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“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.”[1] This was one of many of God’s promises to Abraham, which is not exactly the most uplifting of all of His promises, compared to the others, such as: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you…”[2] “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your Shield, your very great Reward.”[3] And, “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”[4]

Compared to the other three, Genesis 15:16 almost sounds like a curse and a portent of disaster, yet without the fulfilment of Genesis 15:16 and the enslavement of the descendants of Jacob, there would have been no Israelites numbering hundreds of thousands of men, not counting women or children, for Moses to deliver out of Egypt. As recorded in Genesis, God spoke to Abraham at least 14 times during his lifespan, and God gave 13 out of 50 chapters of the book of Genesis to him, yet except for the fulfilment of the promise of Isaac, none of the other promises could have been fulfilled without the man Joseph, son of Jacob, of whom it is not recorded God spoke to at all.

To Joseph is also devoted 13 chapters of Genesis, and except for the 2 dreams given to Joseph in Genesis 37, there is not recorded anywhere that God spoke verbally to Joseph as He did to Abraham, and not even an angel has been recorded to have spoken to Joseph. Now compare the life of Abraham, the father of our faith, to that of Joseph. Called by God, Abraham left on his own accord and went to Canaan, and despite various hardships Abraham enjoyed freedom and prosperity with intermittent incredible encounters and conversations with God. God even turned up to speak to Abimelech when Sarah was taken.[5] Now compare the life of Joseph, unjustly sold into Egypt by his 11 brothers, unjustly put in jail by Potiphar, and then forgotten by the man he helped until years later, and through all of that, not once is it recorded that God spoke to him or that an angel appeared to encourage him.

No matter what persecution any of the other men of God had, none were worse than Joseph’s, and none of them could compare with Joseph’s lack of communication from God; not Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Saul, David, Elijah or Elisha, nor any of all the other prophets. Thirteen chapters on Joseph and there is not a word from the mouth of God recorded throughout. You can argue that presumably God did speak to him, for Joseph was able to interpret dreams, yes, but why is this not recorded as the conversations with Abraham, the only other patriarch in Genesis who has 13 chapters accorded to him, were?

Indeed, if there was anyone who needed a word of the Lord, it was Joseph. The injustice suffered by Joseph far outweighed the injustices suffered by any of the others, even David, Job and Moses. David at least was roaming free with a band of raiders. Job was free, out of prison, being “counselled” by friends, and Moses spent forty years in the desert but was free and had a job and a family. Joseph was alone, betrayed by his brothers, and a slave in a nation going from one disaster to another.

Now here is the secret to Joseph’s success and his most unusual life: The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered… When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant.[6] And again when Joseph was framed by Potiphar’s wife and was thrown into prison, it is written: But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. 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. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. As the story goes, when Joseph was brought in to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams in Genesis 41, listen to Pharaoh’s words about Joseph and hear the secret of Joseph’s success and why God did not need to speak to him as He did to Abraham and why no angels were needed to strengthen him. Pharaoh asked, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God (of the gods)?” A man in whom is the Spirit of God – no other Old Testament hero is credited with these words, “in whom is the Spirit of God,” – but at most, the word “on” rather than “in” such as on Samson – The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power;[7] on Saul – the Spirit of God came upon him in power;[8] and on Elijah – the power of the Lord came upon Elijah.[9]

Joseph can be described as one of the first to be baptised with the Holy Spirit, that He was in Joseph. So, what did Potiphar and the jailer see about Joseph that told them the Lord was with Joseph in all his success? The success by itself is not the sign that the Lord was with Joseph although the Lord gave Joseph success, for you do not need to have the Lord with you to appear successful and be successful as Psalm 73 tells us so clearly:

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

Their mouths lay claim to Heaven, and their tongues take possession of the Earth.

This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.[10]

As such, success is not the criteria that the Lord was with Joseph, which his masters could see, but rather, what they saw was a man condemned to serving them against his will yet serving them as if it was his will to serve them. In all the struggles and torment that must have gone through Joseph’s mind beyond anything we can imagine with our lives, unless we have been betrayed by our family and physically sold into slavery in a foreign nation, yet without recourse or hope of redemption or freedom, Joseph still served well, in fact, exceedingly well, even as his life went from bad to worse.

There is, throughout the entire 13 chapters, not a hint of bitterness in Joseph when he became prime minister, not against Potiphar or his wife, or against the cup bearer, or above all else against his own brothers. Neither did Joseph send out an expeditionary force to seek out his family when he was able, but rather continued to serve Pharaoh through the 7 years of abundance and then the 7 years of famine. There is no mention of power or revelation or prophecy with Joseph, no, the Spirit of the Lord, when He was in Joseph, was the Spirit of Grace, the grace to do exceedingly well, the grace to remain humble and the grace to forgive. Indeed, Proverbs 3:34 says: He (the Lord) gives grace to the humble. Nothing tests a person’s humility more than success, for success gives voice to pride as in a boast, whilst pride will voice itself in defiance and rebellion when the failure brings about a humbling situation. All the kings of Israel and Judah strayed from the Lord after they were given success by the Lord, even David, and needed to repent. Not Joseph, for all his success, Joseph never strayed from the Spirit of God, but showed forgiveness in humility. Even his “vengeance” and “revenge” on his brothers, causing them to fear for Benjamin’s life, was mild compared to what else he could have done to them.

Even when Joseph was collecting the grain for Pharaoh, he collected only one fifth during a time of abundance, that is, a time when the farmers would not miss the grain, and stored it. In fact, he was doing them a favour by disposing of the surplus for them instead of the farmers having to dispose of it themselves.[11] And when the famine came, Joseph waited for the people to come to him for the food to trade, rather than going out to sell. He made the people pay for the storage of the food they would have thrown away themselves, for if they also stored during the years of abundance, they would not have needed to buy from Pharaoh. The preparation for the 7 years of famine must have been common knowledge to all, yet no one stored up for themselves as Joseph stored up for them. Yet, for all his success, Joseph remained humble and his love for his family was unchanged.

If Joseph did not have such graciousness about his life, then he would not have been able to position and raise up Egypt, so that after the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time died, the subsequent Pharaohs or Pharaoh would oppress Israel to fulfil God’s promise to Abraham, “and they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.” Had Joseph not forgiven his brothers, there would be no Israel in Egypt for Moses to deliver. Joseph’s graciousness, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Grace in Joseph, allowed God’s promise to Abraham to be fulfilled in part. What prevented the rest of God’s promises to Abraham to be fulfilled to this day concerning the borders of Israel was the subsequent pride and rebellion of the leaders of Israel after Joshua.

As He was in Joseph, so the Spirit of God is in us, but are we able to manifest the Lord in such a way that the Potiphars and jailers of Egypt will see Him? The reason the world does not accept the Holy Spirit is because as Jesus said, “it neither sees Him nor knows Him.”[12] Yet, Potiphar and the jailer saw the Lord was with Joseph although they did not know the Lord.

You see, the world does not see the Holy Spirit, but the world sees us and that is the problem. What has the world seen of the church in living memory? An institution that upholds rules of morality with words only, yet cannot do what it is supposed to do. The world, like the crowd at the bottom of the Mount of Transfiguration, only sees a bunch of men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus arguing with them when they fail to do what they are supposed to do. It does not see a group of men and women doing what they are supposed to do exceedingly well, without any need of self recognition. As such, the world does not see the Spirit of Grace[13] and of Counsel, Power, Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom, Fear of the Lord,[14] Truth,[15] Life,[16] Revelation,[17] Holiness[18] and of Glory[19] in us, and if the world does not see that in us, they will not see the Holy Spirit and will not come to know Him.

Men and kings saw Abraham, and when Melchizedek blessed Abraham, he said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”[20] Yes, Melchizedek the priest of God saw that God was with Abraham, but the king of Sodom did not, for he said, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”[21] In Abraham’s success from God, Sodom did not see God with Abraham. In Joseph’s exile and imprisonment, Potiphar and the jailer saw that the Lord was with Joseph and was giving him the success. Now, this is the lesson of Abraham and Joseph, in success the priest of God can see that God has blessed you, yet Sodom can’t, but in failure, even the world can see the Lord is with you if you will continue to do all things exceedingly well regardless of the situation.

Jesus has prayed: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me.”[22] And likewise, we can say, “to let the world know You sent the Holy Spirit,” but the world cannot and will not see unless we learn to have not just the faith of Abraham, but the grace of Joseph. Through Joseph, God raised up Pharaoh’s descendants so that the people of Israel could be oppressed and enslaved so that Israel could be birthed.

The grace, the perfecting grace of the overcomer is one that continues to do exceedingly well in all circumstances, not just in success or good times, even if it means raising up the very instruments that will persecute the people of God. It is the humble graciousness of Joseph that allowed Potiphar to see that the Lord was with him. If the world is to know the Lord is with us, then the graciousness of Joseph is our example in trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword,[23] even when it is our own brothers who have sold us into slavery.

As much as the glory of the Lord has been given to us and we have used it by prayer and by faith to change us, making us one as God is One, it has not happened yet, for the world does not yet know through us that the Lord has been sent by God and that He loves us as He loves Jesus. The reason is that we have only learned the faith of Abraham but have not yet learned the grace of Joseph. We have not yet fully seen our Lord full of grace and truth, in the fullness of grace, saving grace, refining grace, and perfecting grace. Without the fullness of grace, the truth of Jesus cannot be revealed.

So, Joseph the overcomer who overcame his times with amazing grace, is truly one we should acknowledge and aspire to even as we seek the greater, yes, the greater, degree of overcoming our times with even more amazing grace because we have Jesus Christ our Lord and our Righteousness.

Be gracious therefore to one another and be humble, or as Paul wrote: Be completely (perfectly) humble and gentle,[24] for the Lord said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”[25]

Consider Joseph, whose yoke was Egypt,

Consider Jesus, whose yoke was the cross—

Consider what greater thing you can do.


 

[1] Genesis 15:13

[2] Genesis 12:2

[3] Genesis 15:1

[4] Genesis 13:15

[5] Genesis 20:2-7

[6] Genesis 39:2-3

[7] Judges 15:14

[8] 1 Samuel 10:10

[9] 1 Kings 18:46

[10] Psalm 73:3-6, 8-9, 12

[11] Genesis 41:34

[12] John 14:17

[13] Hebrews 10:29

[14] Isaiah 11:2

[15] John 14:17

[16] Romans 8:2

[17] Ephesians 1:17

[18] Romans 1:4

[19] 1 Peter 4:14

[20] Genesis 14:19-20

[21] Genesis 14:21

[22] John 17:23

[23] Romans 8:35

[24] Ephesians 4:2

[25] Matthew 11:29

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