The other day Joseph’s son accidentally ran into a stranger as he was running backwards to catch a ball. The stranger, clearly annoyed, yelled at him: “Hey you! What’s your name?” “I Forget” “No really! What’s your name?” “My name’s I forget” “You’re weird! How can you forget your own name?”
Of course I made this up, but I simply couldn’t resist. The names of the two brothers Ephraim and Manasseh represent their father Joseph’s life story. And what a story he had! A roller coaster of events: from favorite son back home to slave in a foreign country; from a no-name slave in Egypt to Potiphar’s Personal Attendant; from Potiphar’s Personal Attendant to a forgotten prisoner in an Egyptian dungeon; from a forgotten prisoner to the Prison Warden’s Assistant Manager; from the Prison Warden’s Assistant Manager to Pharaoh’s Second in Command. That’s Joseph’s story, and so he named his kids “Forget” and “Fruitful” because God made him forget the past and made him fruitful in a foreign country. His own name was changed from Joseph to Zaphenath-paneah as if to make the transition into his new life complete. A different name, a different life, a different identity!
Well, not quite! Joseph’s past would catch up with him eventually. A worldwide famine brought his brothers to his doorsteps – the same brothers who sold him as a slave to get rid of him and teach him a lesson. The lesson they tried to get across to Joseph: “You may be dad’s favorite but you are not better than we are!” Although, as it turned out, they too had a lesson to learn.
Lesson #1: You will be treated just the same way you have been treating others.
Lesson #2: Lies will eventually catch up to you.
More than two decades went by when a time of testing came for both parties: Would Joseph bear a grudge? Would his brothers finally get real? The story fortunately ends on a happy note: his brothers confessed the ugly truth they had kept hidden from their father Jacob for so long; and Joseph completely forgave them. As a result the family was reunited and saved from starvation in a seven-year drought. A dead relationship was rekindled, and so Joseph lived up to his new name Zaphenath-paneah which loosely translated means: “God speaks life”; he indeed spoke life over a hopeless situation. When God speaks, life flourishes. That’s His very nature. We see the world around us as living proof. Connected with Him we become His life agents.
We may struggle with unemployment, our health, our finances, but God will see us through very confusing times – if we look up. Joseph put his trust in God when people meant to harm him. We believe in the same God Joseph believed in; our faith will create a story and encourage more people than we dare to imagine.