Three Ways

Joseph

Tags: faith forgiveness integrity leadership suffering

The story so far …

Second youngest – and favourite – of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph had vivid dreams of superiority that ended with his jealous brothers selling him in slavery. After working faithfully as a slave to the Egyptian official Potiphar, his wife’s failed seduction of Joseph ended with a false accusation of rape and an unjust imprisonment. There he gained respect and effectively ran the prison. He also used his ability to interpret dreams of fellow prisoners but was abandoned by those he helped and left to rot in prison for a crime he hadn’t committed!

Read Genesis 41; 1-52

METHOD 1. Inductive study

1. What strikes you?

Pray, then read the text carefully and underline anything that particularly strikes you

2. Key Principles?

What do you think are the key biblical principles from this passage (what does it show about God, humanity etc.)

3. Application to your circumstances

How do these principles apply to your situation?

4. Action to take?

What action do you need to take in the light of this?

METHOD 2. Guided study

  • There seem to be a number of ‘coincidences’ in Joseph’s story. What would you say they are and how would you explain them?
  • Clearly Prime Minister of the world’s superpower was a job that needed specific skills. What ‘character & skills training’ can you identify that God had given Joseph?
  • What coincides and ‘training’ of this type can you identify in your own life so far?
  • From this passage & Genesis 45. 4-7 How would you describe Joseph’s attitude towards all he has been through?
  • How do you think he has come to realise this? & how might it affect the way you view difficult periods in your own life?

METHOD 3. Reflections on Joseph

Joseph’s life was a roller coaster of favour and rejection, honour and disregard. From favourite son of a wealthy man to slave boy; Working faithfully for Potiphar to the injustice of a vengeful woman’s false accusation of rape. Again serving well and being given responsibility in the prison but being let down and forgotten by those he had helped.

You could have forgiven Joseph for having a victim’s “poor me” mentality; for being cynical, bitter and angry with God who had let all this happen. However, somewhere in all this Joseph held on to his faith, that God had a plan, that he was good and eventually he was vindicated. In Gen. 45; 4-7 he says to his brothers

“I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives“

This is a challenge for us. In painful times when we are underestimated, over looked, misunderstood, even betrayed and rejected – when things are hard, will we hang on to God? Continue to be faithful day to day in the little things? Will we trust that there IS a purpose and that God has a plan? That just as God taught Joseph strength of character and useful skills through dark times, he will do the same for us?

Joseph didn’t deny it was hard, he didn’t pretend it hadn’t hurt, but he did trust and praise God through it – and so was able to become a mighty leader, through whom God literally saved the world from starvation!

© Ruth Perrin 2009. Last revised on 20 February 2009

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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.

For ideas on how to use these studies most effectively, click here

Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.

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