The testimony of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible. It stands to remind us that while our circumstances can be up and down in this life, God is with us and working all things according to His purpose and our good.
We pick up the testimony of Joseph in Genesis 37, where we read that he has the favor of his father, Jacob. He was given a very special robe of many colors by the parents and given the gift of prophetic dreams. He is blessed and highly favored.
But, things take a terrible turn for Joseph in the latter part of Genesis 37 when his brothers' hatred and jealousy causes them to distance themselves from him and even plot to kill him. Thankfully, Rueben convinces them to not kill him. Still their anger and resentment propels them to throw him into a pit and then sell him to some traveling gypsies who would then sell him as a slave. Their father is broken when the brothers show him Joseph’s coat and deceive him into thinking that he had been killed by an animal.
In Genesis 39, we read that Joseph ends up in a great situation for a slave. He is sold to Potifer, Captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and he quickly earns Potifer’s trust and is appointed to oversee his entire house. What an amazing turn from such life-altering, horrible events.
But, it doesn’t last long for things to go horribly bad again as Potifer’s wife lusts after Joseph and pursues him to sleep with her. When he tells her no, she screams out that he assaulted and raped her. This means the loss of everything good he had come to know as he is thrown into prison.
Once again, Joseph lands in the worst of situations only to earn the favor of the chief jailor who ends up putting him in charge of the entire jail. Some time goes by and in Genesis 40, we read that Joseph is given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of the chief cupbearer and Pharaoh’s baker. Unfortunately, the baker’s negative interpretation proves true as he dies and the cupbearer's positive interpretation proves true and he is restored to his position and freedom.
But, after promising Joseph that he will mention him to Pharaoh, he forgets and Joseph spends another 2 years in jail. Wow! This one must have been so hard as his means to freedom are all but sure and then one week turns into two, turns into months and then years. He had every opportunity to start doubting God and just give up. But, he stayed faithful and vigilant which is good because what he was about to do and become nobody could have ever seen coming!
Pharaoh had a dream that was tormenting him and the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph so Pharaoh sent for him. Upon his arrival to stand before the highest power in the land, Joseph accurately interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.
In Genesis 41, we read that Pharaoh puts Joseph 2nd in charge over all of Egypt to carry out the plan to prepare for the famine. Joseph runs things well in Egypt, even though Egypt worshiped Pharaoh as a god. Joseph was able to still honor and glorify the one true God in heaven with his faithful work and devotion to God.
In Genesis 42, Jacob hears of Egypt selling their grain and sent the boys to buy some.
His brothers come to Egypt and Joseph recognizes them but they don’t recognize him. He calls them spies and throws them in jail. He then says for them to go and get their youngest brother and return to him to prove they are not spies and to buy the grain they need. Jacob is fearful he will lose another son, but lets Benjamin go with reservation. Upon their return, Joseph ends up revealing himself to his brothers. Pharaoh hears of this and provides the means for the entire family to be moved to Egypt. Finally, Jacob and Joseph die and are buried in their homeland in Canaan as requested.
As we read the close of Genesis 50, we read Joseph’s request for them to take his bones to be buried in the Promised Land. Now, this is huge because even though Egypt had blessed Joseph and now his family had great success, this could not compare with the blessing of God. If he would have encouraged the Israelites to stay in Egypt, it would have shown disbelief in the promises of God. Instead, Joseph told the nation to take his bones with them when they left Egypt. He did not want his body to be buried in exile. He wanted to dwell in the Promised Land. This is awesome.
Joseph had faith that God’s promises would prove true as he would bring them out of exile and into the Promised Land.
This is why Joseph is mentioned in the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:22 “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”
Patriarchs like Joseph are excellent examples of persevering faith for us not only because of how they lived their lives in faith, but also how they died in great faith too. May this be the case for you and me.
As we consider Joseph’s journey through incredible hardship, betrayal, abandonment, false testimony, physical abuse and years in slavery or prison, we also recognize he had some incredible high points of his parents' love and God’s giftedness, the chance to lead in Potifers house and in jail and, even more significant, being raised to lead the most powerful nation through the worst of times. Joseph was able to make the most of terrible turns. The truth is, Joseph survived and prospered through times we would have likely failed or given up in. Consider- which of these turns would have been the hardest for you?
But, also consider how he relied on God to get him through and never lost his faith.
Our faith is truly strengthened when we don’t see a way out but we still trust in God and don’t lose hope.
The two huge things we learn from Joseph are:
1. Instead of asking WHY, he asked God WHAT SHALL I DO NOW?
Romans 5:1-5 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
2. Trust God who is over all things and has a great plan for your life.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Genesis 45:4-8 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
And finally, the most important verse in Joseph’s testimony:
Genesis 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Let us trust in God no matter how bad our circumstances get. He is able and we are never done until we are dead.
Don’t lose hope. Stay the course. Don’t ask God, “Why?” Ask God, “What shall I do now?”