If anyone had a reason to turn his back on God, Joseph did. Yet Joseph unwaveringly maintained his trust in the Lord and lived according to God's commands.
Joseph's Faith Helped Him See God's Vision
Joseph's mother, Rachel, died while he was very young, immediately after giving birth to his younger brother, Benjamin. Although his father favored him and Benjamin, Joseph's brothers "hated him and could not speak a kind word to him" (Genesis 37:4).*
God gave Joseph a dream in which he and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain. Suddenly Joseph's sheaf stood upright, while his brothers' sheaves gathered around and bowed down to it (37:5-7). When Joseph told the dream to his brothers, they hated him even more.
Then God gave Joseph another dream. He related it to his brothers, "This time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me" (37:9). Needless to say, they were furious! Even his father rebuked him when Joseph told him the dream.
Joseph's Faith Enabled Him to Overcome Betrayal
Joseph's brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near the town of Shechem. Jacob sent Joseph to check on them to see if all was well with them and with the flocks. However, when his brothers saw him coming, they plotted to kill him. Reuben persuaded them not to take his life. Instead, they threw him in an empty cistern. When they saw a caravan passing by en route to Egypt, they sold Joseph to them.
We might think that Joseph would be angry and depressed upon finding himself a slave in a foreign country. However, he purposed to trust God and be faithful to Him and to serve his master, Potiphar, to the best of his ability.
Joseph's Faith Made Him Flee Temptation
The Lord gave Joseph success in everything he did and blessed Potiphar because of him (Genesis 39:1-6). Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household and all that he owned. It must have seemed to Joseph that his trust in God and his diligent efforts were paying off.
Potiphar's wife, however, lusted after Joseph (he was "well-built and handsome"), and she tried to persuade him to come to bed with her. Joseph, of course, refused her advances (39:6-10).
One day when Joseph went into the house to attend to his duties, none of the household servants were around. Potiphar's wife caught him by his cloak and tried to seduce him. He refused and ran out of the house, leaving his cloak still in her hand.
She reported to her husband that Joseph had tried to rape her, and Potiphar threw Joseph into prison.
Joseph's Faith Enabled Him to Be Faithful Despite Being Forgotten
As if being a slave and a servant to Potiphar hadn't been humbling enough, Joseph found himself a prisoner, with no hope of a trial or parole. But Joseph continued to trust God, and God was with him. Eventually the warden showed him kindness and put all the prisoners under Joseph's care. Joseph proved himself faithful, and God gave him success in whatever he did (39:23).
Sometime later, the king's cupbearer and baker offended the king, so he threw them both into prison. Joseph interpreted their dreams, and the cupbearer promised to show Joseph kindness and mention him to Pharaoh, so that Joseph would be released from prison. However, when the cupbearer was restored to his former position, he promptly forgot about Joseph (40:23).
Joseph could have wallowed in self-pity and become bitter toward God, but he did not. He continued to obey God and do his best.
Joseph's Faith Helped Him Gain God's Wisdom
Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams that none of his magicians and wise men could interpret for him. The baker finally remembered Joseph and mentioned to Pharaoh that Joseph could interpret dreams.
Pharaoh summoned Joseph and said, "I've heard that you can interpret dreams." Joseph, however, took no credit for himself, but confidently declared that God would give the interpretation (41:16). God enabled Joseph to interpret the dreams, which forecast seven years of plentiful harvests followed by seven years of severe famine.
God gave Joseph the wisdom to suggest to Pharaoh that he should appoint someone to oversee the collection and storage of food during the years of abundance, so that during the famine Egypt would have plenty of food. Pharaoh wisely appointed Joseph, putting him in charge of the whole land of Egypt, making him second only to Pharaoh himself (41:41-43).
Joseph's Faith Helped Him Display God's Mercy
When Joseph's brothers came to Egypt during the famine to buy the food they desperately needed, Joseph recognized them. He had the perfect opportunity to get even with them. He held a powerful position and he controlled the food supply.
But Joseph recognized God's sovereignty and realized that God had allowed his brothers' actions and all that had resulted from them for a purpose. "God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Genesis 45:7,8).
In spite of what his brothers had done, Joseph graciously forgave them and held nothing against them.
Joseph's Faith Made Him Confident about the Future
Years later, when Joseph was about to die, he made his brothers promise to take his bones out of Egypt and bring them back to the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (50:24,25). Even as Joseph was facing death, he still trusted God's promises.
If we put our trust in God and continue to seek His will, He will reveal His plan for our lives. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14,15).
The wisdom God gave to Joseph saved countless lives, including those of his own family. We too can receive God's wisdom. In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
When we face temptation, as Joseph did, God will enable us to overcome. "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Even if others forget us, we can trust that God will not forget us. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah :15).
If we are betrayed or wronged by others we can be confident that God is in control and His intentions toward us are good (Romans 8:28). He has a purpose for everything He allows in our lives, even bitter situations. When we ask for His grace to respond appropriately, He will help us to forgive and show mercy.
Like Joseph, even when facing death we can have hope, knowing that what God promised He will fulfill. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23).
© by Nancy A. Stevens
* All Scripture verses are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.