Joseph—The Faithful Young Man
Eli Tenorio da Silva
In his father’s home
The story of Joseph is one of the most dramatic and adventurous narratives we find in the Bible. His family was, in many ways, a dysfunctional one. He was greatly loved by his mother Rachel, and his father Jacob, but he was envied and hated by his brothers.
The sin of Jacob had been forgiven. The craft, treachery, falsehood, and other baser elements of his character had been consumed in the furnace of life until the faith of his father and grandfather showed forth in Jacob’s life. Nevertheless, the consequences of his sin and the evil of polygamy accompanied his household and brought forth bitter fruits. His wives were full of jealousy; his sons were contentious, impatient, and lacked self-control. These consequences saddened Jacob and brought him grief and anxiety.
Then Joseph was born. He arrived as a balm to comfort the heart of the elderly patriarch, a gift from heaven to comfort and motivate him. He was different from his brothers; his “rare personal beauty seemed but to reflect an inward beauty of mind and heart. . . . The qualities that afterward distinguished him in Egypt—gentleness, fidelity, and truthfulness—were already manifest in his daily life.”1
Joseph was faithful, kind, and considerate in his father’s home, and this faithfulness prepared him for a greater task.
Joseph’s brothers had been absent from home for months. In order to have sufficient pasturage for their flocks, they had commuted to a faraway place. Jacob missed his sons and sent Joseph to find them and bring him news regarding their welfare.
Joseph joyfully obeyed his father and parted from his home.
Through dreams God had revealed to Joseph that he would be a successful and prosperous man. His future was to be brilliant. But God did not show Joseph what was between his present and his future.
After traveling over 65 miles, Joseph finally caught up with his brothers. He was happy and rejoicing for this opportunity to see them and spend time with them. Despite the unkindness of his brothers, Joseph still loved them.
The kindness and love of Joseph for his brothers was rewarded with hatred. He was terrified by their revengeful glances, anger, taunts, and threats that revealed their deadly intentions. At times, the light shining from a righteous life disturbs those who are not converted.
Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him. They seized him and stripped his coat from him, and then rudely threw him into a deep pit. While they sat down to eat the food he had brought for them, Joseph languished in the pit where he had been left to perish from hunger.
But through God’s providence he was spared: “Soon a company of travelers was seen approaching. It was a caravan of Ishmaelites from beyond Jordan, on their way to Egypt with spices and other merchandise. Judah now proposed to sell their brother to these heathen traders instead of leaving him to die. . . . To this proposition all agreed, and Joseph was quickly drawn out of the pit.
‘‘As he saw the merchants the dreadful truth flashed upon him. To become a slave was a fate more to be feared than death. In an agony of terror he appealed to one and another of his brothers, but in vain.”2
It always hurts to be despised, misunderstood, and mistreated, but it hurts even more when you are despised and mistreated by those you love!
It was a long journey to Egypt. Alone, far from home and from those whom he loved and who loved him, Joseph must have wondered, “Where was the promise given me by God in my dreams? Has God changed His mind?” During the trip, they passed near Canaan, and from a distance he could see the hills where his father lived. Thoughts of terror and despair took over. Would he ever see his father again? He felt unprepared to face the bitter life of slavery.
“Then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. In his childhood he had been taught to love and fear Him. Often in his father’s tent he had listened to the story of the vision that Jacob saw as he fled from his home an exile and a fugitive. He had been told of the Lord’s promises to Jacob, and how they had been fulfilled—how, in the hour of need, the angels of God had come to instruct, comfort, and protected him. And he had learned of the love of God in providing for men a Redeemer. Now all these precious lessons came vividly before him. Joseph believed that the God of his fathers would be his God. He then and there gave himself fully to the Lord, and he prayed that the Keeper of Israel would be with him in the land of his exile.”3
In life, the unexpected often occurs, and the unexpected is often unexplainable by reason and is incomprehensible to the human mind. When the unexplainable happens, we can either give ourselves fully to God, or rebel against Him. The choice is ours.
I once worked with an elderly minister who told me the story of an eight-year-old boy who would often work with his father on the railroad. The child loved his father and had learned to obey him joyously and without hesitation. One day, as the boy and his father were working on the railroad tracks, they became absorbed in their work and did not notice a train quickly advancing. Often, those on the tracks are the last to hear the train until it is already upon them, due to the noise dispersing to the sides. So it was with this father and his son. By the time the father turned around and saw the train, it was quickly approaching his son. There would be no time for the father to reach him. Instead, he shouted, “Lay flat on the ground and be still!” Without turning around or pausing to understand, the boy immediately obeyed and the train passed on the tracks above him, leaving him unscathed. He was saved by trusting and obeying, even without understanding.
In the case of Joseph, he was not yet aware of why such a trial would befall him, but somehow he needed to go through the school of affliction in order to be prepared for greater usefulness, to fulfill the plan of God for his life.
Joseph was human, after all. He had the same tendencies towards sin as you and I have today. He had faults that needed to be corrected. At home he had been surrounded by his father’s care, and he was becoming accustomed to being served instead of serving others. He needed to learn not to trust in the arm of flesh, but by faith to be able to see and hold onto the hands of the Invisible. Joseph was learning that the cross comes first, and then comes the crown.
Upon his arrival in Egypt, Joseph was sold as a slave. For ten years he served the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, Potiphar.
During the ten years Joseph served Potiphar, all that he would placed under Joseph’s care prospered, and thus Potiphar understood that God was with Joseph.
Joseph became a successful man, and the Bible gives the secret of his success: “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” ().
Joseph worked for his success, and God blessed his efforts. Long gone were the spoiled traits of entitlement. He did not expect to prosper as a result of a direct miracle. He knew that success could not be attained without direct effort, and he faithfully worked with all his heart and strength to glorify God and bless others. Once prosperity followed his efforts, he attributed his success to God.
There is a story of a young man who was looking for a job at a farm. During his interview with a farmer, the farmer asked him what his abilities were, to which the young man replied: “I can sleep during a stormy night.” The farmer did not understand and asked him again: “What are your abilities?” The answer was the same: “I can sleep during a stormy night.”
Lacking any other options, the farmer apprehensively hired the young man. His qualms were quieted once the young man started working, and the farmer noticed that he was an honest and hard worker. He began to grow fond of the lad and was already forgetting about his “nonsensical answer.” One night the farmer and his wife woke up in the middle of the night by the winds of an approaching storm.
The farmer ran to the lad’s room to wake him up in order to prepare the farm for the storm. He knocked on the door repeatedly, but the young man did not wake up. The farmer left in exasperation, planning to fire the young man in the morning. “Of what use is a farm hand if, when I need him the most, he doesn’t wake up to help me?” he thought. When the farmer went to cover the tractor, he found the tractor already covered. When he went to bring the livestock into their stalls, he found the animals already peacefully in place. Everything he thought to do to be ready for the storm, he found it already done. Then he remembered and understood the answer of the young man: “I can sleep during a stormy night.”
Joseph was this kind of person; he fulfilled his duties faithfully and was able to rest in peace. Though surrounded by all kinds of temptation, he was not influenced by the ostentation of the world or distracted from his duty to be faithful to God.
This behavior led Potiphar to treat Joseph as a son, rather than as a slave. He was now networking with the most prominent people of the nation. He was surrounded by the idolatry, pomp, wealth, and culture of the most highly civilized nation then in existence. Yet he was not ashamed of his religion. He made clear in all his accomplishments that he was a servant of God.
Inspiration mentions that Joseph was a handsome young man. His looks eventually attracted the attention of his master’s wife, and she invited him to transgress God’s law. He knew that consequences would follow, whether he rejected or accepted her invitation. If he accepted, she would protect him and make his position in the household sure. If he rejected, she would make his life miserable. “Heretofore he had remained untainted by the corruption teeming in that heathen land; but this temptation, so sudden, so strong, so seductive—how should it be met?”4
It is comforting to know that the angels understand anxiety and sympathize with us in our anxieties, for as this scene in history unfolded, Inspiration claims the angels watched with eager interest: “With inexpressible anxiety, angels looked upon the scene.”5
“His whole future life depended upon the decision of the moment. Would principle triumph? Would Joseph still be true to God?”6
When faced with this, the toughest of temptations, Joseph did not opt for convenience but stood firm with the resolve he had made years ago when he was first taken from home. He would stand for his beliefs and for the God he served. His answer to his master’s wife was: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” ().
While his life’s circumstances had shaped him, Joseph also had to make the active choice to remain faithful. Shunning temptation was not easy, not even for our Bible hero. Yet, through the same power offered to us today, Joseph was capable of refusing evil.
God is willing to prepare each of us to stand firm for Him, yet when the time comes, we must make the choice and act upon it ourselves despite temporal consequences.
Joseph rejected the invitation to sin against his Maker, and what followed was the enmity of the woman that was so attracted by his exterior appearance, but who could neither see nor appreciate his inward beauty.
As a result of his faithfulness, Joseph was put into prison where his jailers treated him with great severity. But the Lord was with Joseph, and his real character shone out, even in the darkness of the dungeon.
Joseph continued being faithful in his humble work as a prisoner, and God continued operating in his life.
Through God’s providence, Joseph came into the presence of Pharaoh, who saw in Joseph the only one who could save Egypt from the imminent drought and famine. Joseph became the governor of Egypt and a saviour, not only for Egypt, but also to the neighboring people who otherwise would have perished by the drought that chastised the region.
As governor of Egypt, Joseph was second only to Pharaoh, yet he continued being kind, honest, and faithful in everything to God first and then to Pharaoh.
With all the power given him, Joseph could easily have avenged himself of his brothers, as well as of Potiphar’s wicked wife. But he did not, because he still loved those who did not love him. Instead of punishing his brothers, he showed compassion, provided for, welcomed, and defended them.
The importance of small things:
Joseph was faithful in the small duties and in his attitude towards those surrounding him. He walked knowing he was walking in the presence of God. His faithfulness in small things prepared him for success; he gained the favor of God and of men.
“Life is chiefly made up, not of great sacrifices and wonderful achievements, but of little things. It is oftenest through the little things which seem so unworthy of notice that great good or evil is brought into our lives. . . . Only by acting upon principle in the tests of daily life can we acquire power to stand firm and faithful in the most dangerous and most difficult positions.”7
In His divine wisdom, God did not show Joseph the trials he would face, and made him wait many years to see His promises of glorious days fulfilled.
“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (8). “Patience as well as courage has its victories. By meekness under trial, no less than by boldness in enterprise, souls may be won to Christ. The Christian who manifests patience and cheerfulness under bereavement and suffering, who meets even death itself with the peace and calmness of an unwavering faith, may accomplish for the gospel more than he could have effected by a long life of faithful labor.”
In order to be faithful to the God he loved, Joseph denied himself the opportunity of having the favor and passion of Potiphar’s wife, when, as far as he could see, his faithfulness would only cause him persecution and suffering.
“We should choose the right because it is right, and leave consequences with God.”9
“It is only those who are partakers with Christ in His self-denial and sacrifice that will be partakers with Him in His glory.”10
Self -denial is to not do the wrong your inclination would lead you to do. It is to resist the temptation to retaliate with words or actions; to restrain yourself from criticizing others; to be patient with those whose conduct is annoying and trying; to do the hard work that no one else wants to do, not for applause or for obligation’s sake, but because God wants you to do it with unwavering fidelity. Self-denial is to serve others when flesh is striving with you to serve yourself.
Joseph was a figure of Christ. He loved those that did not deserve to be loved, those that despised and rejected him. It was love that enabled him to forgive and save those that mistreated him.
Joseph experienced the love of Jesus, and thus he became a fountain of life, a sharer of Jesus’ love.
When we understand that we are loved and forgiven by God, then and only then, will we be able to love and forgive.
God can work with our limitations; He can fix our mistakes.
Despite his shortcomings, Joseph was victorious. This faithful young man put himself in the hands of God, and resolved to let God guide his life.
Are you sometimes unsure about all God’s plans for you? It is not necessary, and not even possible to understand all His plans because His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours.
But there is something that is up to you: to resolve to be faithful to Him, despite the circumstances, and to always trust and believe that He can forgive you and fix even your greatest mistakes.
Everything that Joseph did in terms of rejecting temptation was a combined effort between him and God. He had been trained to rely on God through his circumstances, yet he also personally chose to say no to temptation. It is not something only he could do. God is preparing each of us to stand firm for Him, yet we must do the action. We must make the choice and act upon it. It was not easy for Joseph. It will not be easy for us. When it is nicely packaged in story form, it seems so simple, but it was not.
In Egypt when the young people were “enjoying” sensuality and all kinds of worldly pleasures, he had to choose where he would stand. He chose to be different. His speech was different, his behavior, his food, his dress, and the day on which he worshiped, were all different. And even though people did not always appreciate these differences, he was not ashamed of it; Christ was shining to them through his life.
Are you different as Joseph was different? Is Jesus shining through you? Are you living a faithful, victorious life?
We need power to live even as Christ lived. He promised: “ye shall receive power”. We need Jesus to win the war over sin, to break through the solid walls of selfishness and indifference, to reach and change human hearts.
May Jesus be a reality in my life and in your life as He was in Joseph’s life. He is coming soon to take us home. It’s time to shine!