It’s very easy for us to become comfortable with our lives. We can find a level of satisfaction in the things we have, our possessions, careers, education and even our family, and this can cause us to become complacent and miss out on what God has for us. The story of Joseph reminds us that there is nothing better than what God has for us even when there are difficulties and challenges along the way.
The death of a man-made coat
Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?” Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” (Genesis 37:31-33, NLT)
Joseph was the favourite son of an overindulgent father called Jacob. His ten older half-brothers grew increasingly jealous and this gradually turned into a murderous hatred of the teenage boy. Jacob had a beautiful coat made for Joseph that included long sleeves, a sign that the wearer did not have to get his hands dirty. This coat was a sign of Joseph’s comfortable, carefree life.
God had other plans for Joseph that involved a very different destiny. For this to happen the old, man-made coat – however beautiful – had to go so that God could start to weave a new spiritual coat of great beauty and wonder around Joseph. So it was that at the age of 17 Joseph had to left the old coat behind and found himself betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave bound for Egypt. From Joseph’s point of view, life was far from beautiful or awesome.
The spiritual weaving process
This process took 13 years. From a human point of view, these would have been years of immense emotional pain, bewilderment (why is this happening to me?), and crushed hope – every time life got a bit better for Joseph in Egypt something happened to pull him down again. I imagine he must have prayed daily to go home and it must have seemed that heaven was silent. He lost the prime years of his youth (17-30) to slavery and imprisonment, and all of this was undeserved. His last memories of his family were the words of his brothers, calmly eating a meal and discussing how to dispose of him as he cried and pleaded with them to release him from the deep pit they had thrown him into.
Joseph played his part in the weaving of a new spiritual coat
Joseph kept his head in a situation that was emotionally overwhelming; a sudden transition from a favourite son in a comfortable home to slavery in a foreign land (new language, new land, new architecture). He decided to trust God and stay focused on Him.
If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.
Embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will place a lovely wreath on your head;
she will present you with a beautiful crown.
(Proverbs 4:8-9, NLT)
Joseph used the gifts God had given him to the best of his ability and let God deal with everything else – especially the issues outside of his control. This must have been especially challenging when he was thrown into prison after a false accusation of sexual assault on his master’s wife. Prison in Egypt at that time would have been a cruel and degrading place. The two years prior to his release must have been especially difficult as his hopes had been raised by correctly interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker. The butler promised faithfully to ‘pull strings’ and get Joseph released, but as the weeks and months went by and there was no word, despair must have been knocking at the door of Joseph’s heart. Yet even in the darkest of times, Joseph continued to trust God.
What was God doing?
During those 13 tough years God was preparing Joseph for a glorious destiny. In His own time He put key people in the right places at the right time and disturbed their sleep with powerful dreams – all to gradually bring His master plan to fulfilment. Joseph would not have been aware of this and I imagine his dream was always to go back to his father. However, even in the darkest of times, as Joseph continued to trust God, he was blessed.
The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. (Genesis 39:2, NLT)
But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed. (Genesis 39:21-23, NLT)
So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38, NLT)
Lessons we can learn
- We should not be afraid of change. From mundane and ‘everyday’ to sudden and catastrophic; nothing takes God by surprise.
- God is weaving a beautiful spiritual coat around each of us (and our church) as long as we keep our minds focussed on Him – whatever is happening to our emotions. We need to leave the ‘old coat’ behind. Sometimes this may involve drastic action. We especially need to trust God with our finances and sow our money sacrificially into His bank (our church).
- We need to be patient. God is never in a hurry; His timing is always perfect. The big example to us is the life of Jesus. He was the busiest person who ever lived but always found time to spend with God and with people (usually the kind of people we would cross the road to avoid!).
- We need to do everything we can with what God has given us, but stop trying to do what we cannot. Situations outside of our control can be safely entrusted to God. Worrying about them is a waste of time and energy as well as a demonstration of our lack of trust in Him.
- Be prepared for a miracle, which may be bigger than anything you can imagine! Joseph was transferred from prison to second in command of Egypt within 24 hours – from rags and dirt to fine clothes, gold chains, a huge palace, power and riches. Then started a whole set of new challenges but that is another story!
The story of Joseph encourages us to trust God and to seek his way in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. If we do this then God will use the mundane and the storms of life to weave us a spiritual coat that will bring glory to him and will lead us to the best that he has for us.