When We Feel Forgotten

In my last post, we found Joseph in Genesis 40 accurately interpreting the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the king's former cupbearer and baker. In Genesis 40:14, Joseph says to the cupbearer, "when all goes well with you, remember me and show kindness; mention me to Pharoah and get me out of prison." However, in verse 23 of the same chapter we read:

"The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him."

I have to be honest, when I read this, I asked myself how is that possible? How could it slip the cupbearer's mind? Was he so elated about being released from prison that he "forgot" the guy who accurately told him his former job would be restored to him? Or, was he just so preoccupied with resuming his duties that he never gave his prison experience another thought? Or, was the whole prison experience so humiliating that he simply blocked it out of his mind? Did he never recount to anyone the amazing story of his dream and its interpretation? How could he NOT remember Joseph? One commentator notes, "this is not a mental lapse but a moral one. He (the cupbearer) self-centeredly does not bother to "re-member" himself with his former inmate.

Genesis 41 begins with these words:

"When two full years had passed, Pharoah had a dream..."

Actually, Pharoah had two dreams on consecutive nights and "his mind was troubled" to such an extent that he called upon all the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but no one was able to interpret his dreams. The chief cupbearer appears on the scene and says to Pharoah:

"Today I am reminded of my shortcomings."

(One commentator noted that this word "shortcomings" in the Hebrew means "sin.")

The cupbearer then proceeds to tell Pharoah about the dreams he and the chief baker had while in prison and the "young Hebrew" who interpreted both dreams accurately. Joseph is summoned by Pharoah and tells him he's heard he can interpret dreams. Joseph replies, "I cannot do it, but God will give Pharoah the answer he desires." Joseph tells Pharoah that the dreams are "one and the same" and that God has revealed to Pharoah what he is about to do: there will be seven years of plenty in Egypt followed by seven years of famine. Joseph then recommends that Pharoah look for a "discerning and wise man" and put him in charge of all of Egypt to prepare for what is ahead.

Pharoah speaks with his officials and asks them "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?" So, Joseph is appointed as Pharoah's right hand man--he is in charge of all that goes on in the palace and in the whole land of Egypt. Pharoah even removes his own signet ring and places it on Joseph's finger, a sign of royalty and power. "Joseph was thirty years old when he entered into the service of Pharoah king of Egypt."

Thirteen years have passed since he was thrown into the cistern by his brothers and sold to the Midianites.

I've always wondered why those two extra years in prison? Why didn't the cupbearer mention Joseph to Pharoah before? What was going on with Joseph in those years? Nothing is recorded in Scripture so we have no way of knowing. What strikes me is there is no sign of bitterness in Joseph's life. He doesn't confront the cupbearer about his forgetfulness or show any sign of disillusionment or frustration. He speaks humbly of himself and gives reverence and honor to God alone.

I think because many of us are so familiar with Joseph's story we tend to elevate him and put him in an exceptional category far beyond our reach. Joseph seems to be perfect--never questioning God about timing, no indication of frustration or retaliation against those who've wronged him. He seems to have come to place of deep and abiding faith and trust in God's sovereignty.

I wonder where you are today. Have you struggled to understand God's timing? Do you feel as though God has forgotten you at times? What might God be doing in your heart during seasons of silence? How does it feel to surrender to His sovereignty and timing?

I want you to know, you're not alone.