page 45 wrote “There is some evidence in the chapter that Potiphar did not believe the story bid him by his wife but had to act to halt her busy tongue.”

            “Marriage was a universal institution in ancient Egypt. Marriage was regarded as a sacred bond. Many of the old marriage contracts have been found, and they were registered and signed by three officers. Love and affection was a part of Egyptian marriages. Monogamy was the general rule, but Pharaohs and people who belonged to higher classes could take a number of wives.” [From ancient Egyptian facts]

Potiphar had the right to imprison people without having to get Pharaoh’s permission.

GEN 39:21-23 Apparently Potiphar came to believe he was innocent but the social and disciplinary situation was such that he could not release Joseph. And probably the scandal could have hurt his government position.

We should note that Psalms states the beginning imprisonment was not as easy as verse 22 suggests. (Psa 105:17-19 RSV) "he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass the word of the LORD tested him."

The keeper of the prison gave him the run of the prison and the best job in it. Again, instead of being bitter himself, Potiphar allowed Joseph to have “care [of] all the prisoners who were in the prison; and whatever was done there, he was the doer of it; the keeper of the prison paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph's care.” This gives credence to Potiphar still trusted Joseph and probably believed he really was not guilty. God again helped him prosper in a most difficult situation. After all, as a saved person, Joseph benefitted from God’s policy in (Rom 8:28 RSV) "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose."

So from highs to lows, Joseph kept a real faith in God. A real faith is (Eph 2:10 RSV) “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Dr. Hobbs, page 149 “The Lord may permit his people to walk in hard places, but he walks with them.”

This does not guarantee the person will not suffer physically and/or mentally or even not physically die. This was the case for Stephen. (Acts 7:58-8:1 RSV) "Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."

Dr. Hobbs, page 149 “Nevertheless, Joseph was further reduced from Potiphar's steward to being a prisoner—falsely accused. Thus he was subjected to another testing. Surely he had every human reason to be bitter, but no such feeling is evident in his conduct. He went on doing his job without complaint. The secret is that (Yahweh) was with him (39:21) in adversity and strengthened him in his trial. Soon the keeper of the prison took note of him and placed him in charge of other prisoners to direct them in their work.

Joseph is not a general case example. He was called to a special mission for Yahweh and God provided special protection and help not usually given to a saved person. We can learn certain principles but we cannot imply that God will do for us as He did for Joseph. Certainly Rom 8:28 applies to every Christian. But the definition of “good” depends upon the call and mission of the individual Christian. It usually does not mean to deliver from any problem or situation without physical or social harm. Other people may forget us, but God never will because the Holy Spirit indwells us. (Rom 8:26-27 RSV) "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

The Lord may permit his people to walk in hard places, but he walks with them. The qualities which he places in them enable them to rise above untoward circumstances as they progress toward the achievement of his will. Jesus was hated by the world and told his disciples that the world would hate them.

Joseph had still another test facing him. In many ways it was the severest of all—the trial of waiting.

Pharaoh's butler and baker offended him. How is not stated, but it probably was related to an attempt on the ruler's life. In Nehemiah 1 the same Hebrew word for "butler" is rendered "cupbearer." These were responsible positions, each having to do with the food eaten by Pharaoh. A favorite way of removing rulers was by poisoning, so trusted men were responsible for his food and drink. It may have been that Pharaoh became ill after eating and drinking and that these men were suspected of trying to poison the ruler. Therefore, both were put in prison by the captain of the guard, Potiphar. That they were put "in ward in the house of the captain of the guard" (40:3) suggests a prison connected with Potiphar's house. It was here that Joseph and the two notable prisoners were kept. In fact, Joseph was given the task of serving them.”

GEN 40:5-8 God had given Joseph understand of the meaning of dreams. Dreams were a major thing in the pagan religions. Also the Hebrews had adopted dreams as a major way God would speak to someone. (Gen 40:8 RSV) "They said to him, "We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them." And Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, I pray you."" So they did. Dr. Hobbs, page 150 “One night both men had a dream. The next morning when Joseph went to serve them, he noticed that they were sad. When asked why, they told of their dreams and the fact that there was no one in the prison to interpret them. Had they been free, there were interpreters available in the royal court. Joseph reminded them that such interpretations belong to God and asked that they tell him their dreams (40:9-13, 16-19).”

GEN 40:20-22 Indeed, everything worked out just as Joseph had told them.

GEN 40:23 But (Gen 40:23 RSV) "Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." I am not clear whether the lesson title refers to the butler or earlier. Certainly to this point, Joseph had not overcome being forgotten by the butler.           It was not until two years later that the butler credited Joseph. (Gen 41:12-14 RSV) "A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard; and when we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came to pass; I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged. Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh." Dr. Hobbs, pages 150 “Joseph requested that when the cupbearer was restored, he would bring Joseph's case to Pharaoh's attention. He related how he had become a slave in Egypt, and avowed that he had done nothing punishable by being put in prison (40:14-15). One would think that the cupbearer would have been only too glad to return the favor, but as soon as he was restored he forgot Joseph. For two long years Joseph remained in prison.” (Gen 41:1a RSV) "After two whole years” which means Joseph remained in jail, even with a good position. But it was still a prisoner position.

Dr. Hobbs pages 150-151 “This must have been the greatest trial of all, the hardest years of his life. Day after day when someone entered the prison, Joseph's heartbeat must have grown faster in hopeful anticipation. "Maybe this is the message for my release!" But not so. Disappointment followed disappointment, until he must have concluded that he was fated to remain in prison the rest of his life.

The fact that he was innocent made his state of mind and spirit all the more susceptible to bitterness and despair, but there is no evidence that Joseph fell victim to such feelings.

It is so easy to forget past favors, and so be cruel. If lack of gratitude wounds peoples' hearts, how much greater is the hurt to God's heart. One is never greater than when he gives thanks, even for small favors, or so base as when he accepts the goodness of others, but never gives in return.

The story is told of a man speaking critically of another. Hearing it, someone said, "I am surprised to hear you say that. I thought he had done many helpful things for you!" To which the other replied, "Yes. But he hasn't done anything lately." Such an attitude is to live even below the animal level.

Joseph was forgotten by men but not by God, and this fact led to his ultimate triumph. Even though the cupbearer forgot him, God used this to his glory and for his servant's good. Had Joseph been released immediately after his request, he might have congratulated himself on shrewd foresightedness. As it turned out, he could contribute his release only to God's goodness.”

            If the lesson title means earlier, then Joseph was remembered but then again forgotten. Yet the Father never forgets us. But times can be hard and some may well die as is going on now for Christians in several nations and some would-be’s such as ISIL. (Rev 2:10 RSV) "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."

            OK. But is Joseph a proper example for us? He had some special things going for him:

1.      God had called him to a unique role in the path to the birth of Jesus.

2.      God gave him the ability to understand special dreams that apparently God placed in the minds of the butler, the baker, and Pharaoh. (Gen 41:28 RSV) "It is as I told Pharaoh, God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do."

            As for us, God promises Eternal Security, not physical security. (Eph 1:13-14 RSV) "In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (John 17:14-15 RSV) "I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one."

            Consider the coming International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov 2, 2014 by Dr. David Curry, the President and CEO for Open Doors USA wrote “Today we cannot overlook the fact that approximately 100 million Christians still live under oppression and persecution for expressing their faith in Jesus. Christians living under oppressive regimes cannot walk down the road holding a Bible, read it in freedom, choose for themselves the faith they wish to follow, or express their faith in an open marketplace of ideas without fear of persecution or death. In places like North Korea, ranked highest on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries that persecute Christians, is where more than 70,000 Christians live and work in labor camps for the crime of trying to practice their faith. Or in places like Iraq and Syria, where Jihadist rebels from the Islamic State have pushed Christ-followers from their homes, tried to force conversion to Islam, and tortured and killed people for their faith.”

            Certainly the Christians who had been and will yet be beheaded by ISIS and others did/will not have Joseph’s result, even though they surely had/have saving faith and confidence in Jesus. This shows that applying Old Testament situations directly to yourselves and others must be done carefully. Often only the principle facts that the Father does not forget us and that (Rom 8:28 RSV) "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." But that good does not always mean physical protection. Consider Stephen and his zeal for the Truth in ACTS 7:54-8:1.

            God may physically save some, but it is not a general rule. This makes it difficult to properly pray for persecuted Christians. This is why we must remember and understand (Rom 8:26-27 RSV) "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

            We must also remember that the Father treats us as individual children of infinite worth. One size fit all is not the way the Father does it. So what I am to do in a situation may well be different from what you are to do. As last week’s lesson notes: we are to (Eph 6:18 RSV) "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," Yet my supplication may well be different from yours. At times they will coincide; at times that will be all separate paths. One major reason is we all have tasks to do and not all have the same tasks. So my point of view and effort may well not be the same as yours. Yet we can still be in harmony and unity.

            You do not need to go to jail to feel forgotten. You do not have to be under a death threat to feel fear. But remember you are never alone or forsaken because the powerful and loving Holy Spirit indwells you and has already sealed you to have Eternal Security and Life. Eternal Life is guaranteed and protected but physical life is not.

For hard times some principles are:

  1. The Holy Spirit is always with us. We are never forgotten and alone.
  2. The Holy Spirit always intercedes for us.
  3. The Holy Spirit provides help to us, which we are free to follow or reject.
  4. A strong faith is the best way to live through any life trail, even unto death.
  5. God is working the good for us in any situation. But what form that good takes depends on a lot of factors. We must trust that God will always do the best He can for us within His Master Will for Mankind.
  6. God being able to work of a “good” good for us also very much depends on us being at work, too! He expects us to show up and do the tasks set before us by Him and by the living of life correctly as a Christian. Joseph followed (Eph 6:5-8 RSV) "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ; not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good any one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free."

 

Marvin Ganote, Advanced Bible Study Class, Adult Teacher. Lesson at: http://dma1.org/~ganotemd/lesson.htm  or http://academic.udayton.edu/MarvinGanote/Bible/lessn.htm