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with Ann Maniscalco
Genesis 37:19-27; 39:1-2
His would definitely qualify as a rags-to-riches story. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Ralph de la Vega recently became head of Merged Wireless and Business Division at AT&T, Inc. This position garners him a yearly salary of $891,667, and his “total calculated compensation” is well over $8 million. Prior to that, he was the Chief Executive Officer and President of AT&T Mobility LLC, also serving as its Chief Operating Officer, the article states. De la Vega’s fascinating story, detailing his travel from Cuba and arrival on U.S. soil as a 10-year-old scared little boy separated from his parents, to an incredible ascent up the ladder of business success, is chronicled in his book, “Obstacles Welcome” (Thomas Nelson Publisher).
Another life, although not a “rags-to-riches” story, is presented in “A Man, A Mountain, & God”. Unlike de la Vega, Bill Barton never became rich in dollars and cents, but he overcame daunting physical obstacles and heartbreaking events to enrich the lives of thousands. Born with a harelip and cleft palate, his speech as a child was almost unintelligible. However, God called this unlikely candidate into the ministry. The beloved pastor also went on to establish the Homes of Grace, which have provided deliverance from drug and alcohol abuse for men and women since the mid-1960s (www.homeofgrace.org ).
These two stories prove that obstacles can be faced with confidence and overcome. During the next six weeks, we’ll focus on the theme of “Overcome: Living Beyond Your Circumstances”. Delving into Genesis, we’ll study the life of a favorite Bible character, Joseph, who certainly had his share of obstacles. His steadfast faith over long years in God’s “waiting room” resulted in an incredibly happy ending.
Joseph’s family was definitely dysfunctional. He had brothers from his mother, Rachel, and three other women. Jacob (also called “Israel”), the father, “loved Joseph more than any of his other sons”, and showed this favoritism by making a “richly ornamented robe for him” (Gen. 37:3 NIV). The sting of jealously burned hotly in the hearts of the brothers (vs. 4), especially after Joseph (possibly wearing his dashing robe), told of vivid dreams that seemed to foretell his family bowing in obeisance before him (vs. 5-9).
Today’s story picks up with a conversation between Jacob and Joseph. The other sons were a distance away, grazing their flocks, and Jacob sent Joseph to check on them. As the hated brother approached, the others, their minds clouded by unbridled resentment, cooked up a plan to get rid of this favorite son. Killing him, and then lying about it to their father seemed an excellent solution (vs. 19-20). One of them, Reuben, began to have second thoughts and suggested, “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert” (vs. 22). He’d rescue him later, he surmised, and bring him back home. As Joseph arrived, his brothers attacked him forcefully: note the words “stripped” and “threw” in verse 21. No doubt, Joseph landed with a thud in the bottom of the dry cistern. As painful as this must have been physically, the wounds of his brothers’ betrayal surely cut much deeper.
Reuben must have left the premises long enough for his plan to go awry. A caravan of Ishmaelite traders appeared on the horizon, carrying spices and other merchandise to sell in Egypt. Why not add a slave to the cargo, Judah suggested, and his brothers concurred (vs. 27). As the traders departed with their new possession, surely the men thought they’d seen the last of their brother.
Upon his arrival in Egypt, Joseph was purchased; he became a household servant in the Egyptian home of Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials (Gen. 39:1-2). However, a ray of hope is cast on the scene: “The Lord was with Joseph” (vs. 2). Despite all his brothers had done and all that had happened as a result of their actions, the Lord remained faithful.
Joseph had experienced the bitter taste of betrayal. All he held dear was suddenly wrenched away from him, it seemed. But in reality, what was most precious (and needful) remained: his relationship with God. We’ve all faced betrayal in some form. Such can make us bitter or better. Faith calls us to take the high road: “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4 NIV). That’s a verse worth taping to your bathroom mirror.
Maniscalco is a member of Lemoyne Boulevard Church in Biloxi.