“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge one yourself.” (James A. Froude)
Joseph was passionate about life.
We encounter Joseph as a young, somewhat cocky, 17 year-old kid who has great dreams. And he loves to tell others about his dreams. He’s passionate about life. But that passion gets Joseph in trouble with his brothers. In fact, they become so envious of him that they decided to kill Joseph.
Joseph senses God’s presence, especially at his lowest moments.
There’s a great statement that gets repeated during the telling of Joseph’s story, especially at his lowest points: "The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly …" (Genesis 39.2).
Joseph experiences hardship but chooses the right path even when it’s hard.
Potiphar’s wife gets Joseph sent to prison. Again, Joseph hits bottom and faces a difficult ordeal. But, as D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Joseph chose the right path even at his lowest points.
And again, Scripture says, "But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer" (Genesis 39.21).
Joseph helps others, even when he is needy himself.
While in prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of others, namely, the cup-bearer and the chief baker who both fall out with Pharoah. Their dreams come true (the cup-bearer regains his position in the palace while the chief baker loses his life). Two years later, when the king has a troubling dream, though, the cup-bearer remembers Joseph, and Joseph interprets Pharoah’s dream.
Joseph doesn’t seek revenge.
After everything Joseph’s brothers put him through, one might think revenge would be understandable. But Joseph never seeks to get even. Instead he takes care of his family and they are spared from certain destruction due to the famine in the world.
Joseph saw God at work in his life.
I believe Joseph was able to be gracious because he saw God at work in his life. Joseph said to his borothers, "Come over here. I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives." (Genesis 45.4-5). Talk about a gracious response!
Joseph trusted God to continue to work among his people long after he was gone.
There’s an interesting phrase about Joseph in the New Testament: "And it was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, confidently spoke of God’s bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was so sure of it that he commanded them to carry his bones with them when they left!" (Hebrews 11.22). Interestingly, of all the things the writer to the Hebrews could have mentioned he chose this final act of Joseph. Joseph ws able to take this last faithful step, I think, because he had lived a life of strong, godly character.
What about you? How’s your character?
Joseph was the same person whether he was in the pit or the palace. What about you? Are you faithful to God no matter where life takes you?
God, thank you so much for faithful men and women who have gone before us, people who have modeled lives of faith and faithfulness. Thank you for Joseph. Help us to go through life like him. When life tosses us in the pit, help us to know that you re in charge and that you have a plan for our lives. We may be in the pit, but with your help, we won’t always be in the pit! Amen.