Joseph

Joseph

James T. Naismith

Dr. James T. Naismith of Scarborough, Ontario, physician and Bible teacher, continues his series of character studies in Genesis.

Copyright by Everyday Publications Inc.; used by permission.

Of all the characters in Genesis, or throughout the Old Testament, there is no more beautiful type of the Lord Jesus than Joseph — in his humiliation and subsequent exaltation.

In his story we can also find valuable instruction for believers of today, who live in a world that not only despised and rejected their Lord, but has the same attitude to them. Unlike the life-stories of his ancestors, that of Joseph contains very little in the way of failure, and he is presented to us as an outstanding example of the kind of life God is pleased to bless and honour.

A verse that seems to epitomize Joseph’s story is 1 Samuel 2:30, Them that honour Me I will honour. Each phase of his life can be considered as an illustration of this verse.

Them That Honour Me …

1. At Home, Gen. 37

Apart from the record of his birth and one or two passing mentions of his name, Genesis 37:2 is the first reference to Joseph’s life, and the closing phrase gives an insight into his character: Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Some feel that this indicates him to be no more than a malicious talebearer, but it seems more likely that it is, in fact, an evidence of his uncompromising purity of life and separation from evil. This comes out later in his life, in Potiphar’s house. It shows his concern for his brothers who were evidently involved in wrongdoing. Thus he honoured God at home, in his family life, taking a stand against evil. The hatred of his brethren towards him, recorded in this chapter, was no doubt stirred by his refusal to participate with them in their evil ways — though it was intensified by his father’s partiality towards him, and by the recounting of his dreams.

2. Away From Home. In Potiphar’s House, Gen. 39

As a result of his brothers’ animosity, Joseph is now a stranger in a strange land, but even in difficult circumstances he still honours God and maintains his standard of conduct, resisting the temptations of his master’s wife, vv. 7-10. She kept asking Joseph day after day, but he refused to lie with her and be in her company, v. 10 (NEB). He based his refusal, not on any fear of the possible consequences, but on the fact that to yield to the temptation would be to sin against his master, who had placed implicit trust and confidence in him, v. 8, his master’s wife, who alone of all his master’s possessions, was withheld from him, v. 9, and, supremely, his God, v. 9 — to whom he was thus a courageous and effective witness in an alien environment.

3. In Prison, Gen. 40

His faithfulness to God and his stand for right and purity had apparently disastrous results, for he now found himself in prison, falsely accused of wrongdoing. Yet even then he still honoured God — now, in a very positive way, by witnessing to his God in the prison, when he declared that interpretations belong to God, v. 8. It is evident, indirectly, that he had similarly honoured God in a positive way while still serving Potiphar, since Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with him, 39:3.

4. In The Palace, Gen. 41-50

Because of his interpretations of the dreams of the butler and baker in the prison, Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh’s palace (when the butler ultimately remembered) to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Even here, in the presence of the ruler of the land, he honoured God in a positive manner by reiterating God’s ability to reveal secrets and His purposes regarding the future, 41:16, 25, 28, 32, so much so that even Pharaoh was forced to acknowledge Joseph’s God, vv. 38, 39. Subsequently, through the rest of his life in Egypt, Joseph repeatedly acknowledged God — in naming his children, 41:51, 52; in expressing his fear of God to his brothers, 42:18; 43:23, 29; in recognizing God’s purposes in the past, 45:5-9; 50:20, and in the future, 50:24, 25.

I Will Honour

1. At Home, Gen. 37

It hardly seemed, at this early stage of Joseph’s history, that his fidelity to God in separating himself from evil was bringing any reward from God. God’s paths sometimes lead in unexpected directions. “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform”; and, in Joseph’s case, that mysterious way was via a pit and a prison — But it led to a palace. But even in this chapter, we can discern God at work; the dreams given to Joseph were no doubt of God, and were God’s prophetic indication to him of his future glory. Thus, even when surrounded by hatred and enmity, Joseph was being honoured by his God.

2. Away From Home. In Potiphar’s House, Gen. 39

That God was honouring His servants in the midst of trial and difficulty, in a strange land and home, is clearly evident both at the beginning and end of this chapter: Verses 2 to 5 record that God was with Joseph and blessed him, blessed Potiphar’s house through him and made it evident, not only to Joseph but also to Potiphar, that He was with His servant in the house of his earthly master.

3. In Prison, Gen. 40

The evidence of God’s honouring of Joseph in the prison is seen in the closing verses, of chapter 39. Joseph experienced God’s presence, mercy, favour and prosperity, and was given a position of authority and trust, even in the prison. Although Joseph did not know it at the time, his fellow-prisoners and their dreams were included in God’s plan —as had been his brother’s dealings with him, and the falsehood of Potiphar’s wife — for the ultimate high honour that was to follow.

4. In The Palace, Gen. 41-50

Here we see God’s purposes come to fruition in the honouring of Joseph and his exaltation to the highest post in Egypt. But more than Joseph’s personal prosperity was involved: through Joseph, and by his submission to God’s will in his life, God was working out His purposes for his brothers — the children of Israel, preserving their lives, Gen. 45:5, 7, and thus filling His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The story of Joseph thus illustrates the words of the hymn:

“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.”