We finish Genesis with the life of Joseph. In my last post I talked about stewardship. What better example than the man who remained faithful to God through many years of trials and whom God, in turn, used to save the masses.
For those who don’t know the story of Joseph, here’s a summarized rundown. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Through a series of unfortunate events, Joseph ended up ruling at the right hand of Pharaoh, putting him in a position to save not only Egypt, but his family as well.
Joseph’s brothers hated him 1) because he was their father’s favorite and 2) because he told them all about the dreams he had where he would rule over them. Did he have those dreams? Yes. Were they true and God ordained? Yes. But Joseph was younger than his brothers and I imagine a bit overzealous. “And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.” I think we need to be aware of how we affect others. Not everyone is glad for your blessing. I’m not saying to stifle your calling, but be aware of your audience when talking about it. Some people aren’t happy for others because they’re not happy in their own circumstances. Some people may be happy for you but seeing your successes and blessings can magnify their lack. It can be hard to see others succeed even if you’re genuinely happy for them. And, let’s be real, some people are just jealous and only care about themselves. If you’re the one struggling to be happy for someone else, it’s important that you take that to God and ask Him to come in and do a work in your heart…and then let Him. There have been a few instances in my life where I didn’t have the ability to talk or reason myself out of feeling a certain way. And that’s ok. God has the ability change your heart if you let Him. In John Bevere’s book “Bait of Satan” he talks about forgiveness. There is one chapter that addresses what to do if you’re unable to forgive, if you’ve tried to forgive, or if you think you’ve forgiven when it turns out you haven’t. He talks about how he was instructed to pray for the person he was holding unforgiveness for, even if he didn’t mean it. Then he was instructed to pray all the blessings he wished for himself over that person…in the manner in which he would pray for those things for himself. He obeyed even though he didn’t feel the truth in it…and eventually he believed what he was saying. I had never heard such tangible teaching on how to do heart work with God. But you have to be a willing, obeying participant.
After being sold, Joseph ended up in Potiphar’s house (one of Pharaoh’s officials). “As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him.” He became Potiphar’s personal aide and Potiphar turned everything over to him. It could have been a very comfortable life for Joseph. Joseph had every right to be angry and resentful about the circumstances that landed him in Potiphar’s house. BUT, do you think Potiphar would have noticed Joseph and promoted him to that position if Joseph walked around resentful with a bad attitude. NO! Isn’t it just our luck…as soon as we start feeling comfortable in our lives something comes to knock us down. So Potiphar’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and wanted to sleep with him. When Joseph wouldn’t do it, saying, “How could I violate [Potiphar’s] trust and sin against God?” she framed him and he ended up in jail anyway. How many have the mentality that if you’re going to get punished for the crime regardless, you may as well go ahead and commit the crime. We all say we know that God sees everything but I bet if we actually believed that there would be a lot of things we do differently behind closed doors. God cares about your character and integrity when nobody is looking.
Now Joseph was in jail for over 2 years. Plenty of time to become hardened. And these weren’t jails like we have today, they were dark and filthy. But, while in jail, two of Pharaoh’s officials had dreams and there was nobody around to interpret them. Joseph’s response? “Don’t interpretations come from God?” I will be the first to admit that when I have a problem or a question or a decision to make, I will talk to everyone else before I talk to God, if at all. I want the immediate feedback and, let’s be honest, I usually know what I want to do and I want someone to validate that. But…as smart and as well-intended as my husband and girlfriends are, their thoughts are not His thoughts and their ways are not His ways. They don’t know what is best for me any more than I know what is best for me. The Bible says I don’t even know my own heart, but God does! If I want my life aligned with Christ, I have to allow Him to guide my steps.
So, of course Joseph was able to interpret the dreams which, years later, put him in a position to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. The dream was about the years of abundance followed by years of famine in the land. This allowed Egypt, under Joseph’s authority, to store away food during the years of abundance so that they had rations during the years of famine. Can you see how each event in Joseph’s life was a necessary stepping stone to land him in a position of something greater than himself? Imagine how many people would have died in the famine (including Joseph and his family) if Joseph had not only endured each trial, but also if he hadn’t stayed faithful to God throughout each trial. Simply enduring isn’t enough.
If I had to choose between being sold into slavery or not…I’d chose not!!! But then Joseph would not have been in a position to save Egypt (or his family). If I had the choice to endure trials or not…I’d choose not!!! BUT 1) perseverance through trials builds character and breeds growth 2) being able to hear and discern God’s voice and walk in His will takes practice. So…just because you endure something doesn’t mean you are now ready for something 3) sometimes it takes a series of events, good or bad, to physically put us in the right place at the right time for God to use us.
God wants to use you for great things but your response to your life and circumstances will determine if you are useable (we’re not talking salvation). God’s Will will be accomplished and He will use someone else if you’re unavailable and/or unwilling…but He wants to use you. How will you respond?
When faced with his brothers so many years later, Joseph had the choice to forgive or not. He would have certainly been justified in his unforgiveness, they did after all sell him into slavery. For most of us (not all), our trials don’t even compare, yet we can’t forgive. Joseph’s response? He said, “I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives.” Not only did Joseph forgive his brothers, but he removed all blame from them. He was able to see his life through a Kingdom perspective. Sometimes shifting our perspective is the most powerful thing we can do. Even if our circumstances never change, we can change our lives drastically.
With God’s blessing, Jacob moved his entire family to Egypt. Because Joseph was right hand to Pharaoh, they were given choice land and plenty of everything (in the midst of great famine). I was listening to a Steve Furtick sermon where he talked about how sometimes the things we use to escape become the very things we need to escape from. This is is one of the most important parts of this story. The mistreatment of the Israelites and their deliverance from Egypt is the foundation for the entire Old Testament. And…they were initially welcomed into Egypt with God’s blessing and favor. Things that are good for us in one season can be toxic for us in another. Change is scary but sometimes imperatively necessary.