The Two Lives of Joseph

There is a book that my mother used to read to me when I was little entitled, The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. Though I do not, at this time, recollect all the ins and outs of this book containing a day’s worth of mishaps and bad memories, it is one of the first thoughts which enters my mind when contemplating the life of one of the Bible’s most famous men.

The account of Joseph as given in Genesis 37-50 is one of the most well-known accounts of Biblical history. From the coat of many colors, to the prison cell dream interpretations, to being the second-in-command of an entire nation, Joseph’s life is one of twists and turns that would cause a professional novelist a great deal of mental exertion trying to keep up. Yet the life of this great man of Scripture is one that in actuality brings forth two lives being led at once. They coexist, yet in Joseph they seem to be completely separate and detached from one another. This is not to say that they do not have an impact on one another, but that the direction the first life in our discussion takes does not, by means of necessity, impact the second. Consider the two lives of Joseph.

The Physical Life of Joseph. The physical life of Joseph was a roller coaster ride of proportions that would make Six Flags watch in amazement. Joseph went from being the favorite son of his father to being almost murdered by his brothers at the age of 17 (Gen. 37). He went from being sold into slavery by them to rising to be the overseer of the house of one of the most prominent officers of Pharaoh (Gen. 39). He went from being thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit, to again rising from the ashes, this time as the second in authority over the entire land of Egypt (Gen. 40-41). All of this occurred over the space of many years, and yet the emotional and physical trials this man went through cannot truly be imagined by many of us today.

The things which happened to Joseph would leave many people with an attitude as rough and callous as the scarred wounds of a badly burned skin. Joseph, however, was not readily affected in such a way. He sought to make the best out of every situation, even when there did not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. By doing so he earned the respect of those surrounding him at every point in his life.

There are many occasions in our lives when things do not go as we had planned in our minds. Even so, let us remember the exceptional example of the great-grandson of Abraham.

The Spiritual Life of Joseph. From the very first introduction of Joseph, it is evident that this young man had a faith in God and a purpose for which he lived his life. In every facet of his life, whether at the highest peak or the lowest valley, Joseph’s spiritual life remained a constant stream of devotion to God.

He did not blame God when things went badly, neither did he ignore God when things went well. God was always at the forefront of all that Joseph did. Joseph was the perfect example of one who had a faith that did not ebb and flow with the tides of life’s trials, but instead stood as the fortress to which Joseph could go for refuge no matter his situation.

It would have been very easy for Joseph to have blamed God for allowing all of these events to happen to him throughout his life. Instead, Joseph explained to his brothers his attitude toward all these things when he said, “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” (Gen. 50:20).

Before we blame all our ills on God and live our lives in the malady of woe and self-pity, let us look back to Joseph and recognize that God uses those bad situations to bring forth good if we are willing to let Him (Rom. 8:28).

Throughout Joseph’s life there were two lives rolled into one. The physical life, with all of its turmoil, emboldened and bolstered by the spiritual life, constant and steadfast. One of the greatest lessons men can learn from Joseph is that our physical lives should not be allowed to dictate our spiritual lives, but our spiritual lives will dictate how we live our physical lives.

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