The story of Joseph is one of God’s providence; of suffering wrongfully, and of staying faithful to God in the midst of setbacks and disappointments.
Joseph was the firstborn son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. Due to the fact that Jacob wanted Rachel, and not Leah, it may be that his thoughts of the bulk of the inheritance would go to Joseph, as the first-born son of his favorite wife. It did not help that Joseph dreamed of greatness, and had to tell his brothers and father of them (Genesis 37). And the favoritism Jacob showed to Joseph made the enmity and jealousy even worse among the brothers. It is no wonder that he was he sold into slavery; yet they did not kill him as they wished. God has greater plans for him.
Being sold into slavery in Egypt perhaps foreshadowed the day that the descendants of Jacob (Israel) would be sold into slavery as well. Was it fair; or even proper for Joseph to be sold into slavery? NO! But life is not fair; jealousy causes people to do things that should not be done.
I wonder if he wondered why his father, Jacob, did not come after him. But his heavenly Father was with him each step of the way. Troubles, trials, mistreatments, pain, and suffering either causes a person to turn to God, or to turn from God. Beloved, what has suffering, pain and trials done to your faith? Has it made you stronger, or weaker in your walk with God?
Then, he was made overseer of the entire house of Potiphar, and was successful in what he did. Things were not the same as when he lived at home; but it was better than being a menial slave working the fields. Potiphar trusted him, and Joseph showed himself faithful in all that he was given.
Then, Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and he was thrown into prison!
Did he deserve this? Was God allowing this to happen to humble him even more? Would there have been the temptation to turn to bitterness for his situation; to blame God for all that went wrong? YES! A slave accused of assault (unjustly or not) would have been killed under other circumstances. Why was he just imprisoned, instead of killed? How did suffering help Joseph in the future in what he had to face? Let’s be honest, being in prison was not to be considered a “blessing from God”.
Every situation in our lives prepares us for another situation later; and hopefully, prepares us to live with God in heaven. The struggle is to “keep the faith” when it seems like God has turned his back on you; when you have been mistreated and ill-treated.
One of the most interesting verses is found in Genesis 39:21 “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and he gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” The word translated “favor” is the same word that is often translated grace in the Old Testament. What does it mean? It means he was “caused to be viewed favorably.”
Grace in a prison cell. Yes, there is grace even in prison!
And God is with him! He is placed in the prison to meet the butler and baker, and to interpret their dreams. Why? God would give him the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, and Joseph would be the man that saved Egypt and his family from death and starvation. God’s providence flows like a raging river through this whole account.
None of this would have been possible without his time in prison! And the most encouraging idea is that he found grace in prison! Beloved, we need to look for God’s grace in the unlikeliest of places, and we need to rejoice in it daily.
But more about this this afternoon, as we study about God’s grace!