Joseph’s strength

Joseph, son of Jacob, had the inner strength of a great Olympic athlete.

He knew all about pain, sorrow, and discouragement.  But he remained true to his God throughout the rough times in life.  And he was rewarded.

Last week, I mentioned the challenges that Canadian synchronized divers Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion faced when Roseline broke her ankle just months ahead of the recently-concluded Rio Olympics.  They overcame this setback and won an Olympic bronze medal.

Joseph was a champion overcomer.  I have much to learn from him.

Like everyone, he had his flaws.  As a young man, he knew his father loved him more than any of his brothers and he flaunted his knowledge in front of them.

God gave him the gift of interpreting dreams.  He began by telling his brothers about his dreams of them bowing to him – a clear suggestion that he would rule over them.

They reacted by throwing him into a cistern one day and selling him into slavery.

That undoubtedly knocked the youthful pride out of him.  He went on to become a model servant to the Egyptian Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Potiphar.  Potiphar trusted him and put him in charge of his household.

As the Bible says: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered.” (Genesis 39:2)

But Joseph soon found himself in trouble again when his master’s wife wrongfully and vindictively accused him of sexually attacking her.  He was sent to jail.

Many people would have reacted bitterly to this.  What value was there to obeying God when you were thrown in jail for your pains?

Instead, the Bible says: “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.” (Genesis 39:20-21)

The warden put him in charge of everything going on in the prison.  Think of it – a prisoner running the prison!

Still, it looked like a lifelong sentence.  He was not even helped by a jailed official he assisted by correctly interpreting a dream that Pharaoh would reinstate him.

Then came Joseph’s big break.  The jailed official remembered Joseph when Pharaoh had a bad dream and no one could interpret it.

Joseph interpreted the dream, saying that God would give Egypt seven years of abundant harvests followed by seven years of famine.  He urged Pharaoh to stockpile grain in the good years so that there would be enough to feed the people in the famine years.

The Egyptian king was so impressed that he made the Hebrew slave his prime minister in charge of running the country.

And, ultimately, his brothers did bow down to him when they came seeking grain during the famine years.

I have always been fascinated – and impressed – by Joseph’s own interpretation of the troubles he went through.

He told his terrified brothers: “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

What kept Joseph going was trusting that God knew best, whatever situation he was in.

It’s a reminder to me that I must never lose faith in God’s goodness, his love, and his all-seeing wisdom.  He does know best.

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