From The Second Half of the Cross
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 (Gen. 45:4-5).
What is this love of God for us, and our response in love back toward Him, that would cause an intelligent and highly gifted person like Joseph to go through the initial heartbreak and difficulties he did to follow the life-plan that God laid out for him? Why would a person go along with this unusual training program in the house of Potiphar and then in the prison of Pharaoh in response to the fact that “God was with him?” Why would a person like Joseph continue to have faith and trust in God, despite the temporary reality that the outward appearances in Egypt were in harsh contrast with the two prophetic dreams God had given him earlier as a young man?
Conventional worldly wisdom would tell Joseph to “face reality”, give up, and admit that he must have been mistaken about his two divinely inspired dreams, because faith and trust in God had landed him in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison. The account of the life of Joseph shows us that there can be an extraordinary purpose, meaning, and fulfillment to following God’s plan for our lives, which is entirely different from and far above anything that the conventional worldly approach can even imagine.
The life of Joseph demonstrates the supernatural hand of God overlaying divinely composed circumstances and events over the current situation in our lives, to bring us into a larger place (2 Sam. 22:20). It shows the importance of having experienced the necessary, upfront preparation required for character growth.
On paper, the weakness of Joseph’s resume and his status as a non-Egyptian in Egyptian society would prevent, according to worldly conventional wisdom, Joseph from even being considered for the job opening of Governor of Egypt. As Joseph sits in Pharaoh’s prison pondering the character of God, thinking about his two earlier dreams in Canaan, and the current hopelessness of the outward appearance of his situation, Joseph has no idea that he will soon become second in command of all of Egypt. The leap across the gulf from where Joseph sits in Pharaoh’s prison, to becoming Governor of Egypt, is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Yet through the God-initiated dream given to Pharaoh regarding the upcoming famine in Egypt, and through an unimaginably tight series of events, Joseph finds himself standing before Pharaoh and interpreting the dream. In an instant, Joseph steps through the open door into his God-composed and prepared destiny. This is the second half of the cross…God’s higher ways displacing our ways for our benefit and for the good of others, that we find repeated uniformly throughout all of the life-stories of the people of faith recorded for us in the Bible.