God Sent Me
I wonder how Joseph felt when his brothers fell prostrate before him, and his childhood dream flashed across his mind. All that affliction and brokenness: being sold into Egypt, in and out of slavery, in and out of prison, in and out of a pit. Those years of agony, and the years of being Potiphar and Pharaoh’s favourite employee — these were all crafted into God’s marvellous plan. Joseph realized it afterward when, in that Prince of Egypt song, he looked at his life “through heaven’s eyes”.
Through his ordeals, Joseph became a king fit to rule. But all this was not merely for his benefit. He had not become fruitful in the land of his affliction just so that he could sit down and “shake leg” in the shade of the pyramids crunching cucumbers. By Genesis 45, Joseph realized that he had a major part in God’s dramatic saving of a remnant, to preserve life (45:5, 7). Furthermore, perhaps in partial fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham (12:3), he would save Egypt from a prolonged regional agricultural disaster (remember that the Egyptians despised the Hebrews, so Joseph was showing kindness to his enemies).
It took a long time… 22 years in a foreign land. Joseph played his part, and he played it well. In his mind, ultimately God did it; but notice how he also personalises it: “God sent me” (mentioned three times! vv. 5, 7, and 8). That would make all the difference in the world.
And God would do it again!
Go check out the scriptures: Noah’s obedience resulted in the rescue of a remnant from the Flood; Esther’s courage in such a time as hers (Esther 4:14) saved the Jewish exiles (itself a remnant) in Persia. Look to the New Testament, and we find the apostle Paul. So much of what he proclaimed about God’s grace, mercy and love were borne out of his own dramatic transformation from persecutor to proclaimer of the gospel (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:8-10).
And of course, there is Jesus, whose sufferings made Him, the captain of our salvation, perfect. And through Him, many sons, the remnant of faith, are brought into glory (Hebrews 2:10).
This seems to be how God works indeed. He takes the broken, wretched rubbish of our lives and transforms it into masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). Joseph’s story is a beautiful example of God’s gracious healing providence for His beloved: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28). But we must read on… God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (v. 29; see also v. 30). This working together for good is not towards a self-centred end, but to be transformed into His Son’s image and play our part in God’s great Story (as Jesus did His).
What does it mean for you and me?
No life is so messed up that God cannot redeem it. Some of us may have been broken by others, or simply beaten down by the pressures and pleasures of this world. What’s more, no life is so fine and dandy the way it is that it needs no refining work by God. He means to transform us, to be sent by Him to be reconciled with others, and redeemed for others, that they too may be saved. That’s the Joseph way; that’s the Jesus way.
Oh let us avail ourselves to Him and let Him have His way in us!
How each of our stories is being written out remains a mystery. God’s time line and methods are by no means like ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). We may not fully understand why things happen the way they do (think of our church’s development project for instance). Furthermore, some of us may remain in anonymity throughout our lives, unlike Joseph who held public office and was honoured by his family in his lifetime. But each one of us has a circle of influence where what we do matters. And we have a biblical vision of hope in many ways as marvellous as Joseph’s dream. When Jesus returns, all will be brought to light: the ones we impacted for eternity, maybe without even realising it; the ways we shone for Jesus like a city on a hill, and a light to the nations. Our Father remembers all of these, and Heaven’s eye will gaze upon His masterpieces and thrill us on that day.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)