Lessons from the character of Joseph
We meet Joseph, a seventeen year old boy, in the book of Genesis 37. He used to pasture his father’s flock together with his brothers. He also used to bring a bad report about them to his father who, according to the scriptures, loved him more than he loved the others. This of course did not go well with his brothers and they ended up hating him.
Joseph had a dream one day and he told it to his brothers who only ended up hating him the more. Not long after this, he had another dream which he also told them, but they didn’t take it well. They conspired against him and planned to kill him.
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” Genesis 37:18-20 ESV
From this scripture, it’s clear that the main intention was for his brothers to kill him so that he will never fulfill his dreams. What Joseph carried was their major target. At this point, let me say that there are lots of people who are victims of “dream killers”, yet they don’t know. Jesus said that one’s worst enemies would be the members of his own family. He himself was ridiculed and rejected by the people who were closest to Him. They maybe your own relatives or close friends. Those people who know you inside out. They are the ones you confide in every time you have something you want to do or when you are about to make a major step in your life. Yet they are the greatest discouragers. We need to be very careful especially when what we have is God given. What God gives or puts within us defies human and worldly standards and only the bearer of that dream or vision can know what it means to them. To others it may not make sense, but to us, it’s one thing we must believe in and hold on to. We must guard it jealously.
Their plan however, didn’t push through. Instead they sold him off.
Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. Genesis 37:28 ESV
Joseph was brought down to Egypt and he ended up in the house of Potiphar. God gave him success in whatever he did and whatever he touched with his hands prospered. He found favor in his master’s sight who put him in charge of all that he had.
From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Genesis 39:5-6 ESV
His master’s wife began to want him, but he refused. She kept insisting and trying to convince him day after day, but he kept on resisting her.
But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. Genesis 39:7-20 ESV
Joseph ended up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But one thing is for sure, he was a principled man with an excellent character. Despite the fact that he was overseeing everything in his master’s house, he knew his place as a servant and his boundaries. He had the fear of God in his heart and couldn’t compromise. To him, losing his position and going to prison was better than sinning against God.
The pleasures of the world are as many as they could be in our time, and I believe that one of the major obstacles to becoming who we are created to be is compromise. There are a lot of things that are thrown our way as we continue with our lives. Some promise us instant success, promotions and other worldly privileges and truth be told, not many of us have the power and capability to resist them. They’ve trapped everybody, believers and non-believers alike. What most of us do not know is that the moment we enter into those traps, we end up compromising and it can cost us a lot. There are many of us who are paying prices we shouldn’t be paying and suffering unnecessarily simply because we flirted with the world and ended up compromising. I think, and even believe that no matter the pressure, we must be able to say “No” and if possible, run to the hills if that’s the only option we have, just like Joseph did.
In the prison, God was still with him which means that he never lost His favor. This means that compromising can cause us to lose God’s favor. On their way to Canaan, the children of Israel found themselves in a very dangerous situation when they engaged themselves in immorality with the Moabites. God became angry with them and many died that day. Death is another consequence of compromise. Whether physical or spiritual, I don’t think it’s worth it.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Genesis 39:21-23 ESV
God gave Joseph the gift of interpreting dreams while he was still in prison. He successfully interpreted the dreams of two prisoners who were also Pharaoh’s servants. Even though he had told the cupbearer, (one of the prisoners whom Joseph interpreted dream for) to remember him once he is restored back to his job, he never did.
After two years, Pharaoh had a dream. It troubled him so much and it was made worse by the fact that his wise men and magicians couldn’t interpret it. It was at this time that the cupbearer remembered Joseph. To me, this was God’s perfect timing. Things don’t happen when we want them to, God makes things beautiful in His own time. The cupbearer told Pharaoh about Joseph and he ordered for him to be brought to him.
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Genesis 41:14-16 ESV
He told him the dream and Joseph interpreted it successfully. Not only that, he gave Pharaoh wise counsel on what to do and just like that, he was promoted to a higher position, overseeing the whole land of Egypt. He was second to Pharaoh.
You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:40-44 ESV
One of the things I believe Joseph allowed in his life was to grow in God. There is no way anyone can have God’s wisdom and knowledge unless that person has a close relationship with Him. Joseph did it and God exalted and honored him big time.
One important lesson we can learn from the story of Joseph is that human beings can be very unreliable. He was failed by his own brothers; people who should have stood and walked with him every step of the way; people who should have been his support system, but they ended up conspiring against him and trying to kill him. In Egypt, his master’s wife also became a snare and his master didn’t believe in him. In prison, the cupbearer totally forgot about him even after he got out of prison. Joseph’s fate was only in the hands of God. He may not have realised it, but in all these occasions, God was constantly present in His situations and in all of them, He saved him.
I believe that I am justified to say that this was a process for Joseph to finally become the man that God wanted him to become. We all have our own God ordained processes and the only way out for us is obedience and submission to His will. There are some things that God has purposed that we must go through no matter what happens. They are His own way of preparing us for the task ahead of us. Humane as we are, we may try to get ourselves out, but no matter how much we may try, we are bound to fail. I always say that if God pushes you to the corner, He will be the one to get you out of there. If He puts a yoke on your neck, He will be the one to break it and set you free. If He puts you in the pit, He will be the one to pull you out, but only when His right time comes. In such instances, we can only pray for His grace to preserve and sustain us so that we may be able to come out it whole and better.