Last week, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told his father he was dead. Interestingly, he was sold to the Ishmaelites, cousins of Jacob. Ishmael was Isaac’s brother. The Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharoah’s officers, and a captain in the guard. God preserved Joseph’s life, and he soon came to have responsibility for the operation of Potiphar’s entire household. Yet he also found favor with Potiphar’s wife who sought to seduce him. Joseph was truly a man of God, and, trusting alway that the Lord was watching over him, refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He was falsely accused of trying to take advantage of her for refusing her advances, and thrown into prison. Again, however, God was moving and preserved Joseph’s life. He soon gained favor in the prison with the jailer who put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners.
God’s grace is evident throughout Joseph’s life. When one is faced with such cruel events, there is the temptation to become angry and bitter. We are tempted to reject God and blame Him for the evil that has befallen us. And while the difficulties in our life are not always God’s doing, they are quite often something He does to us in our lives. We like to see such things as bad, unjust, wrong, and evil. For Joseph, as a young boy he is torn from his family, betrayed by his very own brothers, the ones who are to watch over him and protect him. He is taken away to a foreign land and sold to a strange house. Joseph certainly would have been justified in becoming bitter and vengeful toward his brothers. We certainly could have understood if he would have embraced the gods of Egypt and rejected Adonai Elohim, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob. This is especially so when he suffers a further grave injustice at the hands of his master’s wife when he is falsely accused of trying to take advantage of her and thrown into prison. Yet Joseph does none of these things. Instead, he trusts in the God of his fathers to protect him. He does so despite the awful circumstances that are worked upon him by his God, our God. You see, God does not always give us what we want. He does not always come to us in ways that we can see or even expect. Our sinful flesh is opposed to God — we want to be god and not let God be who He is, submit to Him and let Him rule over us. Joseph experiences the suffering of the cross, and in faith receives God’s grace as his life is preserved. In so doing, as we will see in the next lessons, he is raised up to preserve the lives of his family in a time of desperate need.
If you have ever had an annoying, know it all, favorite son, little brother, then you can relate to the story of Joseph and his brothers found in Genesis 37. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son born of Rachel whom Jacob had to work 14 long years to be permitted to marry. After many years of being unable to conceive a child, and after watching her sister bear Jacob six children, Rachel’s womb was opened. Joseph, the second youngest son — Benjamin was the youngest — was a pest. He tagged along with his brothers when they went to shepherd the flocks in the field, and then tattled on his brothers for the things they did. Jacob had a lavish coat of many colors made and gave it to Joseph. The brothers could not speak to Joseph nicely as a brother.
There was bitterness and envy between them, and when Joseph told them of the dreams he had about the son, moon, and stars and the wheat in the field all bowing down to him, they hated him even more. Yet little did they know that Joseph was making a prophecy, not just of the salvation of his family from famine, but of the salvation of the world. For Joseph’s dream introduce an important theme that runs through the story of salvation that the older shall serve the younger and the younger shall rule over the older. Put another way, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Or the greatest among you shall be the least and servant of all. This is ultimately fulfilled in the person and work of the Christ. Joseph does become for his brothers an example of the Christ and what He will do for His people. While Joseph’s older brothers sold him into slavery and told his father he was dead, eaten by a lion, Joseph did not repay their evil with evil when the time came to rescue them from the devastating famine in the land. Joseph, second in command to the Pharoah in Egypt, ruling at the right hand of the king, had mercy on his brothers, forgave them for what they had done, and brought them into the land of Egypt where they lived and prospered the rest of their days.