Sunday, July 6, 2014



Your name becomes your identity

Excerpt from the book, Imagine the Future You

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       “Hey, Joseph!” said the baker, his two chins bobbing in sync with his laughter. “I heard you had a tumble with Potiphar’s wife. Way to go! Who would have thought it?”
      “Since Potiphar committed all he has into your care, I guess that was all that was left!” the lanky butler added. His cold, accusing eyes mocked.
      Anger and embarrassment shot through Joseph. His chains tinkled as he shifted position where he sat on the hard stone floor. “You are wrong. I did not do that great wickedness and sin against Potiphar, myself, or God.”
      “You worried about God when you could have had her?” the baker said, chuckling, his round face showing he didn’t believe Joseph.
      “I decided long ago to follow God’s will for my life, and I haven’t changed my mind,” Joseph answered firmly as he tried to stand.
     “You are a fool,” the baker shot back at Joseph as he and the butler walked away, heads together and laughing.
     Joseph stared after the pair, the chains on his wrists and ankles causing his whole body to ache. He wondered why the two men accused him. After all, they offended the king of Egypt and were sentenced to prison, too. Joseph had no idea what they had done.
     One day weeks later, Joseph noticed the butler and the baker didn’t pick up their bowls of food when it was time to eat. By now, Joseph’s chains were gone because once again Joseph found favor with his captors. But he was still a prisoner. He picked up the bowls and then slowly walked to where he’d heard the      “Here’s breakfast,” Joseph said. “You should eat.”
     “It’s nothing but swill,” spat the baker, holding his head in his hands.
      As Joseph held out the bowl, a loud groan rushed from the butler’s throat. His fingers ran nervously through his dirty curly hair.
     “What’s wrong?” asked Joseph.
      “We’ve had some terrible nightmares,” the baker answered, adding his cry of anguish. “They seem so real we need to have someone tell us what they mean, but there is no interpreter.”
      The butler stopped his guttural groans and took two deep breaths. “I’m sure the dreams have a meaning. Do you know anyone…? Hey, Joseph! You talk with God, don’t you? Sure you do!” He got up from the floor and patted Joseph on the back.
     Quickly the baker tried to stand. His humpty-dumpty body rocked back and forth three times before Joseph reached and pulled him to his feet.
     Panting, the baker put his arm around Joseph and let out a blast of putrid breath. “Yes, Joe, old buddy.  We’ve been stuck together in this prison a long time. You are such a wonderful fellow to keep on speaking terms with God! You’ve been a good cell-block mate. Haven’t even seen you in any of the fights. Now the captain of the guards has you serving us, and you do it well. Would you like to hear my dream?”
      “And mine?” added the butler.
      All the noise brought a crowd of other prisoners. They stood, watching expectantly. The butler and the baker stared at each other, then Joseph. The butler stepped forward and whispered in Joseph’s ear for a long time. Then the baker stood at Joseph’s other ear, whispering and nervously shaking one leg.
     Afterward, Joseph turned away and lifted his hands toward heaven. His lips moved, but no sound came out of his mouth.
     Finally, Joseph turned to look at the butler. “Within three days, Pharaoh shall give you back your job. Please remember me and ask that I be released from this prison.”
     “Thank you! Oh, thank you!” A deep laugh rumbled from the butler. He shook hands with Joseph and some of those watching. ‘I will be sure to give them your message.”
     Then Joseph looked solemnly at the baker. “In three days, Pharaoh will hang you.”
     The baker stood speechless, his mouth dropped open and his eyes filled with terror. Then obscenities flowed from his fat, drooling lips. When those were spent, his deep, wrenching sobs echoed in every prison cell.
      Three days later, the butler was back at work and the baker was dead.
And Joseph’s release didn’t come. The butler didn’t tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s request.
     Three men. The butler and the baker had names, of course, but they were not included in the biblical account. But even if we knew their names, they probably wouldn’t be worth mentioning or remembering.
     But we won’t forget Joseph. Today’s youth would have called Joseph “hot” in his youth. I despise the term myself, but you know by the way Potiphar’s wife flung herself at the young man his handsome face could put girls’ hearts in a flutter.
     Some biblical scholars believe Joseph lived about four thousand years before Christ.[1] That’s a long time ago for his name to come up now. Even though Joseph has no last name, his name will never be forgotten. Joseph is on the minds and lips of many people even today because of who he was and what he did.
     Who could forget the sound of Joseph’s weeping in the desert cistern as he heard his brothers planning to kill him and then deciding to sell him as a slave? His years in prison suffering because he wouldn’t tumble into bed with Potiphar’s wife, who then ripped her dress and accused him of rape? Or after Joseph’s promotion to governor, his heart-wrenching sobs when he recognized his brothers bowing before him in Pharaoh’s Egyptian palace asking for food?
      Or can any Bible student forget how Joseph forgave those brothers and fell on their necks, weeping and kissing them?
      And what Joseph said? “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”[2]
            Our tongues still speak Joseph’s name with respect because of who he was and what he did.
Joseph’s name remained on a small pyramid in Egypt, according to Bible historians and archaeologists, until Moses led the Israelites in their exodus. When Joseph knew he was dying, he prophesied God would take them from Egypt back to their own land, and when they went asked them to take his bones with them. The Bible says the Israelites took the bones back to Israel, and Joseph was reburied in Shechem. That’s where the Jews of modern times found a tomb they identified as Joseph’s in 1921. His name appeared on the tomb in the heart of Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria. But then on February 23, 2003, the carved stone over the grave was destroyed and the tomb vandalized and filled with burning garbage. In February 2008, vandals set burning tires inside the tomb. Yet, until September 2008, Jews journeyed to the tomb to pray, although         Muslims have attempted to make it a holy site to Islam.[3]
      Despite the damage to his tomb, Joseph’s name is remembered—not because it is so unusual, but because it belonged to an unusual man.
What about your name? Your name has already appeared in many places. It first appeared on your birth certificate and the wristband you wore in the hospital after you were born. The newspaper might have run your name with the births. It certainly was on the birth announcements your parents mailed to friends and relatives.
Your doctor has a whole file that begins with your name. The school has files with you as the star. If and when you get a job, there will be files on you.
The government has archives on you, beginning with your Social Security number. The driver’s license bureau will keep records under your name. Your name will appear on loans, titles, and deeds.
Your name will be in the news in many cities if you make the honor roll or you receive awards or do notable things. Your name will be listed with marriage licenses and your engagement and wedding announcements may be in the newspaper—but hopefully it won’t be in the divorce column. If you are in a serious accident or arrested after age eighteen, your name would be in the news.
If you become a screen star, a politician, an inventor, a hero, extremely wealthy, a philanthropist, a model, a successful businessman, a writer, or just someone who voices an opinion in the right place, people will see your name. Your name could become a household word.
Mostly, however, our names are spoken more than written, as Joseph’s was. Sometimes your name just runs around in people’s heads.
For sure, unless the Lord Jesus Christ returns first or you are lost at sea or buried in an unknown tomb, someday your name will appear on a tombstone or an urn containing your ashes.
For the most part, your name reflects who you are and what you do. Today is the day to prepare for the future and decide who you will be and what you will do.
That brings us to an important book where you’d want your name to appear.
Your success at achieving the ultimate life begins with your name in the Book of Life, the “Who’s Who” of who is going to live forever in heaven.
How do you get in?
Different from some other Who’s Who books, you aren’t required to pay a fee or buy that edition. An entry is free of cost to you—but a huge amount already has been paid in blood for your name to be included. That’s called redemption because we were born into sin and the penalty for sin is death.
Jesus told his disciples to rejoice that their names were written in heaven.[4] The last book of the Bible, Revelation, has multiple references to the “Book of Life.”[5]
Revelation chapter 20 describes the vision the Apostle John saw of the Great White Throne Judgment: “I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to things written in the books.”
 In chapter 21, we’re given a description of heaven that “has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, there will be no night, nothing evil will be allowed to enter, and the only humans who will be there are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s (Jesus) Book of Life.”
It all begins when we make a decision to believe, and when we repent of our sins and accept the redemption, the abundant life, Jesus promised.
That’s when your name becomes special.

Copyright Ada Brownell December 2013

[1] You can read about Joseph and his family in Genesis 30–50. Even the creation account didn’t use this much space!
[2] Genesis 5:19–21 NKJ
[3] David M. Rohl and Dr. Thomas S. McCall, Th.D., “Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest,” Levitt Letter, June 1999.
[4] Luke 10:20
[5] Rev. 3:5; Rev. 20:12; Rev. 21:27