After the storms of the day, I come outside in the evening, in the quiet; and thank God for the chance to do what he made me to do, and to do my best to honor him for all that he has given us. I open my devotions, open my bible, and get quiet for a while.
And sometimes, like last night, I come upon a great teaching. This one’s about two things: the word ‘but,’ and it involves Joseph’s back story; it’s from Stuart Briscoe, and I’ll add a bit here and there for flow of ideas:
First a verse to provide a center. Let’s go to GENESIS 41:15-16:
15Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
The word ‘but’ is an adversative. It can introduce contrasts or differences, and even though it’s short, it is one of the most significant words in our language; and every language has its equivalent, making it one of the most significant expressions in the world.
Joseph was confronted with the task of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. On being told of Pharaoh’s expectations of him, he was quick to point out that he was unable to do what was expected of him since he was not an expert in the interpretation of dreams. “But God will tell you . . . and will set you at ease,” he added (Gen. 41:16).
If ‘but’ is a big word, “But God” is a singularly immense statement. The word ‘but’ by its nature, creates a form of confinement. Whatever follows, confines in one way or another. However, adding God into the expression suddenly removes all confinement with a bright flash. ‘But God … ‘ now add: is the Sovereign of the Universe. Nothing is beyond him.
The term ‘but’ in this Genesis verse above points out the difference between human and divine capabilities. Where human effort and skill fell short, God’s abilities shone through. Where the inadequacy of men was apparent, the superlative adequacy of God came into the fore. Joseph was supremely confident of this.
Many people come to an abrupt stop at the end of their resources and give up. They see no hope of a solution to their problems and no alternatives to their despair and discouragement.
But God makes all the difference. The believing person knows better than to give up when he reaches the end of himself. He is aware not only of his own inadequacies, but also of God’s presence, wisdom, power, and grace. He knows that he cannot, but God can!
There is a steep slope between despair at the bottom and hope at the top. To decide to hope requires a firm footing at the top of the hill, and strength to get there and to stay there. It is perfectly possible to believe in God’s presence in daily life without stepping onto that firm footing which involves a voluntary crossing over the but God bridge from despair to confidence.
There is a difference between believing that God is able to act and trusting that God will be active.
What set Joseph apart was the blend of a total lack of self-confidence but a complete God-confidence. He had a sure and certain trust in God, but not in himself.
Pharaoh knew an extraordinary man when he saw one. And there’s nothing more extraordinary than a person who both knows his limits and the limitless God and takes the step in faith to blend the two together. That man, like Joseph, uses the small-immense term, “But God.” Man cannot, but God can—and will!