Oh, Joseph. The love-child of Jacob and his wanted wife, Rachel. He was his father’s favorite. He knew it, and his brothers knew it, too.
Joseph wore that coat of many colors like a king his crown, rubbing it in his brothers’ faces. Rubbing them the wrong way. Always rambling on about his dreams – of the moon and stars bowing to him.
Oh, the family dysfunction. One father, four mothers – Rachel, Leah, and a servant for each – and twelve sons. It was complicated.
The brothers’ tolerance for this little bragging brother ran out near year seventeen. In a desperate and ill-thought-out plan, they sold him to some Ishmaelites passing through Canaan on their way to Egypt. They, in turn, sold him to an official to the Egyptian Pharaoh.
Upon returning home, the older brothers showed their father, Jacob, the multicolored coat with its new splash of crimson. He ripped his clothing and wept over his beloved Joseph.
I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.GENESIS 37:25b
Confident of his death, no one went looking for Joseph.
Meanwhile, Joseph quickly earned the favor of Potiphar, Pharaoh’s highest official in Egypt. Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household, and Potiphar prospered because of Joseph.
The LORD was with him.
Potiphar wasn’t alone in his favoring of Joseph. Potiphar’s wife took notice and was quite impressed. Admiring his handsome build, she propositioned him. Yet, Joseph refused, responding, “How could I sin against God?”
The LORD was very present.
Too proud to be rejected, Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of raping her. Potiphar threw Joseph in jail as a prisoner of the king.
While in prison, he interpreted the dreams of his cellmates. Eventually, the news of Joseph’s ability found the king’s ear. Not long after, the king sent for Joseph.
Clean-shaven and dressed for the first time in a long time, Joseph listened and interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. And with that, Joseph earned the title of second in command in all of Egypt.
The LORD was with him.
Because Joseph was sold and thought for dead, no one went looking for him. But the LORD was always looking out for him, unmistakably present.
Hope was present.
Can you imagine? Your brothers despising you so much they would sell you and pretend you were dead? No. Probably not.
Joseph may seem like just another fuzzy character who’s fallen off the flannel board in a musty old Sunday School class. On this side of history, we read this story through a different lens. It’s a bit easier to see that God really was looking out for Joseph. But in the middle of it, the betrayal must have burned. How did Joseph keep his heart turned toward the LORD?
Brotherly betrayal. Temptation. Lies. Accusations. Imprisonment.
It would have been natural for Joseph to have become bitter. To have given in to temptation. Decided he was due. Owed.
But His heart was ever turned toward the LORD. He knew GOD was with him. God’s presence was so real Joseph could not turn away for a moment. Not even for a moment of forbidden pleasure.
In this broken world we call our temporary home — and it is temporary — we will have trouble. Sometimes it finds us, and other times we go looking for it. Too often we flirt with it, bargain with, rationalize it.
The same God who was present with Joseph, wants to be present with you. He is with you. He rejoices with you. His heart breaks with you. He is not some far off God. He is here and wants to be close to you. The promise of Eden is yours.
But You must give way to Him.
Father, it’s too easy to get caught up in our world, separating the secular and sacred.
But LORD, You long to be a part of it all, making it all sacred.
Lord, help me live so that Your whisper is enough. I want to live surrounded by and surrendered to You. And I’m learning that the easiest way to do that is to intentionally turn my attention toward You. Over and over again, recognizing Your presence with me. Your power in me. Your love for me. Amen
Immanuel. God with us. God is with us.
That is the soundtrack of Christmas.
As we begin the second week of Advent I wonder how often we live our lives independent of the truth of those lyrics. In a world that feels upside down, we focus on our fears. We set our hearts on lesser things, that we can’t fix anyway. We worry about how we’ve been wronged or what we’ve done wrong.
Joseph focused on the God who was with him.
Be reminded that He is here. Though we wait in anticipation to celebrate Christ’s birth, we know He has already come. He is here. And His presence changes things. Changes us.
How do you treat your family today if His spirit is with you? How do you speak to strangers today if His spirit is with you? How do you react in traffic? Respond to a boss? Spend your money?
Just as if He is…