Joseph (OT)

<<the son of Jacob>>

He was the 11th son of Jacob, yet Rachel’s first.  Joseph was his father’s favourite son, which caused jealousy amongst his older brothers who sold him into slavery (Gen 37:3,4,27,28). However, over time he became the second highest ruler in Egypt, and was instrumental in saving a whole nation from starvation, along with his own family. Throughout his life Joseph maintained a right attitude to his difficulties saying “You intended it to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:20). Dreams and their interpretation played a pivotal part in his life. His story is told in Genesis 37-50.  He lived 1915-1805 BC.

Lessons from his life: * Joseph was disliked by his brothers because of Jacob’s favouritism, displayed in part by the making a coat of many colours for his son  In his youthful enthusiasm, when Joseph shared his dreams and his prominence in them his brothers were angry and sold him as a slave (Gen 37:5-11). Parents should treat all their children alike, not singling some out for preferential treatment. When God shares special insights we need wisdom as to whom, and how much to share, so not to cause offence. Joseph could have given up, discarding the dreams – especially as it seemed that as soon as he received and shared them, everything conspired to make them increasingly impossible of being fulfilled. However, he continued to walk with God, in self-control and obedience, then ultimately the dreams became reality as God’s purposes were outworked. “The revelation [outworking] awaits an appointed time…and it will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come” (Hab 2:3). Keep hope alive in your spirit.

* Joseph applied himself to the job at hand (Gen 39:1-6).  His outstanding character was recognised and he was promoted.  The lesson we can learn here is not to have self-pity for the predicament we may be in (whether of our making or the actions of others) but to get on with life and with God’s help make ‘beauty out of ashes’. Joseph believed he was a man of destiny and would not succumb to the circumstances. His eyes were focused on God and his trust grew from one experience to the other. He would persevere, accepting what was ‘given’ him and trust God for the outworking of it. We may not be aware of those observing us as we go about our daily duty, but people do notice. Does our lifestyle confirm the inner dreams of our Christian profession?

* Joseph was being pressured sexually by his master’s wife (Gen 39:6-20).  He took steps to avoid any situation where his integrity would be compromised. However, one time she made an all-out advance and Joseph fled from the house.  In spite, she fabricated a strong story resulting in Joseph being imprisoned.  This moral stand cost him his freedom but set his conscience free. This was another seemingly hopeless situation in which, although Joseph was doing a great job was incriminated by someone who was resentful towards him (Gen 40:15).  Again, Joseph didn’t become bitter but excelled in the situation not of his choosing (Gen 39:20-23). What would my response have been to repeated victimisation?

* He acknowledged openly that it was God’s enabling, and not his own expertise and wisdom, by which he could interpret dreams (Gen 41:16, 45:5-9, 50:20). Following his release from prison, he was given immense authority, being put in charge of implementing the storage of grain during the time of plenty and its subsequent distribution during the ensuing famine. Do I withhold the credit that should go to God? If so that is a sure way of being humbled as God has said He will not permit others to share the glory or honour due to Him (Isa 42:8; Act 12:21-23).

* Joseph had many traumatic experiences between receiving the life-directing dreams as a 17-year lad and when he was in a position where he could finally see them being fulfilled.  He spent 11 years as a slave and 2 more years in prison.  Compelled by famine, his brothers finally bowed down before him, as pictured in the dreams more than 20 years prior (Gen 37:2-9, 41:46, 42:6, 43:28, 45:6).  God’s purposes and words sometimes take a long time to be accomplished.  During this period, we must do what we can to prepare ourselves and assist them to come about, yet without stepping beyond our brief and forcing the issue in our flesh. Don’t allow self-pity or discouragement to rob you but maintain a right attitude, have good work habits, and, in faith, hold onto the promises of God and what He has spoken into your life.

* God’s purposes are outworked through situations and people who often are not aware of the significance of their actions (Gen 45:5-8).  Joseph went from being a slave to the second highest authority in Egypt.  God is in control, remain faithful to Him and you’ll be successful.  Like Joseph don’t harbour any thoughts of revenge (Gen 50:19-21). The dreams and their interpretations that got him into problems with his jealous brothers, helped hold him committed to his call. They were also the means of bringing him release, advancement and ultimately the physical provision of food for multitudes. Don’t despise or discard the gift God has given you for the outworking of His purpose for your life.

* “The Word of God tried him” (Ps 105:17,19). Joseph was tested and tried in many ways through the circumstances that were contrary to the clear word he had received from God that ‘he would be given great authority’. He must have questioned, ‘Did I hear correctly?’ Joseph maintained his integrity and belief in God in spite of all that indicated he was off-track. If God has clearly spoken specifically to you hold on to that, as well as the general promises of the Bible. He is not a man that changes His mind – He promises and fulfills (Num 23:19). However, the timing and means are often not the way we would choose!

See also: attitudes, dreams, favouritism, Jacob, opposite spirit, sovereignty of God, steadfast, why.