You know how in the movies the good guy gets to give the bad guy his “comeuppance?” It’s so common that it’s cliché: The bad guy’s bad. The good guy is bullied and terrorized by the bad guy. The good guy finally puts the bad guy in his place, roll credits. If Joseph’s life were made into a movie, it would be disappointing in the “comeuppance” department.
We know from Scripture that Joseph was released from prison and that Pharaoh promoted him to second-in-command status in Egypt for interpreting his dream: “Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:40b, ESV).
That gave Joseph tremendous power. Life and death power. Major, epic comeuppance power. Yet Joseph never exercised his power that way. The butler had forgotten Joseph for two whole years, until Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his nightmarish dream about the coming drought. After Joseph was promoted, he could have gone to the butler and said: “Forgot me, huh? I’ll give you something you won’t forget. I’m putting you back in prison forever! Try forgetting me now!” But that never happened.
When he was promoted, Pharaoh put Joseph in his “second chariot” (Genesis 41:43) and had him driven around all of Egypt where everyone was ordered to “Bow the knee” as Joseph rode by. Can you imagine what it must have been like when Joseph rode down Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar’s street? Those two might have been very sheepish upon seeing Pharaoh’s new right-hand man: “Oh…uh…hey, Joseph. Congrats on the promotion. No hard feelings, right?” Joseph could have slowed the chariot down and glared at those two as he went by: “Watch your backs, you two. I got people to care of people like you!” Again, that never happened.
I know these are arguments from silence because Scripture records nothing of the lives of the butler or the Potiphars after Joseph’s rise to power, but I think it’s a safe assumption given Joseph’s actions toward the one group of people who really deserved to “get theirs:” Joseph’s brothers. And yet again, we see no retaliation on Joseph’s part, only reconciliation. How Christ-like! His brothers were the most egregious offenders, the root cause of all Joseph’s troubles and what Joseph wanted more than anything was to forgive his brothers and bring them back into fellowship with himself. Yes, he tested them, but it was only to get them to see their sin for what it was and to bring them to repentance
How could Joseph do this? How could he seek reconciliation over revenge? Because he understood that while his brothers meant their actions for evil, God meant them (or used them) for good (Genesis 50:20). If Joseph’s focus was only on himself, he might have exacted all kinds of cruel vengeance on his brothers, but Joseph’s focus was always on God which meant his actions and attitudes were always focused on good. And for God, the ultimate good is bringing people to Himself.
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Photo by unsplash-logoSebastien Gabriel