Some of the greatest disappointments in our relationships are made in the moments our memories fail us. No one enjoys being forgotten, especially by those we love most.
Your memory is one of the most powerful and fragile things about you. When it’s good, you can surprise the 64-year-old birthday boy or be there to celebrate ten years in with the not-so-newlyweds. When it’s bad, you forget your coffee appointment with a co-worker or your daughter’s dance recital or the last item on your wife’s grocery list.
Forgetfulness hurts. We’ve all been forgotten and know the pain of expecting someone to remember — to show up, call, write, ask, make time — and coming up empty and alone. If they really cared, they would’ve remembered, right?
Someone Who Can Relate
Joseph, the prized son of Jacob and the eventual ruler of Egypt, was forgotten when he needed to be remembered most. He’d been sold into slavery by his brothers, then slandered into prison by Potiphar’s wife.
While in prison, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are arrested and jailed (Genesis 40:1). Both were suspected of crimes against Pharaoh himself and are facing almost certain death. They know no one crosses the most powerful person in Egypt and lives to tell about it.
No Fortune-Cookie Fortunes
One night, they both have nightmares (40:11–19). Joseph hears the two dreams and tells the cupbearer that not only will he live, but he’ll be Pharaoh’s cupbearer again in just three days. In exchange for this amazing news, he makes one request: Please remember me before Pharaoh. One sentence from you might finally free me.
Then he turns to the baker with bad news. He’ll be executed in those same three days. Joseph didn’t give soft, vague, fortune-cookie predictions. They talk about grapes, birds, and buns, and he says you will live, and you will die, all in three days. So what happens?
A Walk to Remember
You can imagine that walk from the prison. Your life hangs in the balance. You know you’ll receive death if convicted. It seems it may all end right here. Was that guy in prison right? Could Pharaoh really pardon me? Will Pharaoh execute me right there on the spot? There’s no way Joseph could have known those things.
Sure enough, Pharaoh preserves the cupbearer and mercifully welcomes him back to his prized place at his side. And the baker is, well, baked.
Forgetting the Unforgettable
So the cupbearer remembered Joseph, mentioned him to Pharaoh, Joseph was released, and they all lived on happily together, only with fewer pastries, right? No, the text says, “Yet the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (40:23).
It says that he really just forgot. It’s not that he was scared of what Pharaoh might do or worried that he might make Joseph the cupbearer. He just forgot. How?
Did God forget Joseph? He did not. We know this because of what it says when Joseph was first put in jail: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (39:21). If God was so concerned about making Joseph popular in the prison, we know he didn’t check out now.
This becomes clear in the next chapter when Pharaoh has a dream. He asks all the wise men in Egypt, and none of them can interpret. Finally, the cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh what happened.
Pharaoh calls Joseph, God speaks to Joseph, he rightly interprets Pharaoh’s dream, and he saves Egypt from famine and ruin. So Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt, second in command. God shows his infinite wisdom and power through Joseph, even when our unnamed cup carrier forgets him. So what do we learn for us?
God Always Remembers You
First, God never forgets his children. When it looked like Joseph had been completely forgotten, even when he was considered to have done the unthinkable, God was with him and working to free him and use him for his glory.
You will experience all kinds of hard things in this life. You might be forgotten or betrayed by the people you love most, but nothing that can happen to you here can deny what God has said about you once and for all because of Jesus’s life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. God never forgets you.
Always Remember Your Redeemer
Second, keep your cup filled with the gospel about this Jesus. The cupbearer forgot his savior. Okay, Joseph didn’t exactly save him, but he did bring the good news. Every minute the cupbearer lived, every luxury he enjoyed at Pharaoh’s right hand, every bit of recognition he received was the fulfillment of Joseph’s words. And he forgot him. How much more awful would it be for us to forget our Christ? How much more awful to take for granted the one who took away our sin?
He didn’t just say that you would live, but he died to make it happen. If we remember one thing, it should be that we were locked away, truly guilty, deserving of death, and God sent his Son so that he, God, could say “innocent,” “righteous,” “trusted,” “free,” “mine.”
So remember you are remembered in Jesus. Though you may feel forgotten today, your Father will never forget you or forsake you.
More from Marshall Segal: