What God does for Joseph He does for all those whom He grafts into His Story. Paul describes the value of looking back—looking back at God’s method of operation in the past—and the value it brings in producing hope in the present, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Psalm 105, 106, and 107 are historical psalms—they chronicle the story of God’s interaction with His people Israel from Genesis to the time of captivity. God reveals His ways through His interaction with His people. Psalm 107 concludes with the words, “Whoever is wise will observe theses things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (107:43).
Therefore, when the psalmist records details concerning Joseph he provides insight to Joseph’s spiritual formation process, ”He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons until his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him” (Psalm 105:17-19). What does it mean that the word of the LORD tested him?
Joseph attends God’s School of Leadership Training from age seventeen until age thirty. God’s educational program lasts thirteen years and consists of three courses. The psalmist grades Joseph’s report card. How’d he do?
The first course: The Passage of Time
God speaks to Joseph in a dream when he is just seventeen years old and then confirms it in a second dream. Thirteen years pass as he waits for God to both interpret that dream and fulfill l it. Joseph never wavers in faith. Joseph trusts in the LORD the entire time and everyone around him recognizes the peace of God upon his life. This first course was designed to teach this future leader how to wait upon God and trust Him in the midst of suffering. Seven years of devastating worldwide drought ahead of him would demand this life skill. Joseph’s waiting on God teaches believers the importance of trusting God with the interpretation and the fulfillment of dreams that He gives us, and the fulfillment of His will in their lives in spite of contradictory circumstances. Faith and scheming don’t mix (See Isaiah 64:4). Waiting on God is the evidence of genuine faith. Grade: A+
The second course: The Problem of Suffering
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold, first to a band of traders, and then again, to Potiphar, a wealthy Egyptian. Tough stuff for a favored child! If that’s not enough he was falsely accused of sexual harassment by the boss’s wife and wrongly thrown into prison. While there he was forgotten by a fellow prisoner (who benefited from Joseph’s faith in God and was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s house). His forgetfulness meant that Joseph remained in prison for two more years. Time flies when you are having fun but drags on and on during suffering; although Joseph wasn’t having, fun he remained faithful. Suffering teaches believers perseverance and godly character (Romans 5:3-4). Joseph would need plenty of both for the years ahead of him. Grade: A+
Third course: The Place of Forgiveness
Think of the people that Joseph had to forgive: his brothers, his boss, his boss’s wife, and Pharaoh’s cupbearer.—even his own dad whose special favor (including that stupid coat of many colors) and instruction to check on his brothers placed him in the trajectory of rejection. Betrayal teaches believers to see the redemptive hand of God even in the pain caused by others. Joseph would see God’s redemption purposes fulfilled through the machinations of broken relationships, false accusations, and obscurity. Forgiveness enables believers to embrace God’s strategy for Christ-likeness. Grade: A+
The Word of God also tests Israel as a nation. Throughout the story God gives Israel promises; unlike Joseph, they fail to learn from his example of trusting God and waiting upon Him. Psalm 105 and other psalms that capture Israel’s history look back and provide much needed perspective. The longest psalm highlights the importance of knowing God’s law, testimonies, ways precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgments. Truly, “the entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (119:130).