Genesis 41-45; Psalm 10; Matthew 15

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I wish I were more like Joseph.

A beloved son of a wealthy father, he was sold by his brothers into slavery—a slavery that was so grueling that it often led to death. How’s that for sibling affection and a change in life status? Joseph went on to live the humble life of a slave with integrity, but was then imprisoned when he refused to yield to the adulterous advances of his master’s wife. How’s that for justice? While in prison, he befriended a fellow inmate who promptly forgot him upon his own release. How’s that for appreciation? These devastating experiences didn’t play out over a few days or months, but over many years. How’s that for quick relief?

Any one of these experiences would cause many people to question God’s goodness, if not cause outright disbelief in that goodness. What was Joseph’s reaction to those painful early years in Egypt, the place he called “this land of my suffering” (Gen. 41:52)? Did he blame God and turn away from Him? Did he want revenge against his brothers who had started his cycle of pain and suffering? Was he consumed with anger toward the wife of Potiphar or bitterness toward his fellow prisoner who had forgotten him?

Genesis 45 tells us the answer. Joseph, whose position had been stunningly reversed from an imprisoned slave to an influential Egyptian ruler, meets with his brothers. He orders everyone else out of the meeting room. Joseph knows who his brothers are, but they do not recognize him. As quiet settles over the room, Joseph begins to weep loudly. Could it be that he was remembering the day he was sold as a slave by these brothers or the many painful years that followed? Through the deep sobs, he tells them, “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt” (Gen. 45:4).

Even through his tears, Joseph would have seen the mix of emotions on his brothers’ faces. Their shock, confusion, disbelief, and finally fear could not be hidden, for they know that it is now Joseph who holds their lives in his powerful hands. Joseph rushes to explain, saying, “Don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it” (Gen. 45:5). Joseph, understanding the role God played in his life, has forgiven his brothers.

And with these words, we realize that Joseph was not only at peace with his brothers but with all the people who played a part in his years of pain. He had come to the conclusion that it was God who “did it,” God who had allowed each painful circumstance to take place in his life. Regardless of his present affluence and influence, the agony of those years surely would have caused him to distrust and hold a grudge against God…wouldn’t they? But Joseph saw a bigger picture. He understood that God “has sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation” (Gen. 45:5,7). No grudge, just trust.

And that is why I want to be like Joseph. I want to forgive those who wrong me. I want to be obedient to God’s commands, even when life is rough. I want to see and believe in the higher purposes God has for me, even when I encounter hard times. I want to be unshaken in my belief that, yes, God is good, even when my circumstances are not.

How does this kind of faith develop? It doesn’t simply appear but is built up in our lives through each adversity and painful situation we face. What do you face today? Despite our circumstances, let us pray that God will help us to believe His promise that all things will work together for good for those who love Him. And when Satan causes us to doubt that this could ever be so (and he will), let us pray yet again for strength to continue believing. Then let us walk forward, understanding that, like Joseph at the beginning of his severe and multiple trials, we do not know how the story will end or the good that can eventually come from it.

I’m not a Joseph yet, but I want to be. How about you?

© 2010 Arlina Yates

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