I would not be surprised if when we get to Heaven and ask Peter about 1 Peter 4:19 that he would tell us “I was thinking about Joseph when I wrote it.” Because if anyone epitomized this verse, it was him. Looking at his life, however, you never would have guessed it. His life was the perfect recipe for creating a bitter, sullen young man, yet he never went that direction. In fact, Joseph is one of those few Old Testament individuals about whom no sin is recorded. Not even David, “the man after God’s own heart,” had as clean a record as Joseph. That’s not to say he was sinless. We all sin, but Joseph’s sins, whatever they were, never rose to the level of being grievous enough to make it into Scripture. This, despite the fact he had every reason to spend his whole life saying: “That’s not fair!”
Joseph’s family life
Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family. His father, Jacob, had two wives and several concubines. His mother died giving birth to his only full brother, Benjamin. His ten other half-brothers all hated him. Because Joseph was Jacob’s obvious favorite (Scripture records it! Genesis 37:3). It was Joseph who got the coat of many colors, not Reuben, the oldest, or even Judah, the obvious ringleader of Joseph’s ten half-brothers. No, it was Joseph, partly because he was the first son Jacob had by his favorite wife Rachel and partly, I think, because Joseph and Jacob shared a kindred bond in their mutual faith in God. And when it came to him and his brothers, Joseph was “the responsible one.” Ever have one of those in the family?
Then, of course, there was God’s favor. It was Joseph that God visited in two dreams (Genesis 37). In one, Joseph and his brothers were in the field gathering sheaves and his brothers’ “sheaves stood round about, and [bowed down] to [his] sheaf” (Genesis 37:7). In the other, the sun, moon and eleven stars, representing Joseph’s entire family all bowed down to him. You can imagine the discussion that caused around the family dinner table!
All of these things conspired to condemn Joseph to his older brothers’ wrath.
Hey! I know! Let’s sell him.
Growing up, have you ever wanted to sell one of your siblings? Joseph’s brothers actually did it. One day, when they were away tending the herds, Jacob sent his favorite out to check on them. “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him” (Genesis 37:18). That was Plan A. Thankfully, Reuben the oldest was able to prevail (barely) and convince them to spare Joseph’s life. So, they stripped Joseph his coat of many colors and tossed him into an empty pit. That’s when Judah, who was probably the author of Plan A, came up with Plan B:
“And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content” (Genesis 37:26-27).
Think about the mindset here: “Well, we can’t really kill him. He is our brother, after all. We’ll just sell him and make a little money on the deal.” And they were OK with that. Seriously?
To cover their sin, they took Joseph’s coat, tore it up, covered in animal blood and told Jacob that a wild animal had killed him. So, not only was Joseph separated from his family, his father was led to believe he was dead.
Live! In Egypt!
The slave traders who bought Joseph sold him Egypt to a man by the name of Potiphar “an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard” (Genesis 37:36). Were it anyone else’s life the Bible might have said: “And Joseph was angry and did evil in the sight of the LORD for he was bitter at his brethren for all that they had done unto him. And Potiphar had him slain.” But the Bible doesn’t say that. It says:
“And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:2-3).
Potiphar probably did not know the Lord, and he may not have said in so many words: “I can see the LORD is with you,” but he could see it in Joseph’s life. Why? Because Joseph understood something about his living for God: I can serve God regardless of my circumstances. For Joseph, life didn’t have to be fair for him to be faithful to His God.
[More to come next time.]
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