|BEING "CENTER STAGE" ISN'T|
ALWAYS AS GREAT AS WE THINK IT WILL BE!
Broadway made him famous, but the coat they chose to shine the spotlight on has very little to do with who he truly was or the impact of his life on believers who know his true story. Faith and absolute trust in the True and Living God is the real legacy Joseph left for all of us who read his story and find understanding of how it relates to our own lives. It is an extraordinary example of hope and assurance of Gods trustworthiness. In the book of Genesis we discover this youngest son of Jacob - patriarch of the Jewish people and father of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. God gave young Joseph a dream of His plan for Joseph. All of 17 years young and the spoiled baby of the family, in his immaturity Joseph excitedly shares the dream with his father and brothers.
Instead of being excited with or for him, the jealousy his brothers already feel for him as their fathers favorite is intensified and in new anger they plot against Joseph. When Jacob sends Joseph to check on the brothers who are out in the fields with the families flocks, they seize him with the intention of killing him.
The eldest, Reuben, whether for love of his father Jacob who pampered and adored Joseph or perhaps a sense of responsibility as the first born son, convinces them not to kill Joseph, but throw him in a deep hole instead. Reuben intends to rescue Joseph and deliver him safely home when the brothers’ anger dies down. He never has the chance to do so, since Judah comes up with the bright idea of selling Joseph to some passing merchants, resulting in Joseph being brought to Egypt where he is sold as a slave to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Joseph had to endure some very trying times, and overcome a multitude of temptations. Before we start to think that disobedience was the cause, take a look at Matthew 8: 23-27. Jesus boards a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up. No surprise to the Lord and it wasn't about obedience or disobedience. It was about FAITH and TRUST in the Lord! Sometimes obeying God puts us right in the middle of turmoil! Adversity can strengthen us or weaken us. The same situation will make one man while breaking another. The difference is in our own hearts. If we whine and fuss we'll whither. If we continue in faith toward God we'll grow and strengthen. It really is that simple.
In fleeing from one of the temptations put before him, sexual sin, Joseph ended up being thrown in prison. It would be 13 years before Joseph was delivered by God from this pit of constant despair and eventually elevated to the position of power and authority the dream of his youth had indicated was to be Josephs lot in life. Once having attained this position he could accomplish Gods will, save Israel during the time of great famine that was coming. But this was not the promised land God had sent Abraham to inhabit, this was not the homeland of Gods chosen people.
Yet they stayed, and stayed far too long it seems, as they grew comfortable in the land of Goshen, until eventually the warm welcome they had once enjoyed came to an end! Joseph seemed to know this was not where the Israelites were to stay, for he begged on his deathbed that his bones be brought with them when they finally left Egypt. (Genesis 50:25) They didn’t leave soon enough though, and found themselves in the same position Joseph was in when he first entered Egypt – they were made slaves! And mistreated slaves they remained until God sent them a deliverer. Their story shadows our own story. We, too, are born into a world where we are slaves. Slaves to sin the Apostle Paul calls it. And God sent a man to deliver us if we will but hear Him and believe Him.
Let’s just stop right there and not hurry through the story, which you should read in its entirety in Genesis 37-Genesis 50. That’s what usually happens. We read a story in the bible and we just read along to the end and get left with the impression that the passage of time was of no consequence, just a moment or two really, so of course those people in the bible could endure. Somehow it was different for them than it is for us, right? WRONG! By recognizing that the people in the bible were real people with real thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, hurts and pains and sin nature as ourselves, we can actually gain a perspective that develops greater understanding of our own struggles and how to overcome them.
The summary of the story is this. Joseph was sold into slavery – can you even begin to imagine his thoughts? His prayers and pleas to God? "Lord", he might have cried, "what happened to the dream you gave me? Was that a lie? Did I just think it was you? Was I wrong? Did I do something to make you angry at me?" Aren’t those exactly the kinds of questions we would ask if we had a dream of being great and then found ourselves not elevated, but cast down, gone from being free to being someone’s slave? We might even think there was no point even trying anymore, obviously God had forsaken us. We are quick, too quick, to allow circumstance to dictate our thoughts, feeling and actions, rather than trusting, believing and holding steadfast to the word God gives us.
This then is the very first thing that this story of Joseph has to teach us. God is faithful, and can be trusted. Rather than trust what our eyes see or what our circumstances may try to dictate to us, we ought to believe and hold fast to the truth that God has revealed in His word to us. According to IIPeter 1:19, we have a 'more sure word of prophesy'. We will have trials and tribulations in this world, but take heart, Jesus told us, for He has overcome the world and thank you Paul the Apostle for these words of encouragement. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME! During those very long and miserable 13 years that Joseph was in prison for a crime he never committed, contemplate how he must have felt. Abandoned by God? Surely! And he could have given in to feelings like that. BUT HE DIDN’T.
The reason he didn't is that he had heard all the stories about God from his father Jacob. He believed that God was faithful, truthful and able. So his actions were based on that faith and not on his circumstances or his surroundings. They most definitely were not based on the actions or words of others, either. Joseph behaved the same way in prison, in the very midst of trial and tribulation, as he had behaved when he was free in his fathers household. As he behaved when sold into slavery and he began to serve Potiphar. He continued to act in faith. That doesn't mean he didn't have feelings. He did! He prayed and cried out to God for help and relief and asked God to deliver him. He did not, however, let feelings of despair dictate his actions toward others. Those actions are what led to Potiphar trusting him with his household, that led to the jailer trusting him in the prison and eventually led to Pharoah - supreme ruler of all Egypt, to trust Joseph with his whole kingdom.
Jesus rebuked his disciples on that boat in the Sea of Galilee. "Why are you fearful. O ye of little faith?" Over and over, He lovingly tells us "fear not, for I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you." Every adverse situation is nothing less than a wonderful opportunity to exercise our faith and see it strengthened! Understanding this truth and with trust and faith toward God inspired Apostle James to encourage others
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be prefect and complete, lacking nothing!