As Christians, we know we need to have faith in the Lord, to trust in Him and His Word. Sometimes, however, our circumstances- particularly things we have been praying about for some time, seem to stubbornly refuse to budge; even fly in the face of our faith and trust in God. In our next Nourish, we are going to look at an episode in Joseph’s life from Gen 40. Joseph had some wonderful promises from God, but he had to wait many years for them to come to pass. How do we wait well? How do we hope when all hope seems lost?
Before you read the introduction to our study (below) it would be good to read Genesis 39:21–40:23 to refresh this episode in our minds.
When Hope Gets Put On Hold (GENESIS 40)
Joseph’s story is remarkable and unique. Probably none of us have been sold into slavery by our siblings, or falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison on trumped-up charges. Many of us, however, have had experiences of being betrayed and let down by family or coworkers in painful ways. This world is full of difficult and deeply disappointing experiences, and few of us escape unwounded by them. As a result, we can easily identify with Joseph in his sufferings and find hope in God’s presence with him in the midst of those sufferings.
Yet Genesis 40 is not about some new suffering that God asks Joseph to undergo. It is about the same old suffering that continues on, long after we think it should be over. This too is something to which we can all relate. We all know what it is to want something good, or to desire relief from something painful, and to desire that change with great intensity. We know how hard it is when that good goal seems to be almost within your grasp, only to have your hopes dashed at the last moment. We know what it is to wait for the phone call that will confirm that you have landed the job of your dreams, or that the relationship you so desire will move forward. But the phone call never comes. Whatever the reason for the lack of communication, the hopes that a few days before were so bright are now gradually fading away. Perhaps there was not a definitive moment that exploded your expectation of a different future—just a slow and gradual deflation of your hopes over days, months, and even years, until you found yourself empty.
THE TURNING POINT WHERE NOTHING CHANGES
That is where Joseph finds himself in Genesis 40. In some ways, this chapter represents the dramatic turning point of Joseph’s story. Events are being set in motion that will ultimately result in him being released from prison, elevated to Pharaoh’s side, and given power over all of Egypt. Yet Joseph ends this chapter in exactly the same place where he began it, toiling away in prison, seemingly with no prospect of ever emerging from there. What is God up to when he makes us wait and wait for his deliverance? Why would a loving, sovereign God leave us stuck in a situation of painful suffering, when he could so easily and swiftly solve all our problems for us?
Some challenging questions indeed! – we look forward to exploring this topic together in our next Nourish.
This excerpt is from the book Living in the Light of Inextinguishable Hope: The Gospel according to Joseph, by Iain M. Duguid and Matthew P. Harmon, from the series “The Gospel according to the Old Testament” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 61–75.