The life of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 37-50) is a classic example of the mysterious providence of God at work to shape a person’s life.
I. JOSEPH’S PRIDE
God had a purpose for Joseph’s life, a purpose he partially revealed to him in his youth through dreams. God showed Joseph that he would be given a position of prominence above his family.
Because of this destiny, it would not be good for Joseph to have such a destructive characteristic as pride, since in his position of prominence he must act for the benefit of others rather than for his own personal esteem, profit, or revenge.
Yet pride seemed to be characteristic of Joseph in his youth. Joseph’s father loved him more than any of his other eleven sons, which made Joseph’s brothers extremely jealous. Knowing this, Joseph could have decided not to tell them about the dream he had which exalted him over them. But he did tell them, and they hated him even more.
Joseph did not stop there. After a second similar dream, he told it to his father as well as his brothers, stirring up more ill feelings.
Joseph could have kept his mouth closed, but instead his pride found a way of expressing itself.
In Proverbs 27:2 we read, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” Our pride causes us to try to gain honor from other people. But in God’s plan, he gives us honor as a result of our humility. “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).
II. JOSEPH’S FAITHFULNESS
On the other hand, another strong characteristic of Joseph’s youth was faithfulness. He was faithful to carry out his father’s wishes (Genesis 37:12-17). He could be counted on to do a task properly.
God is looking for men and women who are faithful to him in the little things, so he can give them the more important work of helping his people. The quality of faithfulness is essential.
III. GOD AT WORK
To replace Joseph’s pride with humility, and at the same time to strengthen his faithfulness, God tested Joseph.
First his jealous brothers sold him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt Then in Egypt he was falsely accused and sent to prison as a criminal.
Once Joseph had gone through this testing he was ready for the position of prominence which God had planned for him to have. We read this about Joseph in Psalm 105:18-19:
They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.
Joseph later was released from prison and became administrator of all Egypt second only to Pharaoh. He was therefore able to save his family from starvation in a terrible famine. Again in Psalm 105, we read this in verses 16-17 about God’s plan:
He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave.
Joseph had matured. When his brothers arrived in Egypt for help, Joseph’s thoughts were not on revenge. Even though they had sold him into slavery, Joseph knew that God’s sovereign hand was on his life. “You intended to harm me,” he told them, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
IV. TRUST GOD
Even though, like Joseph, we don’t know what the future holds for us, we do know that God holds the future. Because of this truth we can confidently place our lives in his hands.
The circumstances of our lives can sometimes be unpleasant from a human point of view, but we can be sure God is working out his purpose for our good, and we can trustingly place ourselves in his hands.