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FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT FORSAKEN
Intro: Our text finds Joseph in the midst of a great trial of faith. He has been mistreated, misrepresented, falsely accused and imprisoned. In the midst of it all Joseph remained patient and kept his testimony intact. He did not see himself as a victim, but as a victor waiting for his liberty!
A brief glimpse at Joseph’s life reveals the trials he was called upon to endure.
· He was treated unfairly by his own brothers and sold into slavery.
· He became a slave in a foreign land.
· He was falsely accused of attempted rape and imprisoned.
Through it all, he refused to be a victim. Joseph knew what the writer of Genesis records for us in Gen. 39:21-23, “The Lord was with Joseph!” That truth alone made the prison bearable for Joseph.
I want to join Joseph in his prison today. His experiences there have some much needed lessons for the people of the Lord. This passage finds Joseph shut up, shut down and shut off, but still serving the Lord. This passage finds Joseph in a prison of pain and suffering. In that prison he was forgotten by many, but Joseph was not forsaken by the Lord.
The path of life leads us into prison situations from time to time. We all face hardships and trials. That is the way of life, John 16:33. Sometime we feel like we are shut up, shut down and shut off too. And, we feel that we are forgotten in that prison. Many times we are forgotten by those around us. Even though man may forget us in the prisons of life, the Lord never forgets and He refuses to forsake us while we are there, Heb. 13:5.
Let’s join Joseph in the prison and glean the lessons that are revealed in these verses. I want to preach on the subject: Forgotten, But Not Forsaken.
I. v. 1-4 PRISON DUTIES
A. While Joseph waits in the prison, he receives some company. Two men, former highly placed servants of Pharaoh, are thrown into the prison with Joseph. These two men are Pharaoh’s butler and his baker.
The butler was Pharaoh’s “cupbearer. When anything was to eat or drink was brought before Pharaoh, the cupbearer would taste it first to make sure it was safe for Pharaoh. In other words, if anybody died from bad food or from poisoning, it would be the cupbearer and the Pharaoh would be saved. These cupbearers, by the very nature of the jobs, were close to the rulers they served. They were so close that they had conversations, and sometimes, cupbearers were privy to royal secrets. They were highly trusted servants. In some way they were the most trusted servants in the court. The cupbearer literally held Pharaohs life in his hands. (Ill. Nehemiah Neh. 2:1ff.)
The baker would have been over Pharaoh’s kitchens. He was responsible for cooking the food that Pharaoh ate. He too would have been a trusted servant in Pharaoh’s household.
Apparently, there had been a problem with Pharaoh’s food and these men are in trouble. They have been cast out of their positions and find themselves locked up in prison.
B. When these men get to prison, they receive preferential treatment. They were treated like the celebrities of our day. They even have a servant assigned to minister to their needs. Joseph is handpicked to be their servant while they are there.
On the surface, this seemed to be just another assignment given to a slave in the prison. In reality, this was the providence of a sovereign God at work in Joseph’s life. God had just brought Joseph face to face with the man God would later use to secure Joseph’s release from prison.
C. We should never discount the seemingly small twists and turns of this life. Some people would have said, “Oh well, just another job for poor old Joseph to take care of. What no one could see was how God would use this small matter in a great way down the road.
The same is true in your life and mine. I remember when we had to leave Alabama behind to move to North Carolina. That was hard for an eleven year old boy. I didn’t understand it at the time, but it was God’s providence at work. Because of that move, I met my wife. I got under the sound of the Gospel and was saved. I have been privileged to serve three churches as Pastor, and I have been allowed to preach in dozens more churches.
Never discount the small moves of life. What we see and a “chance encounter may just be the meeting of lifetime. What we see as an accident or as coincidence is really God at work in your life in a great way. (Ill. Psa. 37:23; Pro. 16:9 God orders the minute details of our lives! There are no accidents with Him!)
II. v. 5-19 PRISON DREAMS
A. One morning Joseph checks on his charges and they are both sad. They tell him they have dreamed dreams and can’t figure out what they mean. When Joseph hears about them dreaming, it must have made his mind go back to his own dreams, Gen. 37:5-11. His dreams, however, looked as though they had been derailed, or at least delayed for the time being.
Joseph encourages them, to tell him the dreams, because he knows the God Who can give them the interpretation. The butler tells Joseph his dream and receives a favorable interpretation, v. 9-13. When the baker hears that good interpretation he tells Joseph his dream. His interpretation is not so good, but Joseph humbly tells him the trust anyway, v. 16-19.
B. Put yourself in Joseph’s place today. He has been given a dream from the Lord. In his dream, he is going to rule someday. His dream has yet to be fulfilled. In fact, from all appearances, Joseph’s dreams have all been shattered. What does Joseph do?
Does he get angry and give up on the Lord? Does he say, “I’m finished with all this dreaming! Just leave me alone!? Even though Joseph finds himself in one of the waiting rooms of life, he does not lose his grip on his dreams or on the God Who gave them to him. In fact, Joseph is actively looking for ways to glorify God while he waits in that prison, v. 8.
C. What a lesson for the redeemed today! There are going to be some times along the way when it seems like God has forgotten all about you. There will be times when it seems that your dreams have been derailed too. There will be times when you find yourself in one of the waiting rooms of life. What you do there has a great deal to do with what the Lord will do for you later.
Our duty in all the prisons of life is to actively seek ways to glorify Him, 1 Cor. 10:31. Our circumstances might be bad, but our God is good! We need to learn how to glorify Him when the sun is shining and when the rain is falling. We need to look for ways to point others to Him even though our own hearts are breaking! If He is the God of the mountain, He is also the God of the valley, or He is God of neither.
Ill. 1 Kings 20:22-29 The Syrians thought the God of Israel was on a God of the hills. So, they attacked Israel in the valley. They soon learned the God was God regardless of the terrain. It would do the church to learn that truth as well. He is God when dreams are on track and He is God when they seem to have derailed. He is God and we need to glorify Him as God in spite of what we face in life, 1 Thes. 5:16-18; Phil. 4:4.
III. V. 6-7 PRISON DEMEANORS
A. As Joseph went about his duties, he saw that these two fellows were sad. Now, I can understand their sadness, can’t you? After all, they have been removed from prestigious position and cast into prison. But, they are only there because Pharaoh is mad at them. They are short timers! They will be getting out soon.
Joseph, on the other hand, is there to stay, as far as he is concerned. Yet, he is not sad. In fact, he is concerned about their attitude and he reaches out to help them through their prison experience.
B. What a lesson that is for us! Isn’t it true that most of us can see no further than our own need? Isn’t it true that when we are in a prison in our lives, we really don’t have time to be too worried about the needs of others, because all we can think about is how bad we hurt? Isn’t it true that most of us are pretty self-centered when it comes to dealing with our burdens and problems? Did you know that an attitude like that is not what the Lord wants from His people?
He wants us to lose ourselves in the needs of others, Phil. 2:4. He wants us to look around for someone that we can help, Gal. 6:1-2. He wants us to be like Jesus Who willingly laid down His life so that others might get help! That’s not easy, but it is biblical! The fact is, when you and I get our eyes off self and all its pains, needs and problems, and set our heart about the business of helping someone else, we will find that our own load gets lighter! The Lord wants us to be a blessing, even when we are in the prison!
C. There is another lesson here that we do not want to miss. Joseph may be in a prison. His dreams may seem to have been shattered. It may seem that he is in that prison to stay. But, Joseph still had joy! That is am amazing example!
Most people have no problem being joyous when they have no burden. Most folks can praise the Lord, laugh, smile, and be joyful when their need is met. But, it takes someone filled with genuine faith to praise the Lord when the bottom falls out of life.
Joseph is in that prison, but he is happy. Why? He is serving the Lord and the Lord is blessing him. Blessing him in the prison! Absolutely! Look again at Gen. 39:21-23.
Anybody can praise the Lord and be filled with joy when everything is going their way. When the bills are paid, everyone is healthy and there are no problems, it is easy to say “Hallelujah! Glory to God! But, when you have to shout on credit, you are getting somewhere!
When you can praise the Lord and testify to His grace and goodness, even when your heart is broken, you are getting somewhere in your faith! When you can shout and bless His name in spite of and in the midst of your pain and heartache, it glorifies Him!
Most folks aren’t even good for a holy grunt anymore! Most of us are like the butler and the baker! We wear around a sad face and a gloomy countenance. What a poor advertisement we are of the living Lord. You say you are happy in Jesus and have joy in your heart? Then, how about notifying your face! It hasn’t got the memo!
Give us more people like Job who could praise and worship the Lord in midst of extreme hardship, Job 1:20-21. Give us more people like Abraham who went to offer up his son Isaac and called it worship, Gen. 22:5. God give us more people who know that He is just as much God in the storm as He is in the sunny day! Give us people who will worship and praise Him in spite of everything!
(Ill. Charles Edison, the son of Thomas Edison gives us this glimpse into his father’s faith with this excerpt from his book entitled The Electric Thomas Edison.
One December evening the cry of Fire! echoed through the plant. Spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film room. Within moments all the packing compounds, celluloid for records, film and other flammable goods had gone up with a whoosh...
When I couldn't find Father, I became concerned. Was he safe? With all his assets going up in smoke, would his spirit be broken? He was 67, no age to begin anew. Then I saw him in the plant yard, running toward me.
Where's Mom? he shouted. Go get her! Tell her to get her friends! They'll never see a fire like this again!
At 5:30 the next morning, when the fire was barely under control, he called his employees together and announced: We're rebuilding! One man was told to lease all the machine shops in the area. Another, to obtain a wrecking crane from the Erie Railroad Company. Then, almost as an afterthought he added, Oh, by the way. Anybody know where we can get some money?
Later on he explained, 'You can always make capital out of disaster. We've just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We'll build bigger and better on these ruins. With that he rolled up his coat for a pillow, curled up on a table and immediately fell asleep.)
That is the kind of prison demeanor we need to display when we walk through our own difficult hours. May God help us to learn that He is always God and always good, regardless of how we are treated by life!
IV. V. 20-41:1 PRISON
A. The dreams of the butler and the baker were fulfilled just as Joseph said they would be. The butler was restored to his office and the baker was executed by Pharaoh.
Now, Joseph had asked the butler to remember him when we was restored to his office, 40:14-15. But, we are told, the man “forgat him, 40:23. Surely this must have broken Joseph’s heart.
I can imagine Joseph heading to his cell when the butler was released, thinking, “I’d better pack! That man will tell Pharaoh about me and about this miscarriage of justice and I will be set free! I am sure that every time the prison door opened, Joseph thought it was some people coming to set him at liberty. But, these butler forgat him.
Days turned into weeks; weeks into months and months into two long years, Gen. 41:1. All the while Joseph is still in his prison, disappointed, but waiting on God to move in his time.
B. This prison disappointment served to teach Joseph two valuable lessons. They lessons that we need to learn as well.
1. Joseph learned that he should never put his confidence in man He tried to get help from human sources, but it failed. The fact is, there is no real help in man. Our only help comes from the Lord. He may use humans as His instruments, but behind the provision is the hand of the Almighty Psa. 121:1-8!
2. Joseph learned, once again, that God’s unseen hand moves us along a hidden pathway – He would like to have been freed long before he was. But, it wasn’t God’s time! When the time came, Joseph was released and not a minute before. We need to learn this truth: Our God is seldom early, but He is never late! He always moves right on time!
When did He feed Elijah? Morning and evening – right on time! When did He rescue the three Hebrew boys? Not when they would have liked, but right on time! When did He help Daniel? Not when Daniel would have preferred it, but right on time! When did Jesus come to His men on the sea in the stormy night? Not when they thought they needed Him, but right on time!
C. There will be some disappointments in our prison experiences as well. The Lord will not move when we think He ought to and we will get discouraged. We will reach out for human help and find that it always falls far short. This too will disappoint us.
When those times of disappointment come, we can either get discouraged and look for a place to quit, or we can do like Joseph. We should the course for the glory of the Lord and serve Him faithfully. We should ever remember that even though we may feel forgotten, we will never be forsaken by the Lord. In His time, He will visit our prison and He will set us free!
Conc: This is a bad place to leave our hero. He has done the right things every time he had a chance and still he suffers for “righteousness sake. There he stands falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and now, he is also forgotten. Joseph cannot see it, but the wheels of providence are slowly advancing. God is slowly but surely lining up everything in Josephs life just the way it needs to be. Soon the plans and purposes of God will become crystal clear!
The same is true in your life as well. Some of you are looking at disappointments and discouragements and you do not know how to handle them. The best thing you can do is bring them to the Lord, learn to leave them in His capable hand and ask Him for the joy and grace you need to survive and thrive in the prisons of life. There is help for you in the Lord! You might feel forgotten, but I hope you know that you will never be forsaken by Him!