He was favored by his father and shunned by his siblings. He was thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery. While a slave he found favor in his masters house, enough favor so as to say “There is no one greater in this house than I…”(Gen. 39:9). Through false accusations he found himself in prison and yet again had “authority because the Lord was with him” (Gen. 39:23). His ability to interpret dreams to the baker and butler did not go unnoticed by the two, though it took the butler a few years to remember the interpreter. The Pharoah himself had dreams that none of his magicians nor wise men could interpret. His butler remembered a “young Hebrew man who interpreted his dreams” while in prison that came to pass. (Gen. 41:12-13). Pharoah was intrigued by this young Hebrew and sent for him so that he might understand his dreams. The young man found favor in the Pharoah’s eyes and rose to power, second only to the Pharoah himself. We speak of Joseph, whose remarkable life provides us with four lessons worthy of our consideration.
First, Joseph maintained his composure. From Joseph’s introduction in Genesis 37 we see moments where he is undoubtedly under pressure. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and his brothers knew it. They could not speak peaceably about him (Gen. 37:4). Their animosity festered toward him, especially after Joseph revealed his first dream to them. His brothers went off to tend their father’s sheep in Shechem. Joseph was sent to check on their well-being, and when they saw him “afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him.” (Gen. 37:18). Upon his arrival, they threw Joseph in a pit, then decided it beneficial to sell him into slavery to the passing Ishmaelites. Interestingly we do not read of Joseph arguing with his brothers, or opening his mouth at all. Perhaps this is an early hint at Joseph’s ability to maintain his composure in difficult circumstances, such as will be seen later when he is falsely imprisoned.
Second, Joseph kept God in view. His arrival in Egypt landed him in Potiphar’s household. Potiphar was captain of the guard, an officer of Pharoah. He recognized that the Lord was with Joseph and allowed success to follow. Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and thus he was promoted to be the “overseer of his house” to the point that “He left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate” (Gen. 39:5-6). Unfortunately, Joseph not only found favor in Potiphar’s eyes, but in his wife’s also. Potiphar’s wife desired to lie with Joseph; Joseph refused! “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Gen. 39:9)? Joseph recognized God Almighty for who He is, what He had done for him, and rejected the advances of Potiphar’s wife, remaining focused on God. When we are tempted, we must do as Joseph did and keep God at the forefront of our minds. His power and goodness serve as motivation to overcome the Devil’s advances.
Third, Joseph demonstrated patience while in Egypt. He was thrown into prison because of false accusations from Potiphar’s wife. While in prison, the guard also recognized that the Lord was with Joseph. He was placed in a position of authority even within the confines of prison walls. If we were thrown into prison falsely, would we not do everything we could to get out? We do not see that attitude in Joseph. His composure, focus and patience in the Lord allowed him to be content. Likewise, when his brothers came to Egypt for grain because of the famine, he patiently tested them to determine their growth and character. We may sometimes be tempted to jump to conclusions, panic, or act impulsively in different circumstances, but Joseph reminds us of the importance of patiently waiting on the Lord.
One final observation on the life of Joseph is found in Genesis 50:20. Joseph said to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Joseph knew the value of trusting in God’s providential care, and a thorough study of his life will instill the same conviction within us.