(From the archives)
It’s Memorial Day weekend, the time we take to honor those who died while serving our country. In today’s post we’ll look at the life of Joseph and what he had in common with one U.S. war vet who died much later than you could imagine.
Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker each have dreams on the same night. Joseph, their fellow prisoner, sees they’re dejected because they recognize the dreams as having meaning, but they can’t figure out the interpretation. So Joseph asks them the rhetorical question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”
So the cupbearer decides to share his dream with Joseph.
The cupbearer, says, In my dream I see this vine in front of me, and it has three branches. As soon as the vine buds, it blossoms, and it’s clusters ripen into grapes. In my dream, Pharaoh’s cup is in my hand so I take the grapes, squeeze the juice out of them into Pharaoh’s cup, and put the cup in his hand.
Joseph says, This is the interpretation, The three branches are three days. Inside of three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and call you back up to your former position. You’ll put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand just like you used to. Now listen, when you’re back in Pharaoh’s good graces, remember me and do me a favor: mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was taken by force from the land of the Hebrews, and I’ve never done anything to deserve a life sentence in a dungeon.
When the baker sees that the cupbearer received a favorable interpretation he decides to share his dream as well.
I also had a dream, the baker says. In my dream I have three baskets of bread on top of my head. Inside the top basket there are all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the only thing is, birds are eating them out of the basket on my head.
Joseph says, This is what it means, The three baskets equal three days. In three days Pharaoh will have your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat your flesh.
Cut to three days later and it’s Pharaoh’s birthday. He gives a feast for all his officials. Pharaoh lifts up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, in front of all his administration. He restores the chief cupbearer to his old position, so he’s serving Pharaoh his cup once again. But he has the chief baker impaled. Everything happened just as God, through Joseph, had interpreted.
But the chief cupbearer forgot about Joseph and his request.
Joseph and Jesus:
The picture of Jesus painted in Joseph’s life continues in this part of Joseph’s story as we see parallels between them:
1) Both were sentenced based on false accusations: Joseph accused of raping Potiphar’s wife, and Jesus of inciting rebellion against the established government. (Luke 23:1-4)
2) Both were numbered with two transgressors: Joseph with the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and Jesus with the two thieves on either side of Him as He hung on the cross. (Mark 15:27-28)
The baker of bread and the cupbearer of wine also speak of Jesus’ command for us to take communion. And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)
3) And both endured feeling forgotten: Joseph thought he was forgotten by the cupbearer, but he wasn’t, as we’ll see later. And Jesus, felt forsaken when He was separated from His Father for the first time in eternity. He cried out “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew 27:45-50)
A good friend of mine shared with me recently about how he’s feeling forgotten. He’s separated from family, he has financial problems, and he has health problems. Maybe you’re feeling forgotten. Maybe you’re not stuck in a dungeon but stuck in a difficult work environment, or stuck on unemployment, or stuck in a house that’s upside down financially, or stuck in debt, or stuck in a tough marriage.
You know, just a few chapters previous, the Bible says of Joseph, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness. (Genesis 39:21) Given Joseph’s story so far, you might be saying to yourself right now, “Are you kidding me? The Lord was with him? The Lord showed him kindness? What kindness? Joseph’s family badmouthed him behind his back, they plotted to kill him, they tossed him into a cistern, they sold him into slavery, they told his father he was dead, then he was falsely accused of rape, tossed into a dungeon, and now… Now the cupbearer’s forgotten about him altogether and he’s rotting in this dungeon for who knows how long! Kindness you say?”
Speaking of God the Father, Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
In other words, we all have problems.
Jesus said it again, even more directly, when He stated, In this world you will have trouble. (John 16:33)
It’s not surprising then that Joseph has had trouble, serious trouble. We all either do have, or will have trouble. You either have, or are going to have trouble, serious trouble. Every single person on the planet experiences problems. No one escapes. Not one of us. No matter what we do.
Because we live in a fallen world, we have no choice when it comes to troubles, we’ll all have them. The choice we do have though, is whether or not we want the Lord with us in the dungeon, whether or not we want Him to show us kindness when we’re stuck in that tough situation, when we’re in the midst of our trouble. Walking through problems with Him can make our difficulties so much better than they would be otherwise.
Before he died I saw Louie Zamperini interviewed on a talk show. Louie is the character in the first movie Angelina Jolie directed, Unbroken. You may have seen it or read the book it’s based on. Louie was a juvenile delinquent who seemed to turn things around when he became a track star as a teenager. He went to the Olympics and it appeared he had a bright future ahead of him. Many thought he’d be the first to break the four minute mile barrier. But before the next Olympics, World War II started. Louie enlisted as a bombardier. During a rescue mission his plane crashed into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He was lost at sea on a life raft with two fellow soldiers for 47 days, longer than any other person in history at that time. And during that time he was nearly killed by starvation, sharks, storms, and a Japanese bomber that strafed his raft — twice.
But that wasn’t even the hard part. On the 48th day they were captured by the Japanese. Louie was tortured mercilessly by a psychotic Japanese guard who was nicknamed “the Bird” by the prisoners. Zamperini’s torture at the hands of this man went on for years.
During his time lost at sea and as a P.O.W. Louie prayed fervently for God to spare his life. In return, Louie promised he would serve Him.
Miraculously, Louie did survive the war but afterwards he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. He had intense horrific dreams of his tormentor, the Bird, every single night. He even attempted to find him in Japan so he could kill him in revenge. He started drinking heavily. He had trouble holding a job. He was at rock bottom. Eventually his wife told him she was filing for divorce.
Then one day his wife attended a Billy Graham crusade. She made a commitment to Christ and came home a changed woman. She announced to Louie the divorce was off. She also drug Louie to the next crusade meeting. He was resentful and angry about it. But then she talked him into attending another, and as he listened to Billy Graham that second time, it hit him.
I have forgotten!
On the talk show he said, I thought to myself, what an idiot! Here I had told God if He saved me I’d serve Him for the rest of my life. God kept his end of the deal, but I had forgotten mine. So I committed myself to Christ. Up until that time I dreamed of the Bird every night. But since the day I committed myself to Christ, I haven’t dreamed of him once, and I haven’t had any drinking problems.
The point is, God didn’t forget Joseph while he was in the dungeon. And God didn’t forget Louie Zamperini, not even while he was stranded at sea and suffering torture from the Bird.
But Louie forgot Him!
It’s not a question of God forgetting you. It’s a question of you forgetting Him!
I’m telling you right now, remember Him. Whatever you do, remember to take Him with you into the dungeon you’re dwelling in currently. Remember Him. Remember to take Him with you out in whatever sea you’re stranded in. Remember Him. Remember to take Him with you into whatever torture you’re enduring.
Take Him into your heart and mind by reading His Bible. Take Him into conversation by praying to Him. Take Him into your company by worshiping Him at His house, with His people.
And do this in remembrance of Him — take communion.
He hasn’t forgotten you.
It’s good to remember those who died in battle for our country. And it’s good to remember Him.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come.
They said to him,“We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”
9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes.11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”
16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.”18 And Joseph answered and said,“This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”
20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants andlifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (ESV)
Angelina Jolie, Unbroken, the movie, 2014
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken, Random House, 2010
Image via Beverly and Pack – Creative Commons