You may have seen the pictures showing monuments from two different perspectives. One shot was taken from ground level, or you could say eye level, the other view from above, maybe taken while riding in a hot air balloon, helicopter, or a plane. The contrast was amazing. It is quite revealing how perspective changes our view; perspective alters the way we see, think, understand, and approach life and others. Just as a paradigm shift reveals an alternate understanding of the same circumstances, so a change in perspective may allow us to choose different ways to see life, circumstances, and offer insights which change everything.
“Now Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was who sold to all the people of the land; and Joseph’s [half] brothers came and bowed themselves down before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph knew his brethren, but they did not know him.” Genesis 42:6,8 Amplified Version
He sits in his position of responsibility conducting the business of the nation, a business which began several years ago with some dreams. Who would have guessed a slave turned jailbird could become the second most powerful man in Egypt? Certainly not the man who occupied that very position! How could he or any one of his brothers who sold him into slavery have imagined he, Joseph, would become the trusted slave-manager for Potiphar the Pharaoh’s Chief of the Palace Guard? How could anyone have known Joseph would serve with distinction for 10 years? Until falsely accused of sexual misconduct by his masters wife, when Potiphar has the most loyal, trusted, honest manager/slave he has ever experienced thrown into prison. Then Joseph slid down the slope of circumstances beyond anyones control, hitting rock bottom once more!
A reminder: if Potiphar had really believed Joseph had violated Potiphar’s wife, Joseph would have died on the spot. Instead Potiphar put Joseph in with the political prisoners, not in the commoners jail. Just something to remember as God takes us through each day, and something I need to remember as God takes me through each day!
And how does Joseph respond? He becomes completely indispensable to the Head Jailer! Joseph is at it again! He’s doing the right thing, doing what he can to make a positive difference. I think Joseph was or had become a cup-is half-full kind of person. That is quite a bit to take in for those of us who are the cup-is-half-empty kind of persons. So as Joseph goes about his responsibilities, he meets the Pharaoh’s Cup Bearer and Baker; both are troubled by dreams. Joseph offers to help the men, pointing out it is God who gives the meaning, the understanding for dreams. For the Cup Bearer it is good news, he will be returned to work in 3 days, but the Baker is to be hanged in 3 days. Imagine you are Joseph giving this message: “In three days Pharaoh will order you hanged until you are dead.” Who wants to sign up for that duty?
When I served as a Sheriff’s Chaplain, one of the duties was to give death notifications. Every time my pager went off I knew there was another death, another family to comfort, once more to stand with those left behind, knowing I could not turn back the clock, I couldn’t make it all better. I believe Joseph may have had very similar feelings in giving the news to Pharaoh’s Baker.
Joseph could have told the Baker anything, he could have made it easier, told one of those harmless little white lies! Only lies, no matter what color, are never harmless. Lies of any kind are destructive, and if not today they will be one day. Joseph chose the course of integrity, especially as it was not the easy way, it was the reflection of God’s way. And from the moment Joseph found himself a slave, he chose surrender to God and honoring God as his life boundaries. Those choices were to serve him well, as he served God well, served Potiphar and the jailer well, and soon served Pharaoh and all of Egypt well, and the world beyond.
The day came when the Pharaoh needed Joseph, he just didn’t know it yet! Pharaoh’s wise men, his wizards and wonder workers all struck out. They didn’t have clue what was going on with the Pharaoh’s dream life. Here the Cup Bearer remembers a promise he had forgotten promptly after he was released from jail. He promised to tell Pharaoh about Joseph the Dream Man. Pharaoh sends for Joseph; Joseph tells Pharaoh it is God who will decipher the dreams. God does just that through Joseph, warning a severe famine will come lasting 7 years. This warning is to allow Pharaoh time to prepare. Pharaoh chooses Joseph as official in charge of saving Egypt from the famine, and makes Joseph the second most powerful man in Egypt. As an Egyptian official, he receives a new name, a wife, and all the perks that come with being the second most powerful man in the known world.
This is the man Jacob’s sons are now on their knees before. This Egyptian holds their lives in his hands; he can do anything he wants with them. As they are bowed low before Joseph, I wonder if there is any thought of revenge, even just a fleeting moment. Is Joseph able to recall the emotions of that far off nightmare when life was forever changed for the spoiled son of a wealthy nomad? Are the feelings of despair, fear, shame, anger, confusion, down right disbelief fighting for control, seeking to strike the first blow for justice? Is that why God had sent Joseph to Egypt, sent him to Potiphar, then to jail, ultimately sending Joseph to Pharaoh. From there Pharaoh set Joseph on the throne of power, with only Pharaoh holding higher rank than him? Joseph has his brothers right where he wants them, “Sell me down the river, pawn me off on the Ishmaelite cousins! Do you have any idea what I’ve been through the last 20 years?” Joseph’s learning curve hasn’t been in vain as we watch him deal with his brothers.
“And Joseph remembered the dreams he had dreamed about them and said to them, ’You are spies and with unfriendly purpose you have come to observe [secretly] the nakedness of the land.” Genesis 42:9 Amplified Version
From where Joseph sits, it is difficult to know who these men have become. He sits above them as a foreign, very powerful, ruler dealing day in and out with those seeking help. Joseph decides to have them locked up to cool their heels for a few days. Perhaps he can gain some perspective on the situation. After three days the brothers are released with the understanding that one must remain as hostage until the others all return, including the youngest. Joseph, on his throne, views his brothers through different lenses, through years of experiences unknown to these, his brothers.
Joseph has been maturing in the capital city of Egypt, exposed to new sights, sounds, people, customs, ways and means of doing business, opportunities to learn about an ever expanding world. Joseph’s perspective, his view from the top, his view through the lens God placed before him, allowed him to see God’s fingerprints all over everything happening, over everything that had happened. Knowing God’s fingerprints would be all over everything that will happen gave Joseph a perspective I still marvel at today.
I believe one of the major goals of God’s Grace is changing our perspectives, allowing us deeper insights into what He is accomplishing in us daily. A life lived in Jesus is about transformation, letting go of the past. It requires a change in perspective in the way we view our past. A life lived in Jesus is about being recreated, requiring a change in perspective in the way I view the future.
A life lived in Jesus is about receiving a new heart and a new mind, learning to live in the moment, in the here and now. It is being present now, remembering God has everything under His control, especially when it doesn’t feel like He does.
We all have those times when no matter what the perspective, up, down, top, bottom, inside out, or outside in, nothing makes any sense. I’m with you, my last five years in many ways feel just like that. “God, what was all this about? Just exactly what was accomplished? Did it really have to play out this way? Are you sure it had to be done this way?” I could go on and on, and so could you. Everyone has been through nightmares of some form in the last 5 years, why should I complain? That’s a good question, and if I ever find a good answer I’ll let you know!
There is really only one perspective I desire to have, God’s holy perspective—the one God views everything through every day. It’s not mine yet, so I will continue to trust Him as He exercises it for me, over me, through me, and continues reminding me it is His perspective that matters most. That’s the view from the top I long to see. Someday, maybe sooner than we know. This I do know, it is one day closer today than it was yesterday.
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