I haven’t done one of these in a while. I like to update you on what I’m reading and of course recommend it. Right now I’m reading Immerse Beginnings which is a unique Bible reading experience where the book and verse numbers as well as subheadings are omitted. You may be thinking, “Is that so different?” And yes, it is. It makes the Bible read much more like a novel (which you know I like) and the experience makes it much easier to see the bigger picture in the text. Our church read Messiah, which is the whole New Testament, in the spring, and I’ve joined a few brave souls in my circle on Wednesday nights to tackle the first five books of the Bible.
Genesis is a book I’ve read a number of times because of failed attempts to read the Bible from cover to cover in a year. (something I’ve tried many times and only succeeded at once. What up 2016?). It’s chock full of great stories often covered in Sunday school. Last week was the story of Joseph. Whenever I read the story, I can never remember what’s actually from the Bible and what comes from my Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat obsession of 1999 or my subsequent love for the Dreamworks movie Joseph: King of Dreams. And here’s the thing: the musical and movie didn’t change all that much. I don’t think it’s because Andrew Lloyd Webber or the animators at Dreamworks were particularly devout. I think it’s because even without the Immerse format, this story reads like a movie script. You have all the wonderful elements of a great movie. Lots of interesting characters. Weird dreams. A sometimes cocky-sounding, but amazing protagonist, redemption, and a faithful God who’s actually the star of the show.
I still can’t read it without singing some of my favorite songs. In the very beginning when Leah and Rachel are having a competition to see who can birth the most boys. (Side note: sisters shouldn’t be married to the same man. Brings new meaning to the term "sibling rivalry".) Anyway, as they're birthing all these boys I’m singing, “Jacob. Jacob and Sons.” Remember, that song ends with, “Joseph’s Jacob’s favorite son.” And boy was he. Of course I don’t condone tossing your brother in a pit, but with his braggy dreams, the thought might have crossed my mind. (Second side note: why so many pits in the old testament?) Reuben was the only one who thought it was a bad idea and planned to pull him out of the pit when no one was around. Maybe that’s why he got a sandwich named after him. The next time you order one and it’s not called an Izzachar or a Dan, you know why. Unfortunately the brothers had itchy palms and sold him into slavery instead of their original “pit” idea, great as it was.
And this is where Joseph starts to get awesome. Before, he was a pampered, well dressed kid with vivid dreams. He gets sold to Potiphar and keeps getting promoted until he runs his whole household. I don't know about you, but if my brothers sold me, I can’t imagine being a good slave. I would be too bitter to serve my master. But not Joseph. He rocks as a servant.
Then he gets wrongly accused and sent to prison and there he becomes a superstar by interpreting dreams. In fact, for Joseph every setback was an opportunity for growth. He thrived when he experienced adversity. Every single time.
It made me think about my own life. I’ve hardly ever thrive in adversity. In fact, I tend to isolate myself. I feel sorry for myself and blame other factors and much much later, I sometimes grow from it. I started to think about the reasons I’m not like Joseph and here’s what I came up with: I don’t have a fancy, colorful coat. Just kidding. See how I blamed other factors?
Apart from being featured in the Bible, Joseph is different from me because he has a knack for trusting the goodness of God in the middle of a trial. I (and I think many of us) don’t do that very well. We isolate, blame, and throw a pity party before ever learning something from what’s happening. Joseph had faith. When he was sold, he had faith. When he was thrown in prison, he had faith. When he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and gave credit to his God, he had faith. When he made a plan to keep all of Egypt alive during a great famine, he had faith. When his brothers returned, he had faith. I’d have revenge, but he had faith. Sure he made them prove themselves, but his faith is what made this an amazing story. And his willingness to give God credit is why God ends up being the secret hero of the story.
If you’re still with me, let me tell you what I learned in all this:
Keep reading the Bible. Although I’ve read this story before and watched it in movies and musicals, God reveals new things to me each time.
God reveals His plans to us. Maybe it’s not in the form of a vivid dream, but if we listen, he absolutely guides us. Check out my post called Scared to Move for more on that.
Don’t sell your siblings. That one probably doesn’t come up as much, but still. Also, I wanted to see if you’re still reading.
Make the best of all situations. None of Joseph’s success could have happened if he didn’t choose to continue to work hard every time things were hard.
Trust that God is good even during adversity. He is. You can look all the way back to the beginning of time for countless stories of how good He is in adversity. Or you can think through times in your own lifetime that He’s proven it. Let’s not get amnesia about the character of God every time things aren’t easy.
This one is the most important. God is the hero in every story. He is. We lose perspective when we forget this. We begin to think another person is or that we are. God is every time. Once we get this, it becomes really easy to use every opportunity to praise Him and make His name famous.
If you haven’t read this story in awhile, pick it up. It’s a great one. You may find yourself humming a great Andrew Lloyd Webber tune as a result, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, if you’re not familiar with the Immerse Bibles, you should check them out. They've improved my understanding of scripture so much and I want that for you too.