One of the saddest lines in the Joseph account is at the end of Genesis 40. “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (v23). This is the third in a series of great disappointments that came his way – being sold as a slave by his brothers, being thrown into gaol on false charges, and now being forgotten by someone who had the power to plead his case. Joseph had helped the cupbearer, and even asked him to work for his release, but the ungrateful beneficiary just forgot him! It seems like he is even more alone than ever before.
One of the commonest human fears is that our lives will end up being of no consequence – that no-one will remember us, that we will be forgotten. And humanly speaking, it is a real fear. There are plenty of unmarked graves in cemeteries, or gravestones that are indecipherable with the course of the years, and no-one seems to bother. If we confine our view to this time-space world, the outlook is not overly cheerful. But that leaves the eternal perspective of God out of the picture. His view is infinitely bigger and longer.
God had not forgotten Joseph. As with most of the people God used to advance his purposes to redeem a people for himself, Joseph was still in the place and time where God was preparing him and forming him to play a vital role in his good plans. It must have been incredibly frustrating and disappointing for him, as God had not given him a timetable, or let him in on the details of his plan. Only in retrospect could he see that God meant it for good.
In the meantime Joseph gets on with the daily grind of prison life, living for God in the midst of extremely trying circumstances. For most of us, a fair portion of our lives are marked by this kind of living. But God is working out his good purposes to bring us to his eternal home, and until then, to use us to bring his message of salvation to others.
Jesus promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age – let’s live in the light of that reality.