Read Genesis 39:1-20
It’s nearly impossible for us to imagine what it would have been like, would have felt like, to be Joseph. Not many of us have been sold as slaves.
But try anyway. Imagine being forced to leave everything you know and love, and brought to a place you would never have chosen. Imagine being made to do what you don’t want to do, for people you don’t know or care about. You’re alone, completely cut off from loved ones and anything familiar; without rights, freedom, or choices – and nobody cares.
That was Joseph when he arrived in Egypt. The Ishmaelites rode in and sold some merchandise: maybe some pots, knives, a few camels, and Joseph.
Would you be motivated to work hard and be loyal to your ‘owner’? Why? Isn’t it more likely you’d be bitter and resentful, working only as hard as you absolutely had to? I think I’d be consumed with thoughts of getting away, or yearning for my lost freedom.
At any rate, I’d resist. Even if outwardly I did what I was told, inwardly I’d be always fighting the whole situation, railing against my fate.
But not Joseph.
Somehow, he found a way to move past all that. He “found favor” in his master’s sight, and was promoted to the highest position a slave could have, which wouldn’t have happened if he’d been angry and resistant.
How did he do it?
“The Lord was with [him]”, and that was enough.
Knowing God’s presence with him, he became able to accept what happened to him and work with it instead of against it.
The strange thing about Joseph’s story is how the blessings of God keep bringing him trouble. First, his father’s love and God’s dreams brought him to slavery. Now, his master’s approval and God’s physical gifts land him in jail.
He does everything right but gets punished anyway. Is this how God works?
“The Lord was with Joseph”, and Joseph was in jail. These two things are not contradictory. The challenge for Joseph – again – is to cling to God’s presence, while learning to accept the fact of his rotten circumstances.
At times, it’s our challenge too.