30 January 2010

An Excellent Spirit

As the amazing story of the life of Joseph draws toward a close in Genesis chapter 50, we come to learn what made him such a remarkable man. It was the ATTITUDE with which he faced the many trials and testings of his life caused him to rise above it all to the glory of God.

Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

Here’s the situation. The whole clan has returned to Egypt from Jacob’s funeral in Canaan. Joseph’s brethren are worried that since Jacob is dead, Joseph will go ahead and get them back for all the rotten things they’ve done to him. So they send a messenger to tell him that before their father died, he had given commandment that Joseph forgive them.

In response, Joseph wept, and he asked this powerful question, “AM I IN THE PLACE OF GOD?”

That’s a question worthy of meditation. What Joseph realized and what he clung to all his days was the fact that there is a God in heaven who knows all and sees all and is just; a God who IN THE END will render “to every man according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6). This attitude of humility and trust enabled Joseph to (1) reject bitterness, (2) resist temptation, and (3) refuse revenge.

Let’s consider the first of these – REJECTING BITTERNESS

In Genesis 37, Joseph was thrown in a pit, then sold by his brethren to a group of passing merchants (this the alternative to killing him), who took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard. The next we read of Joseph, in Genesis 39, it was so evident the Lord was with him that Potiphar made him overseer of all his house. Which was swell until Potiphar’s wife got mad when he wouldn’t give her the attention she wanted and concocted a lie to get him thrown in jail. Still we read that the Lord was with Joseph and prospered everything he did, so much so that the keeper of the prison figured things would be best in the prison house with Joseph in charge.

Now, I personally have no idea how I’d react to all the things that happened in this man’s life. Sold into slavery by my brothers? Lied about by my master’s wife? Going from the house of my father in Canaan to Pharaoh’s prison in Egypt? What had he done to deserve all of it? NOTHING but tell his brothers about a dream God gave him. Talk about a test of faith. Talk about a reason to at the least get bitter and give up on God. Talk about a reason to just end it all.

But what did Joseph do? He didn’t have all the answers. He didn’t understand why all this was happening. He certainly didn’t deserve any of it. But he didn’t give up. He didn’t get bitter. He trusted God, did what was right, and left it all in His hands.

Joseph didn’t have a Bible, but he lived the truth of Proverbs 3:1-6. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments…Let not mercy and truth forsake thee…So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

You and I will face things in this life that we don’t understand, that don’t seem fair, that we don’t deserve, that will seem like all the reason we could have to give up, get bitter, and quit on God. May God give us the grace of Joseph to remember that His ways are much higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9; 2 Samuel 22:31) and that He makes everything right in the end (Genesis 18:25).

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