The Life of Joseph
The fact that this verse refers to a cocky youth who has just been betrayed and sold into slavery by his own brothers seems a contradiction.
It wasn’t enough for him to be his father’s favourite. He had to rub it in. When given a dream that he would rule over all of his brothers as well as his parents, he told everyone about it. Then he told them all again, just in case they didn’t get it the first time. Eventually, his brothers sold him to some Ishmaelites just to be rid of him.
In a single day, his circumstances completely changed. A bright future seemed ruined. From living a privileged existence, he suddenly faced separation from home and parents, shame, pain, and disappointment. The dream that he would be ruler was replaced by the reality of slavery. Imagine the feelings and the doubts. But it was this very experience that would start him down the road to become the leader God intended him to be. It has been said, “Whenever God wants to give us a gift, he wraps it in struggles and difficulties.” In James 1 we are reminded that “the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
Over these difficult years Joseph suffered betrayal and learned many hard lessons. From pit, to prison, to palace, his responses in difficult situations molded his character. It would have been easy to choose bitterness and resentment-toward God and everyone else, especially toward his brothers. But Joseph chose a different response to his circumstances. “The same sun that softens the wax, hardens the clay.” Its our response that reveals our character. Joseph was keenly aware of God’s hand over all the years of his life. (Gen 50:19-20) Joseph responded with dependence upon God, and his confidence in God allowed him to survive and prosper where most would have given up and failed.
Being sold into slavery, Joseph developed competence and organization serving in the palace. Framed as an adulturer, and imprisoned, he used his ability to discern dreams and solve problems for the benefit of others. Forgotten in prison, he quietly trusted God and was ready when God created another opportunity for him to display the wisdom of God. His wise preparations for the seven years of famine not only provided for Pharoah and Egypt, but evenually the blessings rested on his family too! And finally, when faced with the return of his brothers who, “hated” him, he dealt with them with integrity, compassion, and tender forgiveness.
Joseph’s obvious commitment to God and blessing by God, and his demonstrated wisdom won the hearts and trust of everyone he met: Potiphar, the warden, his fellow prisoners, even Pharoah, and ultimately his own brothers.
Has life been less than fair with you?
Consider Joseph’s experience: betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to repeated sexual temptation, punished for doing the right thing. He endured long years of imprisonment and was forgotten by those he had helped. Study Joseph’s positive response to each setback. Rather than ask “Why me?” he determined to be God’s man, whatever came next. His response was always noted by those who were around him; they sensed that God was with him. In Genesis 41:33 and 39, he was referred to as a wise and discerning man. Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone like this, a man who has the spirit of God in him?” (Genesis 41:38)
Success never went to his head. His change in character was not a gift or an accident. It developed. When faced with great trials and difficulty, Joseph chose to live a life of gratitude and not resentment, conscious of God’s daily protection, love, and grace. We would do well to follow in his steps when faced with the circumstances of life.