Note: If you aren’t familiar with the story of Joseph, read it in Genesis 36-47. You really won’t follow what I have to say if you don’t know the story.
“And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God...” “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Genesis 45:7, 8 1 Peter 5:6-7
Joseph had been victimized, sold into slavery (by his brothers) to a band of Ishmaelites (their cousins). Hauled down to Egypt he was sold to a man named Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Dealing with that fall from freedom and favor into slavery was the great challenge Joseph had yet faced in life, and it is amazing how well he did with it. He didn’t wallow in his "victimhood". He didn’t become despondent or depressed or indulge in pity parties. At least if he did those things we don’t know about it. What we do know is that Joseph set his focus on God, walked in righteousness, and trusted Him with his life and the direction his life was taking. How he was able to accomplish this is the subject of this article.
Joseph’s life had been completely devastated. Jacob, his father, was powerfully rich and feared throughout Palestine as “the man Yahweh helps”. Archaeological documents even speak of Jacob as being a king. Joseph was secure as the favorite, spoiled son of this rich and powerful man, when this life of favor was suddenly ripped away from him. His brothers, who should have stood as his protectors and companions, became his enemies. No doubt he did have to deal with depression, anger, hurt and bitterness, but what we see at the end of the story is a man who chose to give up all those things and walk in peace.
His first good choice was to maintain his relationship with God. Psalms 34:23,24 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Joseph had a relationship with Yahweh, the creator of the universe, and he held on to that relationship. Perhaps he was angry with God – I’m sure I would be – but he held on Him anyway. Because he maintained that relationship with the Lord, he quickly rose to a position of trust and honor in Potiphar’s house and business. Then, also because he considered knowing Yahweh to be more important than anything else, he was once again, victimized, and betrayed, this time by his employer’s wife. Again, he had to climb out of despondency and despair, again he had to learn to forgive and find peace.
Once, during a time when I was struggling to pull myself out of my own quagmire of despondency, a friend told me that my troubles didn’t catch God by surprise. The same was true for Joseph. Neither the vicious betrayal by his brothers nor the lasciviousness of his boss’s wife caught God by surprise. Joseph recognized that fact and it gave him the strength to pull himself up, stand tall, pick up his life and go on. Instead of giving in to anger or self-pity, he asked God, "So, what now?" Realizing that God had a plan He submitted himself to that plan. He chose to continue living in righteousness, and went on to do well. Finally, when his brothers came bowing down before him, he understood part of that plan -- God had used Joseph’s hardship and loss to prepare a way to save the family of Jacob from loss and starvation by sending him before them to Egypt. That, by itself, is an awesome lesson for us. We must, when faced with even the worst of circumstances, choose to set aside bitterness, forgive our betrayers (for our own sakes), and then ask God, “What now?” We must choose to continue to walk in righteousness and place our faith in Him and His plan.
But God, in His multitasking ways, was doing much more than just feeding the children of Israel. Joseph’s life and victory was really just a footnote in God’s plans.
I’ll post part two here in the next couple of days. In the meantime, make this your mantra:
It’s not about me! God wasn’t surprised. He has a plan!