Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Have you ever had a life-changing experience or a transformative encounter with someone?  What emotions and memories come flooding into your mind as you recall your experience?  As we take time to remember and reflect upon these defining moments, we can often relive the wonderment and reverence felt.

Imagine how Pharaoh’s butler must have felt as he was in prison contemplating his fate.  At any moment, Pharaoh could summon him and order his beheading…but Joseph.  Joseph was a breath of fresh air in an often hopeless place.

Genesis 40:6 indicates that Joseph didn’t merely fulfill the physical tasks that came with being keeper of the prison:

     “And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad.”

Joseph took time to observe the demeanor of those with whom he was charged.  He cared…beyond the surface.  How refreshing it is to meet a person of this caliber!  The butler had a need; Joseph knew a God who could meet his need:

     “…We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”  Genesis 40:8

Joseph replied,

     “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell them to me, please.”

In Genesis 40:9-13, the butler relayed the details of his dream to Joseph and Joseph revealed it’s inspiriting interpretation.  A simple, reasonable request was then made:

     “But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharoah, and get me out of this house…I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews…I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”  Genesis 40:14-15

How could the butler NOT remember the man who gave him hope in an unfavorable situation with a bleak outlook?  Yet, Genesis 40:23 informs us that after the butler was restored to his prominent position,

     “…The chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

Before we judge too harshly, let’s look at some passages that indicate a human tendency to acquire relational amnesia when our circumstances improve and when our outlook is more favorable.  There is a reason why God established memorials, ceremonies, and reviewed history lessons with His people…reminders of past victories, failures, miraculous encounters, and provisions, etc.  When desperate situations phased into prosperous stints, His children would ‘forget’ their powerful encounters with the Lord, immerse themselves in enjoying the gifts from God, and neglect the Giver.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt…and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment:  I am the Lord….When I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.  So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout the Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt…You shall observe this day throughout your generations…”  Exodus 12:12-14,17

With the arrival into the promised land on the horizon, the Lord instructed Moses to ‘wave a red flag’:

     “…When the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.  You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you.”  Deuteronomy 6:10-14

After a miraculous crossing over the Jordan river, Joshua commanded leaders, representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to:

     “…Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder…that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you’?  Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it crossed over the Jordan…And these stones shall be a memorial to the children of Israel forever…And the children of Israel did so…and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan…and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there.”  Joshua 4:5-8

God’s people returned from captivity in Babylon to start the process of rebuilding Jerusalem.  It must have felt so good to be back home!  After some time had passed, however, they allowed everyday life routine and the ambition to embrace being ‘successful’ once again to distract them from serving their Savior, Provider, and Mighty God.  The prophet, Haggai, was sent by the Lord as a verbal ‘Post It’ reminder:

     “…This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built’…Is it time for yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?  Now, therefore…consider your ways!  You have sown much, and bring in little.  You eat, but do not have enough.  You drink, but you are not filled with drink.  You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm.  And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes…Consider your ways!  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified…You looked for much, but it came to little…Why?…Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.” (Haggai 1:2-9)

In Nehemiah, the people had overcame opposition, and completed the rebuilding of the wall that encompassed Jerusalem.  Corporate reading of God’s Word, a communal return to observing the Feast of Tabernacles, and a recap of history, leading to confession and renewed commitment (Nehemiah 9:5-38), took place after this significant achievement.

A life-changing encounter will only remain life-changing if we are intentional about keeping that moment alive in our minds.  Joseph became ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ as Pharoah’s chief butler returned to his former glory days and put his stint in prison behind him.  What is your current situation?  Are you in a place of desperation?  The Psalmist, Asaph, confided,

“In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing.  My soul refused to be comforted.  I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.  And I said, ‘This is my anguish; but, I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High’.  I will remember the works of the Lord; I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will also meditate on all Your work and talk of Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:2-3, 10-12) 

Asaph then proceeded to rehearse God’s dealings with his people in Psalm 78. Taking time to remember the Lord and the people who have journeyed with you in life’s pivotal moments…good and bad…is vital to experiencing an ongoing connection with a ‘support team’ of sorts.  Reflect on your life and write down your own ‘pivotal moments’ timeline…those moments that stirred a fire within your soul…so that passed time doesn’t dull your memory of those influential junctures.  Are you living the ‘good life’ right now?  Accept Paul’s challenge in Romans 12:1-2, in return for all of the blessings and gifts God has given you,

“…Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  Do not be conformed to this world (Don’t get caught up in ‘the good life’.); but, be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Be intentional about remembering all God has done in your life.), that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

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