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To be a man like Joseph!

holy-spirit-instructionsAt times in my life I’ve been very career oriented— seeking out new challenges and keeping my resume up-to-date in the event that the right opportunity would present itself. I know I’m not alone in this incessant press to better our careers and circumstances. For a great number of us, this describes the American way.

Yet, as I read through Genesis again I’m utterly amazed at God’s career plan for Joseph. Through Joseph’s dreams it appears that God had given him an inkling of what the future might hold for him. His brothers and even his father interpreted this as arrogance. In fact, his brothers were so incensed by Joseph’s dreams and preferential treatment by his dad that they hated him (Genesis 37:4).

So at about the young age of 17, Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, then thought better of it and sold him as a slave to Midianite merchants who in turn sold him to one of Pharaoh’s officials in Egypt. Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers cunningly convinced their father that Joseph was dead, having been torn apart by some wild beast.

As bleak and hopeless as Joseph’s situation appears, the Scriptures inform us, “The Lord was with him and gave him success in all he did” (Genesis 39:2-5). It’s so easy to read that and just plow on in the text oblivious to what was happening behind all of this, so let’s ponder this for a moment. From the time Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt until the time when he was promoted to second in command over all of Egypt was about thirteen years. He spent some of those thirteen years as a slave in Potiphar’s household and the remaining years in prison.

In planning my own career path, neither slavery nor a prison sentence ever entered my mind as a possible stepping stone toward promotion! Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, Joseph was falsely accused of trying to seduce his master’s wife. Precisely where Joseph has determined to keep his integrity intact, his reputation was soiled by this false accusation and circumstantial evidence. (Potiphar’s wife had grabbed his cloak as “proof” that he had tried to rape her.)

In several places in Scripture we gain insight into Joseph’s trials. He himself refers to “all his trouble” and his “suffering” in Egypt. And the Psalmist explains of Joseph, “They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons” (Psalm 105:18). Add to his physical suffering, the loneliness and oppression of slavery, a tarnished reputation and the hardships and humility of prison.

Surely through all those years Joseph must have wrestled with God frequently! Joseph was a man like we are. Would he not have cried out to God, “Why? Why me? Why this? Where are you, God? Why don’t you answer my prayers for deliverance? Why do my brothers hate me so? Don’t you care about me? Have I done something terrible to warrant this treatment? If so, reveal it to me so I can repent!” Do you feel the turmoil and desperation he must have experienced?

And yet, the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him . . .  and gave him success in all he did” (Genesis 39:2-5). The implication here is that Joseph worked diligently and God prospered him in his work. In other words, Joseph rose above his circumstances and kept his integrity intact by working hard and doing well for his bosses. In his diligence God blessed him. However, Joseph’s diligence was coupled with his dependence on God. Notice that in his conversations with the cupbearer and baker and later with Pharaoh, Joseph credits God with the interpretation of dreams.

Again, we find something amazing going on here in the background. In the middle of all his struggling and suffering Joseph’s relationship with God had deepened profoundly. With the interpretation of these dreams it’s clear that Joseph had learned how to listen to God. Joseph was alert to the working of God and he also knew God’s character. Remember his words to Potiphar’s wife when she was trying to seduce him? “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)

Joseph clearly saw his dependence on God and lived dependently on him trusting him for all things. Joseph had lost his standing as a favored son of a wealthy rancher. Then he lost his position as a trusted slave. His reputation was slandered and his freedom taken. But Joseph continually cultivated his relationship with God.

Later on as second in command over all Egypt, Joseph possessed all the power and authority to bring justice upon his scheming brothers. But Joseph freely forgave them. His words of encouragement to them are incredible! Joseph consoled them, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:4-5) Joseph’s relationship with God had worked in him a forgiving, loving response to those who had hurt him.

And later, when their father had died, Joseph reassured his brothers and spoke kindly to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph’s words also demonstrate that he found great joy and purpose in knowing that God was using him and that his life was impacting others for good. Too often I find myself more concerned with how fulfilling my job is for me. What I see in Joseph was a godly diligence and fervor for his job and then asking a chief question, “How is my work benefiting others?”

Finally, I find three prominent characteristics that stand out in Joseph’s story: 1) God’s presence, faithfulness and sovereign ability to turn awful circumstances into something wonderful; 2) Joseph’s trust in God and ability to see God’s care for him in spite of horrible trials; and 3) Joseph’s preoccupation with spending his life in the service of others.

©2010 Rob Fischer

1 comment

1 Tulia Nakolinivalu { 04.23.11 at 12:12 am }

This is a very wonderful and inspiring lesson for me. thank you indeed.May Gods belssing be upon you, your family and His mighty word.