I know God’s favour is evident even in my little life, yet I often misunderstand what favour really is. The life of Joseph gives a clear image of a man favoured by God.
Does favour include the logical expectation of rapid promotion, public approval, unlimited opportunity and untroubled living? Perhaps not!
After years of barrenness, Rachel, Jacob’s second wife but first love, conceived and gave birth to Joseph. I appreciate the way God honestly reveals the dysfunction within this large family. They were genuine people with real struggles! Jacob openly showed favouritism not only between his two wives but also among his children.
“Now Israel loved Joseph more
than any of his other sons,
because he had been born to him in his old age;
and he made an ornate robe for him.”
Joseph received more than his fair share of his father’s attention. While his brothers worked, he stayed close to home in his ostentatious robe. Of course, the animosity increased between him and his older siblings.
Then came the God dreams of seeing his brothers and father bowing before him, thus escalated the problem.
“They hated him all the more
because of his dream and what he had said…
His brothers were jealous of him,
but his father kept the matter in mind.”
Perhaps immaturity contributed to Joseph’s inability to keep quiet about his dreams.
Favour Needs a Place
A mathematician would become extremely discouraged digging ditches. An anointed speaker feels powerless without a platform! A teacher needs students! A musician needs an instrument to produce a melody?
Although Joseph was showered with support, frustration and disappointment grew when he could not find his rightful place.
“Come, let’s sell him…”
His brothers reject and sell Joseph into slavery at the first opportunity. A slight diversion from their initial murderous plan. I can hardly imagine the level of confusion and discouragement that overwhelmed this young lad on his way to the unknown. He was dragged away from all that was loved and familiar.
Is this your image of favour? It isn’t mine!
Even in Egypt, however, God’s hand directs Joseph. One of Pharaoh’s officials seeing potential purchases him.
“The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered….
the LORD gave him success
in everything he did…
the LORD blessed the household
of the Egyptian because of Joseph.”
Joseph rises like cream to the top! The righteous always do! The favour of God upon one man results in blessing for others. For the moment at least, the situation appears to improve.
Often favour attracts adverse attention! It did with his brothers. Now it brings more of the same. Potiphar’s wife seductively pursues this vulnerable young man. Who would see? Who would know? Would anyone even care?
Yet Joseph does everything possible to protect his master’s honour and marriage. What is the reward for such integrity? A prison cell!
North American prisons resemble luxury suites in comparison to what Joseph experienced! This was no peaceful time off work!
“They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.”
Yet even here, Godly character allowed Joseph to rise above circumstance finding favour with the prison official. Joseph continued to give himself for the benefit of others.
He even found a way to release others in their dreams while his own went unfilled.
“Within three days Pharaoh
will lift up your head and restore you
to your position.”
Favour Takes Time
It is tempting to overlook the seemingly endless cycle of neglect, abuse, and suffering Joseph endured. We want to quickly rush past the process to happy endings. Favour cannot be rushed!
For fifteen years Joseph worked out the true character of favour while living in the tension of unfulfilled desire. He came to understand favour is ultimately a call to serve.
Such commendation upon a life cannot be lived selfishly!
Wherever he was, Joseph served with uncompromising excellence. The favour of God is always and only for the benefit of others.
Did he ever lose hope of seeing his family? Did he doubt his calling? Were the dreams of long ago fading? Had even God forgotten him like people did?
“The chief cupbearer, however,
did not remember Joseph;
he forgot him.”
I have more questions than I find answers for.
The Committment of Favour
For two more years Joseph continued unnoticed within the confines of prison. Then a need arose! Favour flourishes in the soil of someone else’s need.
Pharoah has a disturbing dream. The cupbearer remembers!
“So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,
and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.
When he had shaved and changed his clothes,
he came before Pharaoh.”
I love the “quicklies” of God! I want to ignore the long preparation to reach them, however. God gives Joseph both the interpretation and strategic wisdom on how to save a nation from destruction and multitudes from starvation.
In a single day Joseph goes from
the dungeon to the palace,
darkness of obscurity to public view,
bound in chains to riding a king’s chariot,
loneliness to the comfort of home and family,
disgrace to honour.
Why? Favour was ready, when favour was needed!
The Confirmation of Favour
God did not forget Joseph or his dream. Joseph’s brothers appear on their faces before him. The final test in the confirmation of favour is power.
Power to retaliate! Power to execute justice! Or power to forgive!
Only here do we witness the response of one truly walking in harmony with God!
“He turned away from them
and began to weep.”
It is impossible to continue in the favour of God without tenderness — even to our greatest offenders. Joseph foreshadows another Man, Jesus, who one day would proclaim from a brutal cross,
“…Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
The test of favour is extending grace, mercy and forgiveness to the undeserving.
Joseph weeps so loudly the entire palace hears the agony of his wails. Abuse by and separation from those he loved, could not quench the genuine love Joseph freely expressed.
Joseph had made peace with the pain of walking in God’s favour. He recognized God’s plan as perfect.
“And now, do not be distressed
and do not be angry with yourselves
for selling me here,
because it was to save lives
that God sent me ahead of you …
to preserve for you a remnant.”
As I consider Joseph, I recognize there is a high price to walking in God’s favour. It is a trust given to only those willing to be refined in the fire of affliction.
Favour often marinades in obscurity for extended seasons. It is the preparation of those God chooses for specific times and needs. God’s favour is never for personal promotion, but rather for God’s glory and the benefit of others.
Seek God’s favour, but carefully. Then be prepared to accept the training and tests that accompany it. Through the painful process, favour will allow the recipient to rise to unparalleled heights.
Joseph’s conclusion was,
“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”