Well here we are again December. Sometimes the days and months seem to fly right by, and sometimes they seem to move so slowly. The fact is the length of a minute, day or week doesn’t change; it is all about our perceptions and expectations. Do you remember when you were younger--or maybe not so much younger--waiting for Christmas? You had asked for something you really wanted, and you could hardly wait until Christmas morning to see if Santa / a parent / a sibling… had listened to your request.
The Israelites had been waiting for not weeks or months, but years, centuries even, for the Messiah who had been promised to them. As a matter of fact, God gave them a hint in Isaiah 7:14, and it was still about 700 years before the promise was fulfilled. As I said in my last post, waiting can make you doubt. Some of the Israelites may have even forgotten what they were waiting for. But a man named Simeon didn’t. (Luke 2:25-32) He was very devout, and he was waiting patiently for the Lord to reveal His gift, the Messiah. He had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. (Luke 2:26) Just as an aside: isn’t it a good thing that Simeon recognized when the Holy Spirit was speaking and then listened to Him? That is what brought Simeon to the temple the day that Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old Simeon was, but it does tell us that now that he had seen the Messiah, his life purpose had been fulfilled. He was ready to depart from this world. (Luke 2:29)
The people of Israel had been waiting an incomprehensibly long time for their Messiah to be revealed, and many of them, like Simeon, remained faithful to the task. The very same Messiah is here knocking at our door, and all we have to do is open it and let Him in--no waiting required. (Revelation 3:20) It can be Christmas morning for us at any time. All we have to do is accept the gift.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. For that matter, it might be more accurate to say that usually things don’t go according to plan. Our plans anyway. That was certainly the case for Joseph, whose story is told in Genesis 37-50. Let me give you the condensed version in case you are not familiar with the story.
Joseph was his father Jacob’s favourite son which made his brothers jealous. When he was a teenager Joseph had a dream that was interpreted to mean that one day his brothers would bow down to him. This didn’t endear him to his brothers who conspired to kill him. One brother opposed the killing, but was willing to leave him stranded in a well, with the intention of coming back to rescue him later. In the meantime the other brothers came up with a different plan—to sell him as a slave. Joseph was taken to Egypt where he worked for Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Potiphar’s wife took a liking to Joseph and made a pass at him. When Joseph refused her, she accused him of trying to rape her. Joseph was thrown into prison where some time later he interpreted the dreams of two other prisoners. Eventually one of them remembered him to Pharaoh, when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream led to Joseph being put in charge of storing food for the famine that was to come, which saved the lives of many people including Joseph’s brothers who in desperation came to Egypt in search of food. Joseph chose to forgive his brothers, but when their father died the brothers feared that Joseph would seek revenge. Joseph’s answer to them is Genesis 50:20: What you meant for evil, God meant for good.
God’s plans are not thwarted by the deeds of humans. Because our perspective is so limited, it is difficult for us to really understand how things can possibly work out for good when we are in the midst of terrible situations. I’m sure there must have been times when Joseph wondered why all these horrible things were happening to him, but he trusted God. That is significant in itself since Joseph didn’t have the benefit of written scripture to encourage him. Yet he must have had a good relationship with God, because scripture now tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, and Joseph continued to do the right things despite being physically harmed, sold into slavery and falsely accused and imprisoned.
Thankfully we get to see the end of Joseph’s story, and see that things worked out for the best. Joseph saved not only his own family members, but also many Egyptians and whatever foreigners came to Egypt in search of food. And because the Israelites were saved in Egypt, they went on to become a great nation. Through the Israelites, Jesus came into the world, and brought salvation for all. So Joseph saved more lives than he could have at that time imagined. Joseph surely knew the promise that God had made to Abraham (Genesis 15:13-16), and he trusted God to fulfill it.
You may be in a struggle right now that you can’t see the end of. You don’t know what will come of it, but God does. He already knows what the ending will be. I hope that you are able to look back at previous struggles and see how they worked out, and maybe that will give you some encouragement to keep going, and to keep doing what is right in God’s eyes. God has a good plan for your life. (Jeremiah 29:11) Trust Him to fulfill it.