Joseph was a pretty good person – a bit of a big mouth at times, but overall he wasn’t a bad bloke, he just needed to curb the bad habit of blurting all his thoughts out loud.
But, somehow or other, through a series of messy circumstances, he ended up in prison falsely accused of a sexual assault. Prisons in those days were often nothing more than a hole in a cave – inmates were lowered in on a rope and sometimes left to rot, shackled to walls. Once in, there was no way out. It was pretty easy to be forgotten.
Over the years, prisoners came and prisoners went, and all the while Joseph must have wondered when he’d get out? Would he ever be released? Did anyone even remember that he was sitting in a dungeon? He had a certain amount of freedom as the prison governor had put him in charge of the other cell-mates, but seriously, who’d want to spend the rest of their life in a dank, dark hole?
Sometimes hope would arrive in the form of a new inmate and in one case, the King’s own Butler spent some time in the jail, for an unknown offence. On the day the Butler was due to be released (he was one of the lucky ones), he was packing up his stuff, getting ready to go back to the Palace, and Joseph said to him; ‘Please don’t forget me…once you’re settled back with the King, can you tell him about me? See if he can do something?’
The Butler was (no doubt) full of back slaps and enthusiastic cries of, ‘Yes, yes…of course I will’.
And he probably meant it at the time – but Gen 40:23 says; But the Chief Butler did not remember Joseph. He forgot him.
Forgotten. Completely abandoned, lumped in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Though Joseph had the Governor’s favour and some authority, he must have despaired of the hole he was in. All around him was darkness, ahead of him was a friendless, depressed future. Had God forgotten him?
Know the feeling?
We all go through things where it feels like God is silent. You can feel like you did all the ‘right’ things, but still a part of your life didn’t go to plan, a job was lost, you got sick, you were falsely accused.
What Joseph didn’t know was that his chance conversation with the King’s Butler would eventually kickstart a chain of events which would lead to his freedom. He’d started out life as a blabber-mouth kid, was sold into slavery, chucked into prison…but while in jail, the governor spotted he had a talent for leadership. Had he been left to his own devices, he may have continued in his own path of being an arrogant big mouth. But those dark, vile, depressing, hopeless days were his leadership academy, getting him ready to one day rule a nation.
Few (if any) of us will get the opportunity to run a country (can’t say I want to!) but what if the hole you’re in, is necessary to get you ready for whatever God has next?
This isn’t prosperity teaching or promising that your miracle is just round the corner – there’s no doubt that the dark times of life can feel overwhelming. but Joseph’s story reminds me that the hard times we’re facing, could also be doubling up as training for the next assignment.