Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, January 10, 2014

28 Stories - Study 18: Dungeon to Kingdom

Fundamental: Stewardship

Bible Story   

Joseph inserted a key into the door of the jail cell of the King’s cupbearer and baker. The two men had been in prison for quite some time and the three had become close friends.
“Time for breakfast, gentlemen,” Joseph said as he took the plates from the servants behind him and set them on a worn wooden table in the middle of the small cell.
The two men nodded their thanks and came to the table. As Joseph reached the cell door, about to leave, he realised something was making him uncomfortable. Something wasn’t right. Neither of the two men, usually quite friendly, had said a word. He turned around slowly and studied their silent faces as they ate. They seemed somber and perhaps even depressed.
“Why do you look so worried this morning?” Joseph asked, closing the door behind him.
The two men looked up at Joseph then at each other and finally back at their plates, in silence. After some time, the cupbearer spoke, still staring into his plate as if searching for a sign among the scraps of prison food.
“We both had strange dreams last night.”
“Dreaming is not unusual,” Joseph said. “We all have them.”
“Yes,” the cupbearer continued, “we weren't concerned until we realised we had both dreamed much the same thing on the same night. Such dreams are to be feared!”
The baker cut in, “We’ve talked to some of the other prisoners and no-one has a clue what our dreams mean.”
“God alone can interpret dreams,” Joseph said matter-of-factly. “Tell your dreams to me.”
“You start,” the baker said.
“In my dream,” The cupbearer recounted, “I was standing before a fruitless grapevine holding Pharaoh’s empty goblet in my hand. Before my very eyes, grapes grew on three branches of the vine—fat juicy grapes. I picked them, squeezed them into the goblet, walked to Pharaoh and gave him the full goblet.”
Joseph smiled and, in amazement, said, “I understand it!”
“You do?” The two men said in unison.
“Yes,” Joseph said rubbing his hands together excitedly.
The cupbearer rose to his feet. “Well, tell me!"
“The three branches are three days,” Joseph said. “And the rest is your old job, back in action. So,” Joseph paused to get his thoughts and words right, “in three days, you will be restored to your position as Pharaoh’s cupbearer!”
The cupbearer clapped his hands twice and then clasped them to his cheeks as tears of joy ran from his eyes. “Can it be true?” he asked in wonder.
“If it is,” Joseph said seriously, “Please tell my story to Pharaoh. I have been unjustly condemned to a life of imprisonment. Even though I was captured from my homeland and brought here as a slave, I have not been bitter or disobedient. I have served both Potiphar and the jailer with a good nature. And, yet, I am in prison for something of which I am innocent.”
The cupbearer nodded expressively, “I will never forget you, Joseph. I will tell of your honesty, integrity and that you are faithful in both big and small things.”
The baker was standing now, excited about the meaning of his dream. It was so similar to the cupbearers; surely his freedom must be approaching as well. “What about my dream?” he asked. “Listen to mine!”
Joseph turned to the baker and smiled, “Of course! Tell it, and perhaps God will again grace me with understanding.”
“It’s so much like his dream,” the baker said gesturing at the cupbearer, “it must mean the same thing! Ok, here it is: There were three baskets of delicious pastries stacked on my head, the top one was for Pharaoh. As I walked toward the palace, birds dive-bombed me and ate the bread before I could stop them!”
The colour faded from Joseph’s face. He stumbled to the wall and collapsed against it, sliding down it’s cold surface until he sat on the ground.
The cupbearer and baker rushed to his side. They knelt in front him. “Are you alright?” they asked.
Recovering his composure, Joseph looked with anguish at the baker. “It’s not good,” he said. “Not good at all. The three baskets are three days. But that’s where the similarity ends.” Joseph went silent.
“And?” the baker asked. “Will I get out of this jail?”
“Yes,” Joseph said and then in a whisper he added, “Pharaoh will have you impaled on a pole and birds will swoop at you and rip your flesh from your body!”
And it was so. Three days later, on Pharaoh’s birthday, he called for the two men, impaling one and empowering the other.

***

Two long years later the cupbearer remembered Joseph when the Pharaoh needed an interpreter of dreams. Joseph was summoned and listened to the King’s dreams.
“My God has made the meaning of your dreams clear to me,” Joseph said. “Seven years of prosperity approach. Seven years of desperate times—famine in Egypt and beyond—will follow. My advice, great King, is that you employ a wise manager to prepare for the seven lean years by making the most of the seven years of plenty. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land!”
Pharaoh studied the faces of the wise men and officials around his throne room, all of whom had been unable to interpret his dream, “Who is as wise as this man, Joseph?” Pharaoh asked. Then he turned to Joseph, “Through you, the unseen God has revealed our future. For years, you have served faithfully where no one sees. Now, I place all of Egypt in your worthy hands.”

My Reflection

Imagine you were Joseph in prison after the baker and cupbearer were released. The cupbearer promised to tell your story to the most important man in the country! How long would it be before you stopped expecting to be released? How would you have felt?

Imagine the day that the message came: “Pharaoh needs you to interpret a dream for him.” What would you be feeling?

My Story

Have you ever been wrongly accused of something? What happened? How long did it take before your story was heard? How did it end?

Is it easy to do the right thing when you are living in an unjust situation? How do you keep from getting bitter and spiteful? What did Joseph do to keep his attention away from dwelling on the unjust things he couldn’t control?

My Assurance

God has given us all that we need to live. From necessities as basic as air to privileges such as wealth and wisdom. What blessings and promises do these verses reveal?

Genesis 1:26 ~ Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

1 Chronicles 29:14 ~ But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

Malachi 3:10 ~ Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

My Commitment

In all of life, God expects His blessings to result in a response from us. What commitments do the following verses call from us?

Genesis 2:15 ~ The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.

Matthew 23:23 ~ What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

2 Corinthians 8:7 ~ Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

My Outlook

The interaction between God and His people causes them to see everything with God-tinted lenses. How do these verses help you see your place in this world differently?

Romans 15:26-27 ~ For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially.

Malachi 3:8 ~ “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”


My Response

The following statement is the 21st of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Stewardship

We are God’s stewards, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use. We acknowledge God’s ownership by faithful service to Him and our fellow men, and by returning tithes and giving offerings for the proclamation of His gospel and the support and growth of His church. Stewardship is a privilege given to us by God for nurture in love and the victory over selfishness and covetousness. The steward rejoices in the blessings that come to others as a result of his faithfulness.

Bible Story

The story of Joseph is one of the longest narratives recorded in the Bible. It can be found in Genesis chapters 37, 39-50.

Further Reading

Genesis 1:26-28, Haggai 1:3-11, 1 Corinthians 9:9-14, 2 Corinthians 8