We have all had the experience of hearing a new word or learning a new concept or discovering a once unfamiliar place on the planet. What happens? It seems from that moment on the new vocabulary word or idea or location is constantly heard and one wonders why it was so unfamiliar before. When I was a little girl I recall hearing about Lake Tahoe and wondering where that was. A week later someone referred to it. Then I saw the words written in my father’s Time magazine. From then on it seemed to be everywhere.
This year I told you I wanted to write about faithfulness. Of course, the topic “faithfulness” is cropping up all over before my eyes and ears…in articles, in books, in the Scriptures.
Today I began going over the story of Joseph in my Old Testament readings and you know it, faithfulness leaps from the pages. From the text you’d think that Joseph never sinned unless you think he was arrogant in the recounting of his dreams to his brothers and father, telling them that they would bow down to him. God is not shy about telling us of the sins and weaknesses of many characters in His Word. With others, like Joseph and Daniel, the Lord spares us from the telling of their sin, of which we are all guilty. I believe God wants us to zero in on their faithfulness, for our example, for edification and encouragement to be like-minded.
As I read through Joseph’s story (check it out in Genesis 37, 39-50) I’m struck by his faithfulness to God and His reputation throughout the events narrated in the Scriptures. Joseph was the favorite of his father, thus incurring the jealousy and wrath of his brothers. He appears to be in submission to his father, obedient in the errands his father asked of him. The brothers’ envy resulted in the pretend death of Joseph and the selling of him to traders on their way to Egypt–We know what happened there. Potiphar, his wicked wife, prison, dreams, the interpretation of dreams, a baker and cupbearer, Pharaoh himself, and Joseph’s eventual rise to a position in the government of the land.
Until Egypt we did not know where Joseph stood in his relationship with the Lord. In his new home with Potiphar we see that Joseph pursues excellence in all that he does. He was unusually gifted and handsome to boot. The Scriptures tell us that his master “saw that the Lord was with Him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight…” and Potiphar made him overseer of all his home, second only to the master himself. “The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake…” And then Potiphar’s woman came along and tried to seduce this excellent young man. She badgered him day after day but he resisted. His final answer was, “How then can I do this great wickedness against God?” Power and prestige and a woman’s siren call did not do their negative work on this young man. And yet, he is accused of attempted rape and consigned to prison.
Lesser men or women would have thrown in the towel by this time. “Why me?”, we would cry out. “What have I done to deserve this? I was a good son. My brothers hated me and sold me into slavery. Not my fault. I’ll never see my father again. I did right by Potiphar and where did that get me? I’m in prison. Woe is me!” The Bible tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and he gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” In this dismal environment he is once again noticed for his excellent character and abilities and is elevated to a high position, this time as overseer of all the prisoners. Again we are told that “the Lord was with him, and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.”
Fast forward…In interpreting the dreams of two of the Pharoah’s servants, now prisoners, he gives God the credit for his knowledge of the meanings. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Eventually, through a series of events, Joseph is brought before the Pharaoh for more dream interpretation. Again he gives the credit to God. “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
Please read the story for yourself of how this superb young man is once again raised to a position of power, this time second only to Pharaoh, the king; how Joseph meets up with his brothers again and tests them to give him understanding of their hearts’ condition; his tender meeting with his daddy after so many years, as if resurrected from the dead; his father’s eventual death and his brothers’ fear that now Joseph will seek revenge for their great sin against him all those years before. Classic Joseph: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid…” Joseph’s last recorded words were to the children of Israel, “…you shall carry my bones from here” to the land God had promised to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. In the New Testament book of Hebrews 11:22 we are retold that “By faith, Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instruction according to his bones.”
“Why all this?”, you say, my sister. We are talking about faithfulness. God’s faithfulness is written all over Joseph’s story throughout all his severe trials from beginning to end. It is only because of His faithfulness to us that we can even begin to be faithful to Him. But I am also drawn to Joseph’s faithfulness to our God. You and I have copies of the Bible scattered all around our houses. We have phones and tablets and apps and a myriad other tools at our fingertips. We have no excuse for not having a proper theology of God and His character, His ways, His promises for a future for ourselves and our people, not yet realized. Yet we falter and are often unfaithful in one way or another, even in the smallest things, let alone the biggies. Joseph had no copy of the Scriptures to read at night for encouragement when he was suffering. (Moses was not yet born, the author of Genesis.) He did not have Christian counselors or pastors or any books on victory through suffering. He had no family around him to offer shelter and comfort. No, but He knew God, that He was Sovereign and in control of all things and that he, Joseph, would answer to God for his actions. He learned what he knew of God from his father, no doubt, and a personal walk with the Heavenly Father based on the truths he knew about God. We learn this from the few words of his recorded in the Scriptures, written for us as an example and to be encouraged and spurred on to faithfulness in our own lives.
Forgive me, O God, when I complain about anything in my life. Grant me faithfulness to You as Joseph was faithful–and more so like my Savior, Jesus Christ, the only One who is perfectly faithful.