Finding Purpose in Your Circumstances
by Skip Heitzig | June 19, 2018
One of history's most famous speeches was given by Winston Churchill on October 29, 1941. Among his words was this simple admonition: "Never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty." Joseph could've given that speech. This kid didn't give up.
Joseph had gone from prison to palace as the overseer of Operation: Storehouse by which granaries all over Egypt were sustaining people during the famine. In Canaan, Joseph's own family was suffering from the famine, so his father, Jacob, sent his boys—except Benjamin, his new favorite and Joseph's blood brother—down to Egypt for grain. As Joseph came face to face with his brothers, who didn't recognize him after so many years, he put them through three tests before he revealed himself to them:
1. The test of sincerity (see Genesis 42). Joseph wanted to see if there was any remorse in his brothers' hearts for what they had done to him, so he demanded that they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, to Egypt. In the course of their discussion, the brothers said to one another, "We are truly guilty concerning our brother [Joseph], for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us" (v. 21). Essentially they were saying, "God's getting us back for that whole ordeal with Joseph"; it was an admission of their guilt. Joseph held Simeon hostage until the other brothers could return with Benjamin.
2. The test of jealousy (see Genesis 43). Joseph's brothers were jealous of him twenty-one years before; now Joseph was wondering, Will their reaction be the same if I lavish all sorts of favor on the second favored son, Benjamin? Jacob's boys—including Benjamin this time—left for Egypt once more, where Joseph threw them a meal, giving Benjamin five times as much as the rest of them. This was the test—and they passed it: "They drank and were merry with him" (v. 34).
3. The test of charity (see Genesis 44). How much did Joseph's brothers really love not just Benjamin but their father? Joseph sent them back to Canaan, but he also set up Benjamin as a thief. Why? Joseph wanted to see how his brothers would react to having another brother as a slave down in Egypt, especially another favorite of their father's (see vv. 10, 17). Verse 13 indicates they were passing the test: "They tore their clothes." This was a sign of deep remorse—these guys had changed. Judah, speaking on behalf of all the brothers, came clean and said, "We're busted. God is paying us back big time from what happened twenty-one years ago."
Next week we'll see Joseph reveal himself to his brothers. But in the meantime, keep in mind the purpose God had for Joseph's life. Why was he allowed to be sold by his brothers, to be a slave in Potiphar's house, and to be falsely accused and put in jail? Now we're understanding why: to save the world from a famine, to bring the children of Israel down into Egypt to be nurtured and grow, and ultimately to preserve the lineage of the Messiah. Talk about purpose.
Whatever situation you're sweating about today, be encouraged that God has a purpose for it. Joseph didn't give up in the midst of his circumstances—and you don't have to either.