This week’s Torah portion is one of the most beautiful stories of reconciliation, healing, and true forgiveness in all of Holy Writ. It is not only the climax of the epic journey of one of the most-loved bible characters of all time, but it is the exact template, a perfect blueprinted foreshadowing, of the life and character of our Messiah, Yeshua. If you could choose only one bible story to read, this historical account of Joseph could very well be nominated as the one to choose. It encompasses every emotion and every human experience: jealousy, anger, grief, supposed death, resurrection, joy, lust, rags, riches, and betrayal. It runs the gamut from the humiliation of prison to the glory of the right hand of Pharaoh, from fear one minute to tears of joy the next. And this Cinderella story also has a gloriously climactic end. It’s a story about Joseph. It’s a story about Christ. It’s a story about you. So let’s dig in.
Joseph has been out of prison for nine years now and has managed the entire kingdom of Egypt in preparing for the worst famine in its history. Everything he touches prospers, and Yahweh, the God of Israel, is blessing all he puts his hand to. Joseph’s name has also been changed to the Egyptian name Zaphnath-Paaneah: “God Speaks and Lives.” Even in a land full of paganism, the true God continues to speak and live through him.
The story picks up in Genesis 44:18 with Judah begging Joseph, the viceroy of all Egypt, their hidden brother, to take him instead of Benjamin, whom Joseph required to stay behind while the rest of them went back to Canaan to retrieve their father Jacob. Judah knew that his father would not survive the fact that the only son he had left from his beloved Rachel was left in Egypt with an unknown future. With all his brothers watching in high anxiety and with tears in their eyes and fear in their hearts, Joseph could not contain himself any longer. “‘Make everyone go out from me!’” Joseph cried to all the servants in the room, leaving only him and his brothers (Gen. 45:1). He wept bitterly and removed his headdress to reveal his true identity. “‘I am Joseph. Does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence” (Gen. 45:3). They were in utter shock. Their long dead brother, whom they last saw at the bottom of a well, was now standing before them as governor of all Egypt. Some stood in disbelief. Others in fear for their lives that he might use his power to retaliate. Others wept and still others covered their mouths as they probably dropped to their knees to show honor. Emotions were at their pinnacle, a tangible, overwhelming waterfall overflowing the dam of their hearts. No one moved, paralyzed by what was happening and what was about to happen. Fear mixed with every other emotion gripped them as they waited for his next words as they would certainly disclose their futures.
In Genesis 45:4, Joseph tells his brothers, “‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.’” At this point, his brothers are no doubt feeling a sense of shame and certain doom. But Joseph continues, “‘But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. For God sent me before you to preserve life’” (Gen. 45:5). I can only imagine what the brothers were thinking at this moment as they began to realize that Joseph wasn’t going to kill them for all they’d done to him. Instead, Joseph tells them that it was not them that sent him to Egypt, but God Himself? And this is where we are going to camp out for the remainder of this article.
QUESTION: Have you ever had anything traumatic happen to you and all you could do was ask God “Why?” You begged and pleaded for Him to “fix” the situation, to make it all better, only to find out later that He knew exactly what He was doing all along?
We humans are creatures who do not really see in color. We see in black and white. We see guilt or innocence. We see right or wrong. In doing so we miss the fantastic and colorful Land of Oz, so to speak. Some of us are so focused on the Wicked Witch of the West, the mean flying monkeys, and all the pitfalls along the yellow brick road that we don't see that we really are moving down the road in the process, coming closer and closer to the One behind the curtain, the heavenly High Priest that sees all, knows all, and is directing every step we take.
Look deep into what's really happening to Joseph here and you'll see why he was really sent to prison. The story is usually told with Joseph as the good guy, fully innocent as he cries from the bottom of a well and ends up in prison. But the truth is that God had a call on Joseph's life and just like Job, in order to truly be used at his highest potential, the Most High had to remove his pride and bring him to the lowest part of life so he could not only be trained but also, and most importantly, be trusted with the position he was born to fulfill.
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son and he knew it. He was born to lead but he did not have the wisdom to do so. His arrogance preceded him when he told his dreams to his family. His pride in choosing to wear his multi-colored tunic in the fields with his brothers when he knew they hated it provoked them each and every day. His lack of propriety and respect was ultimately what landed him in prison. He may have been innocent, but if he would not have ever provoked his brothers, he would never have been falsely accused. Joseph unknowingly gave the enemy the rope with which he hung him. So where we see it as black and white, God sees it a bit more “multi-colored.” Joseph needed to be trained for his new calling so God used his weaknesses to get him into shape.
I feel this story to the core in my own life. Although I am no Joseph, I can certainly attest to how he might have felt as I am sitting here writing this from within prison walls myself. Joseph was accused of intentionally defrauding Potiphar's wife. Joseph would never have done anything to purposely hurt or defraud anyone of anything. But that doesn't mean the case is black and white and he is innocent. If Yahweh allowed it, that means that there was something there within him that Satan used to win his lawsuit against him. Joseph's pride and lack of wisdom caused him to end up being sold as a slave to Potiphar's's house. If he hadn't placed himself in a risky position to begin with the charges would never have been laid against him in the first place. I can certainly relate to how he feels.
Paul made the same mistake in Acts when he was warned by the prophet Agabus not to go to Jerusalem. But in his zeal, he disobeyed the voice of the Spirit and went to Jerusalem anyway. Then he was falsely accused of preaching against the law and was arrested, beaten, and put into prison, fulfilling what the prophet had said would happen. Paul was not put into prison because of his faith. From God's point of view, he was put into prison because he was disobedient to the clear voice of the Spirit. He should never have been there to begin with.
How often do we find ourselves being accused of something we know is not true but we feel the consequences as if it was? Whether we feel it in our hearts and minds or in the physical realm of a dungeon, it hurts just the same. But how often do we sit and ponder that perhaps there might be something we did that allowed Satan to sift us the way he is? The accusations might be untrue, but it is chastisement nonetheless. And fair or unfair, Yahweh is using it to buffet us into the shape we need to be in. We are so quick to cry “Foul!” that we forget that many times there is something we did to initiate the enemy’s lawsuit that brought about the attack to begin with.
In my own life, I have realized that because I am a teacher I will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). There is simply no room for error. HaSatan will sue me for the smallest thing and blow it up to something far beyond reality, even into the realm of absurd. He is a master at taking our words and actions and manipulating them since his only desire is to discredit teachers of the Word as fast as he can. Eliminating the competition as fast as possible is his only goal...and unfortunately his number one agents are never the atheists or God-haters, they’re those who claim to be our brothers. He always finds willing participants to do his bidding within the people of God. And that is exactly what happened with Joseph.
QUESTION: Have you ever had a time where you fell into persecution, were in a trial or tribulation that you felt was undeserved, or were falsely accused?
If so, you need to understand how you got there to begin with in order to end up with the blessings of Joseph. It is important to know that every trial, regardless of how fair it might be, can be used by the Father to elevate and promote you if handled properly. If we absorb this fact, then all trials will be looked at as possibilities for promotion and tremendous spiritual growth. Consider what I call the Joseph formula:
The Joseph Formula
Joseph desired to please his father Jacob, and, by extension, his heavenly Father. Jacob responded to his heart to please him by favoring him and giving him a coat of many colors that carried a calling and responsibility. But because Joseph received the coat unto himself he came to misunderstand its real purpose. This caused his heavenly Father to take him on a journey that would both train him on the real purpose of the coat as well as equip him to use it at its full potential.
The purpose of Joseph's journey was to empty Joseph of Joseph. It was to pour out all dependence on himself and create an utter dependence on the Most High. The more of Joseph that could be poured out the more of the Father could be poured in. The well, the prison, the pain, the humiliation, the false accusations, the despair, the betrayal...all of it was the instrument Yahweh used to get Joseph to the point where he would understand that it was not about him, but about the coat that was placed on him and what it represented, namely, the people.
The trial's purpose was to create dependence. The purpose of that dependence is so that we will trust Him. The purpose of trusting Him is to create faith. The purpose of faith is to be a greater servant for His people. The purpose of serving His people is to bring them closer to Him so He can bless them. It's all about pleasing Him. The second we “do” for a blessing we have fallen into the realm of receiving and receiving is a form of dependence on the things we do. This departure from the state of true holiness will cause the Creator to begin the process of sending us a trial for the purpose of turning us back to Him causing us to become more dependent on Him. When we are in a mode of receiving for ourselves, unconsciously or consciously, Yahweh will respond with correction so that He can realign us with His will. When we are receiving for the purpose of bestowing His blessings on others, He brings His favor and elevates us to a larger position of influence in His kingdom.
This is what happened to Joseph. Yahweh needed to get Joseph to depend on Him for everything. He had passed the test at Potiphar’s house and had reached his full potential in that arena. But because he had not reached his full lifelong potential, the Father allowed him to repeat the process of chastisement for the purpose of bringing him to a deeper understanding of His presence and a more tangible sense of utter dependence. Once Joseph was trained for his next mission – his final mission – he was released. But first he had to learn dependence, trust, and faith in order to fulfill his ultimate goal: to serve the people the bread of life.
Do you want to reach your full potential? Then meditate and memorize the formula that elevated Joseph to that place of fulfilling his full potential. Ask the Father to create in you a disposition of receiving for the purpose of serving others. Look at your situations as opportunities for promotion and become fully dependent on Him.