Genesis 41:51-52: “Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’”

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.

Galatians 5:16: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Lot would never forget the day when they left their hometown. His grandfather Terah took him and his uncle Abram with his wife Sarai, and together they set out from Ur located in modern day Iraq to travel 700 miles west to Canaan, a region bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was at Haran (near modern day Baghdad) that old Terah died, at the age of 205. The family mourned him and buried him there. But as soon as the monsoon rains were finished, early in the New Year, it was to his uncle Abraham that God spoke now (Genesis 12:1):

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Abram was visibly thrilled that God had spoken to him, and he promptly followed God’s lead. The very next morning his uncle packed up his camels and was ready to go. His enthusiasm was contagious. Caught up in the excitement, Lot decided to go along for the ride. Together they set out for the land of Canaan. And after a long and treacherous journey, they finally arrived there and settled down.

Meanwhile, their livestock had grown exponentially. Conflict arose when their flocks and herds outgrew their pastures and the land could no longer support all of them. Abram and Lot met to discuss the problem, and his uncle made a very sensible suggestion (Genesis 13:8-9):

“So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

His uncle seemed profoundly sad while Lot was excited about the prospect of separating. He has had his eye on the region near the Jordan River for a while. It looked very promising – the perfect location for his flocks and herds. Best of all: two thriving cities were close by. He could settle there, build business relationships and become a wealthy man. So he told his uncle what he wanted, and the deal was sealed.

It was a windy day when Lot took his wife and children and moved to the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley near Sodom and Gomorrah. As it turned out later, his moving location was on the brink of disaster. Lot’s greed had clouded his judgment and affected an important life decision.

The Holy Spirit wants to guide our lives, but we often think we know better. If we want God’s plans to materialize we need to trust His leadership. Our lives will become inspired as we follow the still small voice of His Spirit.

Unforeseen life events can throw us off in a moment’s notice. One door closes, another one opens, and we are grieving over the closed door while uncertain where the open door leads. God is a wonderful change agent; He is going to be with us every step of the way.

Embarking on a journey into the unknown, God will guide us through the mystery into our destiny.