Joseph’s story is well-known to us from the days of our youth.
However, recently, in my daily reading, I came across Psalm
105:17-19. It took me off guard somewhat and caused me to
scratch my head in puzzlement. The text says, “The word of the
Lord tested [Joseph]” (NASU). What does that mean? Does it
happen to us today? What can we learn from this? Examine this
thought with me, looking at the story of Joseph, how the word
tested him and the three lessons we need to know to help us carry
on in the midst of tragedy.
37:2, 5-11, when Joseph was 17, the word of the Lord came
to him in a dream saying that he would rule over his family. What
an amazing promise. But how could it possibly come true? He was
the 11th of 12 sons. Yet, imagine what a dream that
would be and how you could hang on to that when your brothers
mistreated you and picked on you.
However, in Genesis
37:28, Joseph’s brothers plotted against him and sold
him into slavery to so Midianite traders who took him down into
Egypt where he became a household slave for Potiphar. How do you
think Joseph felt about his dream while enslaved? That doesn’t
seem so promising regarding ruling over his family.
In time, he was promoted to be a ruler among the slaves.
Potiphar’s wife longed for Joseph and tried to seduce him. But
Joseph, despite being sold into slavery while under the watchful
eye of his God and seemingly in contradiction to his God’s
promise, Joseph remained true to his God. Therefore, he refused
Potipher’s wife’s advances. In Genesis
39:19-20, she wrongfully accused Joseph and he was thrown
in prison. How do you think Joseph felt about his dream while
imprisoned? The word of God had said he would rule even over his
brothers, but he has been nothing more than a slave and now a
Then in Genesis
40, a baker and a cupbearer to the king who were
imprisoned both had dreams, which Joseph interpreted. He asked the
cupbearer to keep him in mind before the Pharaoh when he was
released. But the cupbearer forgot. Can you imagine how Joseph
felt when days turned into weeks, weeks into months and he
realized that if the cupbearer had even remembered to say anything
to Pharaoh, that Pharaoh was not doing anything about Joseph. How
could God let this happen. He had promised Joseph through His word
that Joseph would be a ruler of men? All He had given Joseph was
slavery and prison.
Then one day, out of nowhere, Joseph was called out of
prison to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. Through Joseph’s
interpretation, Pharaoh learned seven years of plenty were coming
for Egypt and then seven years of famine. He needed someone to
plan throughout the seven years of plenty for those years of
famine. Who better than the man blessed by God enough to be able
to interpret dreams? In Genesis
41:38-42, Joseph was made second in command over all
Egypt. Notice in Genesis
41:46, Joseph was 30 years old. As we read through a few
chapters in just over five minutes, we might miss the time frame
here. It may seem like a short time. A matter of days, weeks,
perhaps months. Instead it was 13 years.
How did Joseph hang on for 13 years of slavery and
imprisonment? He hung on to the word of God. The word had been
testing him. It had come to him and offered him a promise, but
then for 13 years it looked like that promise could not possibly
come true. The word of the Lord had claimed Joseph would be
blessed by God, but for 13 years it looked in some ways as though
Joseph had been abandoned by God. But God had always been with Him
and God’s promise would come true.
“The word of the Lord tested him.”
The word translated “test” in Psalm
105:19 is used in metallurgy. The silversmith would have
to test the silver to see if it could be used for any good
purpose. The word is used in two similar ways that bear on what
happened to Joseph and what happens to us.
For the smith to know if the silver was any good, he would have to
melt it over intense heat. When he did, I understand impurities
would rise to the top. Isn’t that the case with men? When heat
is applied, the character of men rises to the top. Adversity
reveals character. The word of the Lord tests us to reveal our
The word goes a second level though. In that intense heat, melting
the silver, the smith could remove the impurities. While the
silver is solid, it is impossible to remove the impurities that
tarnish the silver. However, when the heat is applied and the
impurities rise to the top, the smith can remove them, refining,
purifying and strengthening the silver. The word does the same to
us. In fact, Romans
5:3-5 demonstrates that we can exult in the heat and
tribulation which purifies us because through that we gain hope.
Understand this, the word of the Lord tests us today. We
have been promised great things. We have been promised that God
will be with us. We have been promised that a home in heaven is
reserved for us. We have been promised that God will carry us
through all adversities. But then we will be tested and refined.
We will endure hardship and tribulation, whether it be the natural
adversity of life or messengers of Satan sent to buffet us. The
question is will we pass the test, hanging on the God’s
promises, hanging on to God’s word? Or will we believe God
doesn’t keep His promises just because He doesn’t keep them on
our time and terms?
As we face this dilemma, whether we have faced it for days,
weeks, months or years, consider three lessons we learn from
Joseph as he was tested by the word of the Lord.
Lessons for our lives.
matter how bad it gets, God is still with us.
Consider what David wrote in Psalm
139:7-12 drives this point home. Some days, our life will
feel as if we are flying in heaven. God is with us then. But other
days, it will feel as though we are living in Sheol on earth. No
matter how dark it gets. No matter what we face. No matter how
abandoned we feel (and all you have to do is read through the
psalms to know that God’s servants sometimes feel abandoned by
Him). No matter what, God is with us. As Hebrews
13:5-6 promises, God will never abandon or forsake us.
Hang on to God. He is there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
matter how bad it gets, God’s word and promises will come true. Things may get bad. We may face oppression and tribulation.
We may endure sickness. We may have financial trouble. We may have
family trouble. We may be betrayed repeatedly by friends and loved
ones. We may sink to the lowest depths of fortune. We can have
faith that God’s promises and God’s word will come true.
6:18. God cannot lie. If He makes a promise, it will come
to pass. It will be in His good time, but it will come to pass.
When you are enduring hardship and wondering if God’s promises
really will come true. Remember Joseph’s 13 years.
matter how bad it gets, God will work everything together for good
in the end for those who love the Lord.
We may wonder why it works this way. Perhaps we can see at least
one reason from Joseph’s life. In Genesis
50:20, Joseph’s brothers feared that with the death of
their father, Joseph would finally get vengeance on them. But
Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for
good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many
people alive” (NASU). We must remember that God can see the big
picture. We may never see it. We may never quite get why all the
little things, even the bad ones happen. However, God can see the
whole picture and He will use all things, even the bad ones to
work together for good for those who love the Lord and remain true
to Him (Romans
8:28). No matter how dark it gets, have faith that God
can, in the end, pull all the strings together and use everything
that is happening to you for good, getting you to heaven in
Some days are dark. Some months are miserable. Some years
are awful. Some decades are despicable. But keep your faith. We
will be tested by the word of the Lord. Remember Joseph’s 13
years. Please understand, 13 years is not a limit. Some of us may
go through dark days for 3 years, some for 30. However, no matter
how long our dark days last, God is with us. God’s promises will
come true in His time. God will work everything together for good
for those who love Him. Will you pass the test and hang on to the
hope offered by God’s promises? Or will you fail the test,
leaving the Lord and turning your back on His word? The choice is
yours. No matter how bad it gets, remember Joseph’s 13 years.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ