Joseph, the boy dreamer, certainly spent his years in obscurity. It seemed that just when he thought God was lifting him up something else would happen!
“Only keep me in mind when it goes will with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house.”
Yet the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:14, 23)
Oh how we try to escape it! But Joseph was sovereignly placed in obscurity. He was apparently a forgotten man. The cupbearer couldn’t get him out one day early. God had shut him in. God was doing a permanent work in Joseph before Joseph could do a permanent or prominent work in Egypt!
I have sometimes identified with Joseph. Have you? It is so hard to really surrender our future to God’s hands. Somehow, it seems, we are afraid that unless we push the agenda, we will miss our day in the sun and end up stuck in Obscureville! In his insightful book, Rethinking the Successful Church, Samuel Rima touches on this fear:
It is our fear of losing out and getting stuck in some invisible ministry post that often keeps us from recklessly entrusting our life to God.
While the focus of Rima’s words is people in ministry, this truth relates to all: whether in ministry, business, education, or marriage. Could it be that much of the unrest and discontentment in your current assignment is really an indicator that you do not trust God to be good to you? We are afraid God will not look out for our best interests and so we feel compelled to take matters into our own hands. We then request that someone “get me out of here!”
Gideon was definitely not a prominent fellow! He was living in obscurity, threshing grain in a wine-press (hidden) when the Lord called him. His family was the least in Manasseh and he was the youngest of all his brothers. The Lord answered all his questions and fears with, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (Judges 6:16)
We often only look at the successes and exploits of famous biblical characters. But in doing so we may fail to respect the years of obscurity that were often behind these significant men and women of God. I think A.B. Simpson captures this thought very well in Seeing the Invisible:
It was from the wilderness of Gilead that Elijah came to startle the centuries with his bold and mighty voice; it was from the deserts of Arabia that Paul returned to give the Gentile nations the gospel; it was from the quiet years of Nazareth and the carpenter’s bench that Jesus went forth to the ministry from which all other ministries flow; and still God teaches His servants, in the school of silence, separation and communion with Himself, the secret of their life work.
There are things that can only be learned in the dark. Obscurity is one of God’s favorite tools in developing His choicest saints. Some are later brought out into prominent roles in this life. Others await their day in the light…in the age to come.