But when all goes well with you remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison . . . The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him (Genesis 40:14, 23).
To sleep again in his own bed, to wake with his wife beside him, to dress for work and sit down to breakfast with his children – these were things he had almost given up on. From the confines of his prison cell he could barely muster hope that the Pharaoh would allow him to live. Best case scenario: He would serve his sentence and then try to get his life back.
But men still dream in prison. The cupbearer kept seeing himself placing a cup in the hand of Pharaoh. Joseph, a man with a God-given ability to interpret dreams, explained what it meant. What Joseph spoke became reality. The cupbearer was released from prison. He went home. He went back to work – placing the cup in the hand of the Pharaoh. No more shadowy images. This was real, just as Joseph had said it would be.
Like a man discovering his life for the very first time, the cupbearer relished his work and delighted in his family. He savored smells and tastes, the feel of clean sheets and warm bathwater.
And he forgot Joseph. That was all Joseph had asked of the cupbearer. “When all goes well with you, remember me” (Genesis 40:14). A simple request. In the elation of release and the thrill of finding life again, that simple request was easily forgotten.
People forget things. Important things.
We forget meetings and names. We forget to make bank deposits and return phone calls. We forget meeting people and feel awkward when we see them again and act like we’ve never seen them before. We forget that thing we were dying to tell just two seconds earlier.
In most instances our forgetting is not malicious. We forget without intent to forget. Our momentary amnesia is explained with soft language: “It slipped my mind.” Or we use humor: “I had a senior moment.”
Whatever we call it, however we explain it, our forgetting speaks to our limited capacity to hold on to everything that enter our minds. We get busy, we get rushed, we get excited we get distracted. In all this getting we keep forgetting.
The cupbearer forgot Joseph. We are never told why. Excitement about being a free man again, the pressure of his high position, the ease with which promises we make give way to the goals we pursue. Reasons remain hidden to us, but not the result. He forgot Joseph.
Many years later another prisoner, sentenced to death, would look to a fellow convict and ask the same thing. “Remember me. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And the other convicted man, innocent yet suffering execution, promised he would. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Our savior remembers prisoners and promises to set captives free. Our God remembers that we are dust, finite (Psalm 103:14). He remembers his covenant promises forever (Psalm 111:5). A cupbearer forgot Joseph, but God did not. This same God in Jesus Christ remembered a crucified thief. And this same God remembers you when it seems that no one else does.
Do you know what it’s like to be forgotten? How might God’s remembering you change this day?
Remember me today, O God. Remember the prayers I prayed last week and then forgot. Remember the good I intend but struggle to do. Remember me, and set me free of things that bind me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.