The Murder of the Last Messiah (Genesis 39:1-40:23)

Back at the beginning of Book 7 of Genesis, God called Abraham to leave his family, his nation, and his homeland. And God made it clear that this was a test for Abraham: if Abraham proved himself faithful, God would reward him with a family of his own, a nation of his own, and a homeland of his own.

But that is not all God promised. He also promised that, if Abraham proved faithful, “all nations on earth will be blessed through you.”

And ever since then, Moses — the writer of Genesis — has been telling how Abraham did prove faithful, and how the Lord has been rewarding him with a growing family, a growing nation, and a growing homeland.

And, at various points along the way, Moses been careful to show us how God has also started to bless the surrounding nations through Abraham’s family: so far, each generation of Abraham’s family has made covenants, treaties, agreements with the surrounding nations. And in each case, those nations began to experience God’s blessings, even though they often did not really understand what was going on.

Well, last week, we saw Judah do the same: he followed in his fathers’ footsteps and entered into a covenant relationship with some of the local people.

Except that he did it all wrong.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all very careful to preserve their own distinct identity as God’s chosen people. They were happy to sign economic contracts and military treaties with the surrounding nations, but they refused to participate in covenants of marriage or worship.

Judah failed to keep these distinctions: he married a local girl and he participated in false worship. He lost his identity: he became exactly like the local people. He bought into their values, their way of thinking, he accepted the logic of their world. And as a result, instead of bringing the blessings of God with him into the surrounding nations, he brought judgement and death.

Basically, God tested Judah in the same way he had tested Abraham…and Judah failed the test.

And so last week’s episode was pretty traumatic for us. Almost from the very beginning of Genesis we have been tracing God’s plan to provide a righteous King who will rescue mankind from the serpent’s tyranny. More lately it has become clear that this king must be descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At the beginning of Book 12 there were two viable candidates standing ready to take over the next generation of the plan: Joseph and Judah. One was a son of Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife; the other was a son of Leah, Jacob’s senior wife.

But now both are gone. Joseph has been sold into slavery. Judah has proven himself completely unfit.

And this leaves us wondering which son is next on the list. Jacob only has seven more. Which sounds like a lot! But the problem is, six of those sons participated in the plundering of Shechem back in Book 9, which was an act of rebellion against their father Jacob: they are unfit to lead God’s family. And the youngest son — Benjamin — is still a baby: there is no guarantee he will survive to adulthood…

But, right at the very end of last week’s episode, during the after-credit scene, Moses hinted to us that we should not give up on Joseph yet. He may be a slave in a faraway land, but he is not dead. And as the old saying goes: where there is life, there is hope.

And sure enough, as we open to Episode 3, we find that Moses is going to continue the story of Joseph, who had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

[2] The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.

And this sentence is another call-back to Book 9: Jacob, Joseph’s father, also found himself in exile, he also ended up in slavery. And yet the Lord was with him, even in the midst of all that trouble.

Now the Lord is with Joseph in the same way, and he is prospering.

And Potiphar notices that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did.

— which is another call-back to Jacob’s experience, because his Uncle Laban also noticed the same thing.

However, unlike Uncle Laban, who tried to take control of God’s blessings by maintaining his control over Jacob, Potiphar the Egyptian does the opposite:

He basically sets Joseph free to do what he does best: he put Joseph in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.

And [5] from the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. [6] So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

And here we begin to realize what has been happening since the beginning of Book 12: God has been testing both Judah and Joseph to find out which one is worthy to inherit the Head of Household position over Abraham’s family.

And God has given each brother the exact same kind of test: both Judah and Joseph have experienced…injustice. God put both of them into positions where someone had unjust authority over them. And then God watched to see how they would handle this injustice.

Judah failed that test. Instead of recognizing God’s hand at work in his life — even in the injustice of Jacob’s favouritism toward Joseph — instead of trusting God with his future and the future of his family, Judah reached out and seized power for himself: he sold his own brother into slavery! He failed to prove himself faithful, and so he became a curse to the surrounding nations instead of a blessing.

Joseph is now experiencing an even more terrible injustice. But he has recognized God’s hand at work even in his slavery. He has decided to trust God with his future, and serve faithfully where his God has placed him.

Joseph is passing the test where his brother failed.

But God’s testing is not over yet: Now Joseph was well-built and handsome — just like his mother Rachel was, these are the only two people in the Old Testament who are described in this way — [7] and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But [8] He refused.

And Joseph basically goes on to say out loud what we have already realized: that he sees his faithfulness to his earthly master as a reflection of his faithfulness to God. So he finishes with this question: “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

[10] And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

And here, again, we realize that God has given each brother the exact same kind of test: both Judah and Joseph have now experienced sexual temptation from foreign women.

Judah failed: he reached out and took a wife for himself from among the local people, and he participated in ritual prostitution.

Joseph, by contrast, has passed this test, not just once, but many times.

And this leaves us wondering how the Lord is going to reward Joseph’s faithfulness this time: will he be promoted even further? Or, even better, will the Lord move Potiphar to actually set Joseph free so he can return to his family?

Well…no. In a series of events worthy of the most dramatic Korean drama, Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of attempted rape, and he ends up in prison.

I am not going to dwell on the details of what happened, the story really explains itself. But I am going to point out a couple of interesting things:

First, Potiphar’s wife was born for political office. Each time she re-tells the story of what happens, she spins it in order to get the effect she wants.

When she tells her servants what happened, she plays the race card: she emphasizes that Joseph is “a Hebrew”, here just to take advantage of all us Egyptians. This got the servants on her side.

Then, when she tells her husband what happened, she plays the gender card, subtly suggesting that Potiphar was careless and invited a predator into their home. This put Potiphar on the defensive, and obligated him to prove that he was not on “the Hebrew’s” side.

The second thing I’ll point out is that this is now the second time Joseph has had his clothes torn off and used as evidence: his brothers robbed him of his robe of authority and used it to prove his death; now Potiphar’s wife has robbed him of his slave tunic and used it to prove that he is a rapist.

And I’m pointing this out because this thing about the clothing is an important symbolic detail. But why it is important, and what the symbolism means, will only become clear next week…

So make sure to come back for that.

Third, it is interesting to note that Potiphar does not believe his wife’s story. In verse 19 we are told that when he heard the story his wife told him, he burned with anger. But Moses is very careful not to tell us who Potiphar is angry at.

It only becomes clear in the next verse, when [20] Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

If Potiphar really believed that Joseph had tried to assault his wife, he would have made sure Joseph died a slow and painful death. Instead, he put Joseph in prison.

Potiphar does not believe his wife’s story — but he dare not say so, because his wife has already set up an Egyptian vs. Hebrew scenario, and Potiphar cannot afford to be seen taking the part of a Hebrew slave over and against his Egyptian wife.

So Potiphar puts Joseph in prison instead of killing him. But instead of sending him to some common prison where common criminals go, Potiphar puts Joseph in the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. In other words: Joseph is in jail with political prisoners, which is different from being in prison with murderers and thieves and rapists.

And over the next few verses we find history repeating itself: the Lord is still with Joseph. Joseph finds favour with the prison warden, and in the end the warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Okay. That is…nice, of course. But not as good as being set free!

I guess God must not yet be finished testing Joseph?

Well, sure enough, as we read on, we do find Joesph’s faithfulness tested one more time:

He ends up meeting two political prisoners who come from the highest levels of government: the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, who are basically cabinet ministers to the king of Egypt. Like Joseph, they have both been accused of something serious, and so they find themselves in Potiphar’s prison, awaiting trial.

And after they had been in custody for some time, [5] each of the two men had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

And in the morning, they look upset. So Joseph asks them what’s up. [8] “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”

Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” So they do.

And it turns out that the one man’s dream means he will be found innocent of all charges and reinstated as a cabinet minister; the other man’s dream means he will be found guilty and executed. And it all happens exactly as Joseph predicted.

And the reason we don’t really need to talk our way through the details of this section either is because the real significance of what happened here is not found in the details; it is found in the fact that now, for the third time, God has tested Joseph in the same way he tested Judah: both brothers experienced injustice; both brothers experienced sexual temptation; and now both brothers have had the opportunity to participate in false worship.

Last week, when Judah realized that he had utterly disqualified himself from God’s blessings, he went out and tried to win the favour of some other god. Judah tried to use religion to gain power for himself.

Here, Joseph had the same opportunity. Egyptian culture was extremely religious, extremely spiritualized, and dream interpreters were in extremely high demand. Archaeologists have dug up whole libraries of books on dream interpretation: it was a serious science at the time, and the high priests of that science were like rock stars! — they were able to influence their society with just a few words.

But Joseph turns down that opportunity to use religion to gain power. Right from the very beginning, he refused to take credit. He asks, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” And he very particularly says, “to the God,” not “to the gods.” He makes it clear that there is a very big distinction between himself, as a human being, and the God who gives the interpretation.

And then later, instead of using his spiritual powers to scare the cupbearer into doing what he wants, Joseph speaks very humbly and politely: [14] “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Joseph appeals to the man’s humanity, instead of trying to influence him or threaten him with a curse.

So Joseph has passed his third and final test. He has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that is worthy to take up the mantle of leadership over Abraham’s family. He is worthy to become the father of the future kings of Israel, the father of the eternal Messiah King that was prophesied right at the beginning of Genesis.

So, surely, now, God is going to do something to set Joseph free and get the Master Plan of Redemption back on track!

…verse 23: The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

So apparently Joseph did too good of a job at minimizing himself and maximizing God. Basically he has been dropped into a pit and forgotten. Effectively, his life is over. He is dead and buried.

And this should be deeply frustrating to us. What is God doing? And what are we, as his people, supposed to learn from this? That even if we are perfect saints and pass every test, still this is no guarantee that we will get what we want out of life?

Well…that is true. Most of us realize, pretty early on in life, that cheaters and liars and thieves often manage to claw their way up into positions of power and success, while those who try to live humble and honest lives often end up at the bottom. As the saying goes, “Nice guys finish last.” And the bible agrees that this is often how the world works!

But of course it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We want to know, “Why?” Why can’t God do anything about it? Or, more precisely: why doesn’t God do anything about it? Why didn’t God save Joseph from Potiphar’s wife and set him free instead of sending him even further down into prison?

Well, to understand that, we need to zoom out and look again at the big picture of what Moses is doing here in Book 12 of Genesis:

Moses wants to make sure that his people, the ancient people of Israel, know how to recognize God’s anointed kings when they finally show up. Even more urgently, Moses wants to make sure his people know how to recognize God’s final anointed King when he shows up: the promised Messiah who is destined to pour out God’s blessings on all nations.

So Moses has been giving his people a picture of what the Messiah is going to look like by writing down the details of Joseph’s life.

Way back in Book 9, Moses revealed that Joseph is going to be a messiah — a saviour — for his family by telling us that the Lord remembered Rachel, and gave her Joseph. Moses always uses that word “remembered” at the turning point of a story, to signal the moment God begins to move to rescue his people from judgement.

And when Joseph got older, his identity as messiah was confirmed when his father Jacob chose him to become the next Head of Household, and then even more when God sent Joseph a pair of significant dreams.

So Moses made it clear that Joseph was specially chosen by God even before he was born.

And if I were to ask you — or anyone on the planet — what kind of life Joseph will experience if he has been specially chosen by God, our automatic response would be, “Well, he is going to experience nothing but good fortune and victory and success all his life!”

But then, totally unexpectedly, Moses made it clear that it was God’s plan for Joseph to be sold into slavery and suffering.

Why? So that God could test him. Just as he did for Judah last week, God gave Joseph limited amounts of power and then watched to see how Joseph used that power: to advance himself, or to bless others? Is Joseph the kind of man who will lift himself up by pushing others down, or is he the kind of man who will trust his future to God, even if that future involves continued slavery and suffering?

And why was this testing necessary? Because it is testing like this that prepares a person for leadership. How someone handles powerlessness reveals how they will handle power; how someone handles poverty reveals how they will handle prosperity. The person who accepts that their powerlessness and poverty come from God will acknowledge that their power and prosperity also come from God. Those who live humble and grateful lives when they are poor will live humble and grateful lives when they are rich. Those who are merciful and faithful when they are powerless will be merciful and faithful when they have power —

In other words: the best leaders — the best kings, the best messiahs — are going to be those who have passed through severe testing at the hands of God.

And since God is committed to providing the best kings and messiahs for his people, God is committed to testing his kings and messiahs thoroughly before he gives them permission to rule over his people.

Moses wants to make sure that his people know how to recognize God’s anointed kings when they finally show up. He wants to make sure his people know how to recognize God’s Messiah when he shows up. So he is making this point very clearly: God’s kings, and God’s Messiahs, are not going to look like what you think kings and messiahs should look like. You think that any man truly chosen by God is going to be nothing but powerful and successful, but that is not the way God works in the world.

The reason God did not save Joseph from his brothers’ betrayal, the reason God did not save Joseph from Potiphar’s wife, is actually because Joseph is God’s anointed messiah for his generation. Joseph’s descent into slavery and death are the exact signs that the people of Israel need to be looking for in order to recognize who is truly anointed by God and who is not.

So the reason Moses has written all this down in such detail is to give his people a checklist, a way to check the credentials of any man who comes along claiming to be God’s anointed king. All they have to do is see if that man’s life resembles Joseph’s:

Has he been officially chosen and physically anointed by a proper authority? Has he exhibited supernatural powers of knowledge and wisdom? Has he prospered through faithfulness even in the midst of slavery? Has he proven himself faithful to God even i  the midst of betrayal? Does he know what it is like to be cast down into the pit, into the grave, ignored and forgotten as a reward for his righteousness?

If the answers to all this is “yes”, then — and only then — is that man God’s anointed King.

And the reason Moses is making these details so clear is, first, because this is not intuitive for anyone: we tend to assume that those who are chosen by God will be powerful, not powerless. And second: because there is always more than one candidate to choose from, and one always looks better than the other.

And sure enough, hundreds of years later, when it came time for Israel to have a king, there were two candidates for the position: one was a descendant of Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife; the other was a descendant of Leah, Jacob’s senior wife.

And God tested both candidates, just as he tested Judah and Joseph. And just as in the case of Judah and Joseph, in the midst of that testing one of those brothers betrayed the other; one of those brothers failed in the face of relatively light testing, while the other one proved himself faithful through many years of severe trials and disappointments. One became obsessed with taking and keeping power, the other one proved that he would rather give up his life and die rather than reach out and seize power that did not yet belong to him.

Now, if you know your Old Testament history, then you already know I am talking about King Saul and King David. And if you know your Old Testament history, then you also know that most of the tribes of Israel refused to recognize David as their king for many years, even though his life resembled Joseph’s in so many details, even though he had proved himself to be the man after God’s own heart.

But, to be fair, it is not surprising they rejected David for so long: because the other candidate, King Saul, was the more powerful candidate. Saul was the oldest son in his family; David was the youngest. Saul was a proven warrior who had won the support of all the other tribes; David was just a shepherd boy, and — later on — a scruffy outlaw hiding in the mountains. Saul got all his money from taxes, and he used it to support a very large army; David had to work to feed himself and his few men. Saul was taller and better looking than David!

By the logic of the world, Saul was clearly the right man to follow.

And so, for the people of Israel, the choice was obvious: they instinctively followed the more powerful and more successful looking candidate without stopping to ask whether they should. They made the classic human assumption that, if a man is powerful and successful, then he must be specially chosen by God. And as a result they were ruled by a tyrant and his corrupted sons for many years before they finally accepted God’s choice for king.

They should have known better.

Okay. But now: what is our practical application? What are we supposed to learn from all this? What are we supposed to do?

Well, two weeks ago, when Joseph was first sold into slavery, we began to notice the parallels between his life and the life of Jesus of Nazareth:

Like Joseph, Jesus was a son of high status in his father’s household. The bible calls Jesus God’s “only Begotten Son”, which means he is the only Son of God who is of the ”same substance“ with the Father. To put it in modern language we could say that Jesus is the only Son of God who shares the same spiritual “DNA” with his Father. All other children of God are adopted.

Just like Joseph, the Father asked Jesus his Son to go and check on the rest of the family, and Jesus agreed. He set aside the glory of life in his Father’s spiritual throne room, and he descended to earth, taking on human form. And there, his brothers betrayed him and sold him into death at the hands of foreigners.

This week, the parallels between Joseph and Jesus have become even more pronounced:

Joseph was revealed to be his family’s messiah even before birth. His role was publically confirmed by his father’s choice of him, and by the dreams God sent him. In the same way, Jesus was revealed to be his people’s Messiah even before his birth. His role was publically and officially confirmed by John the Baptist: he literally became “the Anointed One” when John poured water on his head. He proved that he was God’s choice by exhibiting supernatural knowledge and wisdom and much more. God was clearly ”with” Jesus, he clearly ”prospered” Jesus, he gave Jesus “success in whatever he did.

But despite all these obvious signs that he was God’s anointed King — or, actually, because of all these obvious signs — Jesus was severely tested, not just once but many times. He was tested directly by Satan in the wilderness, who tried to persuade him to reach out and take power for himself; he was tested indirectly by the leadership of Israel, who tried to persuade him to run away from death or to compromise himself in some way.

But just like Joseph, Jesus passed every test. And just like Joseph, his reward was to be stripped even further. It was not enough that he laid aside the glory and dignity of his life as the Father’s only begotten Son and took on human form, the form of a slave! — in the end he even laid aside his life as a slave and became the prisoner of death. And like Joseph, even in the pit of death Jesus continued to be faithful: the New Testament tells us that even there he “preached to the spirits in prison”, just as Joseph preached the truth about salvation and judgement to the cupbearer and the baker.

And the reason the New Testament writers worked so hard to draw all these parallels, to make all these signs in Jesus’ life so clear, is because this idea — that God’s Messiah and King should be tested even to death and beyond! — is just not intuitive for anyone. We all tend to assume that the powerful are chosen by God, not the powerless. We do not instinctively sign up to follow losers and failures.

And there is no doubt that at the end of Jesus’ life he looked like the world’s greatest failure. He looked like the opposite of a man specially chosen by God to be the Saviour of all mankind.

So one underlying message of scripture is this: appearances can be deceiving. The powerful and the successful who look like they have been anointed by God are often those who have failed every test, who have compromised themselves at every turn, who have pushed others down in order to lift themselves up: do not follow them.

Instead, follow those who have been severely tested, those who have experienced poverty and powerlessness and injustice and still remained faithful to themselves and to God. Only those who have proven that they know how to submit to God should ever be given the right to rule over God’s people.

And of all the people in history, there is only one man who has proven himself worthy to rule over God’s people: Jesus Christ. He looked like a loser in the end; he looked like he was the opposite of a man specially chosen by God — but in fact it was his willingness to lose everything that proved his identity as the only begotten Son of the Father.

So what are we supposed to do, then?

Well, if you are here today and you have not yet recognized Jesus Christ as God’s anointed King, do this: look at the evidence of your life, look at the evidence in the world around us, and look at the evidence that we have laid before you today. You will find that there is no other person in the world or in history who claimed to be the king, who proved that he had the power to make himself king — and then gave away that power completely and trusted his Father to make him king at just the right time and just the right way.

You may not realize it, but all your life you have been looking for someone who knows how to exercise power without abusing it, someone who will rule over you without grinding you down, someone who will lift you up when you fall. Today, you have found him: his name is Jesus Christ. So I urge you to recognize him and accept him as your king. Join us and be baptized, and become an adopted child, specially chosen by God.

Now, what about the rest of us who have already been adopted? What are we supposed to do?

Just as Joseph’s life and death was a preview of Jesus’ life and death, Joseph is also meant to be a model for us to follow.

Like the ancient people of Israel we were born into a way of thinking that needs to be broken out of us: the idea that if someone is specially chosen by God they are guaranteed a blissful, trouble-free life.

The bible tells us that the opposite is true. In the New Testament, Paul summarized it like this: everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

But this truth is really hard for us to accept because it is so counter-intuitive. It is really, really hard for us to believe that God would treat his specially chosen children in this way! And it is really, really hard for us to understand why it has to be this way.

And so, to help us believe that this really is the way our Father works, we have this example of Joseph who suffered greatly because he was chosen by God. And to help us understand why it has to be this way, we have this example of Joseph who, through his testing, brought life and blessing into the world around him instead of curses and death.

In other words: Joseph’s testing was not just for his own sake, to make sure he was worthy to rule over God’s family, it was also a necessary step in God’s plan to bless all nations on earth through Abraham’s family.

And we are going to be talking a lot more about this over the next few weeks, because that will turn out to be the major point of Joseph’s life. But for now we are just going to focus on this truth: if Joseph had not been sold into slavery, and if he had not remained faithful through all his testing, then Potiphar’s household would never have experienced the blessing of God.

And this is a profound challenge to us in the modern church. Because in modern Christianity we spend a lot of time talking about leadership, we spend a lot of time discussing how we can work our way up into positions where we can bless the world. We have become obsessed with influencing our cultures for Jesus: making cooler music, or better movies. And so, of course we rejoice when some poor person becomes a Christian — but we really really rejoice when someone like Kanye West becomes a Christian! Why? Because we all, quite naturally, believe that if a little church is good, a bigger church must be better; if a little money is good, more must be better; if a quiet voice is good, a louder one must be better…

And what makes that kind of thinking so deceptive is the fact that all those things are true: if a little bit of power is effective, then obviously more power will be more effective. But this truth is deceptive because it hides an even deeper truth: that this way of thinking is the logic of the world, not the logic of God.

The logic of God tells us that Joseph was far more effective as Potiphar’s slave in Egypt than he was as Jacob’s favourite son back in Canaan. The logic of God tells us that Jesus accomplished more during his six hours on the cross than he did in three years of miracles, signs, and wonders. The logic of God tells us that it is through our suffering that we become the fragrance of life to the world around us.

The logic of the world tells us that the best way to bless people is by ministering to them from a position of power. But the bible tells us that we must carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. It is when the flower is crushed that it releases the sweetest scent.

So this is our application for today: as the Apostle Peter says the New Testament, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.”

Our suffering as Christians is actually one of the effects of being chosen by God, just as it was for Jesus. So our suffering is actually reason for us to rejoice! Because not only are we being tested and refined for the world to come, we are also preaching the Gospel more effectively. It is easy to look faithful to God when times are good! — but it is when times are bad and yet we continue in faithfulness to God: that is when the hope and the blessings of the Gospel are preached the most clearly to all nations on earth.

But this just leads us to a closing question: what is the hope and the blessing of the Gospel? What is the Good News that we are called to preach in the midst of this great darkness?

Well, Moses actually pointed to it right here in his last sentence, when he used that special key-word “remember”: the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. But guess who has not forgotten Joseph?

Throughout Genesis, God has been the God who remembers. He remembered Noah and his family in the midst of the flood, and he saved them. He remembered Abraham in the midst of the judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and he saved Abraham’s nephew Lot. He remembered Rachel in the midst of her despair, and he gave her a son: hope for her future.

So our Gospel hope for Joseph is that, at just the right time, the Lord will “remember” him and lift him up out of death into life. And that is the Gospel hope for ourselves also. We worship the God who remembers, the God who never forgets, the God who never abandons his children in the pit of death. That is the Gospel we preach! And, quite clearly it is a Gospel that shines brightest when it is preached from the pit to others who are in the pit.

So let’s keep on doing that. Let us continue to encourage each other with this truth: we suffer not because we have been abandoned by God, but because we are precious to him! We suffer not because we have dome something wrong, but because we have done something right: we have joined ourselves to the Messiah who suffered before us. And just as we are joined with him now in his sufferings, so we shall also be joined with him in his glory.

Amen! It does not get any better than that.

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