“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” (Ps. 25:8)
When Joseph was sold into Egypt, from that moment forward he was no longer in complete control of his life. The mysterious blend of God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free-will choice finds full expression in this incredibly brilliant joint-venture narrative of the life of Joseph that has inspired millions of people for thousands of years.
As much as any person in the Bible, God took great liberties with Joseph’s life. Yet the outcome was and still is enormously positive and inspiring. We can then ask the question in hindsight, would Joseph be pleased with both the course and outcome of his life, or would he instead have chosen some other life for himself based upon his own ideas?
The account of Joseph’s life begins with two dreams as a young man. The first dream involves the sheaves of his brothers standing and doing obeisance to the sheaf of Joseph. The second dream has the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars making obeisance to Joseph. As a result of these dreams we can reasonably assume that Joseph had the intended foreglimpse into the future, that God would somehow be actively involved in the upcoming events of his life.
When Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt, the scripture says that God was with Joseph. This unexpected development must have seemed strange and deeply puzzling to Joseph, despite his two earlier dreams. How can he be the favored son of a wealthy herdsman one day, and then a few weeks later become a servant-slave in Potiphar’s house in Egypt, yet God be with him? This drastic intervention in his life would appear during this period to be entirely upside down to Joseph.
Yet here we see in hindsight the wisdom and imagination of God.
In addition to the change of environment that is enabling Joseph to mature as a young man, Joseph is unintentionally attending God’s version of graduate management school. God has sent Joseph abroad, in the midst of the most unsettling of family circumstances, to be schooled in business and leadership in a way that could never have happened working for his father Jacob back in Canaan.
Joseph is being prepared by God Himself to manage the future affairs of the entire nation of Egypt, second in command to Pharaoh no less.
Several observations can be made about Joseph.
The scriptures say that at Potiphar’s house, as chief overseer, Joseph had complete control over everything. Joseph could have planned a risky late-night escape with two horses loaded with provisions, at a time when Potiphar was away. Joseph could have ridden west along North Africa into Libya or Morocco, or northeast past his homeland toward Lebanon, Turkey, or Greece. He could have avoided both his painful family situation and escaped his difficult circumstances in Egypt. The Bible says that Joseph was handsome and well favored, so he potentially would have been successful wherever he went.
The fact that Joseph did not escape from the situation, although it was within his means to attempt to do so, adds light to this concept of the second half of the cross. Joseph is intrigued and fascinated by his two earlier inspired dreams in Canaan and by the fact that God is blessing him and everything he does in Egypt. Part of Joseph’s willingness to stay grounded in Egypt, despite these odd circumstances, may result from a curiosity to see how this will all work out.
But beyond curiosity, Joseph is responding to the will of God in a way that is incomprehensible to the ways of the everyday world.
It must be noted that this is not Joseph’s plan. Joseph is responding to God’s initiative. The hold that God’s Spirit has over the will of Joseph results in Joseph going along with only a partially revealed plan. This quality of faith is always misunderstood, rejected, and ridiculed by conventional worldly thinking. But the love of God that is an integral part of the will of God draws Joseph into this unfolding scheme, and Joseph follows.