“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8)
From The Second Half of the Cross
This sheds additional light on another observation that can be made about the story of the life of Joseph. A large portion of Joseph’s pride was nailed to the cross of Christ as a result of his reduced social status as a servant-slave in Egypt. Everyone who looked at Joseph assumed that either he or his family must have done something wrong for him to be in the position of a servant-slave as a Hebrew in Egypt. Even though Joseph enjoyed some measure of elevated status for a while as the head overseer in the house of Potiphar, he was still a slave.
Joseph could not respond to those who looked down their nose at him, that he was actually the son of a wealthy man in Canaan, or that he was in Egypt through no fault of his own. Joseph could not answer back that God was really in control of his life and that this was just a temporary setback that would soon be rectified. Joseph was in no position to defend his pride. In light of his two earlier dreams, Joseph himself did not know exactly why events in his life had taken this peculiar course.
Although Joseph, being human, naturally cared about his pride and the humiliation of being a slave in Egypt, apparently God saw it differently. This is the way of the cross. God’s character-building investment of situations and circumstances in Joseph’s life in Egypt did not start out with the outward moniker of respectability. For the period of his life from age 17 to 30, Joseph’s life is a study in contrasts. He occupies lowly positions as a servant and then as a prisoner, yet in each situation the blessing of God on him is so outwardly apparent that he is quickly elevated to positions of “upper management.” God alone knew that one day in the near future Joseph would be Governor in command of all of Egypt, because that was God’s creative plan.
God’s plan at no time was in jeopardy from or limited by the temporary outward appearance of failure, or by circumstances that seemed utterly hopeless. God Himself was the author of these character-building circumstances, and was in control all the time. Joseph’s part was to not lose faith in the character and competency of God, and to patiently await the working out of these events in his life towards the fulfillment of his two earlier prophetic dreams.
God is telling us through the example of Joseph that portions of God’s plan for our lives may take us down a lowly path that does not include the “pride of life”. The low and humble road sifts out and separates the genuinely committed from all other hypocrites and pretenders. Being a servant of God is often a thankless and unappreciated role, especially in the training-for-service orientation phase at the beginning of our calling. The life of Joseph is a preview of the universal biblical experience of character-building that launches spiritual power, starting at a base level of humility devoid of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This is what Paul is referring to in describing himself and the other apostles as “last” (1 Corinthians 4:9), which in Paul’s case eventually leads to writing thirteen of the New Testament letters to the churches.