Word of Encouragement (05/25/2022)

Pastor James
May 25, 2022

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. 23 The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, 24 yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), 25 by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. 26 The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.” (Gen. 49:22-26)

The first part of Jacob’s prayer for Joseph was to liken him to a fruitful bough, which we reflected on yesterday. The second part is about how he had suffered and endured: “The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved....” This is how Jacob described what Joseph had to go through to be where he was. “The archers” refer to all those who opposed him and tried to destroy him. They include his own brothers, Potiphar’s wife, etc. We cannot say that all his sufferings were innocent, righteous sufferings. While we cannot excuse his brothers’ murderous intent, he did provoke them to jealousy with the way he shared his dreams. But in the case of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph suffered unjustly.

This goes to show that, just because God has made you “a fruitful bough by a spring” doesn’t mean that your life will be free of trouble. There will always be those, who are jealous of you for whatever success and blessing you enjoy. Some will bitterly attack you to take away your blessings or drag you down. They will harass you to make your life uncomfortable and even miserable. The image of “archers” is quite poignant in this regard: they can hurt you from far away, hidden from your sight. Who fits this description better than Satan and his minions? “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). Of course, those, who are used by the evil one, can be as sneaky and stealthy.

When difficulties arise, we should not think that we have been removed from the spring of God’s grace. Even the boughs by a stream are not exempted from the harshness of the elements—winds, torrential rains, heat, cold, etc. Of course, in nature, “too much weather” can kill trees and plants. But the spring, by which we are planted, is not any spring; it is the spring of God’s infallible, triumphant grace. It will provide us with everything we need to withstand all the dangers and threats. God’s grace may not shield us from all dangers, but it will enable us to overcome them as more than conquerors.

So, we read, “...his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob....” This makes clear that the LORD was the One, who sustained Joseph through his hardships and made him triumphant in the end. See how intimately God was involved in strengthening him: “his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob....” It evokes the image of a father holding his baby son’s arms and helping him to punch!

But this didn’t mean that Joseph was just a puppet. Strengthened by the LORD, he did not denounce the dreams that he received from the LORD despite his brothers’ unkind, discriminating treatment of him. He did not succumb to the relentless seduction of Potiphar’s wife. We read this about Joseph’s suffering in Ps. 105:18-19: “His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.” Even as he resisted the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, he had to endure his unjust imprisonment with all of its misery and pain by holding on to God’s promise to him. And his rise to power demonstrated that he passed the test by faith.

Here is another picture of the wonderful harmony between God’s work and our efforts: He enables us and we must exert our efforts, believing that God is enabling us. What are the challenges you face today? Pray for God’s strength. Pray for the faith to act on it. And get up and do what God calls you to do in faith!