If you get motion sickness like I do, then you’d better take some Dramamine before reading about Joseph’s roller coaster of a life story (Genesis 37-50). My hills and valleys look like speed bumps and potholes by comparison.
In the beginning, Joseph is daddy’s favorite son, then his jealous siblings sell him into slavery (and I thought our kids got into fights!). Next, he works his way up to head-slave (isn’t that an oxymoron?), only to be falsely accused by a scorned, would-be mistress and sent to prison. Finally, by a miraculous turn of events, he springs to second in command over all Egypt, one of the most powerful nations of his day. Whew!
Once my stomach settles, the first question I ask is, Why did God do it in that particular way? Couldn’t an all-knowing, all-powerful God have used some other means of putting Joseph into power to save the ancient world from famine? The answer, of course, is yes; He could have done it differently. However, He accomplished several things by doing it the way He did.
First of all, God used Joseph to glorify Himself and demonstrate His divine attributes. Had Joseph slowly risen to power by climbing the Egyptian corporate ladder, his success might have been attributed to hard work, talent, or intelligence. But God’s way of doing things left no doubt as to whom should receive the glory. Furthermore, the famine itself was used by God to demonstrate His omniscience, omnipotence, and mercy. Think of the man blind from birth, not for his sins or his parents’ sins, but that God might be glorified through his healing (John 9:1-7). It may be that the obstacles we face in life are merely opportunities for God to demonstrate His power and mercy through us.
Second, God demonstrated that doing what is right does not always reap immediate rewards. When Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife, no one congratulated him on his moral resolve. Instead, he found himself thrown in jail. God, however, was smiling, and Joseph was developing perseverance. Joseph knew that God’s rewards take time, sometimes all of eternity, to fully manifest.
Which brings up a final observation: Despite his affluence, Joseph remained a stranger in a strange land to the end of his days. His family had to stay in Goshen to keep from offending the Egyptians. Eventually, a pharaoh arose “who knew not Joseph”, and Joseph’s descendants became cruelly treated slaves. It is a solemn reminder that no matter what we have or what we achieve in this life, we will never be complete this side of heaven.
Augustine declared, “Our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” Once we’ve entered that final rest, we will see more clearly how God has used all of life’s circumstances for our growth and His glory. In the meantime, we’ll just have to hold on to our seats!