Life at the Top
Now, at long last, as Joseph is catapulted into the public arena, we begin to see the first evidences of the promised blessing that the seed of Abraham could and would bring to the world. Pharaoh is so convinced of Joseph’s authenticity and capability that he invests him with virtually unlimited authority over the nation. Joseph is to be obeyed without question by every citizen. His only superior is the king himself on his throne. The masses of Egyptians bowed to him, yet they had not been the subjects of his teenage dreams. One cannot help in wondering how Potiphar and his wife reacted to Joseph being elevated far above them in power and social standing, for they had to bow also. This was a dramatic example of God’s principle: ‘Those who honor me I will honor’ (1 Sam. 2:30). God had vindicated Joseph at the highest possible level.
Yes, Joseph was vindicated. Does that mean that all believers who have suffered false accusations, vilification, discrimination, and even imprisonment will live to see vindication? Is lack of vindication an evidence of guilt? History shows us all too clearly that this is not the case. Some are called to ‘be faithful unto death’ (Rev. 2:10), whose vindication will come only after death. Our Lord is the supreme example, and the first martyr, Stephen, is another.
Joseph had passed with flying colors the tests of coping with social ostracism and suffering. Now he has to learn to cope with the exact opposite – wealth, status, and fame. He went straight from the bottom to the top at a speed calculated to make anyone else giddy and disoriented.
How do we cope with wealth, status, and fame, if we have it? For God does give it to some believers, as he did to Joseph. Though we are told in Scripture that there are ‘not many… powerful, not many… of noble birth’ (1 Cor. 1:26), we are not told that there aren’t any. It would be a mistake to think of wealth merely in monetary terms, for although God has gifted many believers with business acumen, there is a wealth of intellect and inventive and practical skills in many fields – gifts of artistic, musical, and literary ability – and a wealth of personality, relational, and organizational talent.
We are called upon to accept such gifts as from God and to use them in his service and for the benefit of others, but not to trust them nor to trust in them. Money is a root of all kinds of evil, but in the hands of believers who regard themselves as stewards under God, money can be a source of all kinds of good. The early church was certainly grateful to have believers who could afford a home large enough to house a church.
Joseph’s promotion brought immense prosperity and power. It also brought his renaming by Pharaoh. Furthermore, his promotion brought a marriage, again arranged by Pharaoh, into a prominent Egyptian priestly family. While this marriage raises obvious questions, we are given no more information as to the status of her belief; she may even have been a convert to Joseph’s God, as one Jewish tradition has it.
In any case, even if she was not (yet) a believer, Joseph does not appear to have had any choice in the matter, and there is no criticism of him in the text for having married her. Maybe the lesson we need to learn is that though it is God’s stated ideal – indeed, command – that a believer should not marry an unbeliever, he, in his merciful providence, can help people to overcome even in a situation that is far from ideal that may be none of their own making.
With his home firmly established, Joseph threw himself into the task of administering the nation’s agriculture with immense success. Before long, six years passed, and the next landmark in Joseph’s life concerned his own seed: he started a family. Two sons were born.
Doubtless his background must have now seemed a bit remote. He was happily married to an Egyptian; he had a family, great prestige and wealth, and a secure position and future in the Egyptian empire.
Despite all that, he was soon to be confronted with his past in an unexpected and dramatic way that would eventually change his life forever. It was the predicted famine that triggered that confrontation.
I hope you can join us this week as we look at Joseph’s life ‘on the top.’ How did he remain faithful with such success and wealth? How can you remain faithful in your affluence? What must you believe to keep faithful. Scripture calls us to give thanks to our God who is faithful to keep us blameless to the last day.