You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
(Gen 50:20 NIV)
There is much intrigue surrounding Joseph. The Scripture found in Genesis 50:20 virtually sums up Joseph’s life. As inferred in our last study, Joseph was most probably not the rightful heir to the Abrahamic Blessing (refer to Psalm 78:67). This is because of the strong argument for recognising that God’s will for Jacob was actually Leah, and not Rachel. Yet, despite this, Joseph knew that God could take man’s errors and turn them into things that He could weave back into His will purpose.
1. How does Romans 8:28 sum up God’s ability of being able to take personally negative things and turn them into good?
The name Joseph means may God add (Gen. 30:24). He was the much awaited firstborn son of Jacob and Rachel (Gen. 30:25).
2. Based on Genesis 37:3, how did Jacob feel about Joseph?
The irony of how Jacob treated his sons is found in his favouritism toward Joseph, when he himself was not the favoured son of his own father (Isaac). This style of parenting led to deep animosity from Joseph’s brothers toward him (Gen. 37:4), which also probably led to the perfect will of God being deviated from again. To accentuate the serious divide between Joseph and his ten brothers, Jacob made him a special coat which became a blatant public display of his favouritism. We can reasonably assume that Joseph grew up feeling superior to his brothers because of his father’s treatment of him, and no doubt let them know about it as well.
Joseph is most famous for his dreams: both his and those he interpreted. Dreams, by the way, are a common way for God to speak to people. A study of dreams in Scripture shows that God more often than not uses dreams when speaking to those unfamiliar with His voice (note Gen. 20:3; 40:5; 41:1; Judges 7:13; Jer. 23:25; Dan. 2:1; Zech. 10:2; and, Mat. 27:19).
3. What was the gist of Joseph’s first dream, and why did his brothers react so? (Gen. 37:5)
4. Was it reasonable for Joseph to share his dreams with his family?
5. Were Joseph’s dreams fulfilled, and could they have been fulfilled if he hadn’t had shared his dreams?
Joseph’s prophetic dreams were grandiose. It’s an ironic Scriptural principle that God only promotes those who are demoted. Demotion comes in two varieties, self-induced or divinely induced.
6. How does Psalm 105:17-19 indicate that Joseph was demoted, and by whom?
7. How do the following Scriptures endorse the concept of demotion before promotion?
Character strength is continuing to do the right thing for the right reason even when things aren’t going right. This was certainly the case with Joseph. When he was betrayed by his brothers, he was eventually sold into Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:1). Not only was he tested by his trials, but he was also tested by his success when Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce him (Gen. 39:7). Character is not only tested by failure or set backs, but it is also tested by success. In this sense, character is continuing to do the right thing for the right reason even when things are going right.
8. What are some things that build strong character, but can tend to be discontinued when things are going right?
Joseph obviously learned to do the right thing during his stay in Pharaoh’s gaol. He was 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery. We are not told how long he served Potiphar. Perhaps it was for three years, since Potiphar had time to observe that he was being blessed because of Joseph’s management, and he would have noticed that it wasn’t merely a good season one year. If this is the case, he was about 20 when Mrs Potiphar made her move. We know he became Prime Minister at the age of 30 (Gen. 41:46), so he therefore spent at least 10 years being humbled in gaol.
9. Because Joseph could immediately interpret the Baker’s and Wine Waiter’s dream with a high degree of prophetic, what else must Joseph have been doing while in prison?
When Pharaoh had his dream as recorded in Genesis 41, it led to Joseph being appointed as Prime Minister (Genesis 41:40). Its interesting to observe how Joseph handled blessed abundance, and then what could have been cursed scarcity. In the good times, Joseph saved 20% of the blessing. How different would your own situation be if you had consistently saved 20% of your income throughout your life to this point? We know that God ordains times of abundance and times of scarcity (note Philippians 4:11-12). The climax of Joseph’s life is when he forgives his brothers and acknowledges that God can turn evil for good.
10. What lessons can we learn from the life of Joseph and apply to our lives?
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania