Trial of Joseph

Early in his life, Joseph encountered great trials. From the position of favourite son, he went to become a slave. Joseph had big dreams, literally. He dreamt that his brothers and even his parents would bow down to him.

(Gen 37:5-10 NIV)  Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. {6} He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: {7} We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” {8} His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. {9} Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” {10} When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”

Joseph encountered many situations that seem to destroy his dream. Even his brothers who plotted evil against him said…

(Gen 37:20 NIV)  “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

But despite the trials, God’s given dream to Joseph still stands. Even in the trials, God’s hand is evident. Nothing is left to chance.

(Gen 37:13-17 NIV)  and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied. {14} So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, {15} a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?” {16} He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?” {17} “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.

If his brothers had remained in Shechem, or had gone to some other place, all would have been different. But they want to Dothan, which lay on the caravan route to Egypt. His eldest brother Reuben, who intended to rescue Joseph later, went off to attend some business with his flock. During that time Joseph was sold as a slave to Egypt. If he had not gone away, or if he had come back sooner, Joseph would not have gone to Egypt. If in Egypt Joseph had been sold as a slave to anyone other than Potiphar, who was an officer of Pharaoh’s household, or had been tempted by some woman other than Portiphar’s wife, again the outcome would be different.

So it goes to show that while Joseph and his brothers may have thought that Joseph’s dream had vanished, God’s plan cannot be thwarted. What we see as obstacles are but events allowed by Him to mould us to fit that dream.

The next trial of Joseph is in his temptation by Potiphar’s wife.

(Gen 39:7-12 NIV)  and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” {8} But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. {9} No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” {10} And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. {11} One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. {12} She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

The circumstances made it so difficult to overcome this temptation. Joseph was at that time a red-blooded young man in his late twenties. It was not one temptation on one day but a repeated temptation. The tempter was also the wife of his master, so it would be natural for Joseph to feel flattered by her interest. She could have given him promotion if he succumbed. There was also this risk of refusal. Joseph must have also contemplated how she would react if he continued to refuse her.

But one thing kept Joseph pure. He had a fear of the Lord.  It is true that Joseph also had reverence for his master Potiphar but I believe it was his fear in God that was instrumental in his ability to turn away from that temptation (Gen 39:9)

Joseph’s loyalty to God and his master landed him in prison. When Joseph was in prison, he was not cast into depression and resentment; he resolved to make the best of his lot and did what he could to help the other prisoners.

(Gen 39:22 NIV)  So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.

Joseph has a sense of God’s sovereignty in his life. He did not go into despair when there is a turn of events. Being someone who always sees dreams coming to reality, he must have wondered when his own would. And he seemed to be doing well for some time before landing himself again in trouble and going back to square one.

When we encounter unexpected events in our lives, we need to note that these events are not unexpected by God. He somehow allowed them to come into our lives for His purpose. We need a sense of God’s sovereignty to allow us to continue to do our best despite our current situation. Joseph could do that. He served equally well as a slave, prisoner and Prime Minister.

Now Joseph has been made Prime Minister by the Pharaoh after having successfully interpreted his dream. The day came just as Pharaoh’s dream had foreseen. There was famine in the land and Joseph’s brothers ended up in Egypt to look for food. Not recognising him, they bowed before him. This seems to be the ultimate time to take revenge. Like David having King Saul delivered to him in the cave, God seems to be delivering Joseph’s brothers right into his hands to see what he would do. Would he take revenge or would he forgive.

(Gen 45:4-5 NIV)  Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! {5} 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.

Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because of his deep sense of God’s sovereignty. He knew what they did was wrong but he also knew God allowed it. And because God allowed it, He had His reasons. When we are captured by God’s sovereignty we are better able to forgive others. We become aware that God had allowed such people to enter our lives a purpose. In the case of Joseph, it was to eventually save many lives of God’s people. For our case, it may just be to mould our character.