Genesis 50:20 - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Read the whole account of the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50.
"Our disappointments are God's appointments" is one of those well-known "Christian cliches". Unfortunately we sometimes become desensitized to the truth of much-quoted sayings because of their familiarity. The above statement is not only true but very important, and we need to constantly remind ourselves that God really is in control of our disappointments. Maybe you had a disappointing summer--a boring job or a broken love relationship. Perhaps you are disappointed right now--a frustrating teacher or a two-faced "friend". Remember that God is sovereign and knows all about your situation. He has actually appointed you to all these disappointments for any of several good reasons. The story of Joseph is a classic example of how God used disappointments in a young believer's life to accomplish His own good purposes. Genesis 50:20 gives us the conclusion of the story in Joseph's own words. Joseph recognized that the disappointments which he had experienced (even evil at the hands of his own family) were miraculously woven together by God to preserve many lives from starvation in the ancient world. What super faith Joseph exhibited when he stated, "God meant it for good..." Can we say the same? Is our faith strong enough to recognize that God not only permits disappointments to come our way but also appoints them? (See Romans 8:28-29 in this connection.) The first big disappointment in Joseph's life came when he was 17 years old. We read about this in Genesis 37. Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave to some bedouin traders who were on their way to Egypt. A number of things led to this disappointment in Joseph's life--possibly including his own failings. We read that Jacob, Joseph's father, had played favorites with his sons. He gave Joseph a beautiful and expensive robe (37:3-4). Jacob should have known that this display of favoritism might cause friction in the family. Parents run the same risk today when they play favorites with their children. We also learn that Joseph apparently assumed a superior attitude towards his brothers which further aroused their hatred and jealousy. Not only did teenager Joseph keep tabs on his older brothers (37:2) but he seems to have lost no time in relating his dreams to them--dreams in which he was the "hero" (37: 5-11). Now it was true that God was behind these dreams and they would all eventually come true. However, at this point maybe Joseph should have kept these dreams to himself. But let's not cut Joseph down without recognizing that we are guilty of similar failings. How often we assume a superior attitude and look down on people who we think are not as "with it" as we are--less intelligence, charisma, money, natural talent or even spiritual gift. How illogical and wrong! Everything we have has been given to us! "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7.) The most amazing and wonderful lesson for us in this part of the Joseph narrative is that God takes not only our disappointments but even our failings and works them into His overall good purposes for us and others. Of course this does not excuse us for our faults or make God culpable of evil in any way, but it does indicate that our sovereign God can overrule in the area of our mistakes. We can be sure that in the resulting pattern of events, God will work things together so that we are disciplined and taught and led to maturity in the very areas where we failed. Joseph must have thought more than once about his attitude towards his brothers as he lay in that empty cistern (37:24) awaiting the unknown. Being sold as a slave to a camel caravan was not exactly an ego trip for Joseph! The Lord would yet teach Joseph how to properly use his God-given abilities in the area of dreams (see Genesis 40 and 41). Another important lesson for us from the life of Joseph concerns faithfulness. Joseph had his rough edges, but throughout the disappointments in his life we never once read of Joseph falling from faith or speaking out against God. Our reaction in similar circumstances would probably be, "Why me, God? How could you allow my own family to treat me like this?" Joseph's faithfulness through disappointments puts many of us to shame. The next big disappointment in Joseph's life came when he was in Egypt. In Genesis 39 we learn that Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison. What led up to this disappointment? Joseph had become the slave of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. He had served well and had been elevated to the position of head servant. The Scripture (39:1-5) leaves no doubt that God was sovereignly working behind the scenes. Things seemed to be going reasonably well, but then came a critical test in the life of Joseph. Joseph was a good-looking and well-built guy (39:6) and Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him. What a temptation for Joseph--away from home and the restraining eye of his family; in pagan Egypt where "everyone does it"; bursting with all the sexual energy of a healthy young man; seemingly forsaken by God and in desperate need of some "companionship". Why not? Who would know? But (39:8) Joseph refused and remained faithful to the Lord. He recognized that this act would be sin against his master Potiphar and his wife--and against God (39:9). The fact that Joseph had unfairly been made a slave did not make it any less a sin. And the possibility that Potiphar's wife might have been lonely and "needing love" did not make it any less a sin either. No situational ethics for Joseph! Incidently, if the Bible espoused situation ethics, this would be the ideal place for God to teach it--but He doesn't! The test of Joseph's faith was not a one-shot temptation. It came day after day (39:10). Would we have remained faithful? Perhaps some of us would even have jumped to the false conclusion that such a prolonged "open door" was actually God's way of meeting our needs in a difficult situation. No! God neverleads us or meets our needs in ways that are contrary to His Word. Before leaving Joseph's test of faith let us look at two other lessons. First, notice that the test revolved around Joseph's own God-given looks. Potiphar's wife just would not have been interested in a fat ugly Joseph! How often the tests of our faith center around the good things God has given us--even the wonderful spiritual gifts that God graciously gives. Notice, too, the method of victory over this type of temptation. Run! Joseph didn't stand around to see how long he could resist the propositions of a beautiful woman. He got away from the situation as quickly as possible. This is the Scriptural method of victory over the "lusts of the flesh". Don't hang around such tempting situations to show your faith, but rather get away (immediately!) from these situations toprove your faith. As a result of his faithfulness, Joseph was falsely accused and convicted of being a rapist. How could God allow such a horrible disappointment? Listen, God allowed the horrible butchery of the cross in order to save us from our sins. (Note the blend of the concepts of "appoint" and "allow" in Acts 2:23.) We can be sure that if God allows a "horrible" disappointment to come into our lives, He has appointed us to this disappointment for some good reason. We may not understand the "why" until eternity. This takes a measure of faith beyond the ordinary, but God gives special enablement in such cases. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) Joseph's vindication finally came, but not before another major disappointment. While in jail, Joseph came in contact with two officials of Pharaoh, the king of all Egypt (Genesis 40). Note again how the sovereignty of God was at work in bringing them to the "same place where Joseph was imprisoned" (40:3). The two officials had dreams which Joseph correctly interpreted. Joseph asked Pharaoh's cup-bearer to remember him when the cupbearer was released from prison and restored to office. Naturally the official forgot all about Joseph when he went back to the court of Pharaoh. Did anyone ever "milk" you of your generous help and then drop you as if you didn't exist anymore? We can imagine the disappointment for Joseph. Expectations were dashed. Why not give up? Surely God must have forgotten about him wasting away prime years in that miserable Egyptian prison--if there even was a God! At least two years went by with no change! Have you ever been in that miserable, disappointing, no-change rut? From our perspective there seems to be no action, only wasted time. From God's perspective it may be an appointment in which to learn patience and humility--and maybe other reasons too. In Genesis 41 we have the story of Joseph's exaltation. The cupbearer was finally forced to remember Joseph when God gave Pharaoh a couple of dreams. Joseph was released from prison and brought before the king of Egypt to interpret his dreams. But Joseph's first words before Pharaoh were about God. The Scripture leaves no doubt that Joseph had remained faithful to God throughout his entire incarceration and fully intended to remain faithful before this pagan ruler. Would we be as faithful, or would we decide somewhere along the line to change allegiance? God honored Joseph for his faithfulness. He was elevated to second in command over all Egypt. Such a position for a Hebrew young man necessitated all the experience of Egyptian life and government that Joseph had "picked up" during those years of disappointment. God knew what He was doing all along. He still does! Our disappointments are God's appointments!