Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joseph's Promotion

Joseph is hands down my favorite Old Testament character. Hollywood epic movies have nothing on this thrilling and heartrending tale of rags to riches found in the pages of Genesis. If you just want to read a great story, the story of Joseph's life takes the bends and turns necessary to keep you perched on the edge of your seat. But, before you run off to grab some popcorn, stick around, because I wouldn't want you to miss the revelation hidden in Joseph's story that has given me hope in my days of darkness and desperation.

The story of Joseph is my favorite because it so wonderfully illustrates two intertwining themes; life in a fallen world, and the sovereignty of God. It seems that these two themes are the thing that man has grappled with since Adam and Eve ate their first bite of forbidden fruit.

We undoubtedly live in a fallen world and that in itself is a sobering and depressing fact. But in the story of Joseph a thread surfaces that would indicate, even to the casual reader, that God's hand was at work in Joseph's life, right in the midst of this fallenness.

God intervened, yes, even interrupted Joseph's life with a vision and then for all practical purposes, He appears to have removed Himself from the stage of Joseph's play. We watch drop-jawed as Joseph is thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and just when we thought things couldn't get worse, thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. However, as the story unfolds it becomes more and more evident that not only was God present, His sovereignty hovers over the life of Joseph protecting him, guiding him, and even rescuing him when it seemed that all hope was lost.

Were the things that happened to Joseph just random circumstances in a chaotic world, or were they carefully orchestrated events that used a pawn named Satan to carry out a master plan that would chisel away at a man's character and heart to produce a leader that God could trust? I believe the latter is true. Friends, this is God's sovereignty at it's finest.

I love the way that Oswald Chambers describes God's process of development in us; "God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way." But, Joseph did not give way. In fact, it is evident as the story progresses that God's favor is upon his life even in the darkest of dungeons. God's favor on a life indicates that God is pleased with the heart of the individual. The obedience that is part of their life so often means that humility has overcome pride and love and forgiveness have been chosen over selfishness and bitterness.

We began the story of Joseph with a prideful young man who didn't mind at all being the tattletale on his brothers(Gn. 37:2), or unwisely telling them that they would one day bow down to him. By the time Joseph emerges from the dungeon he is not willing to even take credit for the dream interpretation that he would give to Pharaoh(Gn. 41:16).

Joseph finally received his promotion because the work that God so patiently accomplished in his heart was complete. Evidence of his guileless heart can be heard in his response to his brothers when terrified, they realize that he is indeed their brother that they had sold into slavery. Joseph humbly says, "But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance."

My favorite line from the script of Joseph's play is found in Gn. 50:20,"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Joseph's heart was healed from the trauma of the past because he came to a place of embracing God's sovereignty, goodness, and purposes in his life in spite of the evil that had come against him. And this, too, is a key for healing and overcoming the pain in our own hearts.

As the curtain closes on this epic play and I pause to reflect on all that I have seen and heard, I am struck with the fact that my response to God's processes and purposes in my life effect not only me, but all those around me. I pray that I will be like Joseph and choose the way of humility and gratefulness when hardships come, and who knows what my God might do.

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