The pitfall of injustice
Genesis 39:21–23; 40:4–8, 20–23
There are times and seasons in life where we can feel forsaken and forgotten. Certainly there are times when we feel like we’re put on the shelf in a time of waiting.
In today’s lesson, we encounter Joseph in prison. He arrived there by fleeing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. It’s an old saying: “No good deed goes unpunished”!
Those dreams from earlier years must have seemed so long ago to Joseph. That coat of many colors had been replaced by prison rags. From the human perspective, it didn’t seem like God was fulfilling the dream He had given Joseph. From the outside, it looked like God had given up on him. And yet, in verse 21, we are told that the Lord was with Joseph in prison and gave him favor with the warden.
Someone has said, “When hardship comes, you either get bitter or better.” In Joseph’s case, he got better! We never see Joseph descending into self-pity.
The reality is this: Nothing can come into our lives unless it first passes through the permissive filter of God’s sovereign will. So in Joseph’s case and in ours, while we may not understand why certain things happen, we can trust that God has allowed it. And according to Romans 8:28, God is working all things together for our good and His glory.
Keep doing good in the face of injustice. (39:21–23)
Our natural tendency is to want revenge and to spend time rehearsing and plotting how we will get back at those who have wronged us. That mindset is an incredible waste of energy and the antithesis of what God has called us to.
In Romans 12:19 the Apostle Paul writes, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD” (NLT).
When you’re a victim, don’t take it out on others. (40:4–8)
The injustice of Joseph’s situation could have left him depressed, discouraged and despondent. Instead, he was an encouragement to his fellow prisoners including the cupbearer and the baker. He used his gifts to interpret their dreams.
His attitude and actions were noticed by the jailer, and he was made a leader among the prisoners.
Don’t be discouraged by delays. (40:20–23)
I can only imagine Joseph’s consternation after seeing the fulfillment of the dreams he interpreted for the cupbearer and baker. As the cupbearer was to be released Joseph asked him to remember him in his situation. However, the cupbearer, like most people, moved on and forgot about Joseph.
He could have focused on all he had lost; instead, Joseph chose to focus on the promises God had given. The important takeaway is this: God’s delays are not God’s denials.
The visions and dreams God gave Joseph as a young teenager would ultimately be fulfilled in his life. However, God needed to mature Joseph before those dreams could find their fulfillment.
Some things can only be accomplished as we endure hardship and injustice. James 1:2–4 encourages us: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The mature Joseph who would eventually be used by God to save his family and Egypt from the famine is vastly different from the audacious, dreaming young man.
By Don Fugate
Fugate is senior pastor at Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, California.