Summary: a summary and reflection on the life of Joseph

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Joseph – a man of integrity and forgiveness


Today’s message provides a summary and reflection on the life of Joseph.

There are 3 senior public servants from the Bible: Nehemiah, Daniel and Joseph.

All three are Hebrews who attained the most senior public service post in a foreign country.

All three demonstrated you could be successful without compromising your faith and integrity.

Nehemiah – we learn from his achievement in building the walls of Jerusalem and more importantly rebuilding the community of God’s people after the exile.

Daniel – we learn from his ability to serve ably four kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, Cyrus) in three different empires (Babylon, Median, Persia).

Joseph – if OT has a perfect character, Joseph would be the obvious candidate, not coincidence that many scholars use Joseph as a type of Jesus, foreshadowing the perfection of our Lord Jesus.

4 things we can learn from the life of Joseph:

1. Integrity

2. Forgiving spirit

3. Total trust in God

4. Faithful to God’s promise


It is difficult to maintain personal integrity in a different culture with a different value system.

Clearest example of Joseph’s ability to maintain a highest degree of integrity was when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:6-20).

Consider Joseph’s situation: bought as a slave by Potiphar, evaluated to the top of the household, seduced by the master’s wife, not once, twice but continuously, lesser characters would have succumbed, rather went to jail than to betray his master and his integrity. Note his response to Potiphar’s wife: “how can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” He considered if he succumbed to the temptation of his mistress, he would betray not only his master but also God.

The second example of Joseph’s integrity is - He told good news and bad news: in jail, he told the good news to the cupbearer and the bad news to the baker (Gen 40:1-19). He relayed what he received from God and passed on as is. He did not put any spin on the message.

Forgiving spirit

This is probably the most obvious of Joseph’s virtue.

Forgive his brothers, even they did not believe it. He looked back and understood his brothers’ crime to sell him into slavery was in fact part of God’s plan to save lives (Gen 45:4-8a).

This is the secret of Joseph’s ability to forgive. He looked back and he understood that God allowed him to be sold into slavery was because he had a plan for him – a plan for him to rescue Israel’s household from famine. When he looked back, he understood God allowed the injustice for him to be wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife was because he had a plan for him – a plan to allow him to meet with the cupbearer in prison. When he looked back, he understood why God allowed the cupbearer to forget about him and left him in prison when the cupbearer was restored to his former position, it was because God had a plan for him – a plan for the cupbearer to finally introduce him to Pharaoh.

You see, for people do not believe in God, do not believe God has a plan for each of us; we will look at these incidents as isolated events. For Joseph, he can look back and can clearly discern the perfect will of God in his life, all these are no longer incidents just happened by chance, but they are all related and interconnected due to the perfect will of God. More importantly, it allows Joseph to forgive others in times of difficulties. In prison or in slavery, he did not bear any grudge against those who had wronged him because he knew these injustices and misfortunes can only happen under the will of God, he may not understand right now but he will understand one day.

Over a decade ago there was an attempt on the life of Pope John Paul. Fortunately, the Pope lived. After he recovered, he shocked the world when he made a visit to Rome’s Rabbibia Prison to see the man who had attempted to assassinate him on Christmas day. Millions watched on television as the Pope visited with Mehmet Ali Agca, who only two years before had tried to assassinate him. The Pope and terrorist huddled in Agca’s cell for 20 minutes, talking in low voices that could not be heard. When he emerged John Paul explained, "I spoke to a brother whom I have pardoned."

Through this incident Pope John Paul clearly demonstrated the spirit of Christian forgiveness.

Joseph’s forgiveness extended to outside the family, we do not hear Joseph pay back Potiphar’s wife, or Potiphar, or the cupbearer for forgetting him in prison. The argument from silence may not be convincing but it is consistent with Joseph’s character.

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Richard Wagner

commented on Oct 15, 2006

Thank you for your work and thoughtfulness.

Phil Sabine

commented on Mar 7, 2012

Great points was a help and an encouragement

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