FORGET AND BE FRUITFUL
(Joseph’s Key Verse Testimony)
Genesis 41:41-57, Key Verse 41:51, 52
“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’”
Happy Belated New Year! Thank God for the wonderful New Year message delivered by Msn. Gideon from which we learned the Christian unity, gifts and growth. How can we be united? Paul asks us to be completely humble, gentle and patient. What about our gifts? Paul asks us to be joined and held together, starting with the Head, the Christ, and with each other as the body parts and acknowledge our own and others’ unique functions. How can we grow? Paul asks us not to be tossed like infants but grow mature in the likeness of Christ, maybe starting with practicing speaking the truth in love. Today, with these three points in our mind, we would like to hear Joseph’s key verse testimony. There we see Joseph’s using of his God-given gifts and his growth. May God help us to grow and mature like Joseph and thus have a strong year 2020. Help us to forget and be fruitful as we all hold on to our key verses!
1. Joseph’s Dramatic Change (41-50)
Look at verse 41. Here we see Joseph being put in charge of Egypt. To better understand this scene, we may revisit what kinds of things he had gone through. We first start with his name Joseph. Where did it come from and what does that mean? It was from his mother, Rachel, who at that time had a rivalry and competition with her own sister, Leah, for the love and attention of their husband, Jacob, through bearing children. Leah had already borne four sons to Jacob but Rachel had none. Frustrated, she even used her maid servant Bilhah to bear children from Jacob. That triggered “another mother” coming to Joseph’s family.
When Joseph was born, Rachel should have given thanks to God and tried to be content with what she received from Him. Instead, she named her son Joseph, meaning, “Add One More.” It reflected her human-centered desire. Because of her desire, she paid the price dearly. She died while giving birth to the next son. Joseph lost his mother with his younger brother Benjamin as his only true sibling. With her mother’s absence, Joseph seemed to grow up as a normal teenager due to his father’s special love. Yet this special love of Jacob caused his brothers’ anger and jealousy. Even his dreams made them more aggravated. Joseph was in a broken family. Then, he was sold as a slave by his own brothers and sent to the land of Egypt. There, somehow, Joseph experienced God’s being with him, as he could become a household manager in Potiphar’s house. But again he was betrayed and falsely accused by the mistress of the household.
Still God’s hand was with Joseph. Because of his specialty in dreams, he was promoted dramatically from a prison warden to the prime minister in an instant through interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He was given Pharaoh’s signet ring, fine clothes and a gold chain (42). His limo-like chariot showed what kind of power and prestige he received from Pharaoh. He was the second highest person in the whole land of Egypt.
Look at verses 44, 45a. Not only did Joseph receive physical items, but he also received invaluable things such as the assurance of his rank, the new name and the noble marriage. This type of dramatic change we can hardly see in our everyday life. Maybe Dr. Jason becoming a tenured, full professor? Despite such a dramatic change, Joseph’s inner heart was not changed much.
Look at verses 45b, 46. Here we see Joseph’s servant leadership. As the prime minister, he could wield his power and authority to achieve his personal vendetta against those who gave him hard times first. Or he could at least send a delegate to his father so as to bring him and his brother to Egypt. And then he could possibly enter his service without any heavy-heartedness. As you can see, however, Joseph did not do that. Instead, he traveled throughout Egypt, making sure whatever work needed was being done correctly. He served others as he became the leader of all. He did this for eighty years (he entered the service at the age of thirty and died at the age of a hundred and ten (Ge 50:26)).
Look at verses 47-49. We can briefly talk about Joseph’s using his God-given gifts. I believe Joseph was given the gift of business management and organization (which I lack). So he planned ahead of time with a right logistics to achieve the goal. Who could think of storing plenty of grains as the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)? He collected all food when plenty and stored it in the relevant cities. His logistics worked out and it was blessing to all of the people.
2. God Has Made Me … (50-57)
Look at verse 50. Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. With Joseph’s having two sons and by their names, we can see how much he became mature. Perhaps, in terms of spiritual growth and maturity, we can boldly say that infants make infant-like people grow and become mature.
Specifically, the meaning of the names of his sons reflects what Joseph learned in his life thus far and what kind of a direction he wanted to have in the new chapter of his life. Is it not what we write in our New Year key verse testimonies? Some of us even have written a New Decade key verse testimony (in 2020), so it is possible for us to say that this passage is Joseph’s New Chapter key verse testimony.
What is the meaning of the firstborn’s name, Manasseh? Look at verse 51. According to the footnote, “Manasseh” sounds like the Hebrew word, “forget.” Note that in this verse, the subject is God, not Joseph. Surely it was Joseph who lived in Egypt and suffered for thirteen longs years of trouble. And yet what Joseph realized was that it was not him but God who lived in him or stood by him gave him strength to live during those years. Sometimes, living is harder than dying. It is particularly true when you have gone through painful events. It is told that the PTSD patients have anxiety and flashbacks triggered by traumatic events. They suffer from those memories which they want to forget. Truly flashbacks and memories are beyond our control. Those memories can come back and haunt even at night (Job said that amid his dreams in the night, fear and trembling seized him and made all him bones shake).
And to Joseph, there was one more thing he wanted to forget: all his father’s household. Maybe he did not like some people from his father’s household such as his brothers who sold him as a slave. But he cherished the fond memories with his father and his baby brother, Benjamin. Many nights, he was homesick and lonely, longing to return to his father’s house so that he might meet his father and his brother.
It is marvelous to see that God helped him to forget those things either good or bad. I suppose it is through the fruit of the Spirit that he could forget. Instead of holding the grudge and the thought of revenge, he could love those who did harm to him. Instead of giving into the uncontrollable emotions and anger, he could calm down and possibly focus on the tasks that he was given at that moment. It is a self-discipline. This is the process of being mature.
I suppose forgetting involves forgetting yourself first and coming to God closely next. It is another viewpoint regarding spiritual growth. If you only think about yourself, even a small thing that did not go your way makes you unhappy and complain. But when you forget yourself and think about God and think about others, you may begin to have better understanding about God and others. For Joseph, he was strengthened to forget his difficult situations but to have understanding about why things happened the way they happened. Perhaps, through a series of betrayals and mistreatments, Joseph thought about how God was molding him into a leader just like God showed him in the vision manifested in the dreams. Perhaps, by dealing with all sorts of sinners starting with his disgruntled and jealous brothers, he could have a deeper understanding about the human nature: what makes people most miserable is not “haves” or “don’t haves” but sins that break human relationships. To deal with sins and sinners, he came to God and communicated with God. In doing so, he became completely humble, gentle and patient.
I suppose this is the essence of the first part of our New Year key verse testimonies. While looking back on the previous year (or the decade or the chapter), you will revisit good things and bad, and sometimes you wonder why things happened the way they happened. You feel pain and trouble. You regret about somethings. You give thanks to God. In doing so, you forget about yourself but think about God more. You try to see things from God’s point of view and interpret those as God’s divine hands that are molding you into a better person.
I am one of beneficiaries of writing key verse testimonies. Before meeting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, one of the problems that I had was constant flashbacks of unpleasant memories. I could not stop thinking about little things that did not go my way or things that I could not accomplish. I was proud, full of myself, complaining and blaming, not knowing what to do next. That was the reason why I always slept in the library before I met my 1:1 Bible teacher in his fishing journey. After starting the Bible studies and writing testimonies, the symptoms that I used to have had strangely have disappeared.
At the Staff Conference, one of the beautiful reports was the Peace Project or the Reconciliation Project. The committee members in that project directly connected to those who possibly had bad memories or wounds so that they might forget, forgive and move forward. I think it is the power of the Holy Spirit that enabled all of the parties to do so.
What is the meaning of the second son’s name, Manasseh? Look at verse 52. “The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’” According to the footnote, “Ephraim” sounds like the Hebrew word, “twice fruitful.” It is one of the words we would like to hear the most. Note in this verse that Joseph described Egypt as the land of suffering. Egypt at that time was like America, most powerful and rich among other nations. Still, to him, it was the land of suffering. Perhaps, it would be still the land of suffering in the next chapter of his life.
But, Joseph saw how God has blessed his life against all odds and believed that He would do it again. Joseph could not know what was waiting in front of him. Later, he would be eventually reunited with his brothers and his father, but at that time he did not know. Still he believed that God who made him fruitful would make him twice fruitful and regarded his son as the token from God. As he believed, Joseph received the blessing and he himself became a blessing to others. And from the tribe of Ephraim, General Joshua would emerge as the token of conquering the Promised Land and the foreshadow of Jesus Christ.
This is true with us when we have the second part of our key verse testimonies. We do not know what to come in the New Year. We accept that there would be troubles and sufferings just like Joseph aptly pointed it out that it was and would be the land of suffering. And yet we believe that God would bless us with the double blessing no matter what. And as the token, we take our new key verses.
In the rest of the chapter, verses 53-57, we can see how God is using Joseph as the key figure in saving lives. Especially, Pharaoh’s public testimony reflects what kind of life we want to have: “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” Is it not nice when someone you know asks others who are in trouble to go to you and listen to you? Your boss may ask the clients to go to you and follow your direction. Or some students ask other students to go to you and have 1:1 Bible studies.
In conclusion, we briefly learned about Joseph’s dramatic change and yet his maintaining servant leadership and using his God-given gift such as the management. We then learned about how he could forget with the fruit of the Spirit such as love and self-discipline. And Joseph believed God would make him twice fruitful in the land of suffering. Forgetting and believing in God’s blessing and guidance is the essence of our key verse testimonies. May God bless our key verse testimonies in 2020!