Tag Archives: Joseph

Veil of Tears 103: Incarcerated

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So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” Genesis 39:20 NLT

Today is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July). Whenever I read about people like Joseph who were imprisoned on false charges or unfair accusations or lies, or even those who have committed small crimes but been given horrendous sentences, I think of those 27 years of imprisonment that Mr Mandela underwent. He must have, like Joseph, and like Jeremiah in his cistern, have wondered if he would die there, the hope of release must have seemed forlorn and unlikely.

Others of us are imprisoned in different ways of course, in abusive relationships, tough marriages or in bodies that make us feel less than human. Many of my friends with severe M.E. are living in a world of one room, weak as they are, unable to feed or wash themselves, let alone get outside. I see my wheelchair as an enabling thing, but then, I am not confined to it all day like so many people, who perhaps feel imprisoned.

Still others of course, feel imprisoned by debt, by circumstances, by their pasts, or even by guilt and regret. There are so many things that can make us feel that desire for liberation from the chains that hold us back. And many of my fellow Christians will proclaim that by Jesus’ blood we are free, we are saved from all these bondages. And that is undoubtedly true in a whole heap of ways. But knowing that is not always tantamount to securing the tangible reality of it. And some of us are kept in our small or difficult circumstances, indeed in our real prisons or penitentiaries, for a very long time, long after we have come to faith. This is not because the power of God is not working in our lives, but because it is working unseen. Invisible miracles happen in prisons of various kinds every minute of every day.

Rays of sunshine can penetrate the heart wherever we are. Hope can live in the most arid and desperate conditions, and faith can flourish in small and impoverished circumstances. There is fruit still there to be borne. How many times do we hear of prisoners finding Jesus whilst behind bars? And how can we deny that miracles happened in that small cell on Robyn Island, where a peaceful, gentle and wise humility was created from a passionate rebel heart? If we give our yes to love, to God, then powerful transformations can occur in these cells of isolation. The desert fathers and mothers understood this well, self-imposing constrictions, as monks and nuns continue to do today.

Indeed, as citizens of heaven we might well say that our very bodies and our present circumstances are our cells, fidelity to which, as Abba Moses counselled, was the way to spiritual knowledge. “Go, sit in your cell,” he would say, “And your cell will teach you everything.”

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

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58: Hormonal

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and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.” Genesis 39:7 NLT

 

Human beings have so many struggles, don’t we, even with our own bodies, our own minds, the very things that you would think we would be able to control and understand. But even the parts that make up our whole are often temperamental and beyond our regulation. We go so far as to ascribe independent control to the bits of ourselves that don’t behave. “Oh, it’s got a mind of its own,” we say of gammy legs, of gorging stomachs, of wayward eyes, or of other parts that seem to override our best intentions. The Bible is full of men who couldn’t seem to control their passions, sexual or otherwise, and a great deal of harm was done because of it. Our hormones, it would seem, are the hardest parts of ourselves to keep in order after our tongues.

There are precious few incidences where women are overcome by their lustful urges in the Bible. Which makes it all the more strange that we are so often accused of being slaves to our hormones. It seems men have a lot more trouble keeping their testosterone under control. But here is one such rarity, Potiphar’s wife, who longs to sleep with Joseph, who in turn refuses the advances of his master’s wife, and ends up slandered and imprisoned for his integrity.

We are all tidal creatures up to a point, and we all get overtaken by our urges from time to time if we are honest, even it if is an uncontrollable urge to binge on chocolate or to snap at our loved ones. And some of this we can put down to hormones, and excuse one another our weaknesses, which after all, are common to humanity. But perhaps sexual urges are more important to control, as infidelities wreck and even cost lives. Demanding that others satisfy those urges, as Mrs Potiphar does here, is a complete negation of Joseph’s humanity. She clearly viewed him as a slave and nothing more, despite his being master of the household. We must excuse one another our minor and occasional lapses, but also become friends with the self-discipline that will save us and others from being used and abused.

I often hear people say of those who left spouses or wrecked homes, “Oh well, you can’t help who you fall in love with!” I disagree, in fact, because one can control where one is focussed. As we see in today’s verse, lust begins (as we saw with David and Bathsheba) with looking. If we train ourselves not to look, or rather, not to look with lustful hearts, then we won’t succumb to temptation. Lust and love are very different of course, but where faithfulness is concerned the remedy is the same, self-control, and keeping our attention where it should be. If we feel ourselves in danger, we must take steps to avoid the person concerned, and not allow ourselves to be ruled solely by fleshly passions which will often tear lives and hearts apart and marriages asunder. Eyes and hearts kept on God and his ways will keep us from grievously wounding him or others.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

13: In the Pit

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“So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.” Genesis 37:23-24 NIV

Joseph was used to being the favourite, with his father Jacob especially. The seed of favouritism had been planted with Rachel his mother, who had been Jacob’s favourite wife. His half brothers hated him and plotted against him, partly out of envy, partly because the young Joseph hadn’t mastered the art of tact. He knew he was special, and he didn’t see much point in hiding it. He had the gift of prophecy through dreams and shared his future greatness with all and sundry.

What a shock it must have been to this confident, cheerful and naïve seventeen year-old boy, to be thrown into the pit by his nearest and dearest! To be suddenly left alone in the cold pit with no way out, ridiculed and relieved of the mantle of his father’s love. This was only the beginning of his suffering, and the suffering of his brothers by their guilt, and the pain and heartbreak for Jacob, who mourned him greatly, fooled into thinking him dead (Rachel had already died by this time).

For those of us who are blessed to grow up with loving parents, secure in all we say and do, looking forward to the future we’ve been led to believe will be marvellous, there is a deep sting in being suddenly left very much alone and helpless. When every prop and favour is taken away from us, when we find ourselves flung into a pit by the very people we were sure loved us, what is left to sustain us?

This is a journey I see a lot in those whose hearts are for God. The Church is good at nurturing the first seeds of faith, great at proclaiming things over us, repeating the prophecy from Jeremiah for the whole of Israel over us as individuals: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and generally making us hope to be history makers and world changers, with lives full of health, blessing and prosperity, because all the bad stuff has been paid for on the cross, right? So we don’t have to suffer any more! But without negating the power of the cross, this is a childish message on its own.

We are not so good at preparing Christ’s young disciples for the prospect of hurting, brokenness or plans going awry. We don’t explain that sometimes life is crushing, and so many times I see Christians who are bewildered, angry and even side-lined because their lives have become hard. The mantle got taken away and no-one climbed into the pit with them, and no-one preached to them on Romans 8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

We can feel, at such times, that we have been left to rot. And yet, it is right at these times, when he is all we have left, that we have the choice before us of whether to trust God or not. It may take a while, years maybe, before help finally comes. We may, like Joseph, then find we’ve been sold to slavers, seemingly out of the frying pan and into the fire, the first part in a twisting tale of epic proportions. Or we may, like Jeremiah, find an Ebed-Melech, servant of the King, willing to come and gently lift us out of our cistern. Either way, God’s purposes and plans will win out in the end. But there may be a hard road yet to tread.

If we have been there, perhaps we should train ourselves and our brothers and sisters to be on the lookout for any dark dungeons, and to peer into the murk as we pass them, calling out, and remembering to carry sturdy rope with us at all times.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com