"So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream...'This is what it means,' Joseph said to him. 'The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.'...Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Genesis 40:9-23
It’s the dreaded middle school feeling of being the last kid picked for the team during gym class. We all know the feeling. That middle school feeling of waiting and watching as every single kid in the class gets chosen for a team except for you, awkwardly looking at your feet as you eagerly hope for your name to get called and then not getting picked maybe because you stink at kickball or maybe because you just don’t happen to be great friends with either team captain, and then you are embarrassingly the very last person who gets thrown on the team not because you were chosen, but because you were last.
Maybe you made it through middle school without that horrible experience, but you likely have had an equivalent. For me, my big middle school moment of rejection happened at my middle school graduation ceremony. I was an overachiever in middle school, and because my older sister had already been through middle school I knew at graduation they gave out an award for straight A students who got all A’s all three years. I had to get it. I just had to.
I worked really hard, studied, and made it through my 3 years of middle school with straight A’s every semester. I was thrilled with myself, and I anticipated the feeling of my name getting called and walking across the stage when everyone realized I was one of the smartest kids in eighth grade. At least, that’s how I thought it would go. I anticipated all the people who would think I was just the best, and how they would all admire me for my hard work and success. Cue lots of high 5’s.
I was wearing my first pair of high heels, my first fancy dress (a J.C Penny’s special, really stylish stuff…) and I couldn’t wait to strut across that stage to receive my award. I waited as they started to call off the few names of the other straight A students, and I waited as they passed by the people with last names by mine in alphabetical order. That’s ok, they’ll just call my name later, I thought, until they didn’t call my name at all.
To make matters worse, that one neighborhood kid who always has the perfect terrible phrase to say at the perfect time happened to be sitting in front of me. “Hey Molly,” she said, “I thought you were smart, guess not.” I started to insist to her that I had in fact gotten all A’s, they just forgot to call my name, and she smirked with the “as if,” look on her face and everyone around me laughed.
I cried the entire night. My family still talks about it. My parents canceled our dinner reservation and ordered pizza instead. In every graduation picture my eyes are bright red from crying, because I was desperate for someone to see me. I just wanted to be noticed for all of my hard work, and instead, my mom went into the middle school office a week later to get my certificate from an administrative lady who shrugged a “Sorry, we forgot.”
Feeling Forgotten by God:
I think as we grow up, a lot of us pretend we don’t feel that way anymore. We’re *adults* and we’re so confident and we are super secure in who we are. We’ve got it figured out. We have our friends, we have our jobs, we have our families, we are secure in our lives and we are in control and we’re all good. Right?
But then we don’t get picked for the promotion we were investing all of our time working toward. We don’t get a raise we had been eagerly hoping for, and spent all of our Saturday’s working extra hours for. We watch all of our friends buy a house before us, or have a baby before us, or get what we wanted and we try to celebrate them but really, it kind of kills us because it feels like we’re the awkward kid standing in the middle of the football field in our dirty gym shoes and ugly maroon P.E. Uniform wondering, why not me?
When I think back on those middle school moments, I think about the questions I was asking myself then, and if I’m honest, I still ask them now. Maybe I’m not the only one.
Why not me?
Am I not good enough?
Why doesn’t anyone like me?
Do I not work hard enough?
Am I not a good friend?
Does anyone see my hard work?
Does anyone care?
Except, instead of being directed at the intimidating captain of the kickball team on Friday afternoon in gym class who always sends the kickball soaring over the fence, I direct them at God.
A friend and I were talking about this the other day. Sometimes, it feels like we are even further away from what we wanted than we were when we started. It has us looking up at God with disappointment and frustration wondering where the promise is, and why doesn’t it look how we thought it would? Did He forget?
Joseph and Feeling Forgotten:
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is Joseph’s story. He was a dreamer, and he has a weird, wild, and beautiful journey into his destiny. God gave him a dream where he would rule over his brothers, and he told them about it. That didn’t exactly get him into great and cordial relationships with his brothers. Instead, they wanted to get rid of him. If you know the story, you know he ends up in a pit, then ends up in a foriegn land, and then gets wrongly thrown into prison. That’s where the passage we’re looking at today is in the story. Let’s pretend we don’t know what happens next.
If I’m Joseph, in prison for years, knowing I had this dream God gave me, I would be pretty confused. I would be asking God, what about me? Because being in prison doesn’t seem like the place you would want to be if you were holding out on a dream to become a leader or someone in a position of influence and power.
Then the Holy Spirit interprets dreams through Joseph in the prison of two men. In return for the interpretations Joseph asks for a fairly simple request, “remember me.”
The cupbearer is released and has the ability to remember Joseph and help him out. But, he forgets. Two years go by before the man remembers, and then finally Joseph is released and starts to move into the position God had for him from the start.
But I don’t want to talk about the fulfillment of the dream and the promise God made to Joseph. I want to talk about Joseph in prison with nothing more than a promise knowing he had been forgotten by the people he had asked to remember him.
Haven't we all felt that at some point? In the Psalm 13 David cries out, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?”
Sometimes my heart echoes that same cry. Why didn’t it turn out how I thought it would? Why them, why not me? What have I done wrong? Am I not good enough? Why does it feel like I’m even further away from the promise now? How long, God? Will you forget me forever?
Joseph had done nothing to deserve being put into prison, and yet, there he was. He didn’t know or understand how this could possibly lead to the promise God had made for his life, and I don’t blame him. I don’t understand it either. The world has certain ways of deciding who is deserving of what, but often, we get it wrong. The world is broken and filled with people who misunderstand one another.
Maybe you were the best person for the promotion, but your boss plays favorites. You were deserving, but you didn’t get it. Maybe you work the hardest, but someone else got what you wanted first. Maybe you did everything right, but you still find yourself in some “prison.” What does that say about God?
People forget. People overlook our efforts or talents or potential. People pick teams based on who they hang out with outside of gym class. But God doesn’t forget. God doesn’t reject us, overlook us, or forget where we are.
I don’t think God wanted Joseph’s brother’s to make the decision they made which was rooted in their evil, fallen character. But He knew they were going to do it. God didn’t want Joseph to get thrown into prison wrongly, but He knew how to redeem it, and He had a plan for when it happened.
God didn’t want the cupbearer to forget Joseph, and leave him trapped in prison for years, but God didn’t forget. God moved for Joseph. God moved through broken people, broken circumstances, and some crazy, disappointing experiences. God moved and was good on His promise to Joseph. Because He isn’t a person, He doesn't forget. “God is not a man that He should lie.” Numbers 23:19
This gives me faith that God sees me right here, right now. No matter what the circumstances look like or how far away from the promise I feel.
You are not overlooked. You are not forgotten. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you might be closer to the promise than you think.
When or how have you felt overlooked by God?
Have you seen Him be true to His promises in your life? How?
Have you felt forgotten by someone in your life? How has that impacted your relationship with God?
Hey God, thank you for being a good Father who looks on His kids with favor, love, and kindness. Thank you for always being true to your word, and keeping every promise you make to us. Be with us when we feel overlooked, rejected or forgotten. Help us to remember who you are, and who we are in you. Breathe new life into dreams we have had for our lives that we haven’t seen yet because we know we can trust that your promise still stands. Amen.