A Few Lessons From Joseph


What can we learn from Joseph?

While Joseph was suffering unjustly in prison, ‘the Lord was with him.’ Genesis 39:21

The king’s cupbearer and baker were also imprisoned along with Joseph. One night both men had a dream, which Joseph interpreted with accuracy, the baker would be executed and the cupbearer would be released. Upon being reinstated to his original position, ‘the chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.’ Genesis 40:23

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret, Genesis 41:1. At this point, the cupbearer remembered Joseph, who was still in jail and told the king. Joseph interpreted the dream revealing that there would be seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine.

‘Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine. ‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. ‘And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.’ Genesis 41:25-33

Knowing God was with him, Pharaoh promoted Joseph to be second to himself in all of Egypt.

‘The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So, Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you. So, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, ‘Make way!’ Thus, he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.’ Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.’ Genesis 41-37-45

The famine spread outside the borders of Egypt, affecting Joseph’s family living in Canaan. It becomes more evident that the hand of God has been involved in everything that has happened to Joseph. Joseph’s position in Egypt will ensure that his family doesn’t become extinct.

‘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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. ‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.’ Genesis 45:5-8

And that’s important because God had made a promise to bring a Saviour into the world through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And Joseph played a key role in ensuring that the promise made by God wouldn’t fail, and it didn’t.

The life of Joseph, Genesis 37-50 is worth reflecting upon. There is a fountain of practical lessons for us all to learn. Though we are removed from the event by some four thousand years, all of us, in varying degrees, face the same things Joseph had to face, rejection by family, abuse, sexual temptations, false accusation, injustice, ingratitude, hardship etc., etc.

So, what can we learn from Joseph’s life that can be of help to us?

1. A young person can be a mighty instrument in the hand of God, bringing His plans to fulfilment, 1 Samuel 17:48-51.

David was a young man who trusted God to do great things. Therefore, David is known as a young man who did great things for God.

‘Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. So, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.’ Genesis 39:20-23

The story of Joseph is a good example that just because we do what is right, it doesn’t mean that immediately we will be praised for it. However, in the end he was honoured by God and justified in the sight of men for taking a stand to do right even when it was not easy nor pleasurable, 1 Kings 5:1-3.

Naaman went to see Elisha and was healed of his leprosy. We know nothing else about this young lady, but we know enough to surmise that she loved the Lord and the people God called her to serve. She was also a trustworthy and honest servant, John 6:10-13.

Like this little boy, we should be willing to hand over to the Lord anything that He requests from us. We may not know what He will do with it, but if we trust Him with our possessions and our lives, then He will do something wonderful as He did with this little lunch.

2. God isn’t looking for perfect people to carry out His will, He’s looking for faithful people and age isn’t a barrier, 1 Timothy 1:16.

Paul knew he was far from perfect but understood that God would use him to carry out His will, Galatians 2:11.

Peter whose faith was up and down, denied Jesus three times and was rebuked by Paul because he acted like a hypocrite when it came to the Gentiles. Peter being far from perfect knew that God was using him to carry out His will.

3. A young person doesn’t have to be bad. Living as a rebellious teenager isn’t something a young person has to do, Joseph didn’t, 1 John 1:6-10.

We all know that sin is a choice, notice the word, ‘if’ throughout this text, it implies terms and conditions and choice.

4. Sexual immorality isn’t a road a young person has to go down, Joseph didn’t.

‘Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.’ Genesis 39:6-10

5. A young person doesn’t have to become unfaithful to God simply because he or she has major difficulties in life, Revelation 2:10.

6. Even in the worst situations and Joseph was in them, God was still with him and will always be with us.

‘Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.’ Genesis 39:1-2

‘But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him.’ Genesis 39:20-21

7. Throughout his time in Egypt Joseph remained faithful to God, even though he faced many discouraging moments, moments when he could have doubted God. But he kept growing spiritually, cultivating a heart for God. If Joseph can do it, so can we.

‘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. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. ‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.’ Genesis 45:5-8

8. God never changes. What God did for Joseph He can do for us, Malachi 3:6 / Hebrews 13:8.

9. Joseph was faced with two choices. He could become a bitter, spiteful, hateful person because of the way his brothers had treated him or he could choose to be obedient to God and forgive the wrongs committed against him. He chose the latter and so can we.

‘So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. 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. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.’ Genesis 50:16-21

If anyone had a good reason to hate his brothers it was Joseph, Ephesians 4:32. We learned earlier in this book about how Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit, made plans to kill him and finally sold him into slavery. With God’s help and blessing, Joseph became the second most powerful leader in Egypt. When a terrible famine came to the land, people came from miles around to buy food in Egypt.

One day as Joseph was giving out the food, he saw his ten older brothers standing before him. He knew them but they didn’t recognize him because he now looked and spoke like an Egyptian. Joseph could have taken revenge on his brothers, but he didn’t. Joseph forgave them. He even thanked God for sending him to Egypt.

Joseph realised that God had used his brothers to work out His perfect plan. Joseph forgave completely. He invited his father, brothers and their families to come to live in Egypt where he could take care of them. Like Joseph, we need to learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Only God can give you the strength inside to forgive.

10. The Bible speaks about being ‘useful to the Master and prepared to do every good work.’ 2 Timothy 2:24

Joseph made the right choices and so proved himself useful to the Master, and so can we, Matthew 25:37-40.

It’s not always about doing ‘big’ things for the Lord, but recognising those needs and doing what we can to meet those needs.



"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."