the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

But God Intended It for Good

Genesis 50:15-23

In our youth, our minds are filled with visions of what life will be when... when we grow up... when we find a mate and get married... when we find a good job... when... when... when. Much of our life is spent either pursuing our dreams or dreaming our dreams. For some, the dreams of youth come true, for some the dreams of youth fall by the wayside and for some the dreams of youth are traded for more realistic and more rewarding dreams of adulthood. For those whose dreams prove to be elusive, life is filled with disappointment, disillusionment and bitterness.

In our Scripture today we look in on the last chapter in the life of a man who had every right to be bitter, depressed and disillusioned. Joseph was the apple of his father's eye, a favorite son. He was the first born son of Rachel, Jacob's most beloved wife. But Jacob had other wives and other children. There was Leah, Rachel's older sister who bore Jacob six sons and one daughter: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Dinah. There was Zilpah, Leah's maid, who bore him two sons: Gad and Asher. There was Bilhah who bore him tow sons: Dan and Naphtali. And there was the beloved Rachel, who, in Jacob's old age, bore him two sons, Joseph and Ben-jamin. Rachel died giving birth to Ben-jamin.

What a family! Today we would call this a blended family. Think of all the rivalries and jealousies that are common in such families. Not only were there sibling rivalries but there were rivalries between Jacob's several wives as well. There was competition and jealousy among the wives for the love and affection of Jacob, the patriarch. Such jealousy undoubtedly aggravated the usual sibling rivalries.

Into this family came Joseph, the dreamer. Joseph dreamed the most fantastic dreams. In one dream, he and his brothers were gathering wheat into sheaves. Joseph's sheaf grew larger than the others' and their's gathered around it and bowed down to it. Another dream showed the Sun, the Moon and eleven stars surrounding Joseph and paying homage to him. We all have had dreams of similar fantastic nature. We usually shrug them off as last night's dinner talking. But in addition to being a dreamer, Joseph was a braggart. He used to taunt and tease his brothers about how he was his father's favorite son. He told the dreams of his superiority over the others which simply heaped coals of fire on their anger.

One day, the others had had enough of Joseph's bragging and taunting. They sold him to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites as a slave. Then they took Joseph's coat, the one of many colors that Rachel had made for him, and put the blood of a lamb on it. They carried it to their father with a tale that Joseph had been killed by a marauding lion.

This is the history that lies in the background of our scripture reading today. By this time Joseph and his brothers were middle-aged. Joseph was the overseer of the entire government of Egypt and the brothers were itenerant imigrants who had come to Egypt to beg for food. Joseph and his brothers found that sometimes in life, dreams do come true.

The brothers certainly feared Joseph would exact great punishment on them in revenge for what they had done so very long ago. But there were factors in Joseph's life that made revenge the farthest thing from his mind.

Joseph did not brood over his misfortunes, which were many. He did not moan or complain over either his slavery at the hand of his brothers or his imprisonment at the hand of a woman scorned. Joseph never felt sorry for himself nomatter what his circumstances.

How often do we experience temporary setbacks. Setbacks that seem like major life failures at the time they occur. When setbacks come, do you sit in self pity allowing your self-esteem to erode away with each passing moment?

In every thing that Joseph did, he did his best. He saw in every event an oportunity to use his intellect, his strength and his energy. Joseph did not believe his life was governed by fate, or luck. He believed in hard work, and he believed in the providence of a loving God. He made the most of every situation and set of circumstances.

Had Joseph stayed at home, he would have grown up to be a sheepherder because that was the only profession he knew. But when he was sold into slavery and carried into Egypt, his eyes were opened to the vastness of the world and it's opportunities. In First Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 58, Paul tells us: stedfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Although Joseph had been trained as a shepherd, God had given him talent for organization and administration. When the Ishmaelites sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard, he was put to work as a house boy. He quickly demonstrated his skills by organizing and administering the varous houshold duties. Joseph recognized the thing that he was most capable of doing and concentrated on doing his best at that one thing.

Do you find yourself moving from job to job, playing out one dream or another, each one meeting failure because of setbacks? No matter what work you do, you are the one who has to do it. You can choose to get by or to be the best that you can be at whatever you are doing? Do you know what your skills are. What are you good at? Find out what you can do, and what you like to do and be the best at whatever that is.

The one thing that kept Joseph going was his abiding faith in God. He prayed to God every day. He looked to God for guidance in his decisions and his actions. He trusted God to give him the strength to endure all his hardships. And he trusted God to take care of him in every situation. Joseph was able to rise above his failures because he truly believed that God would take care of all his needs. So he didn't have to spend time and energy worrying and bemoaning his situation. Do you have that kind of faith?

As you go through life, alwas keep your focus on God, and on Jesus-the-Christ. In Proverbs chapter 3 verse 5 it reads:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your paths.

A poem that came to me anonymously:
Great it is to believe the dream
As we stand as youth by the starry stream.
But a greater thing is to live life through
And say at the end, the dream came true.

Without realizing it, what Joseph was working toward was the ultimate fulfillment of his dream. His brothers were bowing to Him and paying homage to him. And because he lived out his dream and trusted in God he now has the choice of revenge or love. In the midst of his brother's fear of revenge, Joseph speaks words of forgiveness, "You intended to do me harm, but God intended it for good."

God intends nothing but good for you. If you do not know Jesus as your savior, I pray that you will ask Him to come into your heart today.

Let us pray...
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

Prayer by Thomas Merton from Thoughts in Solitude.


Blogger HeyJules said...

That's one of my favorite biblical stories. I love that he ended up in Egypt and held his brothers' future in his hands.

As for the part about knowing what we're good at and finding work we love...that one is still up for grabs. I'm about an inch from walking away from what I'm doing now but praying fervently that God will help me find something better - something more "me" before I have to go.

Your post certainly got me reflecting on that again.

1/16/2006 6:27 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...


Just remember what Merton says in your favorite prayer. God is with you even when you don't know He's there.

1/16/2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice said...


Your response to Jules speaks to me to. I don't ever get much of a sense of His presence, so I've always told myself that my lack of feeling anything doesn't make Him disappear.

1/18/2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

bad alice,

You are so right. Do not think that God has ever abandoned you. I ran from him for 25 years. When I stopped running, He was right there beside me. He says "I will never leave you or forsake you."

My prayers are with you.

1/18/2006 7:33 PM  

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