Reading: Genesis 39; 45:1-11
Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.
Today’s first portion illustrates the ups and downs of Joseph’s thirteen years in prison, while the second gives his assessment of all that has happened to him. The LORD was with Joseph is stated twice at the beginning of Chapter 39 (2-3) and twice at the end (21-23). The matching of these verses point for point shows that, in spite of all that intervenes (a period of about ten years), God is in control and Joseph’s faith is quietly victorious. Observe:
1. God is sovereign
He is a purposeful God who works in spite of Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and even through the dreams of the butler and baker (45:5-8). His purposes, though often beyond our understanding (Is. 55:8-9), are not vague and ethereal, but concrete and historical (cf. Gal. 4:4). He does not merely intrude to make everything right, nor is he one who ‘has no hands but our hands’ do to his work. He works sovereignly in and through people and events, bringing order and light from chaos and darkness.
2. God is hidden
He does not make his presence obvious by speaking or appearing. The story simply hints and implies. All we are told is, the LORD was with Joseph and only late in the story are God’s purposes made explicit (45:7-11). But if Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he would not have been Egypt’s governor. Sometimes it is only as we look back that we can discern God’s hand in events.
3. God is gracious
‘God sent me ahead of you … to save your lives by a great deliverance.’ (45:7) What the mighty Egyptian empire cannot do for itself (41:8), this Hebrew slave does for it. This is another incredible reversal, for the Hebrews are a scorned class (39:17). The story of Joseph clearly anticipates the Exodus, when Egypt will be defeated and hopeless slaves will sing victoriously (Exod. 15:1-18).
4. God’s people are to act responsibly
Joseph never allows his circumstances to become an excuse to sin, for sin is always against God (39:9-10). But he also knows that God has overruled the sin of his brothers for good (45:5). Though that did not excuse them, this liberating perspective on God’s sovereignty and hiddenness (cf. Rom. 8:28) saves Joseph (and can save us) from sinking into resentment at what can sometimes seem like the cruel hand of fate.
Joseph’s faithfulness in small things over many years prepared him for authority in great things. See Matthew 25:23.