Today’s Reading: Genesis 38-9
(Context: Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, to none other than their half-cousins, the Ishmaelites. Joseph, a young, naive, and proud 17-year-old learns barely escapes death in becoming a slave to a rich man named Potiphar, who is of high-brow Egyptian culture. Here Joseph’s “metal” is tested.)
Abraham Lincoln once said:
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
I often wonder: what changed Joseph from a spoiled brat into a man of integrity and mental fortitude?
Adversity, temptation, and power.
Lincoln said that most men can withstand adversity, and I would suppose he mainly is right. God gives to all, be it men or women, the ability to withstand the adversity given them. Sometimes adversity, trial, and pain is self-inflicted (like Samson with Delilah). Sometimes it is God-induced (see Job, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul, and on and on). Perhaps one can say that the greater adversity God gives you (not being self-induced), the more He expects of you. J.K. Gressett once said:
God prepares great men for great tasks by great trials.
Joseph withstood adversity, great adversity, and in his case it was because God had great tasks for him. It also implied Joseph needed a lot of change in his character. Just take a moment to reflect on the immorality, envy, lies, and “drama-queen” lifestyle that his family had been entrenched in for years. God needed to take Joseph out of that realm and teach him through adversity.
God also used temptation in Joseph’s life, to improve his fear of God and his mental fortitude. Few men would be able to withstand the mental torment of being seduced day after day by the powerful, rich, and likely beautiful “trophy wife” of Potiphar. It would’ve been so easy. It would’ve been so beneficial. It would’ve given him perhaps the ability to force his freedom.
Joseph took the hard-road, the ” road less taken”. The long-term was better in his case, and the mental fortitude and fear of God kindled in him would become central to the future Egyptian Vice-Minister. I take my hat off to Joseph here, and I am amazed at what he did, being in his specific situation. He is a truly godly man worthy of remembrance and imitation.
If enduring adversity and temptation weren’t enough, God also gave him widespread, authoritarian power over the entire world, with only Pharaoh to suppress his will. Instead, he was a man of integrity.
Joseph’s character was tested by the ultimate litmus test, according to Abraham Lincoln, and he passed, with flying colors. He worked hard, used foresight, was shrewd yet fair, and even showed great mercy and restraint over his greatest enemies (his family).
Joseph, a man who walked with God, a man who feared God, a man who loved God more than this world: a man of God.