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What's In A Name?

Have you ever considered the depth of the meanings behind the names Joseph gave his sons? In Genesis 41:51-52 we find that Joseph had two sons; the first he names Manasseh, and the second he named Ephraim.

Manasseh literally means "God made me forget all my trouble and my father's household."

Ephraim literally means "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."

Wow! Talk about carefully choosing the names for your children!

The entire story of Joesph is fascinating to me. It continually inspires me to emulate Joseph by persevering, working hard, and trusting God completely through thick and thin. Each part of his life story contains a wealth of wisdom and guidance for those who would read it and understand it with the help of the Holy Spirit. And in modeling the life of Joseph, I find myself to actually be following after Jesus. I suppose the real reason I love the Genesis account of Joseph's life is because it points to Jesus from start to finish.

Dysfunctional families are not new. And God is not surprised by dysfunction. In fact, He loves to work in mighty ways in spite of our dysfunction! Whether you grew up in a happy home or in a very dysfunctional family does not hinder God's ability to use you in amazing ways for His purposes. Joseph's life is a testimony to God's faithfulness. And the names Joseph gave his sons is evidence of that faithfulness.

In the name Manasseh, we see Joseph declaring that God's goodness toward him was more than enough to cover the painful memories from his childhood home and all his hardships there. Now, if you think of Joseph as only a spoiled brat who lorded his favored position over his older brothers, you are missing the point. Joseph is often referred to as a "type of Christ" - his life story is meant to point us to Jesus. I don't think that the spoiled brat depiction fits God's purpose in sharing Joseph with us in the book of Genesis. Don't believe me? Read it again in context, looking for signs of Jesus as you read. Was Joseph misunderstood, scorned by those who knew him, rejected and sold for a handful of coins? Did those around him readily accept his soon-to-be position in a place of authority over them? And yet Joseph was the one who rescued his family from starvation, saving them from certain death...and Jesus was the One who rescued all who receive Him from certain death. When you look for Jesus in the life of Joseph, you suddenly see that God was painting a beautiful picture foretelling His Son - and the spoiled brat image of Joseph begins to fade away.

In the name Ephraim, we see Joseph acknowledging that God had made him fruitful and prosperous in the land of his suffering. Joseph didn't try and pretend that his 13 years of suffering were without effect. He grasped the depth of his suffering, and yet was able to move past those hardships as soon as God released him from prison and placed him in a position of authority second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. We don't see him hanging on to his past, pining about his tragic life and the "wasted" 13 years. Instead we see him stepping into God's new role for him, and moving forward without bitterness. He did what God called him to do, when He called him to do it, without living in the past or leaning into the future. That's a good example to me for living my daily life.

Yes, Joseph had to face his brothers. And yes, he did test them before telling them who he was. But through those events, I don't see Joseph as unwilling or unable to forgive. I see him as a man yielded to his God, willing to forgive at any moment but also willing to let God deal with his brothers as He saw fit. I think Joseph knew that vengeance is the Lords, and it is His to repay.

Be encouraged today that God knows your name, and He knows your situation. Follow Him today, and He will take care of your tomorrows.

Day 164 done :)

Jan L.Burt


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