Day 28: Forgiveness

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 42-45
  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Ephesians 4:31-32

And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” -Genesis 41:57

I wonder if Joseph looked for their faces in every crowd that came through Egypt to buy grain. I wonder if he had rehearsed the confrontation in his head for years. I wonder if he was expecting his band of betraying brothers to show up hungry at some point because he recognized them right away. This was the moment. The youngest brother crying out for his life from the pit was now the one who held all the control. He could have them killed on the spot. He could send them away without grain to a slow, starving death. What would Joseph do to his brothers?

When the time came, I think Joseph needed more time. For 3 chapters it seemed he played games with them, testing their character. He kept his identity hidden as he made false accusations and unreasonable requests, pressing them for information on the family. Joseph doesn’t appear ready to roll out the red carpet of forgiveness at first sight. Were his brothers still money hungry, as it appeared they had been when they decided to sell Joseph rather than kill him? No, because they returned the silver they found in their bags twice. Did they still hate the favored sons of Rachel and care little for their father’s heart? No, because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for young Benjamin and fought to protect Jacob from further heartbreak. Were they still calloused to Joseph’s plight and the memory of him crying out? No, because in 42:21 they recognized,” surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life but we would not listen.” Though we never read an apology from the brothers to Joseph, I think we see a change in their character by the time they reach Egypt. We don’t know if Joseph wanted to discern that before he offered forgiveness. The truth is, we aren’t commanded only to forgive if the offending party is sorry or changed. We are commanded to forgive because Christ forgave us. But I think Joseph’s fear of forgiveness overlaid on his deep concern for his family shows us that Egypt’s savior and second in command was still very much human.

Ultimately, Joseph revealed himself and started walking the road toward forgiveness and reconciliation because he was more attached to God’s sovereignty and His plan, than he was to his own agenda. In Genesis 45:5,7-8 Joseph, overcome by emotion, says to his terrified brothers, “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here but God.” Joseph couldn’t deny God’s hand in his unexpected life. He had relinquished his own self-serving dreams somewhere along the road to slavery or inside a prisons’s cell. There is something about hitting rock bottom that gives you perspective. There is something about having absolutely nothing that frees the ordinary blessings to become everything. And now Joseph’s life truly was immeasurably more than he could have asked or imagined when he was dreaming of stalks of grain. The puzzle pieces fell into place for him and he no longer hated his brothers for the part they played in getting him to this day.

Finally we see that Joseph didn’t just barely forgive his brothers, like my kids do when I make them apologize to each other. He didn’t stop at a disgruntled, “I forgive you” under his breath. He went on to abundantly pour all the blessings he had access to onto his family. Instead of giving them only the sacks of grain they had come for, he gives them “the best of the land of Egypt (45:18).” In this example, we really see what Jesus has done for us. He doesn’t stop at forgiveness or even at eternal salvation. He desires to give us “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)

Refusing to forgive is like refusing to take the trash out. The job might be tedious and smelly, but refusing to do the work brings far more rancid consequences. From Joseph we learn that taking some time to process may not be bad but we are called to forgive no matter how sorry or changed the other person is. We also learn that tying ourselves to God’s sovereignty and dream for our life will free us up to forgive others that may have interrupted our own agenda. And if we really want to be like Christ, we will not hold back, but offer abundant blessings to those we forgive.

Today’s Big Questions: Is there someone in your life that you know you need to forgive today? Are you waiting for an apology or a changed heart? Can you see where God has had his hand on the situation, even if it hurt?

Prayer Response: Today, ask God to not only give you the ability to forgive just as Christ forgave you, but ask for the power to bless those who have hurt you.

Optional Action Step: Volunteer to take the trash out today at home or at work. As you do, remember Ephesians 4:31-32 and imagine yourself getting rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Remember that the rot of un-forgiveness in your heart is so much more than the stink of that garbage.

Closing Prayer:Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 27: Never Could Have Dreamed

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 41:1-49
  • Proverbs 2:6-10
  • James 1:5

Imagine you are Joseph for a moment, sitting in prison like you have been for at least 730 days. It has been a “full two years” since the cupbearer promised to remember you, show you kindness, mention you to Pharaoh, and get you out of this prison (Gen. 40:14). It seems he forgot. And then all of a sudden, the guard is calling your name. You are rushed from the dungeon to the bath house where you are commanded to get cleaned up, clean shaven, and given a fresh new pair of clothes. Before your hair is even dry, you find yourself before Pharaoh himself. You catch a glimpse of the apologetic cupbearer in the corner giving you a timid “thumbs up” as you look around confused. Pharaoh looks like he isn’t sleeping well as he booms, “I had a dream and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

No pressure.

After all the years of waiting, it seems the rise happens at a dizzying pace. Joesph gives credit to God before clearly interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. But he doesn’t stop there. Without being asked, he goes on to succinctly outline a 14 year plan for the preservation of a nation. Did I miss the part of the story where Joseph got his masters in business with a minor in foreign affairs? His quick thinking and obvious wisdom left Pharaoh asking his officials “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” A day that started off in prison, ended with Joseph second in command of Egypt.

He never could have dreamed the turn of events.

I’m struck with the seamless mixture of the supernatural and natural in this part of Joseph’s story. Joseph was given the supernatural gift of being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream when no one else could. He knew that wisdom came straight from God and he had the supernatural courage to use it for the good of a nation. But he also needed a shower. And instead of advising Pharaoh to offer sacrifices and pray for God not send the famine, Joseph presented a solid, very natural plan to save Egypt.

I’m also struck with the fact that Joseph skyrocketed to leadership with seemingly few earthly qualifications. Before this, he had been a shepherd, a slave, a personal assistant, and a prisoner. God had used him in every place, but this was a whole new league. But what Joseph lacked in experience or education paled in comparison with who Joseph had in His corner.

I hope we can be encouraged in these things today. God can use the supernatural and the really ordinary parts of your story to take you to where He wants you to go. You may need to pray and press into the gifts of the Spirit, and you also may need to come up with a very “boots on the ground” plan. Your earthly qualifications (or lack there of ) don’t matter if God’s dream for your life is qualifying you for a position. I believe God wants His children in places of influence and leadership and I believe He is ready and willing to pour out the creative ideas, wisdom, and knowledge needed to get us there. And lastly, you just never know what a day will hold. You just never know when the waiting will end and you will be skyrocketed into your purpose as well. Don’t lose heart.

Today’s Big Questions: Do you tend to rely on your own knowledge, experience, wisdom, education, and intelligence or do you pray continually for God to supernaturally increase those things in you? Are there places you are being held up because you are waiting for the supernatural when God may be asking you to put a natural plan into place? Are there places you are relying too heavily on your natural abilities rather than on the God of all wisdom?

Prayer Response: Today, very simply, pray James 1:5 over yourself and your dream. Admit to God where you lack wisdom, ask Him for it, and thank Him that He gives it generously without finding fault.

Optional Action Step: Take a walk to get away from distractions and focus on a dream you have been waiting on. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak clearly to you about it. Ask for clarity, wisdom, and creative ideas concerning that dream. Ask if there is a plan you should construct or if you should continue to wait.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 26: What Are You Waiting For?

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 40: 23-41:1
  • Psalms 27:13-14
  • Lamentations 3:25-26
  • Micah 7:7
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream…

We read “when two full years had passed,” in a breath, but for Joseph 730 days slowly crept by in that short verse. It seemed like he was betrayed again by someone else he had served well. The cupbearer forgot him, another broken dream. But in reality, Joseph wasn’t waiting on the cupbearer to remember him or Pharaoh to lift him up and release him. Joseph was waiting on God’s perfect timing. The delay and the detours did not mean the dream was not real. They just meant the dream was not yet.

When David was a teenager, he was anointed as the next king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. At the time, David, the youngest of 7 brothers (sound familiar?), was merely a shepherd boy- an unlikely choice, especially considering King Saul was still alive and well with an heir of his own. It was nearly 15 years from the time David was anointed to the time he began his rule. For 15 years he had that dream in his heart, he held that promise, though his circumstances did not match up. And what did David do during those 15 years? He faced Goliath, he lived on the run from a jealous Saul, he led a group of “mighty men,” he fought countless battles, and forged faithful friendship and community. David continually pressed into God, crying out to him in his waiting, crying out to him in the testing. See, God knew that David was not ready to lead a nation fresh out of the sheep pasture. He molded David through waiting and testing into the man who would steward that dream well. God was creating a king out of the one He had already anointed as king.

It was nearly 14 years from the time Joseph received the dreams of his brothers and parents bowing down to him, to the time he was released from prison and became Pharaoh’s second in command. 14 years. During that time, he lived a life of high integrity, he rose to leadership in every circumstance he found himself in, he served those above and below him, and he steward every opportunity well. The New Living Translation of Psalms 105:19 reads, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” God was creating a leader that would save a nation from an arrogant young dreamer through waiting and testing.

I believe God still does this today. He loves us too much to fulfill a dream we are unprepared for. Zechariah 4:10 tells us “Do not despise these small beginnings.” And do not waste the waiting. Remain faithful and pursue the preparation for the dream that God gave you. Be a good steward of your current situation. Work on your character. Press into community. Cry out to God and deepen your dependence on him. Augustine said, “Without God, we cannot, and without us, He will not.” We may not be able to bypass the testing or quicken God’s timing, but we can be ready when He lifts us up to fulfill His dream for our lives.

Today’s Big Questions: Is there a dream you are still waiting for God to fulfill? Do you honestly believe you were completely prepared to steward that dream well when God placed it in your heart? Do you believe you are prepared now for its fulfillment? Can you identify places you believe God has tested your character in the waiting? How are you doing?

Prayer Response: Pray Zechariah 4:10 over yourself and your dream today. Ask the Lord to help you not despise the small beginnings or waste the waiting. Ask Him to give you the power to strengthen your character and to find you faithful when the time comes.

Optional Action Step: List 3 small steps you can take today toward a dream God has put in your heart, and then plan to do them. Pursue preparation in the waiting and do your part.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”