Blooming Where Planted: Joseph II

Have you ever known one of those people who, regardless of the weather, are sunny?  How long have you spent with someone for whom every situation seems to be another opportunity to shine.  Not only does nothing seem to get them down, but they succeed at everything.  They really annoy me, because they show just how bad my attitude really is, and how cynical I’ve become.  Do you know anyone like that?  Except for the “sunny all the time” bit, that’s Joseph.

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there.  The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. (Genesis 39:1-2 NASB)

Sold into slavery, by his brothers no less, and he works, works hard, and is successful.  I’ve always wondered if Joseph was “cheery” as he worked, or if his attitude improved as his success increased.  Was he despondent when he first arrived?  Was the trip down there loud and obnoxious, a spoiled brat calling for his dad?  Did he progress through the “stages of grief” or whatever it’s called when your life drastically becomes worse and you have to adapt?  Would it be stages of trauma or disaster?  He’s a human, so I’m guessing he did.

But, when you read about those stages (like in Psychology Today), the stages aren’t necessarily automatic.  So, a lot of people, without help, get stuck in the progression.  Joseph doesn’t.  I admit, I probably would.  Think about how you would react.  Being sold, by his brothers, into slavery, in a foreign country, it all completely undermined the safety and control Joseph had assumed he had.  Parental preference actually meant a lot less than he thought it did for his safety.

Somewhere in that traumatic shock of powerlessness and violation, he discovers that Yahweh is with him, that the God of his father is giving him success.  We’re not told how he noticed it.  We’re only told that Yahweh was with Joseph, and “…he was a man causing success; and was in the house of his master the Egyptian.”  What a strange way to put it.  He was a man causing success.  In other words, whatever he tried, worked.  That is, except escape or to not be a slave.  This God of his father wanted him as a slave.  And Joseph lived with that, blooming where Yahweh planted him.

Which of us could bloom in such hard ground?  I’m not sure my sense of personal entitlement or pride would totally prohibit me from blooming, but it sure wouldn’t help.  What do you think you would do?  If you tried to escape, where would you go?  The desert is in all directions.  My passive aggressive nature would probably kick in, do you have that too?  Yet, all we’re told is that Joseph succeeded, he caused success, even to those around him.  I’m not sure how I’d react to that.  Somehow, I’m sure I’d figure out a way to try and use that for my personal gain, and that would be what would fail.

Joseph is elevated in the household of his master.  He’s a slave, but he’s the chief slave, running everything, and everything he runs succeeds.  It’s the life, perhaps the best of a horrible situation, but he’s finally doing well.  Until that woman.

It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.  There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9 NASB)

The clue that Joseph hasn’t given into complete self indulgence due to his success is how he responds to his master’s wife.  Perhaps he’s smart enough to know that she is a disaster, and would eventually spell his death if he cooperated with her.  Maybe there were already stories of predecessors who had suffered her, and then suffered because of her.  All we’re told is that he resisted her, and did so because of his success, and that he ascribes such an act as a sin against God.  He recognizes who is responsible for his success, he knows it’s not him.  I’m not sure I’d be that insightful, how about you?

Eventually she traps him alone, and he escapes without his cloak.  She uses that to accuse him, and his master has him imprisoned with the king’s prisoners.  Where has that success from God gone now?  He did not sin against God, yet his circumstances grew worse?  No good deed goes unpunished?  And yet, we don’t have a complaint against God lodged by Joseph.  Although, we do have clues about how he views his circumstances later on.  Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, what do you learn from Joseph’s adaptation to his slavery?  What do you learn from his deteriorating circumstances, even after doing the right thing?  I learn that my circumstances aren’t what define the character qualities of my Master.  I know that, but my emotions sure don’t like that.  My circumstances do not define the character qualities of my Master, and that means good or bad circumstances.  So, my Master is who He says He is, regardless of my day, week, month, or year, or even years.  In good or bad circumstances, my Master is good, loving, and sovereign.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

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Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” The leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” (Judges 8:4-6 NASB)

Gideon’s 300 “mini-army” has crashed the pots, shook the torches, blown the trumpets, and saw the innumerable army of desert nomads chaotically rout from the few.  Now, pursuing two of their kings, they’re kind of tired.  It’s been a long hard day of slaying fleeing foes.  They could use a break today, and there’s no fast-food joint to be found.

As they pass by Sukkoth, Gideon asks the city for help for his weary men.  The response from the walled “secure” city is, “But you haven’t beaten them yet.”  What if we help and those kings survive and come back to punish us?  What if you fail?  What if…?  They’re afraid.  They fear the repercussions of doing the right thing.  After all, we know that “no good deed goes unpunished.”

So, Gideon promises them a “sign”, but after the fact.  Once his men have the heads of the two kings, Gideon will come back and punish them.  They’re not exactly afraid of 300 men, having just seen 15,000 camel riders pass by ahead of them.  And Gideon moves on, still tired, still hungry.

He went up from there to Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. (Judges 8:8 NASB)

So, now, having been refused twice by people of the “Half-tribe of Manasseh”, Gideon presses on after the two kings.  It’s very possible, highly probable, that these two cities had a lot to gain by Gideon winning.  So, why not help?  Seven years of these camel-riding “locusts” led them to believe it wouldn’t change because of 300 men.  And no one believes in God anymore.

We’re not that far from this situation now.  There aren’t enough people to make a difference, and no one believes in God anymore.  But, this is still early in the chapter.  The fight hasn’t ended yet.  And Gideon does defeat these kings with the 300.  On his return we have the following:

Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres.  And he captured a youth from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men.  He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?'”  He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he disciplined the men of Succoth with them.  He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. (Judges 8:13-17 NASB)

In our day, we’re distracted by the brutality, but the point then, as now, is that God did deliver victory with 300, in spite of nay-sayers, doubters, and quitters.  Those who refused to help didn’t prevent the victory, or even impede it.  Instead, they opted out of the blessings that were theirs for participation.  That’s what the writer of Judges intended for his audience to learn.  And that’s the lesson for us today.

That’s what I see through my hole in the fence.  What do you see?

Passion Week XIXf

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31-34 NASB)

God, the Father, has granted Satan’s request to sift Peter like wheat. But Jesus intercedes for Peter, which is Jesus’ role after His ascension. Awesome! With Jesus interceding, Peter can’t fail, right?  Well, not exactly. In fact Jesus doesn’t even pray that Peter won’t fail. How is that even possible? Doesn’t Jesus want Peter to succeed?  And I think we would agree that, of course, Jesus wants Peter to succeed.  So why didn’t Jesus pray that Peter would succeed?  Trick question alert! If you look at the wording above, you see that Jesus did pray for Peter to succeed.

Jesus didn’t pray that Peter wouldn’t deny Him. He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. In other words, the definition we have of failure was different than Jesus’. Success as Jesus defined it wasn’t that Peter never make a mistake, but that Peter never let a mistake keep him from Jesus.  That’s an important distinction. Isn’t it true that when we think our mistakes are failures to Jesus that we also think our relationship with Him is dependent upon us? But when we continually repent of our mistakes, our relationship with Jesus remains dependent upon Him; it’s no longer based on  our success rate.

This is proven when Peter declares his unwavering support to Jesus, and Jesus responds predicting Peter’s denial. Jesus knew of Peter’s denial, and prayed that his faith would not fail.  And what Jesus meant by unfailing faith is found in His continuation, “…and when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Success for Jesus is Peter’s repentance back to leading his fellow disciples; his return to his calling.

So, success for me in my walk with Jesus is repentance from my mistakes back to my calling in His service.  It is Satan who wants my mistakes to define me. Only the enemy of my soul has a vested interest in using my mistakes to distract me from my Master’s call on my life.  And when I give in to such distractions, I deny my dependence upon my Master for my relationship with Him.  What is true is that I am Matthew Scott Brumage, son of Lloyd, Knight of the Realm, Servant of the King, and that He loves me, He has my back, and I am at His service; and He has called me to wait, worship, and walk before Him. That is what is true about me.

So, what is your view through your knothole this morning?

The Gutless General

When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was dressed in his military attire, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist; and as he went forward, it fell out.  Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.  But Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab’s hand so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground, and did not strike him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri. (2 Samuel 20:8-10 NASB)

There are times that I really wish the Biblical writers had included more detail.  Then there are times, like here, where they include a lot of detail, and it doesn’t help; I still don’t get it.  This used to bother me, but the more I read commentaries, I realize we all struggle imagining just what happened here.  In addition to the few things we surmise, there are a few things we actually know.

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