The Story of Joseph Part 1
Genesis Chapters 37-50
The story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories. All of us can find some encouragement in this story. Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob and apparently “doted on,” became the most beloved of dad and hated by his brothers. He probably deserved some of this, as he relished his role as the “apple of dad’s eye.” In fact, he had two special dreams foreshadowing that he would one day be a man of influence, and in fact rule over his family. When he bragged about this to his dad and brothers, this only fueled the jealousy of his brothers that led to bitterness. It can be surmised from Scripture that Joseph was somewhat of a spoiled brat in his younger years.
As the story unfolds, his brothers decided they had enough. They took him and sold him into slavery to some Midianite traders that were on their way to Egypt, a journey of several days. I am guessing that Joseph did a lot of soul searching during that journey. Still trying to figure out what had happened, he probably went through a myriad of emotions – anger, resentment, sadness, brokenness, fear, etc. However, one thing we know, that by the time Joseph reached Egypt, he recognized the Lord was with him and he didn’t compromise godly character in the midst of a difficult situation.
He was sold to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Here the Lord gave great favor to him and blessed everything he did. He quickly became Potiphar’s business manager. While Joseph was probably a skilled man, the Scripture makes it clear that God gave favor to the work of his hands and gave him success (Gen. 39:2) … this is important to remember when we look at takeaways from this story in “The Story of Joseph – Part 2.” Joseph had settled into his successful role as manager when he was accused of sexual harassment by Potiphar’s wife. This led to Joseph being cast into prison.
Again, put yourself in Joseph’s position. You were doing your job and doing it well, which was evident from the success of Potiphar’s business interests, and BOOM, you get wrongly accused of making advances on the boss’s wife and next thing you know you are in prison. Once again, I would suspect that Joseph went through the emotional rollercoaster, wondering if God cared, how could this happen when he hadn’t done anything wrong, etc. However, Joseph snapped out of it, and was given favor with the prison warden who put Joseph in charge of all of the prisoners. Once again, God gives Joseph an opportunity. God gives him insight into two prisoner’s dreams, showing the Pharaoh’s cupbearer that he would be restored to his former position after Pharaoh extends grace to him. Joseph only requested the cupbearer remember him once restored. Of course, the cupbearer was so excited to get out of prison he completely forgot Joseph. Again, Joseph must remain in prison another 2 YEARS, knowing the cupbearer had many an opportunity to put in a good word for him. Another opportunity to develop some resentment, especially against God. But there is no indication in the Scripture that he does this, and then two years later, Pharaoh has a dream that no one can interpret. The cupbearer remembers Joseph and informs the Pharaoh that he knows a man that can interpret his dream. Soon thereafter, Joseph is standing in front of the most powerful ruler in the known world and after giving glory to God, interprets his dream. Immediately, we find Joseph as the second in command of the most powerful nation on earth. Joseph was used mightily by God to protect Egypt through a massive famine and further entrench Pharaoh’s rule over the people through very shrewd business dealings, resulting in Joseph continuing as the key leader in Pharaoh’s hierarchy.
You may find yourself in circumstances that mirror the early part of Joseph’s journey to Egypt. If you live long enough, this is guaranteed. However, the story of Joseph provides several great reminders of how to navigate life’s circumstances well:
- Trust God. While I am confident that Joseph had some long conversations with God throughout this journey to influence in Egypt, it is clear from the Scripture that he trusted his Creator. He honored God with his integrity, his efforts, and was quick to give God the glory for the extraordinary ways God worked through him.
- Don’t compromise your integrity. Often times when we can’t catch a break, we struggle with motivation to honor and please God. It is a weakness of the flesh. However, even though I am sure Joseph was tempted like we are, he honored the Lord throughout it all. He resisted the temptation to not work with integrity in Potiphar’s house, to resist the temptation of a woman’s advances, to give up when he was jailed and also when the cupbearer forgot him, and to take credit for something God did when given an audience before the Pharaoh. He never wavered, and the LORD honored that.
- Stay encouraged. While the Scriptures do not specifically tell us details of Joseph’s thoughts during his difficult journey to power in Egypt, we do see Joseph continuing to move forward and succeed. While God does get credit for the success, we know that Joseph’s faithfulness was a contributing factor to God using him. There were multiple times he could have “punted,” but we don’t see that. He kept moving forward. Whatever circumstance you are in, keep moving forward.
- Accept the fact that God may not give you an answer to the question, “Why?” We don’t know for sure, but I am confident that Joseph asked God for an explanation for his circumstances on at least one or two occasions. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t. However, it is also clear that he really didn’t understand God’s purposes for this difficult trek until his brothers are standing in front of him asking for food during a severe famine. Yet, he never wavered from living uprightly and trusting God. This means there were years that go by before he gets any answers. Many times, we don’t get ANY answers to why we go through difficult circumstances. However, once again, this story encourages us. We know God is sovereignly working His plan for eternity, and we can rest in the fact that we are loved, we can rely upon Him, and that He can be trusted.
Many of us are in a difficult circumstance, coming out of one, or heading into one. Trust God, maintain your integrity, stay encouraged, and know that regardless of whether or not God gives you an explanation for your struggle, He will deliver you.
In “The Story of Joseph Part 2,” I will share “big picture” takeaways that we all need to understand as we follow Jesus.