a story of many colors

For a long while I’ve really liked the story of Joseph in Genesis. I think it might even be among my favorite stories in the Bible for it is such a model of God’s work in the lives of those he calls.

Joseph had dreams when he was young. Big dreams. Powerful dreams. He was well loved by his father, favored even. Young Joseph liked to tell people his dreams. We’re not told why, but there’s the flavor of pride in that. I get the feeling he saw his dreams as being from God and so shared them so that people would give him the respect he felt he deserved. He saw his gifts from God, maybe, as just another coat of many colors, displaying to the world his qualities.

Not everyone appreciated that. His brothers got fed up and decided to get rid of him. They bound him, threw him into a pit, and sold him to a passing caravan. Not only did they take his coat, they seemingly took his dreams. His dreams were not the dreams of a slave but of a master. Now Joseph was the one forced to bow down to all around him. He lost everything. All was taken and stolen.

Years passed. Joseph was a smart guy and talented still. He was a hard worker. And somehow, in the midst of all of this, he didn’t let go of God. Which means he was not only smart but wise. Maybe he realized his past mistakes of pride and arrogance. Maybe he realized there was something God was going to do still. Although still a slave he became a success.

He was a leader, and a trusted aide. Once again he started getting a lot of attention. First from Potiphar. Then from Potiphar’s wife.

Once again the favor Joseph was shown became a temptation. Embrace the favor, the temptation said. To do so would have been to forsake God’s favor, however, for human favor. Showing he was no longer the boy who sought human praise, Joseph fled the temptation.

Potiphar’s wife was not a good woman, and she felt scorned. She lied about Joseph. Potiphar believed her. The sin of Potiphar’s wife was placed on Joseph’s head. And Joseph was thrown into prison.

If we stop there it’s easy to think he should have just done the deed. Potiphar would likely have never known, and Joseph would have found even more favor and privilege. At lest more than what he found in a dark dungeon.

Once again Joseph lost favor. The favor of people. But this time he kept the favor of God. And God remembers those who choose him above all.

God gave Joseph dreams while in prison. Not his own dreams this time. He gave him the ability to see and explain the dreams of others. Though a gift, this was also a disappointment as it seemingly meant nothing. The baker died as was predicted. The cup-bearer forgot, contrary to what was promised. At least for a while. When the time was ripe he remembered Joseph and his gifts. He told Pharaoh, who was in need of someone who could know dreams. Pharaoh called Joseph out of the dungeon. Because Joseph had chosen God the moment came and God worked in the moment.

Joseph was raised up to become the second in charge of all of Egypt. About fifteen years of slavery, with years of that spent in a dungeon. The pride was removed. Joseph was given power after being beaten and broken. He no longer used his gifts for his own honor, to make him seem god-like. Instead he became a servant, and as a servant was raised up. The model of Jesus we read about in Philippians 2.

We’re told how he responded to his desperate brothers when they came for food. He wasn’t sure if he could trust them, even though he forgave them. Eventually they were reconciled and the family of Jacob saved. Joseph’s youthful dreams came true, though it took a recreated of Joseph along the way for that to happen.

We’re not told about others in the story. I imagine the cup-bearer was a friend of Joseph’s. The forgotten made up for in a moment by the remembering. Probably not the same for Potiphar. I wonder if he found out the real story. Potiphar’s wife likely ended up in shame. She was wrong to press, Joseph was right to run, and God works out right for those who do what is right. Though sometimes it takes a bit of time to see this fulfilled.

I like Joseph’s story because the images of power are mixed up and confused. From a human perspective we see power in young Joseph, in the brothers, in Jacob, in Potiphar’s wife. In God’s perspective we see those who thought they had power actually having nothing. Instead, it was Joseph in prison who had the most power. And that power saved a kingdom.

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