Forgetting Joseph

In Exodus 1:8 it states “Now there arose up a new King over Egypt which knew not Joseph.” (KJV) At that point years had passed since Joseph’s death and someone in Egypt had decided that teaching history was not a worthwhile endeavor; or perhaps someone decided to edit that phase of Egyptian History from its books. Maybe the King was a totally indifferent student. Nonetheless, what God had done for Egypt through Joseph was forgotten which meant that God was forgotten.

God had brought Joseph up from the dungeon of his captivity to be His servant in the house of Pharaoh.  Through his obedience to God and because Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God upon Joseph, Joseph was made Governor of Egypt and saved the country from famine.  Its people had bread through seven years of famine because of Joseph’s governance during the good years and the famine years.  Other countries found themselves coming to Egypt to buy corn to stave off the famine in their lands and the treasury of Egypt was enhanced. 

But, not only did God use Joseph to save Egypt, He used him to save his family and its posterity.  In Genesis 46:3 God spoke to Jacob saying “…I am God, the God of thy father:  fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation.” (KJV) Joseph then arranged for all his extended family to live in the land of Goshen where they would be protected.  And he continued to manage the affairs of King Pharaoh for his benefit. Joseph had saved Egypt by being a servant of God first and then giving duty to Pharaoh and his affairs.  Joseph died and generations later a new Pharaoh, knowing none of this, saw the children of Israel multiply and prosper and began a reign of persecution against the Jews which led to another downfall for Egypt through plagues and the destruction of its army.

Okay.  So what?  That was a long time ago and the vast majority of people reading this article are not Egyptians.  Why does Egyptian history matter to us today? Isn’t this really another story about a merciful God Who once again saved the Children of Israel?

The answer to that last question is: Yes; but it’s also about Egypt which chose to forget God. The larger point in this bit of history is that God deals with nations, not just individuals. For those of us who live in supposedly Christian nations which were founded on Christian roots or were at one time converted into Christianity there is a frighteningly, dangerous parallel happening.  Evidence abounds that we are forgetting our “Josephs” and, therefore, God. I cringe when I hear these men-on-the-street interviews asking questions to mostly Millennial-age individuals about civic holidays or religious holidays and the incredible ignorance revealed in the answers given.  Ten years ago I laughed; now it makes me utterly sad.  For example, those interviewed have no knowledge about why we celebrate the 4th of July or what Easter represents.   

In the United States today, we have at least two generations the majority of which do not know this country’s Founding Fathers.  In some school districts we have ceased to teach US history courses at all. In others we are teaching an edited and revised version of history which gives no credence to God for placing these Founders in the land and for guiding them to save and establish liberty in the US based on an understanding of God’s governing principles.

While I don’t know first-hand what all is happening in other Christian countries, I greatly suspect that the younger generations in the U.K. have no idea that it was God who orchestrated the rescue of Britain’s army from the beaches of Dunkirk in the days of World War II.  God, Who responded to fervent prayer from the nation, took control of the weather and allowed the rescue to take place.  I also noticed that neither God nor the National Day of Prayer was mentioned in the recent movie.   What is happening in Ireland with the recent Constitutional amendment which lifts the ban on abortion?  I heard one comment which basically said that the Irish Catholic Church, the predominant church in the nation, had lost its authority with younger people to direct their faith.  My very simplistic observation is that the majority of the younger generation in Ireland has no revelation of Jesus Christ and why abortion matters. And that comment certainly does not apply solely to Ireland.

What I know best is what has transpired in the US.  At the foundation of this country God was there.  The pilgrims came to escape religious persecution and to have the liberty to worship.  Original writings and official documents make this very clear.  And when the form of government was being debated God was definitively there.  The “Josephs” of the US were men of faith who served in various ways.  Some shaped and signed The Declaration of Independence.  Some served as leading officers in the Revolutionary War.  Some were involved in the crafting of The Constitution.  Others led their state legislators in writing their own constitutions.  Overarching all of this is what we think of today as guiding and defining principles.  These “Josephs” believed that God vested rights and privileges in the individual.  Individuals created governments.  Therefore, governments were subject to the individual citizens and to the God who created them. The brave men and women who populated this country and founded the nation faced incredible odds of failure; suffered disease and starvation in the early years; contended with the British army, misfortunes of war, loss of personal wealth and property, and the possibility of execution for treason in the years leading up to the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  With such odds stacked against them, why do it?  Because the freedom to worship God and enjoy the blessings of God-given liberty were far more important than living in certain misery.

In today’s culture the historical facts are either obliterated or so twisted that in the rare event the younger generation knows the name of one of our “Josephs” he is vilified.  Quite recently one of the television channels was showing an organization interviewing various students at George Washington University about the consideration being made to change the name of the university.  Obviously, George Washington was the first president of the nation and the university was named to honor him.  Some of the students were firmly of the opinion that the name should be changed because of all the supposedly horrible things Washington had done.  A fewer number didn’t care one way or the other.  I don’t recall hearing even one student firmly defend an opinion to keep the name.  The most memorable student was one who, in essence, said it probably should be changed to someone who was relevant.  At one time George Washington was relevant enough for the school to be named after him, but that didn’t apply anymore.  She was apparently ignorant of the fact that without George Washington we would not be The United States of America, certainly not the way it exists today.  Washington commanded the Continental Army and got on his knees every day to pray for God’s provision.  And Martha Washington, at home in Virginia, got on her knees every day to pray for God’s protection for George and the success of the army.  And God, responding to those prayers and the prayers of many others, performed miracles to save Washington’s life and many of the lives of those fighting in the army.  The student further did not know that it was the respect and admiration for George Washington that held the delegates to the Constitutional Convention together when things became really rough.  Forgotten also was the fact that when a seeming impasse was reached concerning the form of government, someone offered Washington a proposal to make him king, which he vehemently rejected.

The story of Washington is just one of the many “Josephs” who led God-inspired lives and brought this country to be.  Document after document from these men implored their fellow citizens to remember God and to let the Bible be the first book of learning.  The two quotes below are only a sample of the belief and faith of our Founding Father “Josephs”.

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” – John Quincy Adams, President

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson, President, Jefferson Memorial 

Were he alive today, Jefferson would certainly be trembling.  While there are definitely bright spots of institutions and individuals who remember these “Josephs” and unhesitatingly declare the glory of the God they worshiped, too many in the nation are falling prey to forgetting.  The nation is awash with secularists and atheists who want nothing more than to stifle religious freedom and remove any thought of God from the public conscience. They are working overtime to remove the conviction that our liberties are the gift of God. 

I seem to have this recurring refrain.  Where is the Church?  I am positive that in my lifetime I have heard a minister reference the devastation that befell Egypt when it forgot God and Joseph.  I’m certain there was a “see what happens when you forget God” in there somewhere. But, what about today?  What about this national crisis we are facing?  Are there pastors in the pulpits reminding congregations what happens when a nation forgets God because it doesn’t know or understand the role God played in founding or saving a nation?  Are there pastors telling their congregations that sin is the root of the problem and the only one who can deal with sin is their Creator God Jesus Christ?  Or, has the Church simply swallowed too much PC juice and substituted a safe space for saving grace?  It is time to wake up the Church and the Christian communities across this nation and the world. As Thomas Jefferson indicated, God’s justice is real.  We are at our peril if we forget.  

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