Paul tells us in Romans 15 verse 4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
The story of Joseph that is found in Genesis 40 and 41 has always been a great blessing to me. I remember when I was just a little fellow, we were poor but Mother had a little book with a gray cover with red letters on that front cover that read, “The Story of Joseph.” And there was a time in my life when every Sabbath afternoon that particular story was read. I’ve always loved to hear about the experiences of Joseph.
This 41st chapter presents Joseph as he stands before Pharaoh. You remember the background, his years in Potiphar’s house as a slave, then his years in jail under false accusation, and now suddenly in the providence of God he’s called from the prison to interpret the king’s dreams. With humility and confidence he tells Pharaoh, “The answer is not in me but God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16).
You remember the dreams about the cows, the skinny ones eating up the fat ones, and so the grain, the number seven in each dream. Pharaoh did not know what it meant at all. None of his counselors did either, but the Lord gave Joseph the answer. He said, Pharaoh, the two dreams mean the same thing. There are going to be seven years of plenty, and then there are going to be seven years of famine – those were the fat cows and the skinny cows, and the good grain and the blasted ears. Now he said, My advice is, you had better get to storing up grain during those seven good years so that you will have something when the seven years of famine come. (See Genesis 41.)
This is exactly what Pharaoh did and when he and his counselors had thought the thing through and looked over the kingdom, they couldn’t think of a man to head up that food conservation program better than Joseph. So the slave became the ruler of Egypt under the Pharaoh and carried through that great conservation program.
“Every institution established by Seventh-day Adventists is to be to the world what Joseph was in Egypt.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 219. In our homes, in our sanitariums, in our schools, whatever we are a part of in God’s great program, you and I, dear friends, are to be to the world today what Joseph was in Egypt.
Joseph foretold a coming time of trouble. We also have a coming time of trouble to foretell. Divine prophecy has warned us and told us to warn others. But Joseph’s message was more than a warning of trouble. Its focus was on what to do to get ready. That also should be our focus today.
Amos describes a famine bigger than the famine of Egypt and far more serious. Thank God we are told ahead of time how to get ready. We read: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11, 12).
What a day that will be—when men are traveling, some on foot, some in automobiles, some in jet planes, all over this planet, hunting for somebody to declare to them the word of God, to make plain the way of salvation. But no, it is too late, for probation has closed. The great time of trouble has come and the plagues are falling. Memory awakens and men who have derided and scorned the messengers of God, multitudes who have neglected the offers of salvation, long now for the message to which they previously paid no attention. It was so in Noah’s day. When the rain began to fall and the rivers rose, O how many there were who started pounding on that ark, but it was too late and the door was shut. And this in Noah’s time and this in the coming time of trouble was no arbitrary action on the part of God. Even when conscience awakens and memory stirs there is no deep-seated purpose to turn from sin. Men merely want to escape the results of sin and that is not true repentance.
Had those sinners in Antediluvia managed to get in the ark and ride through the flood they would have returned to their idolatry, their lust, and their murder as soon as they hit land again. Confirmed sinners are impossible to change and this is what the text in Amos is talking about – a famine in the land. When God’s message is no longer preached and God’s word is no longer heard, mercy’s day has ended; the day of wrath and justice has come.
If that famine is ahead, as our text says, “A famine of hearing the words of the Lord,” we are in the years of plenty. We are in the years of the fat cows and the well filled out ears of grain. And O if we believe the message of Joseph, if we believe the message of God in this momentous hour, we will be gathering up the grain and storing it to use in the time of famine, for all we will have then will be what we store up now.
It is a shame, friends, that some people are filling their storehouses with chaff. Everybody is putting away something. In these billions of brain cells everybody is storing something. But through Jeremiah God asks, “What is the chaff to the wheat” (Jeremiah 23:28, last part)?
In the book The Ministry of Healing, page 441, the servant of the Lord says, “As I see libraries filled with ponderous volumes of historical and theological lore, I think, Why spend money for that which is not bread?” And then the word is added, “The sixth chapter of John tells us more than can be found in such works.” What is the chaff to the wheat? Consider what you are putting in your storehouse because something is going in.
“The Great Teacher who came down from heaven has not directed teachers to study any of the reputedly great authors. He says: ‘Come unto Me … Learn of Me; … and ye shall find rest unto your souls’ (Matthew 11:28, 29). Christ has promised, and in learning lessons of Him we shall find rest.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 159, 160.
Men’s books with worthless chaff are stored,
God’s Book does priceless wealth afford.
Then leave the chaff and spend your pains,
In gathering up the golden grains.
Nay, were the seas one chrysolite,
The earth a golden ball,
And diamonds all the stars of night,
This Book were worth them all.
Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 21, 1863.
O what golden grain we can store in these granaries of our minds. How we shall appreciate living on this food we have stored away during that time of famine in Jacob’s trouble. How much these promises will mean to us! Again and again my heart is burdened to encourage all whom I can encourage, young and old, to memorize the Bible.
I was reading about the Waldenses, those witnesses for God that through the Dark Ages kept the torch of truth burning. There in the valleys of the Alps surrounded by those mighty mountains, often enduring persecution, they trained their children in the Bible. In The Great Controversy, page 65, we read, “The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated.”
“From earliest childhood the youth were instructed in the Scriptures and taught to regard sacredly the claims of the law of God. Copies of the Bible were rare; therefore its precious words were committed to memory. Many were able to repeat large portions of both the Old and the New Testament.” Ibid., 67. Wonderful thought; children, youth, some of them repeating large portions of the Old and the New Testaments.
Speaking of the young men who accepted God’s call to be ministers, “While attention was given to branches of general learning, the Bible was made the chief study.” Ibid., 68. This situation was not like a popular theological seminary I heard about where a student went clear through and graduated without ever even owning a Bible. No, the chief study of the Waldensian youth was the Bible, the word of God. “The Gospels of Matthew and John were committed to memory, with many of the Epistles.” Ibid. Just fill the mind with chapter after chapter, book after book. You see, we are in Joseph’s time of plenty but the famine is coming, and coming soon. Thank God there are storehouses in which we can store the grain. Let’s not leave room for any chaff.
In thinking of this coming time of trouble I would have us ponder not merely on memorizing the Bible but there are other things we need to do in a practical way in getting ready for that time. The 91st Psalm pictures God’s people being protected from the plagues. “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee” (verses 10, 7). God is going to protect His people during that awful time of trouble from great epidemics that sweep over this world, slaughtering millions.
Now this will be without question by the special protecting power of God, but in all God’s plans for men He gives them a part to act. He protected Noah and his family from the flood but there was something Noah had to do in a practical way to get ready for it. Every day as he preached he practiced. And friends, if you and I believe that the health problems of this world are going to get so terrible that millions will die from various diseases, our faith, if it is a true faith, will find expression in two very important activities. One is learning and practicing the laws of health in our own experience. The other is reaching out to learn how to help others with their health problems.
Inspiration has told us that there will be a time when no work will be done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work and there will be suffering ones, plenty of them, and we will have opportunity to help people. We have come to a time when every member of the church should take hold of medical missionary work.
It would be better like Joseph to be called from the prison to solve problems than to languish in the dungeon because we know nothing practical to do. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to learn simple treatments. Now is the time to learn simple cooking. Now is the time to learn simple agriculture. Now is the time to learn physiology and hygiene and health education and be sharing these things with our friends and neighbors. We are in the years of the fat cows now and the years of the skinny cows are just ahead. We are in the time now when we can store up the information and the experience that will enable us to go through this time of trouble ahead, triumphant in our own experience and helping others. What a destiny, friends. What an opportunity. What an hour to be living in.
We want to get ready not only by committing the Scriptures to memory and by entering into the health principles and practice, but we want an experience with God in our own lives. Someone was telling me about an inmate of a state penitentiary who is serving a life term. He had committed murder and been there for many years. As a pastime he has taken to committing verses to memory and he has memorized the entire Bible, but it hasn’t saved his soul at all. He is still just as much of a sinner as when he entered the penitentiary. My point is, is it possible to fill the mind with truth and yet it not reach the heart?
Jesus told a story in Matthew 25:1–10 about the ten young women who were waiting for the bridegroom to come. And as the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept and at midnight the cry came that the bridegroom was coming! Go out to meet him! All ten woke up; all ten trimmed their lamps, but then the difference showed up. Five of the young women, along with the oil that was in their lamps, had provided some extra oil that was poured into the lamps which were about to go out. In the story there were five of those young women who had neglected to provide for that contingency. They were left without in the blackness of the night and only five went in to the marriage supper.
When the great time of trouble comes, it will be too late to get the oil. When that crisis hour strikes it will be apparent who has stored up extra oil in advance. So, whether we use the figure of storing up the grain in the storehouse or of storing up extra oil in anticipation of the tarrying, the lesson is clear in either case—we must get ready before the crisis comes. The ark must be built before it starts raining. O I thank God that He is giving us the opportunity day by day of developing not only in our knowledge of truth but in an experience of personal fellowship with Christ.
One of the great aids in this comes in a box labeled trials. Did you ever get a package in the mail, or perhaps by special delivery? Usually we don’t say thank you when we get one of those boxes, but it is through trials and difficulties and problems that Jesus is developing an experience of fellowship with Him in those who permit Him thus to work. Trials themselves do not automatically thus develop us. Trials make some people bitter instead of sweet. Trials leave some people weak instead of strong. Trials fill some minds with doubt instead of faith, but it need not be so. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17) and if we will take these promises that abound in the Scripture and read them and claim them as we enter these trials from day to day we can develop an experience which will fit us to go through this coming time of trouble.
Jesus gives some very practical counsel from the Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
In the coming time of trouble, the wealth of this world will be of no value. But there is opportunity now to transfer our wealth, whether it be little or great, to a bank where there is no discount, no inflation and no recession, where our wealth can be eternally secure and where we can draw compound interest on the investment through all eternity.
We can actually turn money that we have in our possession into something that will be of enduring worth all through eternity. Thank God that He doesn’t take these tiny little bits that used to be gold and silver but now are paper and cheap metal. We don’t have to think of transferring these paltry little sums into a tiny corner of one of those golden streets up there. Heaven does not value gold that way; that is why gold is used to pave streets.
The unit of value in heaven is a soul. We call it the dollar. Heaven calls it a soul. What is the rate of exchange? “One soul is of more value to heaven than a whole world of property, houses, lands, money.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 21, 22. If you could take all the money in this world and all the houses in this world, and all the jewels in this world, the diamonds and the rubies, and all the rest, every bit of value that people list on the stock exchange or in banks or the CPAs work over in their records, take it all and pile it up all together in one pile—one soul is of more value to heaven than all that pile.
We have a tremendous opportunity as we think about the coming famine, the coming time of trouble, to get our assets transferred from the shrinking experiences that money is going through now into assets that will be of eternal worth and eternal value forever and forever. It is too bad that Wall Street cannot hear of this. God has made it possible for the poor to get in on this deal. Even our tiny offerings, if they are given from hearts of love, are in the providence of God translated into souls that will shine as the stars forever and ever.
As we think of Joseph’s dream and His counsel to get ready now for what is ahead, we are thinking, first of all, of storing up the word of God in our minds. Then we are thinking of building better health and equipping ourselves more and more to minister to the physical needs of others in anticipation of the awful sicknesses ahead. We are thinking of entering into an experience of fellowship with God so that no matter what trial comes, our anchor will hold because we know His promises are sure. And we are thinking of so relating ourselves to Him in a practical way with our material wealth, whether it be little or great, so that under the leading of His Spirit we can transfer our assets from earth to heaven, from money and property to human souls saved in the kingdom of God, and thus we can enter into the riches of Jesus’ rewards to those who share with Him in the work of soul-winning.
Let us fill our granary with golden grain.
Elder W.D. Frazee studied the Medical Missionary Course at the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. He was called to Utah as a gospel medical evangelist. During the Great Depression, when the church could not afford to hire any assistants, Elder Frazee began inviting professionals to join him as volunteers. Thus began a faith ministry that would become the foundation for the establishment of the Wildwood Medical Missionary Institute in 1942. He believed that each person is unique, specially designed by the Lord, of infinite value, and has a special place and mission in this world which only he can fill. His life followed this principle and he encouraged others to do the same.