Who Are You Wearing?: Interview with Joseph of the Multi-Colored Coat


a-deep-pit

I’m making a beeline (pun unintended) for 2 biblical characters in heaven: Abraham (my opening line? “Dude, you’re CRAZY”) & OT Joseph.

Joe is my guy. He’s the guy of anyone who had a vision and then suddenly found themselves tossed in a pit, wondering why the heck where they are is the exact opposite of where they should be. Max Lucado wrote a book on him and sermons are preached on “pit to palace” journeys. Joe’s story is incredible…but conspicuously lacking one thing: what was he thinking for 13 pit-to-palace years?

I’ve studied Joseph’s story & can’t find anywhere – including where he’s mentioned in the NT – his state of mind. We know in the end he was merciful & gave God the glory, and we know he was a clueless kid in the beginning (really smart telling your brothers who already hate you that one day they’ll bow to you). But in the middle, where it counts, we’re not told a thing. Except. Just one little hint:

“‘Only remember me when things are going well with you again—tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.’” Genesis 40:14-15 (MSG)

This was when Joe was in prison for doing the right thing & interprets fellow-prisoner-cupbearer’s dream for him (spoiler: cupbearer was getting out of Dodge, which is why Joe wanted a ride). This it, peeps…no other indication of his mental state, if he still believed the vision, etc. No angry outbursts, no throwing himself on the bed in tears like a Disney princess in distress, no soulful songs of deliverance belted out in his cell. Joseph shut up pretty quickly from his early years of careless sharing.*

We’re not even told how he reacts when day after day, as he waited in anticipation, the cupbearer didn’t come back. Did he slowly lose hope as he eventually realized the cupbearer forgot him and no help was coming? 

I gave up, assuming Joseph’s mental state didn’t matter to the story, and it’s about doing what’s in front of you where you find yourself. That’s what Joseph did. Check it out:

“As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.” Genesis 39:2-6 (MSG)

“But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.” Genesis 39:21-23 (MSG)

Joe succeeded at everything he did, quickly being promoted to the top (trial roles for when he’d become 2nd to Pharaoh?) in both situations. But did you notice something? It had nothing to do with Joseph’s ability. Remember, Joe was a spoiled, careless 18-year-old when he was sold into slavery. It was God’s doing – God favored him in everything he undertook. Joe gets no credit here, and by the time he interprets dreams, he’s learned that lesson.

Fast forward to a few days ago, thinking yet again on Joseph’s story & the exasperating lack of info. How am I supposed to know how to be in the middle of my story without your example, Joe? Heavy sigh. I thought again on the one hint (“get me out of here, I don’t deserve to be here”) and what I know he did (ruled where he was purely by the favor of God). I thought about what God’s been saying to me about doing what He has for me to do while I wait for the “palace.” I thought about attitudes regarding where we are and where we will be.

And then it hit me. I know what Joseph’s mind set was during those 13 years. 

Joseph kept busy during those years, right? Potiphar only had to worry about eating – Joseph took care of everything. In prison, Joe managed his fellow prisoners. He wasn’t sulking in a corner in despair or planning prison breaks. He did what God favored him to do.

Now, my next thought was, “Ok, so he resigned himself to his fate. He gave up on the vision. He didn’t think God would come through. It was a pipe dream. He settled.” But remember that little hint? Let’s look at it again:

“‘Only remember me when things are going well with you again—tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.’” Genesis 40:14-15 (MSG)

Does that sound to you like a man who’s given up?! No! Joe walked in the favor of God where he was at, but he knew his stay was temporary. He didn’t stop hoping or believing that God would make things right. Like Job – “because even if he killed me, I’d keep on hoping. I’d defend my innocence to the very end” (Job 13:15, MSG) – he wasn’t going to let his contrary circumstances keep him from maintaining his innocence and believing God would come through.

Now I see the example: do with joy and to the best of my ability what’s put in front of me while I wait for God to fulfill the vision (for myself, for others) no matter how seemingly impossible. And it gets better. Two years go by before the cupbearer remembers Joe. Although it probably didn’t feel that way to Joe, this was the perfect time…if the cupbearer spoke up for him 2 years earlier, he’d have been released & finished out his days in some normal job. Instead, he needed to develop 2 more years for when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreter. What I love? On that day, Joe woke up in prison, but went to sleep in the palace. It took 13 years for him to ready for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), but when it was time, it happened in a day. Joe is released from prison and catapulted into his vision, all for his good and God’s glory.

And He’s doing the same for us.

 

 

*Note: Isn’t it amazing how the very mistake he made (bragging to his brothers) is what God used to get him the fulfillment of his vision? He needed to grow up into the vision first, going through a period of humility & reliance on God’s provision. What an encouragement to us, that God really does work all things together for our good! (Romans 8:28)

 

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