Chapter 37 of the book of Genesis begins Joseph’s story. After reading his story, here are lessons I learned.
Joseph’s attitude to work
Joseph prospered even while in captivity. [Origin of the word ‘prosper’: Late Middle English: from Old French prosperer, from Latin prosperare, from prosperus ‘doing well’.] Joseph did well regardless of his circumstances. He didn’t do his work in bitterness of heart but rather with diligence, regardless of his circumstances.
“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah).” (Colossians 3:23-24, AMPC).
Joseph’s attitude to God
Joseph was a faithful man both to God and to men. He considered sleeping with his master’s wife as a wickedness considering that his master had done nothing but good for him. It was however his attitude to God that gave rise to this attitude to a man. He knew he was accountable to God, that God owned him. So even before being a wicked act towards his master, it would first have been a sin against God because God has a clear stance against adultery (as He does about many things that many who claim to be Christians are messing around with today and counting as inconsequential).
Giving the benefit of doubt
It isn’t true that “there is no smoke without fire”. Joseph was accused of rape and imprisoned yet he was totally innocent of this charge. It is not always that there is an element of truth in what people are saying about a person or a situation. Some people do come up with stories (for whatever reason) that have no iota of truth to them. In this case, his accuser was miffed by his constant rejection of her advances and created the story to punish him for it. One would say that his coat was evidence enough yet we know that how she got hold of his coat was totally different from the way she told it. We should be careful about jumping to conclusions based on the evidence presented to our physical senses.
Joseph’s attitude to others
Joseph was a compassionate fellow who cared about others. He noticed the low moods of the baker and butler and approached them about it. Had he not done this, the whole sequence of events the followed would not have taken place. I wonder if his own hard journey developed his heart of compassion because the older I get, the more I realize that the more you go through your own fiery trials, the more compassionate you are towards others.
Joseph’s confidence in God
Joseph didn’t ascribe to himself the gift or office of interpreter of dreams but trusted that God was able to give interpretations. He relied on God’s ability rather than his own and was certain He would come through with the interpretations.
Joseph did not shy away from speaking the truth. The interpretation of the baker’s dream was a negative one which foretold his impending death but Joseph still went ahead to say it as he received it.
Joseph was as human as we are. Despite the fact that he was prospering within the prison walls, he wanted to be a free man. He also sought the help of the butler but as it is most times, the arm of flesh failed him. I believe the time had not yet come for the next phase of his life and so God let the butler forget him until the time was ripe.
God had a perfectly timed plan
God has a timing for His plans and it is wise to let his timing run its course. Imagine if the butler had indeed remembered him and sought Pharoah’s favour to have him released immediately. When Pharoah had the dreams two years later, where would Joseph had been? At the appointed time, God caused all the pieces to come together for the fulfilment of His own agenda – Pharoah’s dreams and the butler’s remembrance of Joseph’s interpreting his own dream accurately two years prior.
Joseph’s attitude to problems
Joseph was a solution-provider. He interpreted the dreams and having laid out the challenge the dreams presented, he offered a solution. He thus became indispensable to Pharoah and God’s plan was carried out in and through him.
It was not about Joseph
God’s plan was not about Joseph – about glorifying him and causing his family to bow down before him; it went far beyond him to the provision for His people in the time of famine (45:5). The bowing down to him was just an episode in the whole production but was not the end or goal of it all. We should be careful not to focus on the wrong goals or not to make temporary camps our final destination. God’s goals must become our goals and these goals are always beyond us as individuals though we might be blessed or receive some fame along the way as we fulfil His goals.
Joseph’s story is often told with a focus on moving ‘from the pit to the palace’ but I feel that is making his journey about him – his rise to power, fame and fortune – whereas it is really a story that highlights how God has a plan for the future and how takes a person through a process to be able to use him to achieve his plan. He did it with Moses and with many others in the scriptures. He is still doing it today.
So if you want to be a vessel in the Potter’s hands with which He will carry out His plans on Earth, prepare to submit yourself to the process involved, seeking not fame but His glory and His purpose fulfilled.