Joseph, from the Old Testament, was a very godly man. He endured many hardships, but held onto his faith. But along the way, he picked up some bitterness and resentment toward his brothers. When he had the chance, he tormented them, exacting some measure of revenge. At that time there was such severe famine that Joseph’s brothers were forced to go back to Joseph a second time and buy grain. This time, Joseph started by being kind to his brothers, and then he veered off, continuing to emotionally torment them.
In Genesis 44, everything finally came to a head. Joseph deceived his brothers further, and made it appear that he was going to force the youngest brother, Benjamin, to stay there with Joseph in Egypt. This plan may have seemed like another fine way to punish his brothers, but there was a huge problem. His brother Judah approached Joseph, and said, “If you keep the boy Benjamin here, our elderly father will die from sorrow.” Perhaps Joseph hadn’t considered the pain he was about to cause his own father–or the pain he had already caused him. At this point, Joseph just about had an emotional breakdown (read it for yourself in Genesis 45). All along Joseph had been trying to hurt his brothers, but he was the one who was hurt the most. The pain he wished for them turned out to be the pain he felt.
At some point in your life, you may have someone really hurt you. Maybe you already have. And maybe at some point you will have a chance to hurt them back. Maybe even hurt them back really bad. Consider this: it will come with a huge cost to you. You may want to hurt them back, but it will cost you something very real and something very big. It would be better for everyone involved if you can somehow forgive them, and not pay them back in the way they deserve.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: many people pass the test of poverty only to fail the test of plenty. The idea being that many people do okay while living in poverty, but if they become wealthy, they don’t do as well. Joseph remained faithful to God and very honest during his time of slavery and imprisonment. But in Genesis 42, Joseph had become incredibly powerful and wealthy. His ten brothers who had sold him into slavery, came before him practically begging for food. Joseph deceived them, he played mind games on them, he messed with them, he exacted his revenge. Joseph had suffered for years in slavery and prison, and now it was payback time. Read through the chapter, and ask yourself if these were the actions of a godly person. How would you have responded in the same situation? What will you do when you are given a chance to repay someone evil for evil? How will you repay someone who has genuinely hurt you?
In Genesis 40, Joseph is still stuck in prison for having done nothing at all. He has now gone from living a pampered life as the favorite son to being a slave and then being a prisoner. It would appear that the circumstances in his life have literally gone from bad to worse. But whether he knew it or not, God was putting Joseph right where Joseph needed to be.
In chapter 40, Joseph demonstrates an amazing ability to interpret dreams. In chapter 41, Pharaoh has a dream, and he wants Joseph to interpret it. Genesis 41:15 says, “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.” After Joseph was able to interpret the dream for Pharaoh, Pharaoh declared, “You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” Toward the end of the chapter, it reads, “Pharaoh had Joseph ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
In one day Joseph went from being a prisoner to being a big wig, the second most powerful person in all of Egypt. You know you’ve reached the top if you ever have people running in front of your chariot telling everyone else to get out of the way. How did this all come about? Joseph was faithful to God, and God blessed Joseph. No matter what happened in Joseph’s life, Joseph did not turn from God. Let me ask you a question: do your circumstances ever get you down? Do you allow yourself to become discouraged or frustrated or even depressed by where you are in life? Have you ever considered that perhaps God is putting you right where He wants you to be? The next time you feel tempted to give up on your relationship with God, remember Joseph, and all he went through, from the prison to the throne room–all in one day.
In the beginning of Genesis 39, Joseph has just been sold to a new master named Potiphar. During the course of the chapter, Joseph is falsely accused and thrown into prison. The chapter ends as Joseph goes from being a slave to being a prisoner. Sounds pretty bad, right? Strangely enough, the chapter starts out by saying of Joseph the slave, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” The chapter ends by saying of Joseph the prisoner, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” So God was with Joseph and gave him success and prosperity even as a slave and a prisoner. Sounds very strange to me. It would seem to me that success would be not being a slave and not being a prisoner. But Joseph understood some things that many of us never understand.
We can learn a lot of good things from Joseph. Whatever happened in his life, he kept on trying to live for God. He continued to have a good attitude and he continued to work hard. He didn’t pout, become discouraged, depressed or cry out, “Why me?”
How about you? When you go through tough times, do you continue to seek God and discover His will? Do you try to keep a positive attitude? Would you keep working hard if you were in Joseph’s shoes? We will soon see how God’s plan unfolded in Joseph’s life. Feel free to read ahead in the Bible on this story of Joseph. It is way more interesting than a TV show.
One day Joseph’s brothers were out watching the flocks in the fields (and in the sun), and Joseph was kept at home to relax. Later on, their dad sent Joseph out to check on the brothers. When the brothers saw Joseph coming from a distance, they hated him so much that they talked about killing him. After some discussion, they decided to beat him up and threw him into a large, dried out, underground water storage container. Later, they pulled him back out. Joseph thought his ordeal was over, but instead his brothers sold him to a caravan of traveling merchants. Joseph pleaded with them for mercy, but his brothers just smiled and waved goodbye. You can read about this in Genesis 37 and some of the following chapters also reveal some of the details. Joseph had basically done nothing wrong, but he found himself betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery.
Sometimes people think that if they do everything right, then no bad things will ever happen to them. Sometimes people are very cautious in order to avoid problems or troubles. Some people think that if they serve God without making any mistakes, they will then have a nearly perfect life. But life doesn’t work in these ways. Joseph did nothing wrong, but he was sold into slavery. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” The Bible never promises us an easy, trouble free life. In fact, we are promised we will have trouble.
Joseph was taken to Egypt as a slave, but during his time there, he would see God’s plan unfold for his life. A much greater good would occur because of his time as a slave. Perhaps some day you will face tough times when God is trying to bring about long term good. It will be hard to face at the time, but in the long term, you will see God’s hand at work in your life.