Like many people I talk to, the story of Joseph is one of my favorite stories. He survives a dysfunctional environment and rises to the throne. His story gives us so much encouragement. For example, I love how Judah illustrates true repentance when he says,
And now, my lord, I cannot go back to my father without the boy. Our father’s life is bound up in the boy’s life. If he sees that the boy is not with us, our father will die. We, your servants, will indeed be responsible for sending that grieving, white-haired man to his grave. Genesis 44:30-31 NLT
Judah tells Joseph he would rather die a slave in Egypt rather than break his father’s heart. What a beautifully accurate picture of repentance.
I love it when Joseph tells his brothers,
But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. Genesis 45:5 NLT
Now here is some profound theology. Joseph is not blaming his dysfunctional family for all of his problems in life! He realizes how his dysfunctional family played right into God’s hands to get him exactly where he needed to be. Years ago someone 1200 miles away called me with a job offer. As it turned out, one of my coworkers knew the person who called me. I told a pastor friend, “I wonder if my coworker gave my name to the person who called, just to get rid of me?” The pastor wisely replied, “If so, it doesn’t matter what the motives of your coworker are. Joseph’s brothers had poor motives but they still got Joseph to the throne. God will work everything out for your good.”
During my whole life the story of Joseph has been an exhaustless theme. Putting myself in Joseph’s place and even in Jacob’s place gives me several different perspectives. That raises some questions, and I would be interested to know what your thoughts may be.
For example, If I put myself in Joseph’s sandals, I’m thinking that, as soon as I got free, I would go find my father. Once Joseph got on the throne, do you think he made any attempts to contact his father? I’m thinking it was definitely within his power to do so. Or do you think Joseph was content knowing God was with him, and that was all that mattered?
Do you think Joseph missed his family all the time, or was he possibly glad to be away from the dysfunction? Could there have been some dysfunction in Potiphar and his wife, which led to her advances? If so, did that maybe help Joseph see his own family in a different light?
When the brothers started telling Jacob all the strange questions the ruler was asking about the family, and especially his interest in the father and the little brother, do you think Jacob may had some fatherly instinct that helped him read between the lines and get a clue as to what was actually going on?
Our imagination should never be placed above a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” but I believe these stories are also written to leave room for a healthy imagination. I believe the stories come to life and are more real to us when we read with a healthy imagination that stays within the realms of the information Scripture provides. What do you think?