Chapter 8 – Joseph, or Faith’s Victory over Suffering and Wrong

The lesson derived from Joseph’s life is the victory of faith over suffering and wrong. Jacob’s sufferings were the discipline which his own waywardness brought upon him; Joseph’s were the sufferings of an innocent and noble spirit. The first were designed to teach us how divine grace can overrule suffering for our spiritual good; the second to show how divine love can deliver us from the most trying difficulties and overrule them for our own good, and the good of others.

Joseph’s early visions were the foundation of his faith. He did not have, like Jacob, a divine prediction through his mother’s lips, announcing his future life and place of covenant blessing. But to his young heart there came in the visions of the night the foreshadowing of his future greatness, and, with ingenuous soul, he accepted it and believed it. His faith was tested by the ridicule of his brethren, and even the grave surprise and questioning of his old father, but he kept it and confessed it, and the day came when he saw it all fulfilled.

To all who wait upon His will, the Master gives some word of faith for the future. Not now in dreams and visions, but in His Word and its bright illumination by the Spirit, does He draw aside the veil enough to give our faith a resting-place and an anchorage. So to Timothy, Paul speaks of “the prophecies that went before on thee that by means of them thou mightest war a good warfare.” We must see the land before we can possess it.

It was this that carried David through his nine years of exile and persecution. It was this that sustained Paul through all his stormy vicissitudes; God had said,” Thou must see Rome,” and he counted not his life dear unto himself that he might “finish his course with joy.” And for each of us there is in life a destiny which God would have us claim and complete in faith and victory, and feel that if we trust Him He waits to carry us through. “Lift up thine eyes; all the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it.”

The stern realities of life soon tested his ardent anticipations, and proved whether they were the dreams of an enthusiast or the outcome of faith in God. God will put our trust into the crucible, and all that is not founded on His will, will dissolve like snow. But in that hour the faith of God shines with a luster brighter and clearer because of the darkness and the trial. First came the cruel envy of his brethren, and their heartless crime, which sent him into banishment and slavery, and broke his father’s heart with suspense and sorrow. Next came the base and false accusing of Potiphar’s wife, and his languishing in prison for months, and perhaps years. Then came the neglect and desertion of his companion in bondage, whose deliverance he had foretold only to be forgotten and left to his fate.

If there be anything still more hard to bear it is unjust accusation and inability to prove one’s innocence under the charge of atrocious crime. Such was his keen wound, and it was pierced to the quick by the desertion, at the last, of the very friend he had tried to help in their common distress. Under such circumstances any one of us would naturally have broken down completely and said, perhaps, “There is no use trying. The more one attempts to do right, the more he is hindered.” Of course he is. The devil does not try to hinder people who are going down. The law of gravitation only works against you when you ascend; it helps you downward. So does the law of sin and death. But shall we ask Satan’s leave to be right and true and brave and victorious? Shall we get a passport from him before we walk through the gates of victory? Or shall we not rather count his fiercest challenge our best and most complimentary certificate, and say with one, “The highest evidence you can have that you are right is the devil’s growl.”

How did Joseph act under trial? Did he get morbid and discouraged, and mourn his hard fate? Did he wait until circumstances got favorable? No, he at once accepted his position, and made the best of it, doing his duty in the kitchen so faithfully that he soon became the foreman over all his master’s house; and when, afterwards, he was sent to prison, he did his work in prison so faithfully that he soon became the master of the situation, and the overseer of the prisoners.

The world is full of young men who are waiting for something worthy of them, and have no heart to do better because they are unfavorably situated. The man who is going to succeed on the throne must first succeed in the ranks. A young man came to the writer once, without work. He had been a bank officer. Next day he started out to mop out cars with a soap bucket and brush. He did it well and gladly. He was thankful to have that to do, and determined to do his best. It was not a week till he was in a valuable post in that railway company. Such men will succeed. God will bless brave, manly, patient courage everywhere. Brother, begin where you are. There was no other road to Pharaoh’s throne except through the dungeon. Had he not been there amid wrong and shame Joseph could not have been brought to the notice of the king as he was, and raised to his princely place. Instead of quarreling with your trying position, and blaming some one for putting you there, why don’t you look for the side door that leads to the kingdom? There is always such a door of faith for those who trust God in all things. The secret of Joseph’s victory was simply this: He believed that God was in the bitterest of his trials, and would carry him through and give him double for all his shame. And I doubt not that often the memory of his early visions came floating over his spirit to point to the bright future which God was still holding for him when the ordeal was past.

His deliverance and triumph came at last. It came directly through his prison cell and his hardest experience. It came with an uplift so glorious, that his former troubles were forgotten. It came with an opportunity for the noblest revenge, for it not only laid the land of Egypt at his feet, but it brought his own brethren to his feet too, to see the fulfilment of his dreams, and the failure of their envy, and to claim at his hands the kindness which gave him his crowning victory. Oh yes, wronged and trusting one, “God will lift up thy head.” He says of thy enemies, “I will make them come and worship at thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” The pendulum must swing back with equal rebound, and as we are partakers of His sufferings, so we shall be of His consolations:

“The light of smiles shall fill again
The eyes that overflow with tears,
And weary hours of grief and pain
Are harbingers of happier years.”

God’s blessed “afterward” always comes, and “the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.” Then the teardrops and blood-drops shall be crystallized into pearls and rubies in our crown. God has a wonderful way of balancing accounts, and no true child of His need fear the touch of sorrow, for He can ” turn the curse into a blessing,” and overturn, when His time has come, the mightiest adversary, and turn the light affliction which was but for a moment into a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Like the contrary wind which the skillful sailor, by tacking, makes carry his vessel on her way, so God makes “all things work together for good to them that love God,” and nothing can be against them.

The best thing about Joseph’s triumph was that it was a victory of love. He did not use his exaltation for himself, but as a benefactor and savior of the world. And his highest joy was to be able to return good for evil to the very brethren who had wronged him. It was not the joy of a mean revenge which filled his heart as he found the betrayers of his youth in his power, but it was the gladness of being able to do them a kindness. And how noble was that kindness; how wisely did he endeavor to awake in their consciences a true sense of sin; and yet how magnanimously did he try to efface all sense of remorse, and lead them to see in it all God’s overruling love and power in bringing about their own deliverance as well as the saving of “much people alive.”

How can we have such love? What did the apostles say when Christ told them about the love that forgives until seventy times seven? “Lord, increase our faith.” Yes, it is only when we see God above all our trials that we can forgive and forget the human instrument. Overruling and counteracting all their hate, we behold the hand of infinite power and love, and we fear them not; we feel only sorry for them, as we see their ultimate discomfiture and sorrow, and we can even love and bless them that curse us.

If we could ever see the Hidden Hand that lies back of all other hands, we would ever have the victory of faith and the victory of love.

Is it not sublime to hear this wronged and outraged brother saying, “Now, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you, to preserve life . . . God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So, now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God, and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt “? And then again, a little later, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

That is faith’s after-view of trial. It sees God’s hand over all, and recognizes no evil ultimately. To such a soul nothing can be amiss.

Joseph had not only looked over the span of life with victorious faith and hope, but his vision out-reached the horizon of Time and took in the Eternal. His last words were as full of glorious expectation as his first. He “made mention of the departing of the children of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones.” Yes, he saw in the distance their redemption, and a little farther on the Great Redemption itself, and beyond that, the Glorious Resurrection; and in that day he claimed his place with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the millennial earth, and the deathless, sinless, glorious kingdom of that Greater Sufferer, who, like himself, was to be rejected and betrayed by His brethren, innocently accused and condemned, cruelly wronged, and then divinely exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to deliver His people, to be made known to His long-alienated brethren, and to be ruler of all the families of the earth.

Yes, it was fitting that Joseph should be the most beautiful and perfect type of Jesus. It was meet that this innocent and blameless life should point forward to Him “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His lips. It is meet that in this wronged and patient sufferer we should see His marred and bleeding face who “was taken from prison and judgment . . . despised and rejected of men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief . . . reviled and He reviled not again, suffered, and He threatened not.” It is blessed to see in that forgiving brother the love that sought and waited and made Himself known to us, and then, forgiving us all, helped and taught us to forgive, and draw some good even from the lessons of our sinful past. And it is glorious to rise from Joseph’s exaltation to Messiah’s glory, and see Him reigning as a Prince and a Savior, not for Himself, but for His people’s good, and saving and feeding a perishing world by His gracious hand. It was He who lived and triumphed in Joseph, and if He lives in us we shall also find it true, “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign.”