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