Today, I would like to share from the story of Joseph- the young man who is referred to in the Bible as the dreamer. There is a lot God wants us to learn from Joseph’s life on earth- the most preached about being his fleeing from sexual immorality. I find it fascinating that the Bible goes into great detail about Joseph’s life.
It is therefore from this point that I would like to share another intriguing perspective from which we can look at Joseph’s life- that of God’s sovereignty and involvement in the details of our lives. Sit back, relax and watch (or rather read) as the events unfold. In the book of Genesis, the story of Joseph covers about 30 percent of the content. This is comparatively more than other accounts covered in the book of Genesis as we are going to see in a short while.
If we take a closer look at the book of Genesis, we find that it has an interesting structure. In the words of Jon Bloom, “It zooms over the creation account (about 3 percent of the book) like a rocket, soars over the millennia between Adam and Abraham (about 15 percent- dropping speed and altitude over Noah) like a jet, and cruises over Abraham (21 percent), Isaac (8 percent), and Jacob (23 percent) like a helicopter, hovering here and there. Then it sort of drives down the road of Joseph’s life devoting to it nearly 30 percent of its content.”
We cannot presume that this is a mere coincidence. God has an intention in giving us detail into the life of Joseph. We can say that he is simply but clearly telling us to take note. There are many reasons for this detailed narration of Joseph’s life.
We all know (I hope) of the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife- how Joseph ran away from her sexual advances. From it we draw how we should respond to sexual sin- by fleeing without batting an eye-lid.
While this is one of the major lessons that can be drawn from Joseph’s life, there are many other lessons we can learn. I am now going to share something else God wants us to see from the detailed life of Joseph- His sovereignty in all things.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN ALL THINGS
In order to behold the sovereignty of God in all things, it is important to go through the account of Joseph’s life. This takes us to the book of Genesis chapter 39-50. Shortly before, in chapter 37, we see Joseph being sold by his brothers (who hated him) to the Midianite traders who take him to Egypt. In Egypt, the Midianite traders sell him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Now stay with me as we go through the events that unfold.
In Genesis 39:1-6 it is written that: “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.”
All things seem to be going well for young Joseph but fast forward to the end of this chapter, we find him in prison. What happened? Most of us know, but in summary; Potiphar’s wife makes sexual advances toward Joseph- he was handsome in form and appearance (Genesis 39:6). Mrs. Potiphar does not hide her intentions but openly seduces Joseph (Genesis 39:7). In light of these “moves” by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph responds by saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph flees, leaving his garment behind with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis3:12).
Potiphar’s wife uses this turn of events to turn the tables on Joseph. When her husband returns from his journey, she twists the story and says that Joseph tried to force himself into her. Potiphar becomes very angry and puts him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were confined.
However, something incredible happens: “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:21-23).
So far, we can see the turn of events. Joseph’s brothers hate him so much that they sell him to Midianite traders. The Midianite traders go to Egypt where they sell Joseph to Potiphar. Joseph turns down the advances of Potiphar’s wife who in turn twists the story to implicate Joseph of attempted rape. Joseph is thrown in jail where the king’s prisoners are confined. The warden finds favor with Joseph and trusts him with the other inmates. From the events that unfold, we can sight God’s sovereignty in the life of Joseph. Let’s have a look at some of these sightings.
SIGHTINGS OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN THE LIFE OF JOSEPH
- The existence of an evil slave trade at the time was part of God’s plan (37:26-27).
- Potiphar’s complicity with the slave trade and his position in Egypt was part of God’s plan (37:36).
- Joseph’s extraordinary administrative gifting was part of God’s plan (39:2-4).
- Joseph’s favor with Potiphar was part of God’s plan (39:4-6).
- Potiphar’s wife being given over to sexual immorality was part of God’s plan (39:8-12).
- Potiphar’s wife’s dishonesty was part of God’s plan (39:14-18).
- Potiphar’s unjust judgment of Joseph was part of God’s plan (39:19-20).
- The particular prison Joseph was sent to- the one that would receive the cupbearer and the baker- was part of God’s plan (39:20).
- Joseph’s favor with the prison warden was part of God’s plan (39:21-23).
If we were to closely look at the rest of the chapters (Genesis 40-50), there are many more sightings of God’s sovereignty in Joseph’s life. I am going to give a summary of what happens in these chapters and some instances of God’s sovereignty.
Joseph interprets two prisoners’ (the cupbearer and baker) dreams. His interpretation comes to be, as the cupbearer is reinstated while the baker is hanged (Genesis 40). He also interprets Pharaoh’s dreams after all the wise men had failed (Genesis 41). Joseph then advises Pharaoh on how to deal with the famine that is to come. Joseph is raised to power and given charge over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:41). His brothers then come to borrow food when their land becomes ravished by the famine (Genesis 42). Joseph then tests his brothers who still do not know that he is the brother they sold off to the traders (Genesis 45). In the remaining chapters, we see Joseph’s reconciliation to his family- the brothers who sold him off and his father who all along knew he was dead. So far, we can identify sightings of God’s sovereignty in:
- The timing of Pharaoh’s dreams was part of God’s plan (41:1-7).
- The inability of Pharaoh’s counsellors to discern his dreams was part of God’s plan (41:8).
- The cupbearer remembering Joseph and having the courage to remind Pharaoh of an event that might re-arouse suspicion was part of God’s plan (41:9-13).
- The threat of starvation that caused terrible hardship and fear and moved Jacob to send his sons to Egypt for grain was part of God’s plan (42:1-3).
- The brothers’ bowing to Joseph in unwitting fulfillment of the dreams they had hated was part of God’s plan (42:6).
- Joseph’s timing in revealing himself to his brothers was part of God’s plan (45:1-14).
- Jacob’s being told by his sons of Joseph’s survival and position in Egypt and, consequently, the exposure of his other sons’ twenty-plus-year deceit regarding Joseph’s disappearance and all the accompanying relational pain were part of God’s plan (45:25-28).
In all the events that unfold, it is clear that God is at work in all that happens in Joseph’s life. We can say that his fingerprints are all over the place. We see God’s providential involvement in the details of Joseph’s life.
GOD’S INVOLVEMENT IN JOSEPH’S LIFE
Joseph must have felt God’s nearness when he woke up from his prophetic dreams. He must have felt God’s nearness when Potiphar trusted him with his property. However, I wonder how close to God he felt while in prison or when he was falsely accused of attempted rape. How did he feel while stuck in the king’s prison? Forgotten?
We see that God was working through the evil, heinous things people did to Joseph for good. Joseph himself admits this when he says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).
This is true because, as we have seen, Joseph was able to save his own family when famine struck in their land. His very own brothers, who sold him to the Midianite traders, came to borrow food. Since he was the one in charge of all the food in Egypt, they had to bow down before him, thus his dream (Genesis 37:6-7) was fulfilled. All this was God’s plan from the very beginning.
All the things that happened to Joseph- both the good and the bad- God was at work in them for good. Even the evil acts that were done to him were all God’s plan. God’s intricate involvement in Joseph’s life is not unique to him. God is just as involved in the details of our lives.
JOSEPH’S LIFE AND YOURS
We can therefore conclude that God gives us a close-up of Joseph’s life to show us how active He is, how He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5) along the way, in both the good and evil things we experience. God has promised to be with us to the very end (Matthew 28:20).
Today, God wants you to know that, for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Our God is all-knowing. He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Let me repeat that- [he sees the end from the beginning]. Yes, He is omniscient- He knows everything.
God wants you to know that no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, He has not left you alone (John 14:18). No matter how long it lasts, He is with you (Psalm 23:4). Most importantly, don’t forget that he is working all things together for your good- you who have been called according to His purpose- [born again] (Romans 8:28).
As I conclude, I pray that the reality of Romans 8:28 may dawn on you (and me). Pray that God may help you trust that everything that is happening in your life is ultimately working for your good. It may seem as if nothing good can come out of what you are going through- do not be deceived. If God were to reveal to you the chain reaction that it has for your eternal good, you would fall on your face in awe-filled worship.