Category Archives: Bible Study

Once Saved, Always Saved?

A friend of mine, Tammy Wallace Desantiago, posted the following question this morning on Facebook, while I was in the midst of writing something else.  After reading and replying to this question, I felt the Spirit leading me to address this issue more fully in a post.  Here is the question Tammy asked:

What is your thought on once saved always saved??
Not just your opinion but what is your scripture to cause you to stand firm on that belief?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about a farmer who sows seed into his field…

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”  (Matthew 13:3-9  NLT)

Jesus explained this parable to His disciples as follows:

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds:19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”  (Matthew 13:18-23 NLT)

The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingom but don’t understand it, and so the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.  We all know people like this.  These people have never tasted and seen the goodness of God.  They are not, and have not ever been saved.  That’s easy enough for us to understand.

The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom, and they immediately receive it joyfully.  But because their roots are shallow, and not deep, they fall away, as soon as there are troubles in their lives, or if they are persecuted for Christ’s sake.  Now, some might say that these people were never “really” saved, but that isn’t what Jesus said.  He said these people hear the message and immediately receive it joyfully.  The problem isn’t non-belief.  There was no question of their salvation.  The problem is that their roots aren’t deep enough… So what does that mean?

The problem with these people is that their faith is weak.  There are so many trials and tribulations in this world that we live in,  and it is so easy to be overcome by them.  However, if we are rooted in Christ’s love, we can withstand those adversities in our lives, and become stronger.  However, if our roots are too shallow, we will be devastated by the heartaches that come against us, and we will lose what little faith we had.  I believe that is why the Apostle Paul prayed the following prayer for the believers at Ephesus, and it is why I pray this prayer for my loved ones, new believers, and myself as well:

14 This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father 15 from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. 16 I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of His glory. I pray that He would give you inner strength and power through His Spirit. 17 Then Christ will live in you through faith. I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation18 This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep His love is. 19 You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God.

20 Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power He can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine21 Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity! Amen.  (Ephesians 3:14-21 GW)

The soil in the next part of the parable was full of thorns, which represent those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly, the message is crowded out by the worries of life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.  Those of you, who preach a prosperity gospel, and those who are supposedly “working for God,” though all the while, you are seeking your own wealth, whilst lining your pockets, be warned!  

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  (Matthew 6:24-34 NLT)

These people hear the word and they believe it, but somewhere along the way, other things get in the way.  They worry about making ends meet… about paying the bills… about what they will eat… about how they will eat…  what they will wear… and on and on.  These people worry… a lot.  These people need more… more money… more power… more respect… What they have just isn’t enough…  And sadly, for these people, God just isn’t enough.  It wasn’t that they weren’t saved.  It’s just that Jesus isn’t enough for them, and so they turn away to other things…

Then, there are those who hear the word, and the soil of their heart is good, so their roots go down deep.  The faith of these people is strong, but they don’t take it for granted. Daily, these people work out their faith, seeking God in everything.  These people allow God to complete the good work He has begun in them, but, they, too, are faced with choices everyday.  Will I continue to follow Christ?  Or will I go my own way?  The deeper your roots go, the easier it is  to make the right choice, but the choice is still yours to make, and there are some, who have that close, intimate relationship with Christ, and after many years of following Him faithfully, have chosen to walk away from Him…

Do you doubt this?  Do you still believe that once you are saved, you are always saved?  How would you explain this scripture, then?

For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame.  (Hebrews 6:4-6  NLT)

One who was once enlightened (i.e. – someone who has “seen the light” or been saturated {imbued} with saving knowledge), who has experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit (who only dwells in those who are saved), can indeed turn away from God.  It’s heartbreaking, but don’t fool yourselves by thinking or believing, “Well, they weren’t really saved to begin with.”  According to this scripture, those who are, in fact, saved, can turn away from God, because everyone, including believers, can choose to accept or reject Him.

Once Saved Always Saved

Beloved reader, don’t be fooled by the false doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved.”  This word may not sit well with many of you, but it is kinder to speak the truth, though it is painful, rather than be silent, allowing you to continue believing a lie that is straight from the pit of hell, and watch you die.

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when He comes to set up His Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths(2 Timothy 4:1-4  NLT)

Beloved reader, don’t be fooled into thinking that once you are saved, you are always saved.  If you believe this, what is to stop you from living in sin, just as the rest of the world does?  You are a slave to whomever or whatever you serve.  If you live your life seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you are a slave of God.  However, if you believe that salvation allows you to live sinfully, you are a slave to sin, not Christ, and your Father is not God, but the Satan, the father of lies, whom you have chosen to believe instead.

Don’t be deceived.  We all have a choice.  Therefore, I leave you with the same choice Moses gave to Israel:

11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep His commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in His ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

19 Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  (Deuteronomy 30:11-20  NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

The Heavy Weight…

When Jacob’s ten eldest sons left Canaan for Egypt, guilt weighed heavily on each of them.  Foremost in their hearts and minds was the image of their father, so frail and old now, with fear for his youngest son, Benjamin etched in his face, as he refused to let him travel with them.  Their father had been such a strong and vital part of their lives, as he cared for them and their mothers over the years.  He had always had such a strong, unshakable faith in El Shaddai, but in the years since Joseph’s death, even his faith seemed to have failed him.

Nothing had worked out as they had imagined it would.  Their evil actions hadn’t brought them more of their father’s love, without Joseph there to steal it.  Instead, it had brought them more pain and loneliness.  Instead of earning their father’s undivided love, they had earned his fear and distrust, as well as a heavy burden of guilt, like a massive weight that threatened to break them, as they carried it with them everywhere they went.  Indeed, in the twenty years since they had sinned against their brother, Joseph, their burdens had only grown heavier.

When they entered into Egypt, they learned that they would have to ask Egypt’s governor to allow them to purchase the grain needed for their families to survive, due to the severity of the famine.  Therefore, they lined up, behind the others who had gathered to collect the much needed grain.  Finally, after waiting for many long hours, the ten brothers stood before the governor of Egypt, and immediately dropped to their knees and bowed before him.

Joseph, the governor, paled at the sight of his ten older brothers, bowing down before him.  He recognized them instantly, and caught his breath, as his heart pounded furiously within his chest. It felt like it might break free from his ribs.  As the lump in his throat grew, Joseph fought the tears that threatened to spill.  Looking at them now, bowed down before him, he couldn’t help but remember the dreams he’d had as a youth, in which, his brothers had bowed down to him.

Struggling to pull himself together, Joseph’s voice was harsh as he spoke to his brothers, “Where are you from?”

“We come from the land of Canaan,” they replied.  “We have come to buy food.”

Although he had immediately recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize Joseph, and why should they?  In their minds, they imagined that he had probably died, or at the very least, was still a slave to a foreign master.  Joseph didn’t reveal himself to his brothers.  Instead, he pretended to be a stranger, and said to them, “You are spies!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.”

How rigidly he must have held himself, so as not to break down in front of these brothers that he had loved as a child, only to be betrayed by them when he was just a teenager.  Beloved reader, have you known the pain of betrayal at the hands of a family member?  If so, surely you can understand how difficult it must have been for Joseph to maintain control of his emotions.  How conflicted he must have felt.  For, on the one hand, he loved these brothers, and he must have longed for news of their family.  Yet, on the other hand, he must have felt an intense explosion of rage welling up within him, to see his betrayers, for the first time in twenty years.

Proverbs 29:11
Complete Jewish Bible

A fool gives vent to all his feelings,
    but the wise, thinking of afterwards, stills them.

Fear gripped the brothers’ hearts, and they quickly responded to Joseph’s accusation, “No, my lord!  Your servants have simply come to buy food.  We are all brothersmembers of the same family.  We are honest men, sir!  We are not spies!”

Joseph continued his charade.  “Yes, you are!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become,” he insisted.

“Sir,” the brothers replied, desperate to make him understand, “there are actually twelve of us.  We, your servants, are all brothers, sons of a man living in the land of Canaan.  Our youngest brother is back there with our father right now, and one of our brothers is no longer with us.”

Still, Joseph insisted, “As I said, you are spies!  This is how I will test your story.  I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here!  One of you must go and get your brother.  I’ll keep the rest of you here in prison.  Then we’ll find out whether or not your story is true.  By the life of Pharaoh, if it turns out that you don’t have a younger brother, then I’ll know you are spies.”

So, Joseph put them all in prison for three days.  How tormented he must have been, as all of the emotions that he thought were long gone, came rushing over him.  It was like reliving his brothers’ betrayal and brutality all over again.  How he must have cried out to ‘Elyon, to strengthen him, and give him wisdom.

Psalm 3
New King James

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

On the third day of their imprisonment, Joseph spoke to them again.  “Look, I am a God-fearing man.  If you do as I say, you will live.  If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison.  The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families.  But you must bring your youngest brother back to me.  This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.”  The brothers agreed to Joseph’s terms.

Speaking among themselves, the weight of their burden of guilt was evident, when they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph, long ago.  We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen.  That’s why we’re in this trouble.”

Tears ran down Reuben’s face, as he asked, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen.  And now we have to answer for his blood!”

His brothers, who still didn’t know Joseph’s true identity, had no way of knowing that he understood every word that they had spoken, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter.  Upon hearing his brothers’ words, he turned and walked away from them and began to weep.  The emotions, and the weight he had been carrying for more than twenty years, was simply too much to bear, as his brothers openly spoke of his betrayal.

So deep was their own fear and anguish, that the brothers took no notice when Joseph turned away from them.  They were all lost in the midst of a storm that had been brewing for more than twenty years.  When Joseph regained his composure, he spoke to them again, and chose Simeon from among them.  He ordered Simeon to be tied up before their eyes.

Then, Joseph ordered his servants to fill his brothers’ sacks with grain.  He also gave them secret instructions to return each brother’s payment at the top of his sack, and he gave them supplies for their journey home.  So, although ten brothers had started on the journey to Egypt, only nine returned home, and the weight they carried grew heavier with each step…

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Not Forgotten…

In the time after the cupbearer’s release, Joseph ran the prison like a well-oiled machine.  He cared for the prisoners, the guards and even the accounting and record books.  Indeed, no other prison or business for that matter, ran so smoothly, for the Lord continued to be with Joseph and bless him.

While he toiled in prison, a full two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams one night, that deeply troubled him.  When day broke, Pharaoh arose, and immediately sent for all of Egypt’s magicians and wise men to seek an interpretation of his disturbing dreams.  However, not one of them was able to interpret the dreams’ meaning to him, which caused him even more anxiety.  “Is there no one in this entire land that can help me?” he cried out.

“Your majesty,” the chief cupbearer finally spoke up.  “Forgive me, for today, I am reminded of my failure.  Do you remember when you were angry with your officials, and arrested the chief baker and me, sire?”  At Pharaoh’s impatient nod, the cupbearer quickly continued.  “One night, while we were in prison, both the baker and I had dreams, which greatly disturbed us.  The next morning, a young Hebrew man, who was a servant of the captain of the guard, came to care for us, and asked why we were so downcast.  So we told him our dreams, and he interpreted each one of our dreams individually, for us.  What’s more, those dreams came to pass, just as he had prophesied.  I was restored to my office, and the baker was impaled.”

“This is true?”  Pharaoh asked.  At the cupbearer’s solemn nod, Pharaoh summoned Joseph to court.

Joseph, meanwhile, was in the midst of his morning prayers, before beginning his duties as the warden’s assistant. 

Psalm 13
Complete Jewish Bible

How long, Adonai?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I keep asking myself what to do,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long must my enemy dominate me?

Look, and answer me, Adonai my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.
Then my enemy would say, “I was able to beat him”;
and my adversaries would rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in Your grace,
my heart rejoices as You bring me to safety.
I will sing to Adonai, because He gives me
even more than I need.

 

Then, as he finished his prayers, guards from the royal palace came and led him quickly out of the dungeon.  After Joseph shaved himself and changed his clothes, he was led into Pharaoh’s presence, where he respectfully knelt, his heart pounding frantically.  “O Adonai,” he silently prayed.  “Protect me and deliver me from my foes.  Give me wisdom, to know when to speak and when to be silent.  Adonai, let me speak Your words, and not my own.”

“Last night, I had two dreams,” Pharaoh told Joseph, “and there is no one here, who can interpret them, but I was told that you are an interpreter of dreams.  Is this true?”

“Pharaoh, I am not the interpreter of dreams.  El Shaddai is the giver and interpreter of dreams.  If you will share your dream with me, El Shaddai will give you an answer that will give you peace,” Joseph said gently.

Pharaoh's Dream 1

“Very well,”  Pharaoh responded.  “In my dream, I stood at the edge of the river, and I saw seven fat and sleek cows emerge, and they fed on the swamp grass.  After they came, seven more cows emerged from the river, but these cows were sickly and emaciated.  I’ve never seen such a sorry group of cows in all of Egypt!  Then, the scrawny, miserable cows ate up the seven fat cows, but even after they’d devoured them, you would never guess they’d had anything to eat at all.  For they were still as miserable and sorry looking as they were before they ate.

Pharaoh's Dream 2

“At this point, I awakened, but I quickly drifted off to sleep again, and I had another dream.  In this dream, I saw seven full ripe ears of grain growing out of a single stalk, and after that, I saw seven more ears of grain spring up, but they were thin and shriveled up by the east wind.  And then, right before my eyes, I saw the shriveled ears swallow up the seven ripe ears of grain!

“This morning, when I awakened, I summoned my magicians and wise men, and I shared these dreams with them, but not one of them could explain them to me.  Are you able to interpret these dreams?”  Pharaoh questioned Joseph.  

Joseph listened intently to what Pharaoh shared, while also listening to what the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart.  Now, he felt the peace that only comes from ‘Elyon, as he drew in his breath and began to speak.  “Pharaoh’s dreams are the same.  God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.”

Joseph spoke with the authority that only comes from God, and Pharaoh and his counselors all leaned forward, to hear every word he uttered.  “The seven healthy cows and the seven good ears of grain represent seven years.  Likewise, the seven scrawny cows and the seven blighted ears of grain also represent seven years of famine.  This is what ‘Elyon, has shown Pharaoh He is about to do.

“There will be seven years of abundance throughout the entire land of Egypt, but afterwards, there will be seven years of famine.  Indeed, the famine will be so dreadful, that Egypt will forget all of the abundance from the previous seven years.  Indeed, the famine will consume the land, and it will be truly disastrous.

“Do you wonder why this dream was doubled for Pharaoh?  It is because the matter has already been decreed by Elohim, and it will happen according to His word very soon.

“Therefore, Pharaoh should look for a wise and discreet man to put in charge of the land of Egypt, so that he can appoint supervisors over the land to receive a twenty percent tax on all of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.  All of the food produced during the coming seven years of abundance should be gathered.  Some should be used for food in the cities, and the rest should be stored.  This will be the land’s food supply for the seven years of famine that will follow the seven years of abundance, so that the people do not perish as a result of the famine.”

Joseph’s demeanor and his wise suggestions impressed Pharaoh and all of his officials.  Pharaoh looked at his officials and asked, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!”  His officials agreed wholeheartedly with Pharaoh, so Pharaoh released Joseph from his position as a slave and prisoner that day, and placed him in command of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.

“There is no one as wise and discerning as you,” Pharaoh told Joseph.  “Therefore, today, I am placing you in charge of my entire household.  You will rule over all my people, and they will obey what you say.  Only when I rule from my throne, will I be greater than you.”  Then, removing his signet ring from his finger, Pharaoh placed it on Joseph’s finger and continued, “This day, you will not only rule my household, but the whole land of Egypt.  I, Pharaoh, decree that without your approval no one is to raise his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt.  Furthermore, your name shall henceforth be Zaphenath-paneah.” 

Pharaoh then called his servants to bring him fine linen clothing, and a gold chain, which he placed around Joseph’s neck.  Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, whose name was Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On.  So, at the age of thirty years, Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt, serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Afterward, Pharaoh sent some of his servants to the royal stables, to bring his second best chariot to Joseph, telling him ride the chariot throughout the land of Egypt.  As Joseph rode the chariot through the streets of Egypt, his servants ran before him, shouting, “Bow down!” to the citizens of the land.  Thus, when Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he inspected the entire land of Egypt.  

In the midst of all that was happening around him, Joseph found time to give thanks to Almighty God.  For though others may have forgotten him, the Lord had not forgotten him.

Beloved reader, do you think the Lord has forgotten you?  Do you feel as though you are alone in your circumstances?  Fear not, for though a woman may forget her child, God will not forget you.  If you continually seek Him, you will find Him.  He has a plan for you, His beloved child, even in the midst of the worst circumstances.  You are not forgotten.

Isaiah 49:14-15
New Living Translation

 

14 Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;
    the Lord has forgotten us.”

15 “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
    Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
    I would not forget you!”

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Forgotten…

He rose early, as he did every day, to pray and give thanks to the Almighty, before he set about his work…

Psalm 5:2-4
Complete Jewish Bible

Give ear to my words, Adonai,
consider my inmost thoughts.
Listen to my cry for help,
my king and my God, for I pray to You.
Adonai, in the morning You will hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my needs before You
and wait expectantly.

Because he had found favor with God, and with the prison warden, Joseph was awarded his own cell, which, though it was still a prison cell, afforded him much needed privacy.  Thus, he was able to spend uninterrupted time alone with ‘Elyon in the mornings and every evening, when he retired.

Joseph had quickly established a daily routine, when the warden promoted him, and he made sure that the prison was kept as clean as it was possible to keep a prison in that day and age.  Because of this cleanliness, pestilence and plagues within the prison had dropped dramatically.  Rodents no longer had free reign over the prison, but were soon killed and burned, which also cut down on disease within the inmate population.

Joseph also made sure that the prisoners were fed decent rations, twice daily, and that they had access to plenty of water.  He treated them as he wished to be treated, never taking more for himself than they were allotted.  Additionally, Joseph visited each of the prisoners daily, to ensure that no rioting or violence would break out.  He separated those prisoners who couldn’t get along with others, from the rest of the inmates, so that bullying and fighting were kept to a minimum.

The warden was both pleased and amazed at all that Joseph had accomplished in such a short time.  The prison was cleaner and healthier than it had ever been before, which made his job easier, and also made him look good to his superiors.

One morning, as Joseph made his rounds, visiting his fellow inmates, he saw the two most recent convicts sitting on their sleeping mats against the wall, looking utterly sad and dejected.  Both of them were servants of Pharaoh.  One had been his cupbearer, the one tasked with serving and tasting drinks, to ensure that Pharaoh was not poisoned.  The other man had been Pharaoh’s chief baker, the one in charge of all of the baked goods, both breads and pastries, served to Pharaoh.

Both of these men had somehow angered Pharaoh, and he’d had them cast into prison for their misdeeds.  They had been imprisoned for a few days already, and both had seemed resigned to their current status, until this particular morning, when Joseph checked on them.  Now, their distress, evident on each of their faces, concerned Joseph, so he gently asked them, “Why are you looking so sad today?”

The cupbearer replied, “We both had dreams last night, and we don’t understand them.”

“And here, in this prison, there is no one to interpret our dreams for us,” the chief baker chimed in.

Kneeling down on the floor with them, Joseph gently asked them, “Don’t interpretations belong to God?  Tell your dreams to me, please.”

Cupbearer Dream 1

The chief cupbearer then shared his dream with Joseph.  “I dreamed there was a vine in front of me, and the vine had three branches, which budded, and suddenly began to blossom.  Almost immediately after they bloomed, clusters of ripe grapes appeared on the branches.  I had Pharaoh’s cup in my hand, so I took the grapes and pressed them into his cup, and gave the cup to him.

The Lord gave Joseph, whom, you may recall, had experienced many dreams and interpretations in his own life, the wisdom he needed to interpret the cupbearer’s dream.  “This is what your dream means,” he told the cupbearer.  “The three branches are three days.”  Joseph gently reached across to the man, and lifted his his chin, so that his downcast eyes rose to meet Joseph’s gaze.  “Within three days, Pharaoh will lift your head and restore you to your position as his cupbearer, and you will be giving Pharaoh his cup, as you did before, but please don’t forget me, when everything is restored to you.  Please show me this kindness, by mentioning me to Pharaoh, so that he will release me, too, from this prison.  For the fact is that I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, though I did nothing to deserve such a fate, and even now, I am unjustly imprisoned, though I have done no wrong.

With gratitude and hope in his eyes, the cupbearer replied, “Indeed, good friend, I will remember you and tell Pharaoh about you, when I am released from this dreadful place.

Chief baker dream

Upon hearing the favorable interpretation of his friend’s dream, the chief baker eagerly shared his dream with Joseph.  “In my dream, there were three baskets of white bread on my head.  The top basket had all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.  What could this mean?

Joseph answered the man gently and honestly.  “The three baskets you saw are three days.  Within three days, Pharaoh will impale your body on a pole, and you will not even receive a burial, for the birds will devour your flesh.

“That can’t be!” the man sputtered, fearfully.

With tears of compassion in his eyes, Joseph softly touched the man’s shoulder.  “Seek Adonai while He is available, call on Him while He is still nearby.  Abandon your wicked ways and your evil thoughts; turn to Adonai, and He will have mercy on you; turn to my God, for He will freely forgive you.”

With bitterness boiling inside him, the angry baker spat out, “Seek your God?  What has He done for me, except sentence me to death?  No!  I will cry out to Ra, the sun god, to shine his blessings on me, and to Osiris, the god of the dead, to deliver me!  You can keep your God and your false interpretations.  Now leave me!

Joseph rose and left the cell sadly, for by rejecting El Shaddai, the man had surely sealed his fate.  Still, Joseph remembered both men in his prayers each day, hoping the chief baker would repent and seek Adonai, before he was executed, and also praying that the cupbearer would also seek and find Adonai.  He faithfully visited the men and served their rations to them, each day, and on the morning of the third day, he came to them once more.  “It is time now.  Please come with me,” Joseph ordered the men, as he unlocked their cell.  

Both men came forward, eager to leave their dark cell behind them.  “Where are you taking us?” the chief baker asked suspiciously.

“I am taking you to bathe and put on fresh clothing.  Then you will go to the Captain of the Guard, and he will take you to see Pharaoh,” Joseph replied.

“Good,” the baker replied.  “When I see Pharaoh, I will tell him how you mistreated me, and you will receive the punishment you are due!”  Joseph, with a heavy heart, for the man’s unrepentant soul, gave no response, as he led the two to the bathing area.  When they finished bathing, he then led them to the Captain of the Guard, who led both men away.  

Joseph had done all that he could for both men.  They were now in the hands of ‘Elyon, and of Pharaoh.

That third day was also Pharaoh’s birthday, and he had a lavish party for all of his officials.  The chief cupbearer and the chief baker were both led to the party, and both rejoiced as Pharaoh called them forth.  As they approached the throne, both knelt before Pharaoh, with their heads bowed and right fists against their hearts, in a pledge of loyalty to him. Pharaoh walked first to his chief cupbearer, and lifted his head, ordering him to stand.  He then restored him to his former position as chief cupbearer, and presented him with his royal chalice.  Tears ran down the cupbearer’s cheeks, as he accepted the chalice in gratitude.

Pharaoh then walked to the chief baker, and lifted his head.  The baker eagerly arose, and with malice for Joseph in his heart started to speak, but Pharaoh silenced him.  Then, just as Joseph had prophesied, Pharaoh ordered his former chief baker to be impaled.  The man was immediately hauled away and impaled, and, as Joseph had prophesied, there was no burial for the unrepentant baker, for the birds devoured his flesh.

All that Joseph had prophesied had come true, but, sadly, the cupbearer had forgotten him. So Joseph remained in prison, for a crime that had never been committed.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

He’d been sold.  Again.  First his brothers had sold him to the slave traders, and now, Joseph had been sold to an Egyptian soldier!  How far he had fallen!  How had he become such a bitter taste in his brothers’ mouths?  Knowing that he would see neither his father or his brother Benjamin, who knew nothing of his half-brothers’ evil intent, again, brought tears to his eyes, every time he thought of them.

Depression threatened to overwhelm him, yet, by Adonai’s grace, he was still alive.  He was now a slave, and there was nothing he could do to change it.  “Elohim,” Joseph whispered softly, as he was led away to the Egyptian soldier’s home, “please be near me, lest I die in this pit of despair…  And comfort my father, Adonai.  Give him peace, and please, protect little Benjamin from the evil intents of our brothers.  El Shaddai, deliver all of us from evil!”

Each day Joseph worked hard for his owner, dropping to his sleeping mat at night, often too exhausted to dwell on his fate.  That doesn’t mean that he did not mourn for the loss of his father, his family and his freedom.  He deeply grieved for them, hiding his pain from everyone during the day, as He served his master, Potiphar, faithfully, and without complaint.  In the cover of darkness, at night, however, especially during his first year as a slave, Joseph often wept, as he pleaded with Almighty God to protect and bless him and his family.  The Lord answered Joseph’s prayers and showered him with His favor, so that everything he did succeeded, and Potiphar, being a shrewd man, recognized and rewarded Joseph’s success by giving him charge over his entire household and everything in it.

Despite his bitter circumstances, Joseph was truly grateful to Elohim for allowing His blessings to rain down on him, and he set his heart to walking in humble obedience to both God and his master.  Though he desperately missed his family, even his deceitful brothers, Joseph worked hard, refusing to give in to the depression that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him.  Several years went by, as Joseph worked for Potiphar, and he grew in strength and stature.  Indeed, Joseph was a very  handsome young man, and it wasn’t long before others noticed…

potiphars_wife

She began to watch him, as he went about his business in her husband’s house each day, seemingly oblivious to the effect he had on her.  She didn’t say anything to him at first.  She just watched him, and wondered what it would be like to be touched by such a man.  He wouldn’t be her first conquest, for her husband was gone much of the time, fighting battles and wars.  He often left her alone for months at a time.  Certainly, no one in their culture would blame her for her looking to others to satisfy her needs, for most of them did the same thing.

After some time had passed, the woman finally acted on her desires, and boldly walked up behind Joseph one day, while he was working. She placed her arms around his waist.  “Come sleep with me,” she softly whispered, her lips so close to his ear that he felt the moistness of her hot breath against it.

Startled, Joseph turned to look at her in shock.  Oh mistress, I couldn’t!  Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

Without waiting for a response, Joseph quickly spun around on his heel, and left the room.  “El Shaddai, protect me,” he gasped, when he was alone, as fear and trembling threatened to overtake him.  It felt like a weight had settled in the pit of his stomach, and Joseph felt the bile of nausea rising up in his throat.

From that time forth, Potiphar’s wife made it her mission to coax Joseph into having sex with her.  She refused to take no for an answer, and his rejection only seemed to fuel her desire for him.  Though he tried to avoid her, she somehow managed to find him again and again.

Finally, one day, when no one else was around, Potiphar’s wife came upon him and insisted that he have sex with her.  She walked up to him, and ordered him yet again to, “Come, have sex with me.”  Then, grabbing his cloak in her hands, she attempted to remove it.  Not knowing what else to do, Joseph slipped away from his cloak and ran away from the conniving woman.  She was furious.

Potiphar and his wife

Holding his cloak in her hand, she screamed in fury, and when her servants rushed to her aid, she said, “Look!  My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us!  He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed.  When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” 

Later, when her husband returned home from work, she repeated the story to Potiphar, saying, “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me, but when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!”

Joseph, meanwhile, was in his room, crying out to the Lord for mercy.  The situation had become unbearable.  He could see no way to escape from this untenable circumstance, but one thing was certain.  He would betray neither El Shaddai nor his master Potiphar.  As he bowed before the Lord, the door to his room burst open, and Potiphar entered, with rage on his face.

“I have given you everything!” he shouted.  “There is nothing that I have withheld from you, except my wife! Yet you betrayed my trust and tried to rape her.  Is this how you repay my kindness, slave?”

Joseph paled and his eyes grew wide at Potiphar’s angry accusation.  “Master,” he whispered softly.  “You have been very kind and generous to me, indeed, and I am very grateful.  I would never betray your trust in such an evil way.  Nor would I betray Elohim’s kindness to me.”

As Potiphar gazed into Joseph’s eyes, did he realize that his wife had duped him?  Because his wife’s accusations had been so public, and because no one took the word of a slave over his master’s wife, there was no trial.  Potiphar had to save face, even at Joseph’s expense.  Therefore, Joseph was thrust into prison, for a crime that he didn’t commit.  Indeed, he was cast into jail, for a crime that didn’t even exist, except in the twisted minds of his accusers.

Joseph in Prison

Beloved reader, things are not always what they seem.  In this day and age, we are told to believe certain things without question, even though there is no evidence to back them up.  We have seen false accusations against men and women abound in our country, and in others as well.  Yet, Joseph is a true life testimony that things are not always what they seem.

Jesus was wrongfully accused of blasphemy and many other crimes that simply were not true.  Yet, He was led away like a lamb to a slaughter, bearing the guilt and sins of you and me.  To many in the world, He seemed guilty.  Yet, things were not what they seemed…

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Tragedy? Or God’s Will?

Filled with hatred and rage, Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into an empty cistern (click here to learn more about cisterns).

ancient-cistern

Can you imagine the fear he felt at his brothers’ rage?  Joseph was simply doing his father’s bidding.  I’m sure he knew his brothers didn’t like him, because they had made no attempt to hide their disdain from him.  Yet, they were still his brothers, and, confident in his father’s love for him, I don’t imagine it ever occurred to Joseph that his brothers’ would ever want to kill him.

Yet, their hatred of him became nauseatingly obvious, when they grabbed him, ripping his coat off him and hurling bitter angry insults at him.  Joseph was only seventeen years old, and there were eleven of them against him.  This was no mere child’s play.  He could see the fury in their eyes, as they grabbed him.  There was no gentleness in their touch and no holding back their ire.  They hated him, and they wanted him to know it, as they roughly dragged him to the empty cistern and threw him in.

Can you imagine how Joseph must have pleaded with his brothers, begging them for mercy?  Can you imagine the utter terror he felt, as they ignored his pleas?  Then after being dragged by his brothers, he was forced into the small opening of an empty cistern, falling, who knows how many feet to the bottom?  I can picture them covering the cistern, then walking away, while the boy cried out to them, still pleading for mercy.

Alone in the dark cistern, his throat raw from crying out to his brothers for who knows how long, do you think Joseph prayed?  I can picture his tear stained face pleading with El Shaddai for mercy, as it began to dawn on him that his brothers would show him none.  I imagine he thought of his father, weeping at the pain his death would cause the old man.

Then, probably after many hours, Joseph heard the sound of the cistern’s cover being rolled away.  I imagine his heart leapt to his throat, as hope filled his chest.  His brothers had returned!  They were sorry for their actions.  Praise YHWH (Yahweh), who had heard his prayers and answered them!  As light filled the dark chamber, I believe Joseph would have forgiven his brothers.  I can picture him grinning up at them, as he stood there, bloodied and dusty, with the stains of his tears still on his cheeks.  Did he thank his brothers for their mercy, as they dropped a rope down, for him to tie around his waist, so they could pull him up?

Did his joy turn into fear once more, as they drew him up, and he saw the same hatred in their eyes as before?  Did he fear they were going to kill him?  As he looked from one brother to another, did Joseph even notice the Midianite traders at first?  Was it his brothers or the Midianites, who informed Joseph that he was now a slave?  Did his brothers smile in satisfaction, as they saw the look of horror on Joseph’s face, when the realization hit him?

Did Joseph see his brothers, with their backs turned against him, greedily dividing the 20 pieces of silver they had just earned for selling him?  Did he rue the day that he was born?  Did he wish for death at that point? Did his faith in the Most High God falter or remain strong?  How he must grieved the loss of his father, his home and yes, even his brothers!  What a tragedy for such a young man to endure!  Or was it a tragedy?  Could Joseph’s tribulation have simply been the fulfillment of God’s will?

Too often, in today’s church, we are taught to believe that if we are faithful, our lives will be filled with health and wealth.  But, if you truly study God’s word, you will discover that this is a lie straight from the pit of hell.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NLT)

Beloved reader, His words weren’t just for His twelve original disciples.  They were for everyone who would follow Him, then and now.  We will face many trials and sorrows in our lives, just as Joseph did, just as Jesus did, and just as His disciples did.  If someone tells you any different, they are lying to you.

Joseph's Bloody Torn Coat

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are alone in your suffering.  Joseph wasn’t.  Imagine how Jacob, his father felt, when his sons returned to him with Joseph’s bloody, torn coat.  Those of us who are parents, can imagine nothing worse than losing one of our beloved children.  I can only begin to envision Jacob’s horror, as his elder sons informed him of his loss.  How he must have lamented sending his beloved son to check on his brothers that day!  Did he blame himself for Joseph’s loss?  While his other sons tried to comfort him, Jacob swore that he would go to his grave mourning for Joseph, as he wept.  (Read Genesis 37)

Did his brothers feel any remorse for their crime?  Did they, too, suffer for the sin they had committed against their brother, Joseph?  Do you think they felt pain for their father’s grief?  We’ll explore this another time.

But remember this.  As tragic as it was, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, there would have been no need for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, more than 400 years later.  So, was this truly a tragedy, or was it simply God’s will?  Is your life a tragedy?  Or is it, too, God’s will?

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Setting the Record Straight

Joseph is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love reading and studying about him, and after hearing many sermons and theories preached about him and his brothers’ betrayal, I want to set the record straight, because too many preachers and teachers are giving Joseph a bad rap.  Let’s examine the scriptures in Genesis 37, and talk about what really happened between Joseph and his brothers.

These are the records of the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:2-4 NASB)

Now, I have heard many preachers and teachers claim that because Joseph tattled on his brothers, and because his father loved him more, he somehow brought his brothers’ hatred and betrayal on himself.  Yet, I submit to you that it wasn’t Joseph’s fault that his father loved him more.  That was his father’s choice.  Further, I have heard it taught that in tattling on his brothers, Joseph earned their enmity.  However, there is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that Joseph lied, when he reported his brothers’ bad actions to his father.  Indeed, if his brothers had not been guilty of wrongdoing, Joseph would have given no bad report to his father.  Finally, look at verse 4 in this scripture passage.

His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:4 NASB)

It is wrong to blame Joseph for his brothers’ hatred…  As a child and even as an adult, I felt that my sister was the favored child in our home, and I was very jealous of her.  Was it her fault that I was jealous? No.  That sin was mine alone, not hers.  And though she was loved more, that wasn’t her fault either, any more than it was my fault that I was loved less.  The choice to favor one child over another belonged to my mother and stepfather.

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  (James 3:16 NASB)

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s love for him, and that jealousy led to hatred, which, in turn, led to murderous intentions.  How is it that many church leaders are guilty of blaming the victim of their evil acts?

One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. “Listen to this dream,” he said. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.  (Genesis 37:5-10 NLT)

Now, I have also heard many preachers and teachers claim that Joseph was a braggart, and that is why his brothers attacked him.  Yet, again, this is not what I read in the scriptures.  Joseph simply shared his dreams with his brothers and his father.  He didn’t interpret the dreams to them.  They interpreted the dreams.  Did Joseph sin by sharing his dreams with his family?  No.  Not once do we read that God told him not to share his dreams, so he wasn’t being disobedient to the One who gave him the dreams.

Indeed, because they already hated him, his brothers only hated him more, because of his relationship with God and his father.  Joseph’s brothers hated him in the same way that Cain hated his brother, Abel.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but He did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”  (Genesis 4:3-7 NLT)

Cain’s jealousy of Abel led to hatred, which led him to murder his brother.  In the same way, Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy of him led to hatred, which led them to murder him in their hearts.  Indeed, only Reuben, Joseph’s oldest brother, stopped the rest of his brothers from murdering him.  Then, while Reuben was gone, they sold their younger brother into slavery, and lied to their father, telling him that his beloved son was dead.

Heed these words.  If you harbor jealousy in your heart, sooner or later, it will lead to hatred, which can lead to murder.  Are you jealous of someone?  Repent and confess your sin to God.  Ask Him to change your heart, and fill you with His love.  Jealousy and hatred will only lead to your death.  And don’t blame the one of whom you are jealous for your hatred.  Only you and I can choose whether to hate someone or not.

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers