Saturday, October 25, 2008

When Life Doesn't Go As You Planned

Joseph was born the eleventh son of a family of twelve brothers and one sister. He was the oldest child of his father Jacob's (Israel) favourite wife, Rachel. His mother died giving birth to the youngest son in the family, Benjamin.

Genesis 37:2-4 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

In the book of Genesis, we can see four major disappointments in Joseph's life - things that he did not plan on, but that had a major impact on his life and future plans.

1) Unexpected Affliction - Sold Into Slavery

The first was his brother's jealousy, which motivated them to betray Joseph, when he was 17 years old, and sell him into slavery - something which was not in Joseph's plans at all, and affected him for years to come.

Genesis 37:23-24 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

Genesis 37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

There are times in our lives where we may meet with an unexpected affliction, ranging anywhere from an accidental injury to severe illness or disease, from a lost job to a financial crisis.

What was Joseph's response during all this? He kept trusting in the Lord his God. He did not know why God allowed this trial to come into his life, but he chose to trust his Heavenly Father - as a result God blessed him in all he did.

2) Falsely Accused And Imprisoned

Genesis 39:1-4 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

When Potiphar saw how the Lord blessed the work of Joseph's hands, he was made overseer over Potiphar's house. Until Potiphar's wife set her eyes upon him, and laid in wait for him. Because she did not get her desire fulfilled, she turned on Joseph and lied about his actions to Potiphar.

Genesis 39:20-23 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. 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.

In times of ill treatment by others, we have the example of Joseph choosing to be faithful to the Lord no matter what - even if it caused him further affliction! He refused Potiphar's wife's advances and fled from her. See verses 7-9.

Though tried in prison and bound in fetters (see Psalm 105:18-19), he was later exalted by the keeper of the prison. All through this period, we again see that the Lord blessed Joseph and was with him.

3) Dashed Hopes And Expectations

Over time, Pharaoh's butler and baker were imprisoned and had dreams which saddened them. The Lord gave Joseph wisdom to interpret these dreams - and they were fulfilled as declared by Joseph. The chief butler was to be restored to his place, and therefore Joseph petitioned him as follows:

Genesis 40:14-15 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Joseph was now 28 years old. After 11 years of being sold into slavery and his time of imprisonment, it now looked like he might be set free. After getting his hopes up, rejoicing in his possible freedom, anticipating his release, we read this sad report:

Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

When our plans don't come to pass - what do we do? Joseph kept his trust in the Lord and still remained faithful. Eventually two more years passed, and then Pharaoh had two dreams which greatly troubled him. He called the wise men, but none could interpret his dream, until the butler remembered Joseph. As the course of events unfolded, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, gave God the glory, and praised and thanked the Lord, and was exalted to a place of honour at 30 years old - after 13 years of slavery.

Genesis 41:38-44 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

There was a final point I want to mention regarding the things in Joseph's life that he did not plan:

4) Separation From His Family

This was not something that he had ever intended or planned upon - he never dreamed that it would be 22 years before he would see his brethren (and a little later, his father) again. Though, no doubt, this disappointment greatly affected him during those years of slavery, imprisonment, and was even remembered during his years of being exalted as second in command over all of Egypt. See Genesis 41:51-52.

Though all those years of Joseph's life did not go as he planned, God worked behind the scenes to set things in motion to protect the tribe of Israel by sending Joseph into Egypt ahead of them, to prepare the way - though Joseph did not see or know God's plan at that time. The Lord worked it out that Joseph would see his whole family again.

Psalms 105:16-17 Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:

17 years later (see Genesis 47:9 and 28), when Jacob/Israel died, Joseph's brethren began worrying about whether Joseph would now take vengeance upon them for their betrayal (39 years before - Joseph is now 56 years old). But Joseph did not let his years of hardship make him bitter - he let them make him better! Disappointments are His appointments, as Joseph goes on to relate:

Genesis 50:19-21 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

During this reminder (by his brethren) of his previous afflictions, Joseph testified to his brethren of the Lord's goodness and love in his life.

Even though Joseph's life did not go as he planned, Joseph learned that they went as He planned. His Heavenly Father was in control all the while, working out His perfect will and plan in Joseph's life - as He does in the lives of all His children! The New Testament parallel of Genesis 50:20 is Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

The Answers Why

I asked the Lord one day why there were so many mountains in my life,
So much grief and heartache, so much trouble and strife?
I read His Word very carefully, looking for the answers why,
And deep within my soul, I heard His Spirit reply.

I am working all things out for your good;
Removing the debris that shouldn't be there.
There is so much damage that sin has done,
There is so much I need to repair.
There are works that I am doing - if you could only understand -
I am fulfilling all My promises according to My Plan.

The mountains are for reminding you of My goodness and My love,
The weakness is to cause you to lean upon My arms above.
Rest upon My provision, and trust that I will guide you along Life's way,
And rejoice in My grace and mercy that will lead you safely Home one day.

There's a work I am doing inside your very heart,
So one day up in glory, My likeness to you I will impart;
So don't fret about the things that you don't understand,
Just trust my eternal wisdom, and know it's all according to My Plan.

Poem written December 20th, 2002
Devotion written August 5th/05
(Preached August 4th/05)
Jerry Bouey


"God meant it unto good"--O blest assurance,
Falling like sunshine all across life's way,
Touching with Heaven's gold earth's darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.

'Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brethren
Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance which, after years of suffering,
Brought him before the monarch's throne to stand.

One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,
And planned to meet it through that one lone soul;
And through the weary days of prison bondage
Was working towards the great and glorious goal.

As yet the end was hidden from the captive,
The iron entered even to his soul;
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow,
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.

Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting,
His trust in God was recompensed at last,
The moment came when God led forth His servant
To succour many, all his sufferings past.

"It was not you but God, that sent me hither,"
Witnessed triumphant faith in after days;
"God meant it unto good," no "second causes"
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.

"God means it unto good" for thee, beloved,
The God of Joseph is the same today;
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter,
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.

Thy Lord, who sees the end from the beginning,
Hath purposes for thee of love untold.
Then place thy hand in His and follow fearless,
Till thou the riches of His grace behold.

There, when thou standest in the Home of Glory,
And all life's path lies open to thy gaze,
Thine eyes shall see the hand which now thou trustest,
And magnify His love through endless days.

--Freda Hanbury Allen

(Taken from Streams In The Desert devotional)

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