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.
“Did Joseph ultimately fail?” Al Erisman poses this question in his book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph (chapter 25). If, like me, you grew up in the church, faithfully attending Sunday School throughout your young life and believing that the Bible is God’s Word, then Al’s question can seem like heresy. How dare Al ask such a thing! Joseph is one of the great heroes of the Bible. Of course he didn’t fail! Or . . . did he?
Sometimes God’s “mysterious, marvelous ways” exceed all of our expectations in their obvious goodness. Sometimes, however, God’s ways are mysterious in the opposite direction. It can be hard to catch the marvelous quality.
Last Thursday’s Life for Leaders edition was entitled “God’s Mysterious, Marvelous Ways.” In this devotion I focused on Joseph’s claim that God, not his brothers, had sent him to Egypt for God’s own purposes. Today, I want to reflect with you on another dimension of God’s mysterious, marvelous ways.
Today is my mother’s birthday. In her honor, I want to tell a story about her life that illustrates what we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we focused on the opening verses of Genesis 45, in which Joseph finally reveals his true identity to his brothers. While Joseph wept loudly, his brothers stood silently, “so dismayed were they at his presence” (45:3). No doubt they feared that, given how they had treated Joseph years ago, they were in big trouble now.
Genesis 45 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, for several reasons. First, in this chapter Joseph finally revealed his true identity to his brothers. I’m reminded of so many delightful movies — from You’ve Got Mail to Iron Man — in which the protagonist finally lets out the secret of his or her real identity. None of these movies offers more suspense and surprise than the story of Joseph in Genesis.
As I reflect on the story of Joseph and his brothers, I’m struck by one aspect of chapter 44. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw that Judah, one of Joseph’s older brothers, stuck his neck out on behalf of his youngest brother, Benjamin, and their father, Jacob.
In Genesis 43, Jacob, the father of Joseph, was persuaded by his son Judah to let Benjamin, his youngest son, go to Egypt, as Joseph had required. This risky decision was necessary so that Jacob’s family might buy grain to stave off starvation. Jacob, afraid that something terrible would happen to his beloved Benjamin, nevertheless agreed that he should travel to Egypt.