In and Out of Favor

But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.

Genesis 39:21

Most folks have heard the story of Joseph. There’s an animated movie, a Broadway musical … all sorts of stuff that tells the story of Joseph with varying degrees of accuracy and fidelity to the source material. But that’s to be expected.

The source material (Genesis) tells the story of a teenager (17 when his story gets going) who is loved by his father, hated by his brothers, and subject to having some nutty dreams.  His story starts with him favored by his father. Favored too much, as he is sold into slavery by his brothers as an alternative to outright killing him. He becomes a slave in Egypt, where God blesses everything he works at and his master puts him in charge of everything he owns. Smart guy. So Joseph is favored by his Egyptian master. He is also favored by his master’s wife, but she favors him as a potential partner in adultery. He refuses. She lies. Joseph ends up out of favor and in jail.

And that brings us to where we pick up his story in this morning’s verse. See, Joseph is innocent of the charges leveled against him. He is a very rare bird: a righteous young man. And God is well aware of this. But God is playing a much larger game than Joseph momentary favor or disfavor. Those who know the story know that God is positioning Joseph to preserve Egypt through a massive famine. More, God is positioning Joseph to be able to preserve Jacob (Israel) alive. Even though Joseph gains and loses the favor of man, God is doing something much larger than one man’s comfort.

The same is true in the life of every child of God. In my life, I have seen myself in and out of favor repeatedly. I once worked for an office supply store and found favor. Lots of things played into that favor, but it was ultimately God giving me favor. New management came in and I fell out of favor. God moved things around so I needed to move along and I entered education as an instructional aide. Again, God gave me favor and things went really well. I had planned to move into teaching, so I jumped when an opportunity presented itself. My first year, I was definitely favored. I might still have the reviews somewhere, but God poured grace upon grace. Years ticked by and the favor went away (favor, in educational circles, can be a mercurial thing). I found myself unemployed for the longest period since I began college. Then I started with my current employer and God granted favor there.

Our lives, as Christians, will often be that rollercoaster of moving in and out of favor. Whether that favor be with employers or friends or what-have-you is not terribly pertinent to the fact that the Lord is the One, as today’s verse says, that gives favor. He is also the One that allows it to slip away. And, as with Joseph, He does so because He has a much larger plan than our momentary comfort and happiness. He has in mind our eternal contentment and holiness and the salvation of as many as possible. The yo-yo experience of going in and out of favor shows others how God’s people handle adversity. And when we weather it as gracefully as Joseph did, we plant a seed of curiosity.

God gave Joseph favor in a prison, arguably the last place anyone would consider being in favor a good thing. But that favor exposed Joseph to the man who would eventually mention Joseph to Pharaoh and the favor Joseph would be granted with Pharaoh would eclipse all favor that preceded except one: the favor Joseph found in God’s eyes.

I need to remember this; that God is playing a much larger game than I, pawn that I am, cannot see. My momentary favor will be sacrificed if the gambit will lead to victory and that victory is what both God and I are after. Also, though man’s favor will wax and wane, God’s favor is for eternity, because He has favored us with salvation and His presence and the promise of all things resolving into good and … that’s probably enough for the moment.

Father, thank You for Your favor on me; for Your love for me; for Your plan for me that I can neither fully see nor fully understand. Please help me remember that You are about larger business than this moment. You are about the business of eternity. And my momentary state of being in or out of favor is part of a Master plan.

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