Today’s reading is Genesis 41:17-42:17, Matthew 13:24-46, Psalm 18:1-15, Proverbs 4:1-4.
The next leg of Joseph’s life journey certainly brought the humility that Joseph needed. He spent the next years of his life in slavery. He did have a choice, though. He could have gotten bitter. Instead, he not only maintained the seeds of integrity he had learned from his father, he also grew in integrity. Hardship made him better, more mature, more faithful. The dreams of his life would eventually come true, but he had to be refined in the fire of trials and tribulations which developed trust in the Lord.
Joseph found himself in an unexpected situation—one in which he could have succumbed to fleshly desire. He had been sold as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Because the Lord was with Joseph, he succeeded in everything he did. Potiphar recognized the hand of God on Joseph and therefore put him in charge of everything he owned. Because the hand of God was on Joseph, he was a blessing to all around him, even though he was in a position of slavery. He had favor with God and man, despite his lowly position. He bloomed where he was planted.
It is therefore a surprise that a terrible temptation came into his life, namely, Potiphar’s wife. Had God’s hand been removed from Joseph? No. The scriptures say nothing about a change in his relationship with God. So, we must conclude that either the enemy, Satan, sent this temptation or God allowed it because He wanted to test and refine Joseph’s character even more. Maybe both was true. Whichever the case, Joseph passed the test with flying colors. First, he kept away from her as much as possible. And when that didn’t work, he literally ran away from her, leaving his coat behind. So, if he did the right thing, why did he still land in jail? Why did God allow her to lie and mar his stellar reputation? God did allow this bad situation and it was not because He had moved His hand of favor from Joseph. God had a bigger, deeper plan. If we are never in the pit, how can we be certain that God is able and willing to deliver us from it? If we never have hardship, how can we experience his mercy and grace and peace which passes understanding? There will be a day when all hardships cease. It is a day I look forward to. But until then we will sometimes have troubles. We will sometimes be falsely accused and misunderstood. That does not mean that God has failed us. Jesus Himself warned us this would happen. In John 6: 33 Jesus said this:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
No matter the hand we are dealt, God will overcome if we trust in Him. No matter the circumstances we can find peace in Him.
Joseph had a lot of difficult days ahead. And yet, we see that even in jail, Joseph used the gifts God had given him to glorify God. In his younger days, he had boastfully told his dreams to his brothers. The emphasis was on him. But the fiery trials had refined his character. We see in Genesis 40:8 that even before he heard the dreams of the Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker, he gave the glory to God.
“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”
Joseph had grown in his dependence on God and lessened his dependence upon himself. He walked in the giftedness God had given him, but gave all the credit to the Giver of the gift. And ultimately, this consistent walking in the giftedness God had planted in him, led to his release from prison and set him on a path of redemption for his entire family.
The ungrateful cup-bearer got out of prison and forgot all about Joseph. How depressing that must have been. But God stepped in at just the right time. Notice the details of Pharaoh’s dream. Seven fat cows, seven scrawny ones; seven head of grain, seven plump heads of grains. Remember the holy numbers? Seven is the number for completion and perfection. Even among a people who did not know God, God was in control. And God would use ungodly people to save his chosen people.
God can do the same for each of us. If you feel as if you are in a prison of sorts today, trust in the Redeemer and Restorer to release you in His good timing. Trust that He is writing a story in your life that is more than you could ever hope or dream or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)