Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Steadfast love in the unlikeliest of places

And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. Genesis 39:20-21 (emphasis mine)

This past Sunday, my pastor continued preaching through the book of Genesis with Joseph's ongoing saga in Egypt as the text. After being nearly killed and then sold into slavery by his brothers, he is bought by Potiphar and eventually put in charge of his master's household. It looks like Joseph's situation is taking a turn for the better only to have his master's wife repeatedly harass him and falsely accuse him of rape. Then he's thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit.

I had read the account numerous times, but I had never noticed until Sunday that the writer deliberately makes the point that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love in the prison.  If I was writing the story, I would have him exonerated of all charges and released immediately. Wouldn't a happy ending be a better demonstration of the Lord's favor? But putting him in prison for an unspecified period of time and then letting him languish for another two whole years? This only goes to show how God's thoughts are far above mine. Joseph needed to be right where he was to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, rise to second in command, and then be the means of saving the people through whom the Messiah would come. 

Although the text is silent, I couldn't help but wonder what was going through Joseph's mind as he was sitting in the pit day after day. If he was a normal sinner in need of a Savior, it couldn't have been easy, and yet, God showed His steadfast love in the unlikeliest of places and circumstances

I find this very comforting because it's easy to lose one's bearings in the middle of a trial. It's easy to wonder, "Where on earth is God in all of this?" "If He hasn't abandoned me completely, am I only an expendable cog in the machine of a higher purpose?" Have thoughts like this ever crossed your mind? 

I remember only too well pleading with the Lord for deliverance from a situation. Surely He would get the most glory if events turned in my favor, but the very opposite of what I had prayed for came to pass. At the time, I wondered, "Where is God? Does He still love me?" But in hindsight, He was with me and demonstrated His love in the unlikeliest place. And the good that came out of the unlikeliest circumstance would never have been realized had my wish for a quick exit been granted.

On the one hand, Joseph's story is unique. He had a special role in bringing forth the Messiah. However, I can take comfort from his story because it tells me about God's character. Yes, He does have an unchanging purpose. But in that purpose, He remains faithful to His own. He is with them to the end, and He will demonstrate His steadfast love in the unlikeliest of places.

"… Because God is With Us", sermon on Genesis 39-41 by J. Ryan Davidson, Grace Baptist Chapel.

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