At the end of last week’s lesson, we left Joseph incarcerated in a dungeon though he had committed no crime. Generally speaking, we tend to think that if something tragic happens to us, that God is somehow punishing us for something we’ve done in the past that offended Him. But is that what we should think?
Psalm 103:10 – 11 says God does not deal with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him. God’s chastening or disciplining of us is not His way of ‘getting even’; it is preparing us for something better, more valuable and more worthwhile. God disciplines us for our own good that we might grow in holiness.
Sometimes it appears to us as though God disciplines the people who least need it. Consider Job. The Bible says that he was ‘righteous in his generation’. One might think that God would go after the wicked instead. There’s a principle here that we learn from agriculture. A tree that is bearing fruit is the one that is pruned, stripped, cut back, not to take away its beauty, but that it might bear even more beautiful and delicious fruit. A fruit tree that is not bearing fruit will be cut down and chopped up for firewood. Therefore, never be surprised at God’s discipline in your life. In fact, it is something to be thankful for. It means that you’ve done well and now it’s time to do even better!
Perhaps the greatest test anyone has to pass before being used mightily for God is to be humiliated or rejected for doing right and keeping quiet about it. God had a plan for Joseph’s life that went far beyond anything he could think or imagine at the time. While Potiphar’s wife was ruining his reputation, God was watching Joseph’s heart and attitude. Would he try to protect himself, defend himself? Or would he trust God to vindicate him at the time of God’s choosing?
Do you know that nowhere in the scriptures does it say that Joseph was ever cleared of the false charges? There is no verse that declares Joseph innocent in the eyes of those who knew him at the time. Can you imagine how awkward it was for Potiphar’s wife when Joseph was made Prime Minister of Egypt a few years later and became, in fact, her husband’s boss! Can you imagine a conversation then between Prime Minister Joseph, the ex-slave and his former owner, Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard?
Given the culture of Egypt at the time, if Potiphar had totally believed his wife, Joseph would most likely have been killed. Remember that Potiphar had complete trust in Joseph’s integrity to the extent that he had put his entire household into Joseph’s hands. I suspect that one look into Joseph’s eyes told Potiphar all he needed to know but for the sake of his own dignity, his wife’s reputation and perhaps his marriage, Joseph became the scapegoat.
There are unseen reasons for prolonged suffering. Joseph could have been vindicated quickly but that was not what Joseph needed at that point. Instead he needed to learn that the God who had called him, the God who had given him dreams of the future, could be everything he needed no matter what the circumstances looked like. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor with the chief jailer. Gen. 39:22
How do you like that? One might be tempted to say ‘who wants favor with the head of the prison? I just want to get out of here!’ That doesn’t appear to be Joseph’s reaction for the scripture goes on to say that the chief jailer – rather quickly – put Joseph in charge of the whole prison. He didn’t even supervise him! (39:23) It is to this chief jailer’s credit that though an Egyptian pagan he had the good sense and wisdom to recognize an honest and godly man. Within that prison framework, things not only went well for Joseph, they also went well for the Chief Jailer.
So in a place he never wanted to be, Joseph finds himself prospering because of the favor of the God of Israel.
Who knows what God may be about in your life?
Do you find yourself in a place you would never have chosen? Do you wonder whether your talents and giftings will ever find expression? Are you challenged on a daily basis by having to work for an unpleasant superior? Or alongside other workers that have nothing in common with you? The kind of people you don’t normally like? Do you feel like nothing good could come out of this?
God can bless you and grant you favor right where you are. His favor will be upon you just as it was upon Joseph if like him, you will embrace the grace to dignify your present circumstances with a thankful attitude, desiring more than anything to come through this period of your life like gold comes out of the fire – pure, brilliant and valuable in God’s eyes.
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