Do what’s right, and you’ll succeed, all will be well, flowers will bloom, birds sing, and the sun will finally come out from behind the stormy clouds. Right? Or, you might end up in jail. On this day celebrating the reformation, perhaps it will do us good to remember one who fought against tyranny, named for the reformer, Martin Luther, who wound up shot for his good and faithful service. There’s a sad saying that, “No good deed goes unpunished.” We can, perhaps imagine this on a plaque in Joseph’s cell. But, still…
But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper. (Genesis 39:21-23 NASB)
Joseph resists the temptation to take more than Yahweh provides to him, and he’s thrown in jail. Awesome. And yet, all he does there Yahweh blesses, and makes prosper. It’s even something that rubs off on all Joseph touches, so, the entire jail ran better, and the jailer is blessed because of Joseph. But, before you might think that this sunny ray of goodness is always cheery and has no concept of the bad situation in which he lives, just read further.
Once more, dreams enter into Joseph’s life. It’s possible that they remind him of his own, or it could be those dreams never left him. But two newer criminals have dreams. The cupbearer to Pharaoh and his chief baker both have dreams. Joseph interprets them for these two bewildered criminals, but see what he says, all that he says to the cupbearer:
Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.” (Genesis 40:12-15 NASB)
It’s easy to believe that Joseph’s success was due to his sunny disposition. But we learn here that he is very aware that he doesn’t belong there. He’s not happy that he’s been wrongly accused, that his brothers sold him into slavery, that he’s deserved none of this. His success isn’t due to his attitude, it’s due to Yahweh. It’s Yahweh’s work in his life and through him, into the lives of others that brings this success. It’s very possible Joseph would have traded all the success to be out of the jail, no longer a slave, and back home, even with his brothers. But Yahweh wasn’t done yet.
Thus it came about on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:20-23 NASB)
Joseph wants out, helps another, sees a way out, and…remains where he is. Joseph’s Master wasn’t done yet. It wasn’t time. Maybe Joseph needed to “marinate” a little more, or maybe his Master was setting up the other characters in the play. Either way, Joseph remained there for another two years.
The philosophy unique to Americans is “Pragmatism”. It’s a wonderful system where, if it works, it must be right. We bandy about the cliche, “Whatever works!” not even realizing it’s the expression of the root of the “American Spirit” and the “American Way”. Think through that for a moment, “whatever works”. Really? Any means to an end is right? Well, perhaps, if the end sought includes good for all involved, maybe then, any means to get there would be right. But even so, at its core, it’s actually creepy.
What if our Master leads us through a path, which, for every right choice we make, increases our misery? We remain faithful to Him, and our life here becomes more unbearable? That does not follow the “pragmatism” of our culture and society. How will we be able to remain faithful to our Master when He doesn’t improve our situation? If we are faithful and end up in jail, will we continue in faithfulness? Martin Luther King Jr. did. He continued to do the right thing and eventually was killed for it.
What will you do, when it actually gets worse for you, what will you do? Will you judge the Almighty by your circumstances? I do. It doesn’t work, but I do it anyway. In the end, it’s not very pragmatic to judge the Creator of the universe by my circumstances on one crumb of that creation.
What’s your view of our Master through the fence this morning?