You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen 50:20-21).
The story of Joseph gives great hope to us who are facing or have faced injustice and adversity from mean-spirited people including family members, supervisors, “friends,” or church power brokers.
Joseph’s brothers were pea-green with envy because their father, Jacob, favored Joseph over them. Joseph was his favorite son evidenced by giving him the expensive “coat of many colors” like nobles of that era wore. It symbolized royalty.
Plus, Joseph had two dreams that he shared with his brothers and father indicating that one day, they would bow to him.
The brothers should have rejoiced with Joseph in his blessings and vision from the Lord. That’s the Christian response of love when blessings come to someone and that someone isn’t me. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Poisoned with envy in their hearts, the brothers decided to murder him. But, they quickly changed their minds when an opportunity came along to make money by selling him into slavery to an Ishmaelite caravan heading to Egypt.
Thinking that they were at last free of Joseph, they had to come up with an alibi to justify the disappearance of their father’s favored son. They killed a goat, dipped Joseph’s royal robe in its blood, and told their father that Joseph must have been slain by a wild animal.
The brothers made a compact of secrecy that they must have signed in their own blood. Not one of the brothers leaked the secret. That in itself is remarkable. Would our government’s intelligence officers be so loyal to keep State secrets instead of leaking information to the press that endanger our soldiers like Pfc. Bradley Manning did.
For fifteen years, their father’s heavy heart over the “death” of his favored son didn’t phase them. You would think at least one of them would have broken silence and revealed the secret of what actually happened to Joseph and that he might be still alive.
In the meantime, Joseph suffered one injustice after the other. From a slave of the Ishmaelites to a slave of Potiphar to imprisonment by Potiphar when his wife falsely accused Joseph of sexual molestation.
In all of his adversity, there is no record of Joseph becoming embittered against God or the ones who did him wrong. Surely, he was discouraged but not hopeless. Surely, he was lonely but not abandoned. Surely, he was confined, but his spirit was free.
To me, this is quite amazing faith. As far as I can ascertain through my studies about Joseph, he had very little to base his faith and hope upon unlike what we have today. I see two revelations from God that shined through the inky darkness of Joseph’s nightmarish mess.
Through the oral history of his family passed down from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and Jacob’s son, Joseph, he knew the confidence of faith. The Lord told Abram, "Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward" (Genesis 15:1).
Thus Joseph did not cower in his cell nor did he fear for his future whatever might come. The promise of God to Abram passed down to him made him fearless in his outlook and firm in his faith. “Do not be afraid!” How we need to hear and heed this promise now handed down to us in the times of stress and confusion that sometimes comes to us like a thief in the night!
Neither was Joseph defenseless. “I am your shield.” A shield did not prevent the blows of the enemy from striking. Blows come hot and heavy in hand-to-hand combat. The purpose of the shield is to help bear the blow of the attack in order to continue to fight against the opponent. Yes, Joseph received the blows of cruelty and injustice, but they did not destroy him. “I am your shield!”
And Joseph knew that the Lord God is his very great reward. God said, “I am. I am your very great reward.” The reward is not like we think of rewards. We think in terms of material things or success. For example, he was rewarded with a promotion for his good work. Or, the A+ student was rewarded with a plaque for academic excellence.
So many good Christian, church people are led to believe the garbage dumped on them by the preachers of the prosperity gospel that God’s reward is in material things: money, success, health, and other such tangible rewards for planting your “seed of faith” by sending them money.
But such is not the reward God promised Abram here. The promise is “I am your reward!” Certainly, if God’s reward were in riches, every Christian who planted a seed of faith would live in a mansion and drive a Lexus.
No, if tangible riches and prosperity were the reward of faith, Joseph would never have suffered and languished away in a mean dungeon dressed in rags eating prison slop.
Now, Joseph knew these promises God made to his great-great grandfather. That promise is “I (the LORD God) am your very great reward.”
Right there in prison, Joseph’s great reward was “I Am.” I Am Jehovah God which means the “LORD saves.” I AM is the greatest reward, the greatest compensation, the fulfillment of every need, and the light that penetrates every darkness.
Thus, 4,000 years after Joseph, the Apostle Paul knew and based his life on the promise “I am your greatest reward and could assuredly proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ” and show the “incomparable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 3:8 and 2:7).
With the reward of my faith being the great I AM, He brings to bear in my life all of his attributes of omnipotence, grace, mercy, loving-kindness, protection, and my destiny is lived out according to His will. I can rest my weary soul in Him knowing I am in good hands even in a den of lions.
Joseph had God’s promise to sustain him in prison - the promise he learned as a teenager from the ancestral stories told and retold around the fires of his father’s tent on chilly nights. “I am your shield. I am your reward. Do not be afraid!”
The second revelation that Joseph had that shined the way for him in the moonless night were the visions he received from the Lord. That first recorded vision occurred when he was but a teenager. God revealed that he would one day rule over his father and brothers.
Plus, Joseph had the divine gift of understanding dreams evidenced by the interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh's baker and cup-bearer and the interpretation of Pharaoh’s disturbing dream foretelling the coming seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine.
Thus, God communicated with Joseph on a very personal way forming the second basis on which to establish his faith. These revelations, one from oral history about God’s promise to Abraham and the other direct communication from God to him gave him confident faith and hope to victoriously endure injustice and unwarranted imprisonment.
After many long and arduous years, God fulfilled his promise to Joseph when He through Pharaoh’s edict elevated him to Vizier, or Prime Minister, of Egypt. From this lofty political position, his starving brothers bowed to him asking for food because of the famine. God’s purpose and plan for Joseph’s life was realized. The promise to care for Abraham and his descendants continued through Joseph. The chosen people of Israel would come to Egypt and live in the fertile Nile delta in the land of Goshen where they multiplied to form a distinctive people, a holy nation, based on God’s covenant with Abraham.
The Joseph narratives end with his address to his brothers. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Oppressed and enslaved unjustly, God wins. His purpose and plan for Joseph whom He called and chose could not be thwarted by mean-spirited people including family members, supervisors, “friends,” or power brokers. God always wins!
The Great I Am does and will do the same for me and you “At that time I (the LORD) will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame” Zephaniah 3:19).
I think perhaps that the Apostle Paul had the story of Joseph in mind as well as his personal experience of Christ’s resurrected power when he testified:
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, (Romans 8:28-30).
Joseph had only two revelations to maintain faith and hope. We have that and so much more. We have the Bible, two thousand years of Christian history, and most of all, we have the power of his resurrection. We can set our hope that will continue to deliver us. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. God always wins! †
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