I will remember how the Lord was faithful to Joseph, and how intentional He was with his story, weaving even the broken, painful, and messy parts into something beautiful. I’ll remember how the Lord never left him even when his brothers rejected him, and even when he was alone in a prison cell. Even there, in the most unlikely place, when all hope could have been lost, the Lord gave Joseph favor. Favor to interpret dreams, favor in being appointed over Pharaoh’s house, and favor to provide for and reconcile with his family in the middle of a great famine.
“The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).
I will remember the story of Hagar in the wilderness, right after being dealt harshly with by Sarai. I imagine her bent over and crying, when the angel of the Lord meets her there by a spring of water. And I’ll never forget how kind, gentle and gracious the angel was to Hagar, and how much it meant to her that the Lord saw her and cared for her in her hurt.
“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).
I’ll remember when God called Abraham away from all that was comfortable and safe, and told him to go to a new land- a land where He would bless him and make him the father of many nations. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren and increasing in age, but the promise remained: “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4). But Sarah doubted and questioned the Lord, wondering how His promise could ever ring true for her. You can feel her disappointment and bitterness through her words in Genesis 16, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children” (verse 2). But yet the Lord was merciful, and He reassured her of His promise over and over again. Then just a few chapters over in Genesis 21, we read, “The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him” (verse 1-2). Just as He had promised, in His perfect timing, Isaac is born- the son through whom God will establish His everlasting covenant and bring Jesus to earth.
I will remember how the Lord called His people out of their slavery in Egypt- out of the only land and work that they had ever known- and promised them a different land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I remember how the people doubted and wavered and faltered, but how the Lord remained steadfast and how His provisions never ceased. The softening of Pharaoh’s heart, the raising up of a faithful leader, the splitting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna in the wilderness, the patience, mercy and steadfast love to a people who questioned and complained and turned to other gods….the Lord is our steady Rock, and He never gives up on His people.
“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the land of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8a).
I’ll remember when God’s people were on the edge of Canaan, the promised land, and how they were waiting and wondering how they would conquer it to obtain it as their own. The Lord told them to march around the walls for seven days, blowing trumpets of rams’ horns. The people obeyed, even at this strange and seemingly random command. And on the seventh day, the walls of Jericho fell down exactly as God said they would and they conquered the city (Joshua 6:20). Let me repeat that in case familiarity is getting in the way of seeing the profoundness of this story: the walls of Jericho were massive stone walls surrounding the city. God says, “just march around them for 7 days while blowing trumpets and they’ll fall down.” And the people did just as He said, and on the seventh day, those massive stone walls of Jericho fell…
“So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city” (Joshua 6:20).
I’ll remember the story of Rahab the prostitute, and her bold, courageous faith- and how the Lord specifically chose her for His story. I’ll remember how she risked her life to save the spies because she had heard about their God, and believed that He was “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11b). I’ll remember how even though she had never met Him, even though she was not His “chosen people,” she fully surrendered her life to Him. She tied the scarlet cord in the window, signifying her belief in the one true God, and her life was spared. The blood of the lamb, the scarlet cord, the cross….all He’s after is our faith. And if you pay close enough attention, you’ll see that Rahab is the mother of Boaz, and Boaz is the father of Obed, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king, in the line of Jesus. Our God used Rahab the prostitute to bring forth His redemption story. And Rahab? All she did was believe in Him with bold, courageous faith.
I’ll remember how God chose David- the youngest brother, the shepherd boy- to be king of Judah. I’ll remember how David, after reigning for many years, turned his back on the Lord and committed adultery. And how this one act led to several more decisions that were not the way of Love. But the Lord rebuked and disciplined him, and David repented in response. He “washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped” (2 Samuel 12:20). I’ll never forget how the Lord continued to use David to bring about His redemption story, despite all of David’s sin and brokenness.
I’ll remember Solomon who, when asked by the Lord, “what shall I give you?” asked for wisdom, and I remember that this request pleased the Lord. I’ll remember Jacob, who wrestled with God, saw His face in the wrestling, and came out with a limp and a new name- Israel. I’ll remember how God used Esther, an orphan, to become queen of Persia, and then persuaded the king to retract his order for the annihilation of the Jews- saving the Jewish population. I’ll remember Ezra and how the Lord used him to rebuild the temple, and how the Lord wants us to be rebuilders too, for His Kingdom here on earth.
I look back in the Old Testament when God chose kings and judges and prophets to lead and judge and turn His people back to Him. I remember when Malachi the prophet cried out to a weary and hurting world 400 years before Jesus was born in a little town called Bethlehem, “Behold, he is coming…” (Malachi 3:1). And then I turn to Matthew 1, where Matthew writes out the complete genealogy of Jesus Christ through 16 verses, beginning with Abraham and ending with Jesus Christ, born of Joseph and Mary. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The One who fulfills every single prophecy of the Old Testament, the One who God’s people had been waiting on for thousands of years, the One who will save us from our sins and give us eternal life, the One who will reconcile us with God the Father and usher in the Holy Spirit. Immanuel, God is with us. He has come back for us, just as He said He would.