LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF JOSEPH, THE SON OF JACOB
Smith’s Bible Dictionary lists ten men in the Bible with the name “Joseph.” In fact, two of those ten had a father named “Jacob.” The one who is the focus of our study is the Joseph about whom we read in Genesis 37-50, the son of Rachel. Yes, he is the one to whom his father gave a beautiful coat, and he is the one whose brothers sold him into slavery. We need to go beyond the facts of Joseph’s life and learn lessons that we can apply in our own lives. Let us take a look.
Joseph was both loved and hated. Most of us could say the same about our own lives, right? “Now Israel loved Joseph . . . But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him . . .” (Genesis 37:3,4; emphasis mine, rdc). Being loved does not mean that you are the greatest person in the world, nor does the fact that you might be hated make you the worst one, either. Jesus was both despised and adored, as were His apostles. Being liked and disliked is just a part of life, even for those that faithfully serve the Lord. Like Joseph, we must not allow the love that we receive to cause us to be arrogant, nor should we allow others’ hatred of us to cause us to develop a bitter spirit. Whether we are loved dearly or hated intensely, life goes on.
Joseph had to endure unpleasant circumstances. The following realities of his life come to mind immediately: he lived with ten brothers that hated him, he was sold into slavery, against his will he was forced to live in a foreign country, and he was wrongfully cast into prison. Each of us has had experiences in life that were not enjoyable. But, can any of us truthfully say that we have endured the kind of situations that Joseph faced? Let us avoid the temptation to complain when severe challenges or hard times come our way. Jesus suffered wrongfully, too. His response to such serves as a great lesson for each of us (1 Peter 2:19-23).
Joseph was blessed immensely. Could we not say the same about every one of us?! But wait a minute, did we not just observe that Joseph was mistreated? Yes. Despite that, he was still blessed. That is right. When Joseph was both a slave and a prisoner, the Bible says that “The LORD was with him” (Genesis 39:2,21,23). Can you name a greater blessing than having the Lord God on your side? There could be nothing better! Again, no matter what happens in our lives, if God walks with us, that is what really counts.
Joseph maintained his purity. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him (Genesis 39:7-14). Make no mistake about it: her efforts to get him to engage in immoral conduct were intense. She directly asked him to sleep with her. She touched his body. She daily approached him. To Joseph’s credit, he never gave in to her. He realized that such action would be wicked in God’s sight (39:9). Joseph was in a faraway land. Perhaps no one would ever know. He was still a young man, and young people enjoy physical pleasure, too. Joseph did not use any of these matters as an excuse to make a sinful decision. He started out pure and remained that way. That sounds like a good model for all Christians, regardless of their age.
Joseph was able to “see the big picture.” How did Joseph end up in Egypt as a slave and later as second in command in the whole nation? Joseph looked beyond the fact that his brothers sold him into slavery. He saw God’s hand in it. Hear Joseph’s explanation to his brothers: “. . . for God sent me before you to preserve life . . . And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives . . . So now it was not you who sent me here, but God . . .” (Genesis 45:5-8). Joseph’s role was to help preserve the children of Israel, meaning that he was helping preserve the seed of the promised Messiah. Joseph was able to look past his own life and see “the big picture.” You and I must do the same.
Joseph was willing to forgive those who sinned against him. Twenty-two years after Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, they came to Egypt to buy food and he revealed to them just who he was. Instead of using his position of authority to take revenge on them, instead of threatening them, instead of yelling at them, he calmly said, “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sent me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). After their father died, Joseph’s brothers pleaded for forgiveness, saying, “Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father” (Genesis 50:17). What was Joseph’s response? He wept, then told them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .” (50:17,19). It is not always easy to forgive those that have done us wrong, but if we are truly grateful for the forgiveness that we have received from the Lord, then “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us” (Ephesians 4:32) should come naturally for us.
Joseph showed tremendous faith in what the Lord said. Before his death, Joseph told his brothers, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob . . . God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:24,25). How do we know that Joseph spoke those words by faith? The Bible says so: “By faith Joshttp://klangchurchofchrist.org/wordpress/wp-admin/post-new.php?post_type=pageeph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22). Look at Joseph’s thought process: God promised that He would bring us (Israelites) to the Land of Canaan, so since God always keeps His promises, I want you to take my bones to Canaan and bury them there. What great faith! God has also given us great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). We need to accept them by faith and trust totally in Him, always looking to the spiritual land of promise that is called “heaven.”
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.