“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name.” (Phil. 2:9)
From The Second Half of the Cross
The false accusation of sexual assault against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife is instructive for Christians today. Even when things are going completely wrong according to outward appearances, when God is in control of our lives, utter failure and complete catastrophe can be divinely shaped into a positive outcome. This devastating event in Joseph’s life God uses to extend the management training of Joseph into a new prison environment for several more years leading up the time of the upcoming famine, within a new context requiring more humility on Joseph’s part than previously as the chief overseer in Potiphar’s house.
At first glance this might appear to be over-coaching on God’s part. But in a profound way this seemingly negative experience with Potiphar’s wife actually demonstrates the uncompromising reality of the love of God in thoroughly preparing Joseph for his future elevation to the highest level of power in Egypt. It reveals the tightest of circumstances in a God-composed life-script that is beyond our human capacity to imagine, orchestrate, or resolve, which is common to all adventures of faith recorded in the Bible.
There was something unique to Pharaoh’s prison in the advance training of Joseph that was not at Potiphar’s house. We do not know what this difference might have been. Perhaps the trait of pride was again lifting up its ugly head within the character of Joseph as chief servant in Potiphar’s house. Probably looking back in hindsight as governor, Joseph recognized and appreciated the value of the unique lessons learned in the different and more humbling environment of Pharaoh’s prison.
Only God could craft a training regime for a Hebrew to become the governor of Egypt using the extremely unlikely, totally unconventional roles of servant/slave in the venues of a private Egyptian home and in the prison of a Pharaoh. When Joseph finally sees the whole picture in hindsight as his half-brothers stand before him as governor of Egypt, Joseph breaks into tears as he recognizes God’s hand in everything leading up to that time. Do we possess the patience and determination to persevere in difficult circumstances, when we know without a doubt that God has us there for some not yet fully revealed reason?
If Christians today place a value on ultimate purpose and meaning in life, beyond merely responding in the reactive mode to the challenges that chance brings our way, then the final outcome of Joseph’s story is wonderful beyond all measure. The plan that God had in mind was beyond anything that Joseph could have imagined or orchestrated. It demanded tenacity and a stubborn faith that would have left many less determined people behind. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way. Because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Joseph allowed God to take him to the extreme edge, to the outer limits of faith and trust within the challenge of life’s events and circumstances. This is why the life of Joseph is such an excellent model for the second half of the cross for us today.
After Joseph was finally elevated to the position of second in command of all of Egypt, we have no indication from the rest of Joseph’s story that he became full of himself and his new found power and authority. The years of character-building preparation in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison paid off. Not only is Joseph prepared to govern the nation of Egypt, but he does so with hard-earned character and grace. Joseph, out of the narrowness of his God-guided circumstances, learned in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaohs’ prison to interact with the Egyptians from a leadership position using humility, respect, and character. In one of the most moving and brilliantly creative final closing chapters in all of literature, Joseph forgives his half-brothers their earlier treachery toward him in selling him into slavery into Egypt, recognizing their actions as part of God’s future plan to save lives during the widespread famine (Genesis 45:4-5).