“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Genesis 39:9

Joseph was favoured by his father and that provoked jealousy in his brothers such that they would have killed him but for Rueben’s restraint. Nine of Joseph’s brothers wanted him dead but, when Rueben was absent, they sold Joseph to Ishmaelite slave traders. Joseph was seventeen years old. He became a slave in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. His statement quoted above shows that he was not angry or bitter with God. It reveals that he did everything as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). His resistance to temptation (v 8) would be severely tested as Potiphar’s wife came again and again (v 10). Nagging is Satan’s way to test and weaken our resolve to serve the Lord. The Holy Spirit does not nag.

Eventually Joseph had to flee (v 12) and was then falsely accused (v 14) and cast into prison (v 20). Even there he did not get angry or bitter with God but continued to glorify Him (1 Corinthians 10:31). At no time did the Lord leave Joseph. He continued to favour him as a slave and as a prisoner.

Where we are physically in this world is of little importance. What is important is where we are in our relationship with God. Oswald Chambers writes:

“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God.”

“When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical.”

Oswald Chambers

Joseph is an example of one who maintained his relationship with the Lord regardless of his physical circumstances or place. Paul understood this when he wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Fear and anxiety reveal that we are not content to serve the Lord where He has placed us. This may be especially so if we are where we are because of the unjust actions of others. We may admire Joseph but have no inclination to serve the Lord as he did. But what is God after? Jesus answers that in John 17:21, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

To Save Alive

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people  alive” Genesis 50:20

What a difference it would make if all Christians had this attitude toward people who acted in an evil way toward them! Most of Joseph’s brothers had wanted to kill him but they ended up selling him into slavery. By God’s grace, as a slave, Joseph rose to the highest position he could in Potiphar’s house before being falsely accused and placed in prison indefinitely. Again, by God’s grace he rose to the highest position in the prison and then in Egypt under Pharaoh.

There is no doubt his brothers did mean evil against him and they were held to account but Joseph was not looking at their deed. He was looking at God’s sovereign and providential hand over the events in his life that brought him to this place. The outcome was that he did not judge his brothers. When the brothers sought forgiveness they discovered that it had already been given long before they asked.

Joseph had previously expressed to his brothers that he held no grudge (45:5) but with the death of their father, Jacob, the brothers thought that Joseph might now seek revenge. Joseph’s eyes were not on them or on their evil deed. His eyes were on the Lord who had placed him, through both the evil and the good situations, so that he could save those who had conducted this evil against him. Joseph, in hindsight, recognised God’s plan and purpose even though there was evil intent on the part of his brothers.

Undoubtedly we have all suffered at the hands of someone who wittingly or unwittingly perpetrated some evil against us. In the light of Joseph’s testimony to us how might we respond? Will we seek revenge?

How we respond will depend on where our eyes are focussed. If we are looking at those who hurt us then we will seek an opportunity for revenge. If our eyes are on the Lord we will see His sovereign and providential hand working good for His people even though events may have been with evil intent.

Joseph could have enslaved his brothers or he could have refused to help them during the famine. Because he saw the Lord’s hand working through their evil deed and he was surrendered to the Lord, all his family, including those who acted in an evil manner toward him, were saved. In God’s grace there was a further earthly reward for Joseph; he was able to cuddle his great-grandchildren before he went to his heavenly reward (50:23).

These words of Joseph have their parallel in Christ’s words when He was on the cross. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The apostle Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Free From Guilt

“You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” Genesis 50:20

The pangs of guilt will hang on indefinitely unless dealt with in the God-given way. Like a whale must surface to breathe they keep on re-surfacing at unexpected times throughout our lives until “killed.”

When Joseph’s brothers travelled to Egypt twenty years after they had sold him to slave traders they were still sensitive to the guilt of their sin. When Joseph (whom they did not recognise) questioned their honesty and accused them of being spies they immediately remembered their guilt for selling Joseph (Genesis 42:21). The memory and guilt were still as fresh as the day it happened. Worse, they believed that it had meant the death of Joseph (v 22) and that it was God who was punishing them for their sinful act (v 28).

It would appear that Joseph’s intent was to bring his brothers to the place of repentance from which they would seek forgiveness from God and himself. Joseph knew that this was the only way his brothers could be released from the pain of guilt. Though they had hurt him deeply he still sought their freedom from that guilt. This is evidence of a man after God’s own heart. A sinful man would seek revenge on those who had done him harm.

Joseph knew that God would forgive them if only they would humble themselves and ask. He also knew that he had already forgiven his brothers and had seen God’s hand in all that had happened (45:5-8; 50:20).

We will try all sorts of ways to get rid of guilt except repenting of it and asking God’s forgiveness and all we succeed in doing is suppressing it until it surfaces again. When it emerges again it is all the stronger having been nourished by our pride and stubbornness. In old age it will manifest itself in bitterness, anger, selfishness and intolerance, to name a few manifestations, unless it is done away with through confession and forgiveness.

There is only one way to be rid of guilt and it is not by suppressing it. It is by coming to and seeking forgiveness from the One against whom we have sinned. Jesus dealt with our sin on Calvary’s cross where He died for the sin of the whole world. Therefore God is justified in forgiving our sin when we come in repentance and ask.

“If we confess our sins, He faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This requires naming the specific sin, agreeing that it is sin and believing that Jesus Christ bore that sin on the cross. When we accept that forgiveness as a gift from God through Jesus Christ we will experience the joy that comes with being free from guilt.

The commencement of a new year is often a time when people reflect. If you find guilt resurfacing as you reflect do not suppress or ignore it. Seek forgiveness firstly from God for He will surely give it for Jesus’ sake. If you have sinned against or wronged another person do all you can to restore that relationship. Time does not heal guilt. Only God’s forgiveness removes guilt and He is able to do so because Jesus died for our sins.

Giving God the Glory

“… the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” (Genesis 41:32)

Joseph was a man of just thirty years and yet he had experienced being sold into slavery by his brothers, he had risen to the highest position in Potiphar’s house, had been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned for as much as three or four years. Most people would blame God for allowing these circumstances – and then abandon Him. However, Joseph had a mindset similar to Job who also suffered extreme adversity. Job’s response from the heart was, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

God had a plan for Israel and his sons that would establish the nation Israel. Joseph demonstrated that he was God’s man as he served Potiphar and as he served the keeper of the prison while a prisoner. This is revealed prominently in Genesis 41. At every opportunity Joseph gave God the glory. This is revealed in his statements; “It is not in me, God will give …; God has shown …” and also in the verse at the head of this article.

Joseph did not say these things publicly hoping for the admiration of others for his humility. He neither secretly nor publicly allowed himself to receive the praise of men. That matter had been resolved earlier in his life and he knew that God had a plan for his life and would fulfil it. This is true humility.

Some may refuse praise publicly and with their lips give glory to God but in the secret recesses of their hearts they accept the praise and glory as to themselves. God cannot use such a person in a public position. He will not share His glory with the creation for it does not belong there. Joseph knew that it was the Lord who had directed his path and from his heart he praised and worshipped God giving Him all the glory. He did not secretly receive the praise of men and allow himself to be puffed up in satisfaction.

No wonder he was a man whom God could trust in the place of power and influence. He had shown himself faithful in the secret recesses of his heart and out of sight of men so God would now trust him openly for all to see. Joseph was unaffected by the high position in Egypt as can be seen in the naming of his two sons. “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: ‘For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.’ And the name of the second he called Ephraim: ‘For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51, 52). He always, both in the secret places in his heart and publicly, gave God all the glory.

A carnal man will secretly seek, foster and receive the praise of men while at the same time professing to give God the glory. Indeed, even in the public profession of giving glory to God he is seeking the praise of men. Our own hearts deceive us and we gladly accept the deception because we love the praise of men. We cannot change this deceitful heart. It must be put to death.

Only God can give us a new heart and He does so as a gift in Jesus Christ. Any attempt to change our own hearts will result in self deception. Let Him do it. Ask Him to do it and as you see the evidence of the heart of Christ in you thank Him for it.