Bringing Out the Best

Then the LORD told me about the plots my enemies were making against me. I was like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me! “Let’s destroy this man and all his words,” they said. “Let’s cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever.”
O LORD of Heaven’s Armies,
you make righteous judgments,
and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.
Let me see your vengeance against them,
for I have committed my cause to you. (Jeremiah 11:18–20 NLT)

Each Saturday during Lent, we will explore a story or profile of peace in action: people who are acting as shalom-bearers in a world increasingly in need of God’s peace.
Joseph’s relationship with his brothers was not a healthy one. They resented their father’s favoritism toward Joseph, and they took it out on him. When the opportunity arose, their initial plan was to kill him and blame it on wild animals. One brother had a better idea: rather than have Joseph’s blood on their hands, they could sell him as a slave to some traders, distant cousins of theirs who happened to be traveling through the area. They could then keep up the original façade and tell their dad their brother had been killed. This is how Joseph, an Israelite shepherd out of Canaan, ended up in Egypt, serving in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.

Though not the life he would have wished for himself, he did what he could to serve his new master to the best of his ability. And he seemed to thrive in this role, until Potiphar’s wife propositioned him, inviting him to share a bed with her. When he refused, she falsely accused him of sexually harassment. This is how Joseph, son of Jacob, found himself imprisoned in a foreign land, accused of a crime he did not commit.

Yet his God was still with him, for he continued to find favor with those he interacted with, prisoners and guards alike. One of those prisoners, the Pharaoh’s cup-bearer, was soon reinstated into his former position, something Joseph foretold would happen based on a dream. But despite his promise to remember Joseph upon his release, the cup-bearer did not, until the Pharaoh was particularly vexed by a recurring dream no one could seem to interpret. At the cup-bearer’s suggestion, Joseph was brought before Pharoah, where he not only told Pharaoh what the dream was but the reason behind God giving it to him in the first place. This is how Joseph, follower of God Most High, became the second most powerful man in all Egypt.

And so it was that when a famine struck Egypt, as well as the surrounding lands, Joseph, granted the foresight given by God through the Pharaoh’s dream, had planned well, and there was plenty of food stored away in anticipation. The same could not be said for Joseph’s family, who were struggling to survive. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to barter for grain, so they might have food to live. Though they did not recognize Joseph, he knew them immediately. Through some pretenses of his own devising, Joseph convinced them they could only return to Egypt with his brother, Benjamin, in tow, and he surreptitiously gave them back the money they paid for the grain. Upon their return with Benjamin, and seeing how his brothers were now caring and protective of him despite his favored position in the eyes of their father – a stark contrast to his own former relationship with them – Joseph broke down and told them the whole tale.

All along his journey, Joseph worked to bring out the best of those around him. He refused to sleep with Potiphar’s wife and thereby dishonor the trust placed him. When it was warranted, he provided hope to those in jail who had none. He worked with the Pharaoh to save countless lives by storing up for a famine. And he brought his family back together and saved them from the famine as well. Even when he was wronged, Joseph sought to be a shalom-bearer where he could.

May we be the same.

(This story was adapted from Genesis 37, 39–47.)
Michael Benson is the NAB communications director.