Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

God's Plan through Prison

We all go through things in life.  We all face difficulties.  Things are not always easy:  There’s persecution, hardships, things happen that are undeserved.  So, where’s God’s purpose in our lives?  Shouldn’t it be easy?  After all, we believe God.  We have faith, so why do bad things happen to us?  We’re good people, right?

God does have a plan for our lives.  So, if God has a plan then why are bad things happening?  In this post, I want to examine that, from this portion of scripture:

Genesis 39:19-20 (NKJV)
39:19 So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, "Your servant did to me after this manner," that his anger was aroused. 20 Then Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.

God’s Plan for Joseph

We know the story of Joseph.  He spent time as a slave.  He spent time in prison.  After that he became the Prime minister of Egypt.  God had a plan for Joseph.  God spoke to him and showed him his destiny.

Genesis 37:5-7 (NKJV)
37:5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."

God is speaking to Joseph, here.  God is revealing something to him.  God is showing him there is a plan and a destiny for his life.  Eventually, it did happen.  He rose to a position of preeminence.  His brothers did bow to him.  It did come out according to God’s plan, but it wasn’t an easy road to destiny. 

Often there are what look like pitfalls on the road to God’s plan.  Sometimes it even looks as if the opposite of God’s plan is happening.  We can’t see how God’s plan could possibly work out.  Have you ever felt that?  You look at your circumstances and you can’t see any possibility.  We need to remember that it’s God’s plan; that God is in charge.

I’ll tell you a story.  In Riverside, we had a neighbor who was a good Christian.  In fact, she was a Christian counselor.  She helped people through their problems, using Biblical tools to bring counsel.  On the day that Barak Obama was elected president of the United States, she told me she couldn’t go to work.  She was too upset; she couldn’t see any possibility for America.  I had to ask her the question, “Is God still on the throne?”

We’re like that lady – We know that God has a plan.  We know that God is in charge of the universe, but in our limited vision, we can’t see how God’s plan could possibly happen.  So what happens?  We get depressed.  We even get angry at God, sometimes we even leave God.

Joseph had a clear vision of God’s plan for his life.  In fact, God showed him more than once.  He had two dreams:  God was going to elevate Joseph above the others in his family.  Joseph was destined to be a leader.

I wonder if God has spoken to you.  Has God begun to reveal his plan for your life?  Are you seeing God’s purposes for your life?  Can you look at your life right now, and see how God’s plan can happen for you, or are you bogged down by your circumstances.

I want you to know that Joseph went through a number of things before he saw God’s promise.  It must have looked impossible for him.  He may have thought that God’s plans might not happen.  In all that, though Joseph had faith – He believed God.

We’re all going to face adversity in life, even though we have God’s promise of destiny.  Look at what Job said to his wife:

Job 2:9-10 (NKJV)
2:9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job and his wife had just lost all of their children, all of their flocks, all of their wealth and Job’s health.  Job knows that adversity also comes in God’s plan.

The Unfolding of God’s Plan

God has spoken to Joseph and laid out the end result of His plan for Joseph’s life, but He didn’t tell Joseph what to expect.  Joseph shares the plan with his brothers.  His brothers are upset – They’re jealous because God has told Joseph that he would be above them.  So, look at what they did:

Genesis 37:25-28 (NKJV)
37:25 And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. 26 So Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." And his brothers listened. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

The brothers wanted to kill him.  They plotted against him.  They made a decision to sell him into slavery, but wait a minute, where is God’s plan in this?  This isn’t a blessing, is it?  He’s going to be a slave – This isn’t what God had told him his destiny was.  Is the plan of God derailed in his life? 

God has a plan for us, too, but sometimes it doesn’t seem as if it’s working out.  In fact, it seems as if the exact opposite is happening.  “God has a good plan for me, doesn’t he?  So where’s the blessing?  How come I’m being sold into slavery?  Is this really God’s plan for me?” 

God told Joseph everyone would bow down to him, but right now it doesn’t look as if the brothers are going to be doing that.  It seems like they have the upper hand.

The devil does that to us, too.  Sometimes it seems like the devil is winning.  Sometimes it seems as if the devil has the upper hand – and sometimes it seems like it gets even worse. 

Joseph is serving in Potiphar’s house.  Potiphar’s wife decides that she wants him.  Joseph is serving God, though.  He refuses her and the woman lies.  Potiphar has him put in jail thinking that he raped his wife – and Joseph languishes in prison.  Can you imagine what Joseph is thinking?  How distant the destiny of the dreams must seem to him.  He’s separated from family.  He’s in another country in prison.

Think about this.  How often are prisoners elevated in society?  They’re usually considered to be cast-offs from society.  They hardly ever have people bowing down to them.  They’re hardly ever thought of as leaders of society.

In all of this God’s plan is still working, though.  While he’s a slave the Bible says:

Genesis 39:2 (NKJV)
39:2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
 Genesis 39:23 (NKJV)
39:23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

I wonder if the Joseph felt like the Lord was with him, or did he feel more like Job’s wife.

There were some things that happened in prison that seem unrelated.  He meets a butler and a baker that are also in prison.  They’ve somehow made Pharaoh angry, so he’s sent them to prison.  While in prison, each of them had a dream.  Look at what Joseph says to them:

Genesis 40:7-8 (NKJV)
40:7 So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, "Why do you look so sad today?" 8 And they said to him, "We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." So Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please."

We get a little insight into Joseph’s thinking here, “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell them to me.”  Joseph is still having faith.  Even in the middle of all of these things, he still believes God.  He’s still praying.  He’s still got a relationship with God.

A lot of times when things go wrong our relationship with God suffers for it.  We feel distant from God.  We back off in our prayer life.  We allow distance to come between us and God; am I right?  It’s almost like we allow ourselves to think that God betrayed us.

This often the way it is with people who profess not to believe in God.  Often, they’re just angry at God for something that’s happened in their lives.  It’s not so much a disbelief in god as it is a feeling of betrayal, followed by a hatred of God; bitterness.

I don’t get that from Joseph, though.  He correctly interprets their dreams and asks the butler to remember him to Pharaoh.  The butler for his part promptly forgets about Joseph and he spends two more years in prison…until Pharaoh has a dream.

Pharaoh is disturbed by the dream and finally, the butler remembers how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream.  He tells Pharaoh and Pharaoh has Joseph brought to him.  Joseph then correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dream.

Destiny is Realized

This is where Joseph begins to see the plan unfolding.  Pharaoh’s dream had to do with prosperity and drought.  There would be seven years of prosperity and then seven years of drought.  Joseph gave a plan to Pharaoh to use the seven prosperous years to provide for the seven drought years, so Pharaoh lifts Joseph up from prison and makes him Prime Minister over all of Egypt.  They destiny of God is playing out in his life.  Now look at this:

Genesis 50:18 (NKJV)
50:18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants."

His brothers have bowed down before him.  God’s entire plan has played out in his life.  What you should see here, though is that all of the things that took place in Joseph’s life had to take place, for God’s plan to work.

At Potiphar’s house Joseph learned how to manage the house.  He had to be a slave there or he wouldn’t have gone to prison.  In prison he interpreted the dreams – the thing that was needed by Pharaoh.  That had to happen for him to be recommended to Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  God put all of those things into place.  Joseph tells us something that we need to know:

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)
50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

All along it was the plan of God.  It was meant by the brothers for evil, but God had a plan for good. I know that some people are going through things.  I know that some people can’t understand why things are happening the way they are.  I know that some f you can’t see the promise of God in your circumstances, but there is a plan and what you’re going through now might be necessary to make God’s plan play out in your life.  Don’t lose hope – Don’t break faith.

You don’t always know what God is doing.  You can’t always see His strategy, but God knows what He’s doing.  He has a destiny and a plan for you.