Genesis Part Four: Dive
DID GOD PUT JOSEPH IN PRISON?
Joseph is such an incredible man of God. When I read his life story in Genesis 37-50, I get something new out of it every time. You could preach a thousand messages on this man. This guy is the ultimate over-comer; he keeps going in the midst of the most unfair and unjust circumstances. I mean, how many things can go wrong before this guy gives up?!
Every time Joseph is unfairly treated, he rises to the top again and God’s favour over his life shines through. He is like a cork, waves come and try and sink him down but he just keeps floating back to the top. Favour!
not the most tactful son
Let’s take a look at his life. We meet him in Genesis 37, the seventeen year old son of Jacob. His father’s favourite son, why? Joseph is the son of Rachel and Jacob (only Joseph and Benjamin are from the same parents), take a look in Genesis 30:22.
Gen 30:22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.
So here we have Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son, prancing around in a gorgeous ornate robe that his father gave him, absolutely hated by his brothers. Then God gives him a dream, and his tact and ability to ‘read the room’ is not great, so he tells his brothers his dream and they hate him all the more. When you read this in your journey, remember the times when you were seventeen and tact and humility were possibly not a strong trait in your life! And he didn’t just tell them one dream, God gives him another dream and he again hasn’t read the book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ and he tells his brothers the second dream about them all bowing down to him.
And then the hard life begins. When you read the story of Joseph, you have to keep in mind that in this moment, this young seventeen year old had it all: his father’s favour, good clothes, anything he wanted and then God put him in prison. Now, how can I say that God did these things to Joseph when they are clearly done by human hands in the text – his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, the cup-bearer? They are unfair circumstances created by human hands, right? So you think!
god had a plan
As you read Joseph’s life, you could stop in the middle and assume that God had abandoned him, the favour and covenant agreement with God must have finished because this unfair treatment could not possibly be in God’s plan. But never judge your life in the middle of God’s plan, it’s a work in progress and He is not finished yet! In Genesis 45:5, when Joseph is in charge and in a place of honor in Egypt, his brothers come to seek help from him and he explains who was in charge of his life the whole time. He says ‘do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you'. What! At the end of his journey, Joseph could see the hand of God on his life, the good and the unjust situations were all to get him to Egypt and to save the people of God from the famine. Let me ask you, do you think any other Pharaoh’s official would give food to Jacob’s family to save them in the time of famine? I don’t think so, but God had a plan!
So let’s have a look at Joseph’s life. He was almost killed by his brothers but they had a change of heart and sold him to some travelling Ishmaelites – heading where? Egypt. From the beginning of this story, God had a plan to get Joseph to Egypt. He is then sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. Can you see where Joseph is heading? Can you see how God is setting him up even in the midst of his imprisonment? Remember, he has gone from the seventeen-year-old year old that had it all to a servant. He is now in Egypt, under one of Pharaoh’s officials and he is learning the way of Egypt and Pharaoh. When we have committed our life to God, we have to see that the things that seem unjust and unfair are, in fact, used for His glory. Potiphar’s wife then unjustly accuses him and he is thrown in prison, and he helps two of the Pharaoh’s closest servants, yet the cup-bearer forgets him for two full years after being released. Why was it the cup-bearer that encountered Joseph in the prison? Do a study on who the cup-bearer is to the Pharaoh and you will understand the significance. Joseph is left in prison for another two full years while the cup-bearer is restored to his place at Pharaoh’s side. This is so unfair, why didn’t God get the cup-bearer to vindicate Joseph early? Let me ask you, if Joseph was released in these two years for good behaviour, before Pharaoh had the dream, would they have been able to locate him? God is so across Joseph’s life that even the waiting is in God’s hands. Delay in our lives is more about perfect timing than about punishment.
Trashing tip: Imagine the walk of forgiveness that Joseph had to take to get to the point where he knows that God was in the whole situation. Highlight Chapter 45:3-16.
Now, if I haven’t convinced you in all of that that God is in control, let me show you another point. As you read this story, you can see little hints throughout that show you that God never lost control of Joseph.
Gen 39:2-4 ‘The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did. Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant.’
Look at Chapter 32:5, ‘the blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had’ and it continues throughout Joseph story'; read it, highlight it! Genesis 39:20 ‘But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him, he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden’. God was in the prison giving Joseph favour throughout his life. And by the way, the original vision came to pass, the young seventeen-year-old year old boy was right!
We are going to learn that God people flourish even in the worst of circumstances, we see Daniel in captivity flourishing, Esther becoming queen, Joseph in Egypt away from his family, seemingly abandoned and forgotten but in the direct will of God. Let me encourage you, no matter what happens in your life, as you continue to surrender your life to Jesus and follow Him, He will guide you, He will take care of everything and we, like Joseph, will come out the other end saying ‘God was in this the whole time!’