Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”
Do you know how your parents came up with your name? Perhaps it was a family name. Or maybe they just liked the sound of it. My parents named me “Mark” because my mother, a second-grade teacher, had a favorite student with this name. Perhaps they were also inspired by the name of the second biblical gospel. I seriously doubt, however, that they knew the name “Mark” ultimately derives from the Latin name meaning “dedicated to Mars, the god of war.”
Joseph named his sons with Hebrew names that represented God’s grace in his life. His firstborn was called Manasseh, a name that means something like “made me forget.” Joseph named his second son Ephraim, explaining, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”
The name “Ephraim” is rather like the Hebrew word meaning “made fertile” or “made fruitful.” This name represented God’s grace to Joseph that came in the form of astounding fruitfulness in Egypt. Not only did Joseph marry and have children, but also he became the second most powerful man in Egypt. In time, Joseph’s fruitfulness would touch thousands of people. Through his work, he saved the Egyptians from mass starvation and had grain leftover to sell to people from all around the world.
I’m struck by the last few words in Joseph’s explanation of Ephraim’s name. He could have stopped at “For God has made me fruitful.” Instead, however, he added “in the land of my misfortunes.” Joseph was richly blessed by God, yet he did not live in his own homeland. Moreover, the land in which he became so fruitful was, at first, the place of his suffering. Thus, for Joseph, the name “Ephraim” conveys not just the fruitfulness of grace but the fruitfulness of grace in the midst of pain.
I’ve lived long enough to know that God often blesses me most fully in and through the hard times of life. Some of the most painful things I have experienced have been the things that have molded me to be more like what God intends me to be. Some of my very best work has come when I have been feeling the most broken and needy. Why? Because in times such as these I am forced to rely more fully on God rather than to think that I can master life with my own cleverness. After all, God’s strength is revealed and made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Something to Think About:
How has God made you fruitful in life?
Can you think of times when God has blessed you in the midst of or perhaps even because of your suffering?
In what ways would you like God to make you fruitful in your life and work?
Gracious God, thank you for making Joseph fruitful in the land of his misfortunes. Thank you for blessing him and using him for your purposes. Thank you for making us fruitful in this life. Thank you for using even the difficult times of life to shape us and prosper us.
Dear Lord, I pray that you will make me fruitful in all I do for you. May I be an embodiment of “Ephraim.” When I’m feeling unfruitful, may I turn to you, confessing my discouragement and weakness. May your strength be perfected in my weakness. To you be all the glory. Amen.
This post was originally published on February 8, 2016.