April 16, 2019

The Outcome is Yours 

By: Larry Shaffer

My grandson, Nate

The Outcome is Yours 

Genesis 40 & 41 

Joseph, lesson 13 

Joseph is in jail where the king’s prisoners are held. Joseph interprets the dreams of the king’s cupbearer and the king’s baker. The cupbearer will be raised by up to serve the king again within three days. The baker will be hanged to death in three days. Joseph’s interpretations come true. He asks the cupbearer to remember him and speak to the king on his behalf. The text says; However, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. 

Two years later, in God’s perfect timing, the Pharoah has a dream and is perplexed. The cupbearer remembered Joseph and tells Pharoah about him. The king calls Joseph, he interprets his dream and the king honors him with great responsibilities and gifts. 

Joseph has shown a pattern of responsibility that is commendable. Joseph always rises to a position of authority, granted by the authority figures in his life. As a son, Jacob placed him above the other sons with great responsibility; the king of the bodyguard placed him with great responsibility in his household above all others; the captain of the jail placed him above all others with great responsibility. Ultimately, the Pharaoh honors Joseph and eventually raises him to his right-hand man in all of Egypt. We see a pattern of noble, consistent character within Joseph along with the favor of God. 

This brings up a question. Does this teach the principle that good deeds bring about earthly blessings? We must be careful to not use the narrative portion of the Bible to infer consistent, transferable lessons to our lives today. A more prudent way to interpret and understand the Bible is to consider other narratives as comparisons and other parts of the Bible that directly teach sound principles. 

Other characters of the Bible have had similar stories of honor and recognition in the pagan world. Ruth comes to mind along with Esther and Mordechai. Also, Daniel, Shadrach Meshach and Abed-nego within the Babylonian empire. On the other hand, the prophets were despised and most of them martyred. All of the apostles, including Paul, were martyred for their faith. Of course, the ultimate example is Jesus. The One who lived a perfectly righteous life was hated and crucified.  

The pattern I see from biblical narratives is that God ALWAYS honors faithfulness among His followers but He doesn’t always guarantee earthly blessings or esteem from powerful men of the world.  

The larger pattern I see in the biblical narratives is that God uses faithful followers to accomplish the purposes of His will. Sometimes He uses them by elevating them within this world, for a period of time. Other times, He uses them to spread an unpopular message, (such as the prophets and the apostles) and other times He has different purposes. The guiding principle from the combined narratives is that God uses faithful followers to accomplish His purposes on earth and we as His servants should focus on being faithful and leave the results to God. 

Now, what does the Bible teach about this principle in the epistles of the Apostles, which provide us direct teaching guidance? 

  • Paul writes to Titus, a pastor that Paul has mentored, and instructs him on how he should teach his people about faithful behavior. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed (this is exactly what Joseph did) …I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men…Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will be fruitful. Titus 3:1,8,14 
  • Paul teaches a young, aspiring pastor in 2 Timothy when he writes: Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work…All scripture is inspired by God and profitable…so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21, 3:16,17. 

In summary, the principle of Joseph is not, be faithful and God will give you honor among powerful authorities. The principle, I believe, is be faithful and pursue doing good, and God will use you for His own good purposes, whatever those good purposes might be. 

God used the faithfulness of Billy Graham to influence presidents and world powers and spread the good news of the gospel to millions of people. God also has used the faithfulness of unknown people to save women from sex trafficking; care for orphans; serve the homeless and spread the gospel among the forgotten and hurting people within a small geographic area. Who is greater in the kingdom of God? Both can be. The key is be faithful, pursue good deeds and leave the outcome to God.  

Be faithful and pursue good deeds, not to earn merit with God, but to be available and used by God for His purposes. 

Heavenly Father, we struggle sometimes to leave the outcome of all things to You. We are control-freaks. But You have a way of reminding us that our sense of self-control is a fantasy. We are dependent upon You and we re-commitment to entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones, unto You, the Almighty Creator of all things. May we be found faithful! Amen!