Joseph Forgotten?


Do not despair, no matter what is happening to you, for the sovereign Lord of all can by no means ever forget you.

“Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Gen. 40:23).  

- Genesis 40:20–23

So often we join with David and cry “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1) because of the seemingly endless wait that defines the Christian life. We know that our present troubles are nothing in comparison with the “eternal weight of glory” guaranteed for God’s people (2 Cor. 4:17), but in the midst of our pain it can seem like this glory will never come. Encouraged on by the saints, we know we must run the race of faith set before us (Heb. 12:1–2), but the finish line can seem invisible when trials spring up as hurdles. Jesus promises us a hundredfold reward even today if we leave all to follow him (Mark 10:29–31), yet we easily believe He has forgotten us when this blessing does not come, to our minds, fast enough. 

It is not as if we lack evidence that the Lord remembers His people. His transformation of us from God-haters to loving servants and His past answers to prayer are significant proofs of our Father’s fidelity. Even better are His promises to complete His good work in us (Phil. 1:6) and to use all things for our good (Rom. 8:28). Nevertheless, we often fail to trust Him. Dr. R.C. Sproul writes: “In theory it is easy to understand the premise that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, but to get this into our bloodstreams is another matter. It is one of the most difficult tasks of the practicing Christian. It involves not only believing in God but believing God” (The Invisible Hand, p. 174). We engage in a life-long struggle to take the Lord at His word.

Despite Joseph’s accurate interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, Pharaoh’s official failed to remember Jacob’s son (Gen. 40:20–23). The cupbearer’s forgetfulness was bad enough, but how much worse was it on those days when, because Joseph was a sinner like us, it took all he had to believe God had not forgotten him. After all, two more years would pass before the Lord intervened in Joseph’s circumstances to show clearly again His presence with the patriarch (chap. 41). However, we know Joseph did persevere, looking past his sufferings to seek refuge in God’s invisible hand (Gen. 50:20), and we must do so as well even when it seems more rational to do otherwise. 

Coram Deo

Isaiah 49:15 tells us that the unthinkable may even happen at times — a mother forgets her nursing baby. But God will never forget His people. Even when we do not see His helping hand, the Lord remembers us in our trials and afflictions. The assurance Moses gives us that God was with Joseph (Gen. 39:21) is for all those who trust Jesus. Do not despair, no matter what is happening to you, for the sovereign Lord of all can by no means ever forget you (Heb. 13:5).

Passages for Further Study

  • Deut. 4:31
  • Neh. 5:19
  • Luke 23:39–43
  • Rev. 16:19
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