So, anyone who was a lived through the 80’s or 90’s can’t help but have the tune to the Lloyd-Webber musical Joseph running through their minds when they read passages from Genesis 37 onwards.
Yesterday it was all about the first dreams and the technicoloured coat, and the really bad move that it is to put your dreams before your older brothers… just as a general principle you shouldn’t tell them you’re going to rule over them, especially if they outnumber you and you live in a society where sibling rivalry and untimely death aren’t far apart.
Today, the story has moved to Egypt (is it just me or does that place have a seriously bad rep in the beginning of the Bible?). Joseph has been sold as a slave and he’s working for Potiphar.
Now, two interesting thoughts here- firstly, God blessed the whole household because of Joseph. That’s pretty cool, eh? If we’re ever wondering about the bonus side-effects that might come along when we commit to following God and prioritise our relationship with him, here’s one possible one: everyone around you gets blessed. Joseph was still a slave (though in a fairly elevated position) so its not as though it was an immediate release for him, but by being faithful to God and faithful in his work, the things he was responsible for were blessed. Notice I’m not using words like ‘prospered’ or ‘succeeded’ because I think we automatically see those things leading to financial or material success… blessing is less tangible and also less immediately obvious. It might be a sense of warmth, welcome or peace rather than a new office, but which one will lead to a more motivated team and a greater level of support?
Secondly, Joseph turns down the lady of the house. Now she may have expected any slave of the house to be her property, she may even have been legally right to do so, but Joseph knew his principles and he stuck to them, in the face of temptation (Potiphar’s wife is always stunningly beautiful in your mind and in every picture… well done Joseph for resisting the sneaky but gorgeous bird… but what if she’d been 50yrs his senior, overweight and with stinky breath? Now it becomes a case of well done Joseph for thinking of a way in which you can talk your way out of the situation without insulting her). Unfortunately, either way, Mrs Potiphar isn’t happy, and so Joseph is thrown in jail for attempting to ‘make sport’ of her.
And in the midst of all this, he has only his dreams… that somehow his family will bow down to him. I reckon that Joseph would have been content to just get home, and to be the one bowing down. But maybe he still needed to learn something about grace and forgiveness, maybe he was still bitter (and it’d be hard to blame him for that).
But down in the prison, the same things are happening- Joseph is faithful, and things around him go well, and someone notices, and he gains responsibility. Interestingly, success comes to Joseph not when he dreams, but when he works. Eventually he is summoned to the court of Pharaoh, and there he interprets a dream, but wisely starts by saying ‘I can’t do this, only God can send dreams and only God can help me to understand them’- which is a measure of his wisdom… he’s experienced what happens if you just spout these ideas out, and now he’s learnt.
I’m just hoping I don’t have to be thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, transported to another country and then imprisoned in order to learn wisdom.