Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. The ancient elders were commended for this (Hebrews 11:1, 2).
Joseph, one of my favorite Bible characters, I believe is one of the most remarkable characters in the Bible. I hope this sketch impels you to study and contemplate his life story, as the applications and lessons from his life are innumerable. My goal is to illustrate from the life of Joseph what a firm belief and obedience to the God he knew, Jehovah-Jirah, ultimately did for him and what that same belief can and will do for all who choose to believe as did Joseph.
Let’s begin by looking at the dizzying heights to which he suddenly ascended following his rather routine childhood and the inexplicably terrifying and difficult years of youth and young adulthood.
Joseph became nothing less than the second greatest person on the face of the earth. Egypt was the premier nation at this time, excelling in the arts, culture, architecture, writing, etc. And Joseph was the head, the leader, the one in power as it says in Genesis 41:41, 44. We read, “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ … Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.’ ” Now that is power. One person only, one human being had greater power than Joseph and that person was Pharaoh.
But what led up to this position of trust and power? Did Joseph have a smooth, gradual, typical rise? Did he have the usual grooming we would prescribe for one being prepared for this type of position? How did he come to possess the qualifications for the position that he came to occupy?
Let’s travel back in time about 18 years. The time is not given exactly, nor is Joseph’s age at this time precisely known. Jacob, Joseph’s father, had left his land of sojourn and had arrived back in Canaan along with his large family. Here Joseph meets for the first time his aged grandfather, Isaac, about whom he has undoubtedly heard so much. Without doubt Joseph is drawn to this patriarch and spends much time listening to the stories his grandfather has to relate. Remember, Joseph is the undisputed favorite of his father; the son of the only woman he truly loved who is now dead. Joseph has 10 older brothers to take care of the flocks and herds. Joseph has time on his hands, and I can imagine that Jacob would naturally encourage the attachment between his own aging and beloved father and this favored son. Let’s join as Joseph listens to these stories; imagine how he would relate to them and integrate them into his own life.
We read in Patriarchs and Prophets, 209 that Joseph was intelligent, kind, affectionate, thoughtful, and pure, with moral earnestness and firmness. He would have listened intently, engaging deeply in the stories of his illustrious ancestors and cherishing the lessons illustrated by them. There is one story in particular I would like to focus on that to me must have been a most powerful influence in Joseph’s coming years. But first some background.
The story begins with the first promise God made to Abram as he was called out of Ur. God said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you … .” Genesis 12:2. Then followed the long, the very long delay waiting for the birth of the promised heir. Joseph was told of the efforts of humans to help out God, with the utter chaos and pain that resulted. Then he was told of the miracle. Oh, the miracle of a tiny baby born to a woman of 90 and her husband of 100 years of age. We can’t truly comprehend the joy, the wonder, the awe they experienced, when after so long this yearning husband and wife, well beyond childbearing years, are granted this miracle.
Then there were many years of happiness, of training the child to worship, love, trust and fear the God who had the power to bring such a miracle to be. And Abraham had experiences to tell. And tell them he did. He was not too proud to admit his mistakes, to humbly share with this promised son what he had learned through such costly and painful lessons. And now is the story that grounded Joseph for his crucible, his trial, his time of preparation for the mighty role he was to play in the history of this world. Remember, the one relating the story is Isaac, the very Isaac involved in the story. As he relates the story, he relives it vividly, awestruck once again by the loving providences of the God he serves.
One night Abraham, now 120 years old, was peacefully sleeping, maybe dreaming of this promised son, and what a blessed young man God had given him. One night he was suddenly wakened by a voice. It was a voice he knew well. But the message was foreign, totally unexpected and totally shattered everything he knew of God. The voice said to him, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2.
It was crystal clear. There was no doubt. God said who? “Your son, your only son, Isaac.” God said where? “The region of Moriah.” God said what to do? “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering.” Abraham was filled with doubt and anguish, yet he knew the voice, and he must obey. Joseph, listening, was on the edge of his seat. He knew that human sacrifices were condemned by God and even at his tender age in his early to mid teens he understood something of the great test before Abraham.
Isaac continued, “My father and I often sacrificed together so that morning when he woke me early, it was nothing unusual. However, as we traveled, I noticed my father’s silence, his introspection, his unusual demeanor. It took us three days to reach the region where we were to sacrifice and he hardly said a word; just looked at me, studied me. It was not until that third day that I asked a question that had been baffling me, ‘The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Genesis 22:7. Do you know, Joseph, what my father said? He replied, ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ Verse 8.
“Joseph, God is Jehovah-jireh. Do you know what that name means? Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide. Joseph, God will see to it. My father understood and trusted.
“So we continued on, leaving the servants at the foot of the mountain. We built the altar, we arranged the wood, and then was the time. With intense emotion my father laid open to me the instruction God had given him. Remember, Joseph, my father was 120 years old. I was 20. I could have easily overcome him and prevented what God had told him to do. I knew and understood what he was saying, what he was proposing—death. I had seen it many times before. Sacrifices—I had participated in them for years. I knew what it meant to see the victim slain, had often seen it laying bleeding on the altar, the innocent suffering for the guilty.
“However, I saw the anguish of my father. I trusted my father. I trusted that this was God’s will and I trusted God, Jehovah-jirah. How I endeavored to lighten his grief and encourage him in what he must now do. Soon, I was tied and laid on the altar. The knife was raised. I was waiting for the lowering of the knife. Time hung in the balance. But the blow never came. An angel of God called Abraham and told him, ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy.’ Verse 12. And Joseph, God, Jehovah-jirah did provide. He did see to it. Caught in a thicket close by was a ram. God provided.”
As Joseph listened to this story related by the very one laid on the altar, the lesson sank deep into his soul and he knew without any doubt that God was Jehovah-jirah.
So, friends, when Joseph was thrown in the pit, he knew that God was Jehovah-jirah and would see to it. When he was sold as a slave he knew that God was Jehovah-jirah and He would see to it. When thrown in a dungeon for his stellar integrity he knew that God was Jehovah-jirah and He would see to it.
When you have experiences such as those that Joseph went through and face them with faith and courage, they change you. From the pen of inspiration: “God brings His people near Him by close, testing trials, by showing them their own weakness and inability, and by teaching them to lean upon Him as their only help and safeguard. Then His object is accomplished. They are prepared to be used in every emergency, to fill important positions of trust, and to accomplish the grand purposes for which their powers were given them.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 86. Would you not say that this was exemplified beautifully in the life of Joseph? I believe that those early stories played a significant role in preparing Joseph for facing and learning from his trials.
What is your pit, what is your trial in slavery or what is your dungeon? I would like to challenge you to put your trust in Jehovah-jirah, the God who will provide, the God who will see to it because He does and He will.
God is still Jehoveh-jireh, the God who will see to it. Remember it, know it, act on it. Jehoveh-jireh; God will provide!
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.