As a kid growing up, I heard lots of stories from my family, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and parents. Some of the stories were sad, but most of them were funny. I had to learn to distinguish between stories that were real and those told for amusement, to tease. There were family stories that told of mischievous goings-on, things that got the perpetrator in trouble at the time, but were the source of hilarity years later.
One of my favorites was the story of my mom and her oldest brother locking their youngest brother out of the house after grandma had gone to do some errands. The young rascal was full of vinegar and mischief, and the older siblings had put up with more than enough! They locked the little rascal out and were quite happily ignoring his demands to be let inside until they heard what sounded like a sprinkler – where a sprinkler should not be! Mom and brother #1 moved to the kitchen where they were treated to the sight of brother-rascal cackling with glee as he sprayed water from the hose, through the screen door, into the kitchen. I will leave the rest to your imagination, but note that grandma came home to a freshly cleaned and sparkly kitchen floor, and such angelic children.
In the culture of Joseph’s time, story was important to share knowledge, history and a sense of family, as well as tales of sibling funny business. From the time of their birth, Jacob’s sons had heard the family stories. Joseph and his brothers knew the story of Abram following God’s call to a new land, his name change to Abraham and God’s promise of a son and offspring as many as the sands and stars. They knew of Abraham and Isaac’s journey to the mount where Isaac was to have been sacrificed, and of the ram provided instead. The stories of Isaac and Rebekah meeting at the well, their love story, and of the twin boys born, Uncle Esau and their father, Jacob, were well known to them. Jacob had likely told his sons of his own deceit and trickery of Esau, of fleeing for his life, of the stone for his pillow and his dream of the ladder to heaven.
“Jacob left Beer-sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. Suddenly the Lord was standing on it and saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.’ ”
“When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, ‘The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it.’ He was terrified and thought, ‘This sacred place is fearsome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven.’ ” Genesis 28:10-17
These stories were implanted in Joseph’s memory, in his soul and being. They were stories of his family, his great-grandfather, his grandfather, his father. The stories were personal and real! They related directly to who Joseph was and how he would live, the choices he would make all through his life.
Joseph’s life was definitely impacted by his brothers rage and betrayal, his life as a slave, growing into the stature of manhood as a slave, gaining respect, and managing all for his master. Then Joseph had been slammed into the muck of treacherous accusation. He was imprisoned and lost everything, again. Again! Joseph was pummeled with depression and despair. His hurt and fear were real as his God given emotions. But Joseph knew the stories. Joseph knew the stories of his family, and the promises God had made. Joseph knew the stories and trusted God to keep him.
Yes, depression stalks, despair does its best to cling, but we know the stories. We know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most importantly, I know the stories God and I have lived through. God has kept me, kept us through our stories, and covered us with Grace in the process. God will continue to keep us, and He will continue to keep you in your stories. He will keep you covered with Grace in your process.
And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
But Jehovah was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand, because Jehovah was with him; and that which he did, Jehovah made it prosper.
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