Themes from Joseph

Joseph’s story wasn’t just this random tale set amongst the other stories of the Bible.  It was a very pivotal set of occurrences that needed to happen to bring about God’s plan, which stretched far into the future.  It is amazing to think that as far back as Abram, even before he was Abraham, God articulated the plan He would bring into effect in the vast reaches of the future —

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.’”  (Genesis 15:12-15)

Everything that happened to Joseph led to the implementation of God’s plan.  He had dreams, which made him even more unpopular with his brothers.  His brothers sold him into slavery, which led to him being in Egypt, the stage on which God would make the number of Abraham’s descendents multiply to thousands upon thousands.

And all along it was up to Joseph to keep his integrity.  As long as he did, God was with him, and prospered him.  This is one of my biggest themes for life — that if you persevere in doing the right thing, giving it your best, it will work out.  If you give up or give in, things aren’t as good.  When I first worked after my college graduation, I worked at a daycare.  It started out being a really rough job.  But I tried to do an excellent job, and I was able to move up through the ranks to have a better position there and be able to enjoy by job more.  When things fell apart in our church in 2003, it was hard.  But we held onto what we knew was best, and kept trying to do the right thing.  Now we feel like we have been blessed beyond measure.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered.”  Gen 39:2

“When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”  Gen 39:4

(Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife when she tempted him) “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”  Gen 39:9

Being righteous did not keep Joseph from trials.  In fact, God used these trials to prove Joseph’s character, and to bring about His plan.  And STILL, Joseph maintained his integrity, and God blessed him.

 “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.”  Gen 39:20-22

Joseph remained humble and gave glory to God.

(Regarding giving an interpretation for Pharoh’s dream) “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires . . . The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Gen 41:16, 32

And because of this, people saw God, that He was real. 

 “Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

I pray that God will work through me, as I give glory to Him, and that people can see that He is real.

It is so encouraging to see how God poured out blessings on Joseph, and healed his heart of the pain caused by the trying times.

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”  Gen 41:51-52

This is awesome!  It is powerful.  Joseph never forgot God.  He was the only one in the land of Egypt who worshiped God.  It had been so hard for him to be hated by his brothers, treated badly by them, separated from all he loved.  Yet he held to God, and after long years of trials, God blessed him in a way that began to heal him.  He gave Joseph a family of his own, people to finally love him.  It does my heart so much good to see this.

Finally, Joseph is reunited with his brothers, and after testing them to see if their hearts are still hard towards him, he weeps to have his family with him once more.  The brothers have changed, they have learned their lesson.  Joseph is able to see the big picture, that he went through difficult times, but it has all worked out for the good.  I couldn’t help but shed some tears too, as I read the culmination of the story of Joseph.  It is a happy ending.  The brothers are able to get past their guilt.  Jacob is able to see the son he had grieved over for years.  Joseph can not only have his beloved family with him, but provide for them and their future.  Most importantly, he can see that he is honored by God by being a part of God’s great plan.

“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Gen 45:5-7

CAN I HAVE THIS KIND OF FAITH, that no matter what happens to me — illness, lack of success, the loss of loved ones —  I believe God is still prospering His will through my life?  I have seen God heap his blessings on me after times of heartbreak, after years of grief.  As I think of the story of Joseph, may it remind me of the character of God, and how He has worked in my life in similar ways.

The themes of the story of Joseph are the same as through all of Genesis — that God works his plan through righteous men who maintain their integrity through trials, and that God wants to bless immeasurably those who follow him.  I have loved this study of Genesis, where I see the connections in the Bible more than I ever had.  It used to be that the stories were flat to me, only mildly interesting.  It didn’t make a lot of sense why they were a part of the Biblical narrative, and why they occurred as they did.  I am finally seeing them as bright stars that are a part of the constellation of meaning in the Bible.  I see God revealed through them, and his awesomeness reinforced through them.  I am excited to continue this Old Testament survey!

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