- “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (Genesis 39:2)
I wonder if anyone would ever suspect that the Lord was with Joseph if we were not specifically told so in Genesis 39:2? The song “Go, Go, Go Joseph” from the campy Broadway musical, “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” offers the encouraging words as the protagonist languishes away in prison: “Don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop, we’ve read the Book and you come out on top.” Sometimes, it is all too easy looking backward through history from our vantage point to forget the uncertainty of events for those who lived through them.
But as we read on into the saga of Joseph, it becomes clearer and clearer that he was an extraordinary man. When we first met him, he was a young boy of 17 years, untried and untouched by the tragedies and injustices of life. Perhaps a bit naive, Joseph possessed the innocence that we all did at one point or another; an innocence of youth that is unsullied by the bitterness which proceeds from discouragement and so often tries to creep into our hearts. Joseph dreamed big dreams and entertained lofty hopes, but character untested is not character at all. Now the trials begin to come like so many rain drops; first pattering lightly and sporadically before crescendoing into a downpour of utter misfortune.
Yet written across the cruel and unjust events of Joseph’s life are the words: “The Lord was with him.” This simple statement gives meaning and purpose to the most horrific of circumstances and lends hope during the most desperate hours. Joseph was cast into a pit by his brothers, then pulled out only to be sold into slavery, then cast into prison. How many of us would resign ourselves to an inconsolable despair in the face of such circumstances? For it seems that just as a ray of light begins to shine through the darkness surrounding Joseph, it is quickly snuffed out and the latter condition is worse than the former. But in all of these things, the Lord was with him.
Sprinkled throughout the narrative and bookending Joseph’s tragedies are the tell-tale signs of a life empowered by the Spirit of God. Joseph does not serve Potiphar for long before the fact that God is with the young Hebrew becomes apparent to his master. Consequently, Joseph is elevated to a position of great authority. The same thing happens again when Joseph is cast into prison (Gen. 39:21-22). Wherever Joseph finds himself, God is there with him — and those around him see this. Joseph’s story is a profound reminder of God’s ability to manipulate our circumstances in order to bring about His purposes in our lives. It may seem to the human eye that Joseph is slipping further and further into a bleak chasm of desperation, but God is merely getting him closer and closer to the exalted position of service that he will one day find himself in.
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
The account of the despicable accusation brought against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife reveals to us even more admirable traits in the character of Joseph. It is ironic how the manner with which one responds to being falsely accused of the most contemptible behavior can speak volumes in vindicating their dignity. It is within our nature to, when falsely accused, protest with the greatest vehemence we can possibly muster. Our tendency is to strive to make certain that our plea of innocence has not been overlooked nor misunderstood. But the silence of Joseph in the face of such heinous charges being brought against him points steadfastly at the Lord Jesus’ response in the presence of the Sanhedrin and later before Pilate. Perhaps Joseph, out of respect and gratitude for Potiphar’s kindness toward him, is unwilling to bring scandal upon his household. That Potiphar was likely already aware of his wife’s adulturous tendencies is evidenced by the relatively lenient punishment that Joseph receives at his hands. Would any other slave have likely escaped with his life had their master been so powerful a man in the government of Egypt? Or perhaps it was the impression left on Joseph’s heart by the Lord that compelled him to bear this injustice knowing that God desired to bring about a greater good from it. As our Lord knew that the Cross lay in the path that led Him in obedience to the will of the Father, so, too, was Joseph aware that the way to being lifted up before God was through humility and death to self. He knew not how nor why, but Joseph knew that the dungeon of Pharaoh was just as much a part of God’s plans for him as the pit in Dothan and the slave caravan of the Ismaelites had been.
And where do you find yourself, child of God? Whatever valley you are passing through, whatever ditch you have been thrown into, is the Lord not with you even there? Is not even the despair of this very hour a part of God’s plan for you? Oh, but that we could know the end from the beginning, if only we were privy to knowing all the details of the book that is written about our own lives! Would we not see as Joseph did that God intended for good even those things which were done to us for evil (Gen. 50:20)?