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.