Preparing for Greatness
Among the most prized possessions of men of past centuries was a fine sword. In the East it was a Damascus blade that was valued for its strength and edge. During the Renaissance, the weapon of choice was a rapier cast and hammered through a secret process in Toledo, Spain. In the nineteenth century in the English-speaking world, nothing was thought better than a Wilkinson sword, used by British officers in the Battle of Omdurman, the last great cavalry charge. Swords have been immortalized in mythology as well, like King Arthur’s broadsword Excalibur pulled from a cloven rock, which, of course, gave it magical powers. More recently there has been Frodo Baggins’ miniature sword Sting, which often delivered him from his enemies. Even science fiction boasts its swords, like the lightsabers of the Jedi knights. (Thanks to Kent Hughes for this overview of swords.)
The sword is also a powerful biblical metaphor for the Word of God. “Take the … sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thought and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). John Bunyan’s Pilgrim carries a “right true Jerusalem Blade” – his way of saying that the Christian is armed with God’s Word.
But there is another kind of sword, as Hughes notes, and that is a human life so shaped and honed and tempered by God through the fires of life that it becomes a mighty blade of deliverance, a daunting instrument of salvation. This is what we have been seeing in Joseph – the sharpening of a life to such an edge that he became a singular instrument of redemption. It began when Joseph, as a youth, was sold into Egyptian slavery. The bitterness of Joseph’s experience, by God’s grace, seasoned him with a strength that enabled him to forgive his brothers and trust God for the fulfilment of his God-given dreams.
But huge challenges awaited him on the other side of his prison experience, when he would ascend to the vice-regency of Egypt. Just as it is today, the whole ancient world lay in the power of the wicked one (cf. 1 John 5:19) – and Egypt was at the center of the world’s evil. And the ruling class where Joseph would be cast was caught in a web of unbridled ambition, sensuality, and intrigue – like any other aristocratic clan. And more, Joseph was a righteous man in Egypt. This meant that Joseph’s tenure would be full of trouble. We must not imagine that his position put him above the rubbish. Rather, it put him in the middle of it. Joseph would suffer disappointment again and again, despite his skillful management. His pagan associates would be experts at returning evil for good. So, on the eve of his ascent to power, Joseph needed some further honing to ensure greatness. And this is what his final stint in the Egyptian prison would provide.
As we engage the story, eleven years have passed since Joseph was sold into slavery. We do not know how those eleven years were divided between serving in Potiphar’s household and in prison. But we do know that Joseph is now twenty-eight years old, because two years after the events of this chapter, at the age of thirty, he will ascend to the service of Pharaoh (cf. 37:2; 41:1, 46). What sharpening did the Lord have prepared for Joseph? What sharpening does the Lord desire for your lives? For what might he be preparing you?
I hope you can join us this coming Lord’s Day as we celebrate the Lord of glory.
Don’t forget that this Sunday we are having a fellowship immediately following our morning service. The church will provide the meat and drinks and we ask that you bring some side dishes and a dessert. If you haven't signed up, you can HERE.
Immediately following our meal, we will enter into a family meeting to petition the presbytery for particularization, elect officers, and call the pastor.