The truth is, all of us have, to some degree…
And it’s also probably true that we have treated or judged a person unfairly in our lifetimes too…
In Joseph’s case, he was returned evil for good. When he went to Shechem to look for his brothers to relay a message from their father, they were not there. Instead of returning home, he went the extra mile to look for them in Dothan (Genesis 37). Joseph was probably hoping for some appreciation from his siblings, but instead, their hatred and jealousy of Joseph ignited a desire and plan to kill him.
The story of Jacob, Joseph and his brothers run a long story… In Joseph’s immaturity, he had gloated about the divine revelations he received. Being the youngest, he probably felt very elevated when God promised him in a dream, that he would rule over his father and brothers! It was understandable for the older brothers to loathe his “know-it-all” attitude, but how could the brothers have the heart to throw him in a pit to starve when Joseph cried despairingly? In fact, their hardheartedness enabled them to picnic nearby right after they dumped their little brother into the pit! Imagine Joseph’s humiliation and rejection… From being exalted as a favourite son with a promising future, only to find himself in a pit…
The story continues… Joseph was finally sold as a slave to Ishmaelite traders passing along the way.
Have you been in a situation where things seem hopeless and beyond repair? What do you think was on Joseph’s mind? He had no idea what his future was going to be now. Making bricks as a slave? Working in the fields as a reaper? Being a servant to a demanding and unreasonable Egyptian?
God was silently working behind the scenes. His favour on Joseph was evident even to his foreign employer – Joseph had the Midas touch! Everything that came under Joseph’s care and jurisdiction flourished and Joseph was blessed with promotion.
However, there was a greater test to come. Temptation. Mrs. Potiphar adored handsome Jo and day after day implored him to lie with her. Joseph was determined to remain morally pure and denied her advances. One day, Mrs. P pulled him by his cloak and aggressively made her advances known… Instead of making excuses for the flesh, he fled, leaving his cloak in her hands. He said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Wicked, conniving Mrs P, now embarrassed from being turned down, accused Joseph of wanting to take advantage of her. That false accusation landed Jo in jail.
Jo was in jail, but God’s favour followed him there. He was soon made leader of the other prisoners. One day, he noticed the downcast expressions of his two fellow prison mates and asked them what was bothering them. He helped interpret their dreams and asked for a favour – that his name be cleared in the presence of Pharaoh so that he would be free from prison. However, his request was forgotten even though the cupbearer was released a mere 3 days after that. Something that strikes me about Joseph is his selflessness and kindness. Despite his unfair and bitter circumstances, he still cared about others and had eyes to notice those who were sad or hurting.
However, God was again working behind the scenes for a greater purpose.
Two years after the whole episode, did God then finally release Jo from prison through the bad dreams Pharaoh had. It was then the cupbearer remembered Joseph, and poor Jo was brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Because of the divine wisdom and revelation Joseph had, Pharaoh placed him as his immediate subordinate, to provide direction and planning in preparation for the famine years ahead as were revealed through Pharaoh’s dream.
Should Jo have been released right after the cupbearers release, Jo would probably have missed the opportunity to attain such a position in Pharaoh’s office. He may have gotten out of jail, got a decent job with an Egyptian family, perhaps gotten married and carved a new destiny for himself.
But the delays in prison, were all for a purpose. They were meant to teach Jo about patience, humility, trust in God. They served a higher purpose – to tell a story about redemption, a foreshadowing revelation about Jesus’ own sacrifice to redeem a people with their own famine of sorts.
Do you see the things Joseph and Jesus had in common? Sold for pieces of silver, stripped of their clothes, rejected by their closest brethren…
Spiritual usefulness requires you to consider your personal ambitions, rights, and even your life as a “kernel of wheat” that falls into the ground and dies. Only then will you produce much fruit. (John 12:24) One simple test is how you respond when you suffer a small slight or a minor inconvenience. Your behaviour when you suffer qualifies or disqualifies you to lead others. Joseph believed God’s word to him even when his circumstances seemed hopeless. He flourished in hardship because he had faith to see God’s faithfulness and goodness in his circumstances. God gladly gives grace to those who ask Him, moment by moment in whatever circumstance. Joseph learned to wait on God’s time, to trust fully in God’s word, and to experience God’s presence throughout his many difficulties. Whatever your painful or impossible situation, if you are God’s child, He is determined to bless you and others through you. He will do this not simply despite your circumstances, but through them.” -BSF Lesson 27 on Genesis