Genesis 37-41 tells the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, eventually ran Potipher’s house (who was captain of the Egyptian guard), betrayed by Potipher’s wife to land in prison, ended up running the prison. Eventually, translates Pharoah’s dreams and ends up running Egypt during their famine.
One of the core themes is how God had to break Joseph down of his ego and build him back up. Along the way, God put Joseph in charge of both an estate (Potipher) and a large institution (prison) — to prepare him to lead a country, under Pharoah.
Fast forward to January 2008, Ed Young at Fellowship Church is currently teaching a series on "Betrayal" – and I must confess that it is uncovering some issues for me that I obviously have not completely processed. Specifically, around "Authority Issues". Ed has taught previously that:
One must get under whom God has put over us, so that we can get over what God has planned to put under us.
I have struggled with this before – as I am now, not in concept but in practice, and would welcome your feedback and guidance.
In looking specifically at Genesis 39 … during Joseph’s first time of success, while running Potipher’s house, it turns out that Joseph was there for 10 years. This wasn’t a case of immediately being recognized for his potential and being placed in charge. It is interesting to me that God blessed everything that Joseph did – including those over Joseph, even though they didnt share Joseph’s beliefs. It was how God moved Joseph "up the ladder" in responsibility, as Joseph continued to grow in his faith.
Psalms 40 actually describes David’s sustance, but paints a picture of Joseph as well – and any other servant who perseveres while waiting for the Lord’s providence:
PSALMS 40:1-4 I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and he set my feet upon a rock … How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust
Joseph’s patience and perseverence were blessed by God, as God progressively molded him:
GENESIS 39:5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all he owned.
It came over a long period, and is likely where God truly broke Joseph’s ego and started rebuilding him. So that when tempted, he realized that breaking Potipher’s trust was not only a violation to Potipher, but more importantly to God – since Joseph was placed under Potipher by God’s direction. When tempted, his reply was:
Genesis 39:9 "How could I do this great evil and sin against God?"
(notice, Joseph saw sleeping with Potipher’s wife to be a sin against God first, not Potipher. Joseph understood whose authority he was truly under)
So, the obvious lesson that I see is that I do need to get under what God has placed over me — and I really do get that.
My question for your consideration and feedback is: What if Joseph had other opportunities while working for Potipher?
As Joseph’s stature grew in the eyes of Potipher, and the gradual promotions continued, Potipher likely would have come to Joseph and said "Because all you do is thriving, I will now put you in charge of ____". Surely over those 10 years, a couple of things could have transpired:
1) Joseph couldn’t have been successful by himself. He was being groomed by God as a leader, so he would have been leading others – eventually the entire staff of Potipher’s house. At certain points along every leader’s path, one has the opportunity to pull up as you go – and take others with you. In this case, Joseph would have had opportunities to lift up others in the house that were also thriving – if for no other reason than to fill his last role as he took new ones.
At some point, could Joseph not have also possibly had opportunities to tell Potipher "Master, thank you for this new role, but XX is better suited and these last victories would not have been possible within him."? Not to shy away from his own victories or personal growth, but to share the burdens.
2) And arguably, with Potipher as captain of the guard, others in Pharoah’s world would have seen Potipher’s estate thriving. There might have been opportunities where Joseph was considered for other tasks, where he might say "Master, I will serve whomever I am told" but move in different areas or houses.
Here is my quandry —
As one struggles with where God has put you, within any organization or management structure — and small victories begin to occur. How do you know when to make moves – or stay where you are in perseverence? As new opportunities, particularly psuedo-lateral opportunities present themselves, how do you know when God is moving your path as part of your ascension? or that you should stay where you must continue to struggle in perseverance because God is still breaking you and teaching you things where you are at?
In short, when do you know that God is through molding you in this phase of your adventure so that you should move on for the next phase — versus when you are escaping from what God is trying to do with you and walking your own path?
Put in Joseph’s terms, maybe it shouldn’t have taken ten years with Potipher? Perhaps Joseph had learned what God wanted him to learn in 2-3 years, but Joseph didn’t move when God presented growth opportunities. And after 10 years of Joseph refusing to follow God’s leading, God had to allow something extreme to happen – i.e. similar to being swallowed by a whale to get Jonah to Nineveh. In this case, Joseph was thrown in jail so that he could then ascend to run an institution.
Why would Potipher believe the false accusation from his unfaithful wife against Joseph who had served him faithfully and prospered him for 10 years? Did God not have to harden Potipher’s heart to facilitate that? Maybe God did that because Joseph wasn’t moving along the opportunities that God had presented earlier? Or maybe, it all happened exactly on plan — and Joseph declined every opportunity because he was still growing according to God’s will and needed more breaking/perseverance.
How do you know?