Understanding the Old Testament

Joseph

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Have you ever felt that life was unfair? Have you ever questioned God’s existence because so much evil and injustice exists in the worldor because something painful happened to you or to someone you care about? Then take a lesson from the life of Joseph.

Joseph had a tough life when he was a young man. At about the age of 17, his brothers plotted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery. Then he was falsely accused of rape and imprisoned because he did the right thing by refusing advances from the wife of his Egyptian master, Potiphar.

While Joseph was in prison, God enabled him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, correctly predicting that the cupbearer would soon be restored to his rightful position and that the baker would be executed. But Joseph had to languish in prison for two more years because the cupbearer, after being reinstated, forgot about poor Joseph.

If anyone had a right to be angry at God, Joseph did. Because of the wickedness and selfishness of others, he lost about 13 years of his life to slavery and imprisonment. (Compare Genesis 37:2 and Genesis 41:46.)

Yet Joseph bore no ill will toward his brothers or toward God. He recognized that what he had endured had brought him to the place where he was: ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph understood that God had placed him there so that he could prepare Egypt for the seven years of famine that would follow seven years of abundance. With 20-20 hindsight, Joseph realized that God had a plan all along.

After Jacob’s death, Joseph reassured his brothers, who were terrified that he would finally take revenge on them: “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:19-21)

Joseph forgave his brothers and took care of them in Egypt during the famine and afterward. As a result, the descendants of Jacob—aka Israel—remained in Egypt for more than 400 years and increased greatly.

Question to ponder or discuss: Oftentimes God allows things to happen that may seem unfair or difficult to understand, such as disease, crime, or natural disasters. What are some reasons why He would allow those things? (For more on this topic, see Chapter 3 of my book, Beyond Blind Faith, entitled, “Why Do Bad Things Happen (to Me)?”)

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

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