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Pastor's Corner: God's presence with Joseph

The story of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph is one of the most dramatic in the Bible. With a couple of interruptions this story runs in Genesis from chapter 37 to the end of the book (chapter 50).

During that time, Joseph's brothers first planned to kill him and then decided to sell him into slavery instead. Once in Egypt he was imprisoned as a result of a false accusation. A prisoner whom he helps forgets all about him for a long time. Joseph's story for a very long time is one of undeserved suffering.

However, that isn't the whole story. Ultimately, Joseph wound up being in a position to deliver the very family who had mistreated him from a disastrous famine. He was taken out of prison and given a position of great authority and responsibility in administering Egypt. Even before that happens, though, there is a strange expression used about him: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man ... the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper" (Genesis 39:2,23 NKJV).

That's a strange expression because of the circumstances. Joseph lost his family, and wound up in Egypt, first as a slave, and then as a prisoner. A false accusation against him and his undeserved imprisonment took place in between the two verses that say that the Lord was with him. Given that things only seem to be getting worse, how can the Bible say he was successful because God was with him?

This choice of language suggests three important lessons:

1. God's presence does not mean bad things don't happen. Prosperity and adversity are not, by themselves, proof of God's favor or displeasure.

2. Success and prosperity by God's blessing are connected to how we respond to adversity, not to our freedom from trouble. Even when things went badly, Joseph continued to carry out his responsibilities. That was the real proof that God was with him.

3. Trials and problems do not mean God has abandoned us. Our sufferings and tribulations don't alienate God from us.

If your life story were being written, would you say over all the rough patches that you prospered because God was with you?

Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.


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