If I can share personally here at the end of our journey through Genesis, I have been amazed at the roller-coaster of emotion I have been through during this time. It was only 50 days, and yet God dealt with me personally in many ways. He challenged my faith and helped me see that I need step out more and meet him where he is. He challenged my convictions and made me realize that I’ve compromised in areas of my life that have affected my character. More than anything though, I have been pointed to his Jesus, and my faith in the fact that God’s plan was to offer his son as a sacrifice for me has grown immeasurably.
In this last chapter, I see Joseph being a sort of type of Christ, however subtly, in his final response to his brother’s treatment of him years before. Jacob, his father, has just died and his brother’s are naturally worried that Joseph’s wrath would finally be made known now that his father is not alive to temper his actions. They make up a lie about Jacob’s last wish being that Joseph would forgive his brothers. Joseph sees right through it, but speaks kindly to them, letting them know that he came to terms with it long ago…
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:19-20
Wow, what a response. There are certainly times when we are called to have that kind of perspective about things that happen to us. When tough times come, we inevitably receive a word of encouragement from a Christian brother or sister that reminds us what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Rome…
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28
I believe that the words above are true, and I’ve seen it play out in my own life. I will go through a trial questioning God as to why it’s happening only to come out on the other side and understand that he had a plan for my good all along. However, in Joseph’s case this verse takes on a very different meaning for me. You see, typically we think of the meaning of this verse to be that God sometimes takes us through valleys in order to bring us to another mountaintop. He allows us to suffer so that we can eventually prosper. What this suggests though is that we expect God to use our suffering in our own lives. Sometimes, though, he might allow for someone to suffer so that someone else can receive the blessing. This is a little harder to swallow as it hardly seems fair, but some of God’s best servants have experienced this first-hand.
While Joseph was eventually elevated to power as a result of his suffering, he acknowledges that God allowed him to go through it for his family’s benefit. God used the event to allow the leaders of the 12 tribes of Jacob to prosper after the famine. In fact the whole nation would be saved, prompting Joseph to view his suffering as necessary to save the lives of many. This makes Joseph like Christ in a way because Christ himself was known as the “suffering servant.” His blood was poured out for all people and his life was offered as a ransom for many. The famous passage written by the prophet Isaiah explains it this way…
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
How does this challenge me? If I am ever called to suffer for the sake of other people and not just myself, I pray that God will find me faithful and that I will be willing to use my life for him in this way. I worry that I might not feel the same way when I’m actually in it, but I know it would be a tremendous honor, and one that is undeserved, to have the opportunity to imitate my Savior in this way.