The life of Joseph teaches us many valuable lessons that are applicable even today. Joseph endured tremendous hardship but ultimately emerged as a leader who saved many lives. His story encourages us to trust God even in the midst of adversity. In the end, Joseph recognized that God had a purpose for everything he went through (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and the firstborn of Rachel, his favored wife. From an early age, it was clear that God had special plans for Joseph. He received two dreams from God foretelling that his brothers and parents would one day bow down to him (Genesis 37:5-11). This revelation from God caused his brothers to become incredibly jealous. Their jealousy only grew when Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful robe that distinguished him above the rest (Genesis 37:3).
One day when Joseph’s brothers were tending their flocks far from home, Jacob sent Joseph to check on them. Still seething with anger, the brothers saw this as their opportunity to finally be rid of the boy who thought he was better than them. Rather than killing him, they decided to sell him to Midianite merchants heading to Egypt. The brothers covered up their sin by soaking Joseph’s robe in goat’s blood and telling their father that he had been killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:31-35). Imagine how devastated Jacob must have felt, believing his beloved son was dead!
Meanwhile in Egypt, Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Despite his terrible circumstances, Joseph did not despair. He worked diligently and served Potiphar faithfully. God blessed Joseph, and Potiphar soon recognized that the Lord’s favor was on Joseph (Genesis 39:2-4). He appointed Joseph as overseer of his entire household. However, Joseph’s integrity would soon be tested.
Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tried to seduce Joseph, but he refused her advances over and over. One day when no one else was around, she grabbed his clothing and begged him to sleep with her. Joseph fled the situation, but she used his garment as false evidence that he had tried to take advantage of her. Furious, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison on false charges (Genesis 39:7-20).
Even in prison, Joseph did not complain. He continued to work hard and serve the Lord. Soon he was put in charge of all the other prisoners. While in prison, Joseph interpreted dreams for two of Pharaoh’s former officials also sentenced there unjustly. He informed one man that he would be restored to his position, and the other that he would be executed. Both interpretations proved true.
Two years later, Pharaoh himself had two troubling dreams that none of his advisors could explain. The former official Joseph had helped remembered Joseph’s gift and told Pharaoh about his ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh immediately summoned Joseph from the prison. Joseph humbly gave credit to God, stating “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Genesis 41:16 NKJV). Indeed, God revealed to Joseph that Egypt would have seven years of abundant harvests followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint a wise administrator to collect and preserve a portion of the harvest during the seven good years to sustain the people in the seven lean years that would follow. Recognizing the spirit of God in Joseph, Pharaoh placed him in charge of the entire land of Egypt (Genesis 41:37-45). Only Pharaoh himself held more power than Joseph.
For seven years, the land produced abundant harvests, just as Joseph said. He managed the collection and storage of much grain, preparing for the coming famine. When the seven years of famine began, people from surrounding lands came to Egypt to buy food. Among them were Joseph’s brothers, who did not recognize the powerful Egyptian they bowed before, begging for mercy. After testing their character, Joseph finally revealed his identity and forgave his brothers, saying “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV). Joseph was miraculously reunited with his beloved father Jacob and provided for his entire family in Egypt.
Joseph’s story illustrates tremendous courage, integrity, and faithfulness through decades of injustice and hardship. No matter how bleak things seemed, Joseph continued to trust in God. He did not allow bitterness to take root in his heart. When given power and authority, he remained humble and wise. Joseph’s example encourages us to cling to God and His promises even when life seems unfair or circumstances seem hopeless. Ultimately, God will work all things for good for those who love Him.
Key Takeaways from the Life of Joseph
- God often prepares and trains His servants in secret before elevating them publicly. Joseph received dreams from God foretelling his future authority even as a young man.
- Jealousy and personal offenses can lead to great sin if not guarded against. Joseph’s brothers let their jealousy fester into hatred.
- Integrity is more important than immediate gratification or pleasure. Joseph resisted the seductions of Potiphar’s wife.
- Hardships often prepare us for greater responsibility. Joseph’s trials equipped him for leadership.
- Attitude and work ethic matter, even in unfair circumstances. Joseph thrived as a slave and prisoner through diligence.
- Interpreting dreams is a spiritual gift that can provide wisdom and direction. Joseph understood dreams given by God.
- Planning and wise management are key to enduring lean times. Joseph stored up grain for the coming famine.
- Tests of character precede promotion. Joseph tested his brothers before revealing his identity.
- Forgiveness breaks the power of offense. Joseph forgave his brothers completely.
- God works all things for good for those who love Him. Joseph recognized this truth.
The Favored Son Persecuted (Genesis 37)
Joseph’s troubles began because he was unapologetically favored by his father. Of all Jacob’s sons, Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of his beloved wife Rachel. Jacob made no effort to hide his preference for Joseph, gifting him with a beautiful ornate robe (Genesis 37:3). While most brothers would have celebrated Joseph’s blessings, his brothers “hated him and could not speak peaceably to him” (Genesis 37:4 NKJV).
Envy distorted the brothers’ perception of Joseph’s character. Jacob had raised all his sons to shepherd flocks, yet the brothers accused Joseph of laziness and pride, saying “Here comes this dreamer!” (Genesis 37:19 NKJV) when he came to check on them. Joseph’s dreams from God provoked their jealousy. When given the opportunity, the brothers readily betrayed and sold their own flesh and blood, then deceived their grieving father with Joseph’s bloodied robe. This was a tremendous sin!
Yet God’s favor remained on Joseph, even as a slave and then a prisoner. No matter how much his brothers or circumstances tried to smother his destiny, God’s purposes prevailed. So it is with us – the enemy tries to smother God’s callings through persecution and hardships, but take hope! No one can thwart God’s plans for our lives if we cling to Him.
Resisting Temptation (Genesis 39)
Joseph was a handsome, single young man when bought as a slave by Potiphar. Imagine the eyes of Potiphar’s wife watching this strong, attractive slave working day after day. Her desire turned to lust. As the master’s wife, she had power to manipulate the situation to her advantage. Joseph faced intense temptation from someone determined to abuse her power for selfish gain.
Lesser men would have compromised, fearing the consequences of refusal. But Joseph valued integrity to God over any threats or short-term benefits, even to his reputation. He resisted firmly and fled, avoiding further temptation (Genesis 39:7-12). Like Joseph, we must decide beforehand to flee from lusts and situations that could compromise our walk with God.
Tragically, Potiphar’s wife lashed out with false accusations motived by bitterness from rejection. Joseph lost his position and freedom for resisting and doing right. It seemed like her lies had doomed him. Yet in God’s sovereignty, Joseph’s imprisonment positioned him for an even greater calling. Likewise, stand for righteousness and purity even when it leads to hardship. God is able to work it for eventual good.
The Power of Forgiveness (Genesis 45)
After enduring hatred and betrayal from his brothers, being sold into slavery, and wrongful imprisonment, Joseph had every reason to be bitter. Yet he humbly credited God for his blessing and authority in Egypt. When his desperate brothers bowed before him, Joseph tested their hearts by requiring they bring Benjamin to Egypt. When he saw their characters had changed and they were willing to sacrifice for each other, Joseph finally revealed his identity and forgave them completely (Genesis 45:1-15).
Joseph had the power to enact severe punishment, but chose forgiveness. This broke the power of offense in the family. Joseph even promised to provide for the brothers and their families during the famine. By forgiving fully, Joseph was able to heal fractured relationships and accomplish an incredible redemption.
Likewise, we are called to forgive others completely, even when wronged severely. Bitterness poisons our soul and steals our joy. But forgiveness liberates us while helping change the offender’s heart as well. Let go of bitterness toward those who have hurt you. Trust God to right every wrong in His time.
God’s Purpose Prevails (Genesis 50:20)
In the end, Joseph recognized the redemptive purpose in his sufferings saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20 NLT) This does not excuse the sin of Joseph’s brothers, who were fully responsible for their actions. But it does illustrate God’s sovereignty even through mankind’s evil deeds. God is able to work all things for our eventual good if we trust Him and refuse to harbor bitterness.
No matter what you are facing today – betrayal, false accusations, trapped in bad circumstances – take courage! No one can thwart God’s purposes for you. Trust Him to work even your trials for good in His perfect timing. None of Joseph’s troubles, as terrible as they were, could stop God from exalting him or using him to save many lives. Your difficulties cannot stop God from accomplishing His purposes through you either. Keep your eyes on Him!
The life of Joseph illustrates powerful lessons about favor, integrity, redemption, and God’s sovereignty through trials. Joseph’s journey to greatness required tremendous endurance, forgiveness, and trust in God. But in the end, he saw how God used it all for good. No matter what you are facing today, remember that God loves you dearly as His child. If you stay close to Him, He will work even your most difficult circumstances for good in His perfect timing.