Joseph’s life was full of fail. First, his brothers hated him and plotted his death after he told them about his dreams, dreams that God had given him. Then, he was sold into slavery. Though he was prosperous in the house of Potiphar, he was tempted by his master’s wife. He was faithful and resisted the temptation, but he was thrown in prison anyway. He made friends while in prison, but was quickly forgotten. Over and over again, Joseph’s life was showing a pattern of coming up short when it mattered most.
Then one day his friend remembered his uncanny ability to interpret strange dreams. And Pharaoh was having some pretty strange dreams. There were these seven fat cows eaten up by seven skinny cows. What could it mean? Joseph knew.
Joseph was finally able to use his God given gift of interpretation to his benefit. Pharaoh showed him favor and made him second in command over all of Egypt. And though the road was littered with constant falls, he was finally standing tall. So tall in fact that his own family would eventually bow down to him just like those dreams God had given him years earlier.
Now, when you look at Joseph’s life it’s pretty easy to pick out all the times he had enough faith to fail. He kept his head and increased his faith in God, knowing that obedience was the true mark of a follower.
So let’s say that you were writing a book on faith. You’ve reserved one or two sentences for each of the Old Testament saints. You get to Joseph. What would you write? That his faith led him to divine interpretation? That his faith was most magnified when he resisted temptation? That his faith finally led him to success in the end?
Well, if you’re the writer of Hebrews that actually was your job. And guess what he chose to write about when he got to Joseph:
It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.
Wait, what? That’s it? His example of faith was that he believed God would make sure his bones were buried in the right place. Sure his confidence in the exodus was commendable, but trusting in his final resting place? That’s not too exciting.
But think about this. Looking over Joseph’s life the only constant was inconsistency. Just when everything was going great, the rug would be pulled out from under him. And that’s just the stories we see in Genesis. What about the things that happened after Genesis 50?
I wonder if his life kept going up and down like the roller coaster it had been. Maybe he had problems with his kids. Maybe there was some in-fighting amongst the Egyptians. Military reigns are full of backstabbing and coups and I bet Joseph was squarely in the middle of a couple of scandals while in power.
Joseph’s life was a constant back and forth between success and failure, failure and success. He would fall down and pull himself back up…just to be thrown down again. And if we’re honest, our lives look a lot like that too. But through it all, Joseph held onto one promise: That he would eventually end up right where God had promised him.
In fact, he held onto that promise so tightly that he gave careful instructions about his very bones. For Joseph, success wasn’t about how much food was stored up in the barns of Egypt or how high up he had risen in the ranks. Success for him was gauged by his final resting place in the promises of God.
None of us have been promised smooth sailing on this side of eternity. In fact, the examples we see in the Bible lead us to believe it’s going to get a little bumpy. “What we go through right now,” Paul wrote to the Romans, “is nothing compared to what we’ll see on the other side.”
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Paul is talking about our future resting place. He’s not guaranteeing success or perfection here on earth. He’s saying that when bad things happen don’t worry, you’ve got a spot reserved for you in eternal glory.
Joseph understood that. He knew how inconsistent and unpredictable life could be. So he looked forward to a time when he could finally be in God’s presence forever.
No matter what happens in this life, we can be sure that God’s got a plan for everyone of us. That plan is for us to be with him forever and ever. Along the way we’ll encounter all kinds of good things and bad, failures and successes. But each of us that love God and are called by him will end up in his rest forever.