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In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider a passage from Genesis 49 in which Jacob testified to the power of his verbal blessings to affect the life of his son Joseph. “The blessings of your father,” Jacob said, “are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains” (49:26). From this starting point, we reflected on the power of our words to bless others or to hurt them. This power is expressed, not just within family systems, but also in the workplace. With words, we can build each other up or tear each other down.
Words have power. With your words you can wound and weaken the people who matter most in your life, such as your colleagues and subordinates, your family members and friends, your neighbors near and far. Or you can use your words to bless those who are close to you, to build them up, encourage, and energize them.
We were created for work. And work, as God intended it, was to be good. As creatures made in God’s image, we were to do the good work of being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, governing it, tilling it, and keeping it.
But then something happened to corrupt the goodness of work. Sin happened.
[Jacob] blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my ancestors Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys; and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac; and let them […]
Jacob’s experience of God was not simply a hand-me-down. The second way he identified God was as “the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day.” Notice that God was not just a shepherd or the shepherd of all of his people, but rather “my shepherd.”
Who is God to you? If you were to summarize your personal knowledge of God, what would you say? I’m not asking at this moment about your doctrine of God, your articulated theology. I’m wondering more about your relationship with God, your experienced theology. (Of course, in the end, what we believe about God and what we experience should converge. But, on the way to meeting God face to face, they are often distinct.)
For several days we have been working together on the question: Did Joseph ultimately fail? We know that his plan and execution of this plan kept thousands of people alive through years of famine. But, his plan also led to the enslavement of these thousands to Pharaoh.
Last week, we began to consider whether Joseph ultimately failed in the most important work of his life. In Friday’s devotion I made the case for Joseph’s success. Today I want to present the other side of this argument.
In yesterday’s devotion, we began to wrestle with the question of whether or not Joseph failed in his main mission in life. On the one hand, his foresight and leadership saved thousands if not millions of lives from starvation. On the other hand, in the process of saving the Egyptians and his own family, Joseph made all of these people slaves of Pharaoh. Because of Joseph’s actions, Pharaoh ended up owning all the animals, land, and people of Egypt. Hundreds of years later, the Israelites would be oppressed as slaves in Egypt as a distant result of the outworking of Joseph’s plan. So, did he succeed? Or did he fail?
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I asked the question: Did Joseph ultimately fail? To be more accurate, I borrowed that question from Al Erisman in his book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph (chapter 25). Yesterday, I considered whether Christians ought to ask such questions of biblical heroes, answering in the affirmative. Today, I want to begin to reflect on the question itself.
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