“Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him (Joseph) in Egypt to Potiphar an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. Genesis 37:36
Probably not many of you have had the experience of waking in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange house, in a strange city, in a strange country. Take a moment to imagine yourself there. Like fighting through wet cement, the fog of sleep begins to clear. Slowly at first your head begins to clear, then gradually gaining speed, until you feel your mind has entered hyper-speed. Like the proverbial fly hitting the windshield, you suddenly realize you are in the worst trouble of your life!
With every dust-scuffed step, Joseph has become more aware of his plight. The difficulty begins with the necessity to learn a new language, new customs, new ways of showing respect, while serving as a servant in the most powerful nation in his known world. And the question for Joseph was, “What’s it going to be?” Would he choose to learn, or choose to fight? Would he learn all he could about this new country, seeking knowledge, or would he be a disruptor, causing problems at every opportunity?
Joseph’s thoughts must have flown to the responsibility of representing his family and his God. Would he abandon his lifelong training? “What’s it going to be?” Joseph, his family, his God would be judged by everything he said and did. At that time one’s family reputation was directly linked to his name; it was an incredibly important consideration! Name and reputation don’t seem to mean much anymore, and I find that sad. Maybe the loss of family and reputation are part of our predicament. We have an identity problem; we don’t know who we are, where we come from, we find no purpose in life. A purposeless life will cause death, it actually sucks the life out of you.
I believe God communicated this need to Joseph, the need for reputation, a name, an identity, a purpose. Knowing who he was, having purpose would bring him through some incredibly difficult experiences. Joseph chose to remember his identity, who he was, Jacob’s son, God’s chosen. He chose purpose and everything he did was his best so his master would be more and more successful.
Egypt had seen nothing like this before. It was as if Joseph were more like a son than a slave. Potipher noticed God was with Joseph; he made Joseph his overseer, in charge of Potipher’s entire household.
“So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.” Genesis 38:6
What an amazing witness, a testimony to the wonder of what God accomplishes when we will let Him!
It’s not about perfection, it’s about our identity. It’s about choosing trust and letting it build so we are willing to let go of the rope if God says let go. It’s taking the next step off the cliff if God says step, and it’s the willingness to go, to be, become, and serve as God says without asking why. Demanding to know why is one of the biggest hurdles we face. My experience tells me God is not so much into giving answers to those who demand as He is to preparing us to live with Him.
Joseph’s story has another application for us. Joseph was about 17 years old when his brothers sold him. It was several more years before Joseph had completed the training he needed to accomplish the work God had prepared him to do.
I’m the first to admit that it is not easy! I am, and have many friends who are experiencing pain we didn’t know even existed. We have the chance to ask ourselves, What’s it to be?” But through the Grace of God we carry on. There are times when I wonder if it is worth it. We can’t help but feel that way some days! Then God sends a friend, an email, a post, a letter or other encouragement and we remember there are people who care.
Joseph didn’t have that luxury, he didn’t hear from his family for years, and the family he was part of (Potipher’s family) was about to betray him in a way he never expected. Sometimes it keeps getting worse before it gets better.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, oh Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 183:8 – New Revised Standard Version
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