The future purposes that are hidden within God’s plans for Joseph in Egypt have a powerful holding force with Joseph, more powerful than any alternate worldly sensible argument, to rebel against the negative present circumstances, to attempt escape, and to wrestle back control over the course of his life.
This sheds additional light on another observation that can be made about the story of the life of Joseph.
A large portion of Joseph’s pride was nailed to the cross of Christ as a result of his reduced social status as a servant-slave in Egypt. Everyone who looked at Joseph assumed that either he or his family must have done something wrong for him to be in the position of a servant-slave as a Hebrew in Egypt. Even though Joseph enjoyed some measure of elevated status for a while as the head overseer in the house of Potiphar, he was still a slave.
Joseph could not respond to those who looked down their nose at him, that he was actually the son of a wealthy man in Canaan, or that he was in Egypt through no fault of his own. Joseph could not answer back that God was really in control of his life and that this was just a temporary setback that would soon be rectified. Joseph was in no position to defend his pride. In light of his two earlier dreams, Joseph himself did not know exactly why events in his life had taken this peculiar course.
Although Joseph…being human…naturally cared about his pride and the humiliation of being a slave in Egypt…apparently God saw it differently.
This is the way of the cross.
God’s character-building investment of situations and circumstances in Joseph’s life in Egypt did not start out with the outward moniker of respectability.
For the period of his life from age 17 to 30, Joseph’s life is a study in contrasts. He occupies lowly positions as a servant and then as a prisoner, yet in each situation the blessing of God on him is so outwardly apparent that he is quickly elevated to positions of “upper management.” God alone knew that one day in the near future Joseph would be Governor in command of all of Egypt, because that was God’s creative plan.
God’s plan at no time was in jeopardy from or limited by the temporary outward appearance of failure, or by circumstances that seemed utterly hopeless. God Himself was the author of these character-building circumstances, and was in control all the time.
Joseph’s part was to not lose faith in the character and competency of God, and to patiently await the working out of these events in his life towards the fulfillment of his two earlier prophetic dreams.
God is telling us through the example of Joseph that portions of God’s plan for our lives may take us down a lowly path that does not include the “pride of life.”
The low and humble road sifts out and separates the genuinely committed from all other hypocrites and pretenders. Being a servant of God is often a thankless and unappreciated role, especially in the training-for-service orientation phase at the beginning of our calling.
The life of Joseph is a preview of the universal biblical experience of character-building that launches spiritual power, starting at a base level of humility devoid of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
This is what Paul is referring to in describing himself and the other apostles as “last” (1 Cor. 4:9), which in Paul’s case eventually leads to writing fourteen of the New Testament letters to the churches.
The false accusation of sexual assault against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife is instructive for Christians today. Even when things are going completely wrong according to outward appearances, when God is in control of our lives, utter failure and complete catastrophe can be divinely shaped into a positive outcome.
This devastating event in Joseph’s life God uses to extend the management training of Joseph into a new prison environment for several more years leading up the time of the upcoming famine, within a new context requiring more humility on Joseph’s part than previously as the chief overseer in Potiphar’s house.
At first glance this might appear to be over-coaching…of over-doing it…on God’s part. But in a profound way this seemingly negative experience with Potiphar’s wife actually demonstrates the uncompromising reality of the love of God in thoroughly preparing Joseph for his future elevation to the highest level of power in Egypt.
It reveals the tightest of circumstances in a God-composed life-script that is beyond our human capacity to imagine, orchestrate, or resolve, which is common to all adventures of faith recorded in the Bible.
There was something unique to Pharaoh’s prison in the advance training of Joseph that was not at Potiphar’s house. We do not know what this difference might have been. Perhaps the trait of pride was again lifting up its ugly head within the character of Joseph as chief servant in Potiphar’s house. Probably looking back in hindsight as governor, Joseph recognized and appreciated the value of the unique lessons learned in the different and more humbling environment of Pharaoh’s prison.
Only God could craft a training regime for a Hebrew to become the governor of Egypt using the extremely unlikely, totally unconventional roles of servant/slave in the venues of a private Egyptian home and in the prison of a Pharaoh.
When Joseph finally sees the whole picture in hindsight as his half-brothers stand before him as governor of Egypt, Joseph breaks into tears as he recognizes God’s hand in everything leading up to that time.
Do we possess the patience and determination to persevere in difficult circumstances, when we know without a doubt that God has us there for some not yet fully revealed reason?
If Christians today place the highest value on ultimate purpose and meaning in life, beyond merely responding in the reactive mode to the challenges that chance brings our way, then the final outcome of Joseph’s story is wonderful beyond all measure.
The plan that God had in mind was beyond anything that Joseph could have imagined or orchestrated. It demanded tenacity and a stubborn faith that would have left many less determined people behind.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way. Because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”