Sometimes a passage of scripture sticks in my mind like a burr and bothers and bothers me until I dig it out. Psalm 105: 19 (and surrounding verses) did this to me this week. The passage is describing what God did in Joseph's lifetime. Here it is:
"And He called for a famine upon the land.
He broke the whole staff of bread.
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;
Until the time that his word came to pass.
The Word of the LORD tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of peoples, and set him free."
The passages goes on from there; it's a chronological account of important events in Joseph's life, a summary of sorts. You see the progress:
famine --> slavery --> imprisonment --> foretelling the future --> (the Word of the LORD tested him) --> release from prison
What in the world is that one sentence doing in the middle of all those other factual life events? What events in Joseph's life occur between his foretelling of the future (prophesying, if you will), and his release from prison? If we looked at Joseph's life, what years correspond to "the Word of the LORD tested him"?
Genesis 40:23 and 41:1 tell us. Joseph waited.
Joseph was wrongfully imprisoned in a foreign country. Still, he rises to positions of responsibility. Then God gives him an amazing gift! He's able to interpret two men's dreams and predict their futures -- a baker and a cup-bearer. And his predictions come true! Joseph must've hoped this would produce his release. But it didn't happen. The cup-bearer, who returned to the king's house, forgot about Joseph and his accurate prediction of the man's release from prison.
And Joseph waited two whole years before anything happened.
And that's when scripture tells us that "the Word of the LORD tested him." While he felt forgotten and languished in prison in a strange land.
We can easily say, "Oh yeah. I understand that God often makes us wait for things in order to test us." But that's not exactly what it says. God's Word tests Joseph. What would that mean to Joseph? He didn't have a Bible. The Pentateuch hadn't been written yet. What Word of the LORD did Joseph know?
Joseph's ability to interpret dreams and predict men's futures is given to him by God; he says so. In some way, God speaks to Joseph. This is the Word that tested him. Joseph has an intimate relationship with God in spite of his many sorrows. He trusts what God says to him; he stakes his life on it. God gives him dream interpretations, and he in turn tells it to the interested parties. Then ... God's words seem to stop, come to a dead end.
Do you trust Me? God asks him. Do you still believe Me? Are you willing to wait? How long will you wait?
In our relationship with God, the one element we often fail to figure in, is time. The real test of our faith isn't always the injustice, oppression, poverty, sorrow, or grief we face. It's the How-Long. How Long will it last? We feel we could just bear up under the weight of trouble, if we know when it would be over!
Waiting is the test. Do you still believe what God's told you in the past? Do you still lean on that relationship even if everything else is stripped away? Why does God make us wait? What does He want to see in our hearts before He begins to act again?
If you've ever waited through a sorrow, you know what that agony is. God is testing the sterling qualities, the real gold, in you. He's burning off the extraneous matter. Waiting strips away the fluff of life and amazingly focuses the mind and eyes on what's straight ahead. At the right time, the Father says to His child, "Okay! That's enough waiting. Time to go." Your waiting, your testing, is over.