Summary: The story of Joseph helps us to choose to overlook unfair offenses, overcome enormous obstacles and model a virtue that is fast becoming lost in or hostile age.
From Pit to Palace
In David Aikman’s book Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century, he profiles six leaders of the 20th century who he argues triumphed over criticism, adversity and opposition.
Aikman writes, “I’ve always personally been inspired by the lives of great people. It is hard not to be engerized by the stories of how individuals have risen above adversity or suffering or impurity or have risen above the face of great temptation.”
Our reading this week takes us to the story of Joseph. In this story, we begin to see a great person like David Aikman writes about. This is God’s great person. We can see how this great story of Joseph can impact even our lives. It doesn’t take very much, even though our reading only takes us through Genesis 45 for this week. More space is given to Joseph than men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and even his father Jacob. So in this, we begin to see that there is something that God wants to impact us with in the life of this great man Joseph.
When we examine his life, we see that Joseph becomes all too familiar with us. Joseph lived to glory God even though he was terribly mistreated, even though he lived high above the all too the common reaction of rage or maybe resentment or revenge. Joseph didn’t allow himself to be overcome by those kinds of things. He was God’s man. And in this man, Joseph, God’s man, hopefully we might be able to see some things that will be able to help us in our lives today. Joseph chose deliberately to overlook those unfair offenses, to overcome enormous obstacles and to model a virtue that is far fast becoming lost in this day and time. That of course is forgiveness. So allow this story to move you from pit to palace.
Joseph was able to overcome rejection. That’s the thing we begin to see in chapter 37. In the opening lines it tells us a little about who Joseph is. He is 17 and is one of 12 sons of the 13 children of Jacob. In verse 11 we see that his brothers are very jealous of him. Upon his father’s orders, Joseph sought to check on his brothers and report back to his father. When Joseph arrived the brothers took him and was about to kill him until the older son, Ruben, talked them out of it. Then Ruben went to do something else. The brothers threw Joseph into a pit. Travelers came by that were headed to Egypt and the brothers sell Joseph to these travelers. So if you can imagine, in some way, being rejected in that way. We may not have been rejected by someone selling us off, but selling us out. Maybe sometime in your life you felt some rejection from others. It may have come from siblings, parents, grandparents, and fellow workers. Rejection comes from all different areas. But Joseph had to deal with this. And if you could, imagine Joseph having to travel to Egypt after being sold by his brothers. You have to imagine he is feeling a bittersweet kind of thing. Thankful he is alive but bitter because he is rejected by his own kind.
In all of these things, we don’t know what Joseph’s been thinking except for the fact that when Joseph gets to Egypt, he prospers as a servant. It’s kind of interesting to see that in this kind of rejection that Joseph hangs together somehow or another. There’s something else that’s working in all of this. The obvious thing is rejection of his brothers. There’s something else that’s working in this passage. It has stirred me over the years and more so in the reading for this week. I wanted to share with you about how we can live better lives in the glory of God like Joseph did, being God’s man. There is a great need to overcome rejection.
The other thing that I see is, not as much a rejection as the brothers, but where the jealousy came from. The jealousy was implanted and even grown from his on father. In your reading this week you saw that Jacob favored Joseph. He gave him a coat of many colors, which was a tremendous example during that day and time of a rich garment. It probably went from the shoulder to the feet. The sleeves probably came down to the wrist. I mean, the garment would express privilege or royalty in a since of what Jacob could provide for his son that he loved or favored. Now begin to think about the brothers and their work out in the field and taking care of it. Even though Joseph did those kinds of things too. Can you imagine a shepherd trying to do his work in this big, bulky coat that Joseph had? It would almost say, “I’m privileged.” But Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph allowed the brothers to develop this kind of jealousy. What I’m thinking is that even though Jacob would say “I love you, son”, in one since and in another saying “I’m really not involved in your life the way I should be”. I say that about Jacob for several reasons.