Some years ago, I was in the right place at the right time to speak to the personnel manager in the school I was working at about a friend’s suitability for an upcoming vacancy. I was walking past his office and felt compelled to pop in! The friend hadn't even expressed an interest in moving jobs, but after a short phone call, she came in for an interview and was offered the position! My friend was a Christian and I am convinced that God set the whole thing up – that my primary function in being in that job at that time was to secure her employment. I left shortly afterwards and she went on to make a significant impact at the school. I sincerely believe that God sent me before her so she could fulfil her God-given role.
So when, in verse 5, Joseph says, “God sent me before you to preserve life”, it reminds me again of the elaborate and intricate plans that God has for our lives. From 17-year old Joseph’s dreams to thirty-year old Joseph’s accession to power, God knew the whole course of his life before he was even born. Psalm 139:16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” As we have seen over the last week, Joseph's journey took several nasty turns, but God had a great plan for him, which ultimately meant he would save the lives of his family and through them, the nation of Israel!
Remembering the dreams God had given him gave Joseph the faith all along that he would one day be a ruler, but it was only by looking back that he could see how God’s hand had been on every aspect of his life. When his brothers sold him into slavery in a fit of jealousy and hatred, God turned what they intended for evil to good! Joseph went from slave to head of Potiphar's household! When Potiphar’s wife accused him of attempted rape and he was thrown into prison, God gave him the gift of dream interpretation which led to him explaining Pharaoh's dream, and being made second-in-command over the whole of Egypt.
When we look back over our lives, we too can see how God's favour has rested on us, how he has supported us and comforted us during painful periods and abundantly blessed us with times of joy and peace. Like Joseph, it’s important to acknowledge when someone has wronged us – he reminds his brothers that they sold him (v5) – but it is essential that we forgive the wrongdoer. It doesn’t make what they did right, but bitterness and unforgiveness eats at our souls. Joseph's words, “God sent me before you” (v5,) shortly followed by “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”(v8) must have been like music to his brothers’ ears. He didn't hate them for what they had done and he didn't use his tremendous power to exact revenge. In fact, Joseph’s understanding of God’s dominion enabled him to see that God’s overall plan had actually been served by their wicked actions.
In accepting the necessity of suffering in order to preserve life, all the while proclaiming God’s sovereignty, Joseph is a type of Christ. He points towards Jesus, who was beaten beyond recognition and crucified to save our lives. Just as Joseph went before his family to secure a future for the nation of Israel, so Jesus went before us to secure our salvation and eternal life. Ephesians 1:11-12 says “It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” (MSG)
Let's look afresh today to Christ as our redeemer, thank him that he went before us and rejoice in our part in his glorious plan.