In the Office: Waiting to Be Remembered

Today’s Old Testament reading (Genesis 40:1-23) tells a story that used to fascinate me as a child. Joseph is in prison — the unfortunate result of being faithful to God and resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Even there, of course, “the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Gen. 39:21). But still, even that can only provide so much comfort when you’ve been unjustly condemned and are waiting for release.

In the OfficeSome time later (and we don’t know how much later), two new detainees arrive at the prison: Pharaoh’s cupbearer and Pharaoh’s baker. We don’t know what offense landed them in jail. But we do know that both have dreams — dreams that Joseph interprets and that foreshadow their ultimate fate: the cupbearer will be restored to his position, and the baker will be executed. Along the way, Joseph makes what seems to be a fairly reasonable request of the cupbearer: “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” (verse 14). But as chapter 40 closes and chapter 41 opens, we learn that “the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” — and that two full years pass before Pharaoh has a dream, which leads to Joseph’s release and restoration.

Two years. That’s a long time to be waiting. And I suspect that most of us have at least a sense of what that’s like. We wait to feel better, wait for circumstances to improve, wait for prayers to be answered. And in those times of waiting, it becomes awfully easy to assume that we’ve been forgotten. But here’s one of the ways in which Joseph’s story can encourage us: the waiting does end: Joseph is remembered; he’s set free; he rises to new heights. And eventually — after even more adventure and intrigue — he’s able to look back on all of these “waiting experiences” and affirm, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us are waiting for something today. But may our trust that God remembers make it possible for us to wait upon Him; knowing that when we do, we will rise up on wings like eagles; we’ll run and not be weary; we’ll walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

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