The Old Testament story of Joseph is fascinating. Think about it. He was removed from his family, sold into slavery, and sent to a foreign country far from home. If Joseph had ever given any thought to his future – and, if you read the story, he clearly had – I’m pretty sure this is not the future that he had imagined. This was the nightmare future, the dream that you wake up from sweating and panting and ecstatic to realize that it was just a dream.
But it wasn’t a dream for Joseph. It was reality. And a very harsh and potentially devastating reality.
But there is an interesting statement that is repeated.
The first time it occurs was back when Joseph had just come to the house of Potiphar, his new Egyptian master. In other words, Joseph had recently become the property of another human being. Let that sink in for a minute.
We know that Joseph apparently eventually had great freedom in the house of Potiphar, but that wouldn’t have been the case at first. A new slave would likely have been shackled. Until they got to know him, there was no chance they were going to give him the opportunity to run away.
Picture the scene in your mind. It began several days earlier when he was thrown into a pit by his brothers. They intended to kill him, but changed their minds. Instead they sold him into slavery. Now, here he was, the property of an Egyptian army officer. It is doubtful that Joseph spoke Egyptian at that point, so there is a serious language barrier with his new owner. And he is likely chained, maybe around his ankle, so he can’t run off.
Not the most pleasant of circumstances, is it? Would you be interested in swapping your current situation for Joseph’s?
And yet there is a phrase in Scripture while Joseph is in that very situation that is stunning to me. Genesis 39:2 tells us that, “The LORD was with Joseph.”
What?! With him? The Lord was with Joseph in his slavery? In his loneliness? In his being removed from his family?
Wait a minute! If the Lord was indeed with Joseph, why didn’t he change those circumstances? Why didn’t He rescue Joseph? Why didn’t He bring vindication to Joseph? After all, Joseph hadn’t done anything wrong.
Honestly, we don’t know the answer to those questions. What we do know is that God was with him.
Later, Joseph was thrown into prison – another step down in his life. Falsely accused, Joseph goes from having worked his way up to a nice job with a corner office, to being unceremoniously tossed into prison.
But, at that point, Scripture once again affirms “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love…” (Genesis 39:21)
He was just wrongfully put into prison. He was an innocent man. God knew he was innocent. The Lord could have rescued Joseph. But He didn’t. Instead, apparently God went into that prison with him.
“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love…” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know I’d rather be in prison with God than living in freedom without Him. I’d rather know His steadfast love in solitary confinement than to be in a crowd of people without His love.