Series on Following God’s Schedule
God may grant a prayer with a promise, set a schedule to fulfill the promise to fit his overall plan, want the recipient to follow the schedule; but may not reveal the promise, schedule, or plan. We begin a study series to follow David’s experience as king in waiting and examine his interactions in the context of Christ’s teaching: with the purpose of understanding how he followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel without knowing the schedule a priori. The study begins with a discussion of Joseph’s prayer from Potiphar’s jail, as an example of prayer that God granted with a promise but did not reveal the promise or schedule for its fulfillment. The study is potentially relevant to every person in understanding God’s expectations of each of us when he grants a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled WHEN and HOW he chooses.
We begin a bible study series on Following God’s Schedule based on David’s interactions with others during the period between his anointing and confirmation as king of Israel. We examine the interactions in the context of Christ’s teaching several generations later. Recall that David did not become king immediately after his anointing. Instead, he went through a sequence of events that lasted approximately ten years and culminated in the people of Israel formally electing him king. The sequence of events represents God’s Schedule for David to become king of Israel after his anointing. God did not reveal the schedule to any person—not even Prophet Samuel or David himself. That notwithstanding, David followed the schedule, as we can surmise because he did become king. He followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel without knowing the full schedule at any time.
SCHEDULE FOR MISSION As we discuss in a previous study under Human Relationship with God Regarding Work, God often will lead a person to accomplish a mission through a schedule of task increments without revealing the mission or entire schedule. Each task increment leads to an outcome that ushers in the next task. Thus, the person proceeds through God’s schedule in a series of steps that culminate in completing the mission and accomplishing the objectives, without knowing the full schedule at any time. The events in each step can be preparatory (i.e., providing experience needed for the next events), precursory (i.e., a necessary event that leads to the next), or both preparatory and precursory. The person’s choices in each event determine whether he/she follows or departs from God’s schedule. As we discuss in previous studies, a departure from God’s schedule need not be permanent because he often provides opportunity for redirection (see Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection and Divine Intervention by Coercive Redirection). David took advantage of redirection when needed and, thus, followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel.
SCHEDULE FOR PROMISE David’s experience in following God’s schedule is potentially applicable to every person, because God at times grants a prayer with promise, sets a schedule for fulfillment of the promise, wants the recipient to follow the schedule, but may not reveal the promise or the schedule to the recipient. He grants every prayer of a person that believes in him. He may grant some prayers instantaneously and exactly as prayed whereas he grants other prayers with a promise to be fulfilled at a different time as he chooses.
ELIJAH’S PRAYER provides a good example of prayer that God granted instantaneously and exactly as prayed. In his interaction with the prophets of Baal, Elijah prayed as follows [1 Kings 18:36–37]: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” God granted the prayer there and then and exactly as Elijah prayed.
WHEN AND HOW HE CHOOSES However, he at times grants a prayer by making a promise to be fulfilled at a different time to fit his overall plan, maybe somewhat different from the recipient’s specific expectation. We know he grants every prayer of a person that believes in him because Christ promises that exactly [Matthew 7: 7–8]: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Therefore, if his response to a person’s prayer is not evident immediately, it is often because he grants the prayer with a promise to be fulfilled WHEN and HOW he chooses, without revealing the promise or the schedule. God expects a recipient of his promise to follow his fulfillment schedule the same way David followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel.
JOSEPH’S PRAYER AS EXAMPLE We begin the series with a study of Joseph’s prayer from Potiphar’s jail, because his experience provides an example of a believer’s prayer that God granted with a promise but did not reveal the promise or his schedule for its fulfillment. While in Potiphar’s jail, Joseph had an encounter with the chief cupbearer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and appealed to the cupbearer to take his case to Pharaoh. However, nothing happened for two more years. Thereafter, Pharaoh brought Joseph from jail to interpret his dreams and appointed him to the highest administrative position in Egypt as a result of the interpretation. Later, Joseph’s position enabled him to relocate his family from Canaan to a sanctuary in Egypt, where the young nation of Israel multiplied and prospered toward fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Thus, it happened that Joseph’s release from jail occurred at the right time to place him in position to advance Israel toward fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
Through the benefit of hindsight, we can surmise that Joseph prayed for release from jail, believed his encounter with the cupbearer could be God’s answer to his prayer, and appealed to Pharaoh through the cupbearer. God granted Joseph’s prayer, but with a promise to be fulfilled at a time and in a way to fit his overall plan for Joseph. However, he did not reveal the promise, fulfillment schedule, or plan to Joseph. We discuss Joseph’s prayer to understand that God at times grants a prayer with a promise, sets a schedule for fulfillment of the promise, may not reveal the promise or schedule, but expects the recipient to follow the schedule. Joseph must have followed the schedule because God fulfilled the promise as summarized above. However, the bible does not provide sufficient details about his life from his encounter with the cupbearer to his encounter with Pharaoh.
In contrast, the bible provides abundant details of David’s life as king in waiting that we can examine carefully to understand how he followed God’s schedule to become king. Therefore, we will combine the study of Joseph’s prayer with a study of David’s life as king in waiting: to understand God’s expectations of each of us when he grants a prayer with a promise that he schedules to fulfill later—WHEN and HOW he chooses.
God’s Plan for Joseph
Biblical accounts of the life of Joseph (11th son of Israel) indicate that God planned his relocation to Egypt from Canaan. While in Egypt, he would establish reputation as dream interpreter and, later, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, would invite him to interpret dreams for him. He would interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and at the same time show himself uniquely competent to implement the message of the dream. Pharaoh would appoint him to the highest administrative position in Egypt, which gave Joseph the authority and resources to establish sanctuary in Egypt for the young nation of Israel to multiply and prosper.
God did not reveal the plan to any person. However, the plan would place Joseph in position to advance Israel toward fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham [Genesis 15:13–14]: “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”
The plan was launched when Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to visit with his brothers tending livestock in the wilderness. As we discuss in Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent, his brothers conspired to kill him but later were persuaded to sell him to Ishmaelite merchants. The merchants took Joseph to Egypt, where he was bought by Potiphar, captain of the guard for Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Joseph Meets Pharaoh’s Cupbearer
Joseph began his life in Egypt as a slave servant in the house of Potiphar. As we discuss under
Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent, he established good reputation in Potiphar’s service but was later imprisoned for an offense he did not commit. He earned reputation in prison as an effective manager of people and situations and was appointed Charge d’Affaires over all prisoners [Genesis 39:22–23]: “So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”
In his capacity as the person in charge of all prisoner affairs, he encountered two prisoners from Pharaoh’s staff. The men, Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker, were troubled by dreams they had individually that appeared significant and needed to be interpreted. Joseph had compassion on them and offered to interpret their dreams based on his faith. Three days after the incident, the chief cupbearer was restored to his position among Pharaoh’s staff, but the baker was executed. Both events and their timing were exactly as Joseph had predicted based on his interpretation of their dreams. Thus, this interaction established Joseph’s reputation as dream interpreter in the mind of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer.
The Prayer of Joseph
The bible does not provide a direct discussion of Joseph’s prayer from Potiphar’s jail but gives an indication to the prayer through Joseph’s interaction with Pharaoh’s cupbearer. When he realized that the cupbearer was set to return to Pharaoh, Joseph immediately sought to take advantage of his contact with the cupbearer to convey an appeal to Pharaoh [Genesis 40:14–15]: “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.” The appeal indicates Joseph’s fervent wish to be released from jail.
Also, we know he had close relationship with God [Genesis 39:2–4]: “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” His life in jail conveyed Godliness in the same way. Therefore, we should expect that he conveyed to God in prayer any fervent wish of his heart, such as his wish to be released from jail.
In fact, his appeal to Pharaoh through the cupbearer indicates he likely believed that his meeting with the cupbearer was God’s answer to his prayer. The meeting actually was a key step in the implementation of God’s plan for Joseph. However, Joseph possibly could have interpreted the opportunity with an expectation that differed from God’s plan. If he believed the appeal to Pharaoh was God’s answer to his prayer, then he likely was disappointed when there was no apparent outcome for approximately two years. However, if he understood God may have a plan for him that differed from his expectation, then he likely waited patiently for God’s time—faithfully, and committed to Godliness. We expect to examine this more in the second part of our discussion of Joseph’s prayer from the dungeon.
Summary of What We Learned
God may grant a prayer with a promise, set a schedule to fulfill the promise to fit his overall plan, want the recipient to follow the schedule; but may not reveal the promise, schedule, or plan.
This study is first in a series that will follow David’s experience as king in waiting and examine his interactions with others in the context of Christ’s teaching, to understand how he followed God’s schedule to become king of Israel without knowing the schedule a priori. David’s experience is potentially relevant to every person in understanding God’s expectations of each of us when he grants a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled WHEN and HOW he chooses.
The series begins with a discussion of Joseph’s prayer from Potiphar’s jail, as an example of prayer that God granted with a promise but did not reveal the promise or schedule for its fulfillment. The current study is the first in a two-part miniseries on the prayer of Joseph. We discuss the prayer in Part 1. Subsequently, in Part 2, we will see that God granted Joseph’s prayer through a promise that he fulfilled two years later to fit his overall plan.
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