This year I have become increasingly aware of timelines as I read scripture. There are two timelines that have really jumped off of the pages of Genesis and surprised me. The first was the time between when Isaac gave his blessing to his son Jacob, and the other was the time between Joseph interpreting dreams in prison and interpreting dreams for Pharoah.
In Genesis 27, Isaac calls his son Esau in and says, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death.” So, he begins to get his affairs in order. This includes passing on his blessings to his son and beginning to divide up the inheritance. Jacob ends up stealing the blessing and fleeing to his Uncle Laban’s house. He works for him for 20 years and then returns home. Guess who is still alive when he gets there, Isaac. There are a few other stories that happen even after this point until Isaac finally passes away in Genesis 35.
The story of Joseph contains another surprising timeline. In Genesis 37, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. There was a lot of jealousy going on there, to say the least. Joseph is sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian guard, wrongfully accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison where he eventually meets Pharoah’s royal baker and cupbearer. Joseph interprets their dreams and asks that the cupbearer, who would end up significantly less beheaded than the baker, to remember him and tell Pharoah about him. Well, the cupbearer, as human’s do, forgets he ever met Joseph. Eventually, Pharoah needs a dream interpreted and lo and behold, the cupbearer remembers Joseph. I always read this like a few days or weeks later. Somehow I consistently overlooked the fact that scripture tells us that it was two years later!
The collection of scripture is such a beautiful thing. It has given us as Christ-followers a full and complete picture of God’s love for us and his constant pursuit of us. Its often easy for me to forget that while these people were living out this story, they didn’t have the ability to summarize, skip ahead, or consult Biblical scholars as to what it all meant. These were real people living day to day lives that God chose to knit together to communicate his love to us thousands of years later. Because we get to see the whole picture, we often underappreciate what life would have been like for these people in the moment.
Think about it. One day Joseph is wrongfully accused. He spends some time in prison staying faithful, continuing to praise God and have faith in him. Finally, he meets some guys who can help him. Three days later one of those guys is back in a position of influence. Joseph probably hoped, “Maybe tomorrow will be the day I am free.” Tomorrow comes, no visitors. “Oh well, he was probably busy filling out the onboarding paperwork and meeting with HR. Maybe tomorrow.” Then the next day, no one. The following day comes and goes. Nothing changes. Including Joseph’s trust in God. This continues for over 730 days. Yet his faith never wavers.
I don’t know about you but I get impatient after 730 seconds. We live in an “I want it now” world where things are supposed to happen now. It’s hard to keep our faith when we feel like the promises of God are being withheld. But God is not withholding, he is preparing. At the end of those two years, Joseph became the man that saved Egypt from a great famine. This position allowed him to save his family, (yes, the ones who sold him) from that same famine. This family was the foundation of the nation of Israel. Joseph spent years in prison so that he would be in the right place at the right time to preserve the future of hundreds of thousands of people.
When it feels like God is taking forever to move or to give you the opportunity to live out your purpose or walk in his promise, instead of getting frustrated, let’s ask, “What are you preparing me for?” And like Joseph, keep the faith, keep trusting, and keep praising.