Teddy L Desta
God aims at two major things in our life: to change our inner nature into Christ-likeness and to prepare us for the higher calling He has purposed for our life.
God is goal-oriented. He does not waste His time and our time when He works in us. From the tiniest encounters and experiences to major life-changing events He weaves it into His grand plan to change us into the image of His son and to get us to the place where we will fulfill the destiny He created us for.
In his desire to see each of us realize our full potential, God would deploy every necessary means. God arranges various circumstances and uses different persons to mold us and to lead us to our destiny. He carefully chooses each situation we pass through, so it will contribute something important to our destiny. Often our journey to our destiny could be full of sorrows and toil that we could barely see God’s hand in it. God’s process of preparation sometimes makes little sense to our natural mind. But on God’s side nothing is wasted; He does not waste our sorrows, our time, or our resources. Unfortunately, for many of us, God’s ways will make sense only once we cross the finish line and God crowns our journey with laurels.
If we examine the lives of Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, etc., we can see this principle in operation. For example, let us illustrate this Divine principle by using the life of Joseph to see how God uses every circumstance as a preparation for the realization of our destiny in him.
Let us carefully examine to see whether the circumstances Joseph passed through had any relevance and contribution to His final calling. After years of trials, we know that God finally made Joseph a prime minister in Egypt. Joseph’s primary responsibility was to fix the economy of Egypt. So we ask, do Joseph’s years of the trial have anything to do with his service as prime minister of Egypt? His life as a slave in the house of Potiphar and his life as an inmate in the king’s prison, do they have anything to do with his final destiny? Did these experiences carry any merit for the job Pharaoh later honored him to do? Can we find any linkage between the stages in the life of Joseph’s suffering and his great success?
Joseph in Power
The dream of Pharaoh, which Joseph correctly interpreted, pointed toward a wild economic swing that would soon hit Egypt. Joseph predicted that years of economic boom will give way to years of economic hardship. Unless Egypt’s leaders do something in advance during the boom years, Joseph warned Egypt’s survival as a nation will be at risk. Joseph recommended to the king a wise policy where the Egyptians save extra in the revenue-surplus years to tide them over the slump years. The king liked Joseph’s idea so much so he appointed Joseph as his prime minister, making him directly responsible for overseeing the implementation of the measures he recommended.
During the economic boom years, Joseph followed a policy of forced saving instituting higher taxation. The king’s treasury overflowed with corn revenue, and Joseph husbanded every extra resource and put it aside for the years of the economic downturn he was sure were coming. Once the lean years came, Joseph lowered taxes and followed an easy money policy. He even subsidized the poor through royal largess. Through his wise policies, Joseph could mitigate the adverse social and economic consequences of a recession. He not only virtually eliminated the pain associated with economic cycles for Egyptians but also made them rich through grain export to other starving nations.
But where did Joseph learn all these secrets to manage an economy wisely, of tiding it smoothly from one cycle to another? Was he not at one time a mere slave and then an inmate? Where did he get all this wisdom? Let us backtrack Joseph’s life and see how God prepared Joseph for this role.
Looking Back: Joseph as a Servant-slave
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up as a slave in Egypt in the household of Potiphar. This Potiphar who bought Joseph was a very high official in the administration of Pharaoh, the king. Potiphar who was at the head of the palace guards was a man of power, influence and wealth. Therefore, he must have been at the head of a large household and other properties and resources. It was this large and rich household that Joseph joined as another slave. Soon, Joseph, because of the grace of God on him, distinguished himself over other slaves for his practical wisdom and integrity. Gradually, he rose through the ranks as a trusted servant and was given additional authority to oversee Potiphar’s household and wealth. Potiphar was quite pleased with Joseph how successfully he was managing his household that Potiphar appointed Joseph as his chief-of-staff and made him responsible for everything.
What does life in Potiphar’s house have anything to do with what Joseph later became and did? One major characteristic of Potiphar’s household was its stock and flow of wealth. That was a household of the abundance of resources. The major responsibility and challenge of managing a household of that size were cutting on waste, adding value to the existing wealth, and fighting corruption. A wise manager should save every extra penny and invest it so that the wealth of the household will grow. The manager also has to watch out for any signs of illegal diversion of funds for personal use, or the peddling of positions or influence for money. It is because Joseph did all these things and more that he won the trust and confidence of his master.
While doing his duties, Joseph’s integrity was tested to the limit at one point. Will he resist the opportunity to possess the last prize in Potiphar’s household or will he remain true to God and his master? Joseph chose the latter course. He turned down the offer for an affair from Potiphar’s wife time again and again. That cost him his job and reputation and landed him in jail through a charge of attempted rape. With God’s grace, he proved that not necessarily that absolute power absolutely. Throughout his career, Joseph focused on doing the job entrusted to him, avoiding any corrupting influence from affecting him.
Potiphar’s household was God’s model of an economy in a boom. In Potiphar’s household, God provided Joseph the opportunity to learn the responsibilities and challenges of managing an economy of abundance. He managed the “sovereign funds” of his master without waste, corruption, or downturn. After Joseph passed many years serving and learning in this module, God took him to another and different economic environment for another training stint.
Looking Back: Joseph as an Inmate
In prison, rather than allowing depression about his sad fate, Joseph was in a positive mood in his new circumstance. Soon after he ended in prison, Joseph was up and running doing what he was best doing—administering people and resources. For the practical wisdom and integrity Joseph was showing through in what he was doing and saying, he won the trust and confidence of the prison warden who soon made Joseph an unofficial administrator of the jail. The jail Joseph was in must have not been a small jail. It must have been a big and important jail where the king sent his ministers when they offended him.
Joseph to be successful had to exercise judicious judgment in administering people in prison—who are often gruff, discontent, and given to in-fighting. As the prison’s virtual administrator Joseph had to know how to soothe nerves and lift spirits with wise words, settle disagreements with wise judgment, and apportion scarce prison resources (food, clothing, sleeping space, etc.) in a very balanced and fair manner. Joseph must have been good in speech-making. This skill must have been a crucial asset for Joseph, helping him to lift spirits and organize and mobilize inmates for some good cause. Avoiding jail riots, knife fights, or crime from happening under his watch was a key measure of Joseph’s success as a manager. Joseph had to know how to be tough when it was needed, and to be compassionate when the situation required it. If the prison authorities trusted Joseph in his role, he must have proved it to them in doing all these things successfully year in and year out.
What does life in prison have anything to do with Joseph’s future role at the helm of Egypt’s economy? The prison was God’s nearest training module of an economy in depression. The most important feature of an economic bust is that resources are lacking, and the biggest challenge of a chief administrator in this kind of situation is to ensure nobody is starving. God taught Joseph the skills on how to allocate scarce resources in the condition of tight supply so that everybody gets his fair share. Another skill God taught Joseph must have been how to lift the spirits of people who feel down and out. Joseph must have learned how to inspire and mobilize inmates for some good cause. Husbanding spiritual resources matters as much as managing material resources in a dire economy.
Thus, through his stint as an inmate, God equipped Joseph for the challenges of an economic downturn. Only God’s eyes could see Joseph at the helm of the Egyptian economy, an economy that would face bad days following rosy years. God knew that this needs training and some experience by the chief economist to help the nation over the depression years, avoiding any social upheaval.
When God passed Joseph through these two starkly different economic conditions—as He made him a manager over a ‘boom’ and then a ‘bust’ household one after the other - God knew what was coming in Joseph’s life. The household or the prison was a microcosm of the larger national economy. The term “economy” is derived from the Latin word meaning, household management. At the core, the basic requirements, in terms of principles and skills, of running a household economy may not be essentially different from that of managing the economy of a community, a region or a nation.
Looking Back: Joseph’s Dreams
Joseph was a dreamer since he was a young lad. God showed Joseph in two dreams his future when Joseph was just a 17-year-old. It is possible that God had given him several more dreams later in his life, increasing his awareness about the importance of dreams in God’s economy. Joseph must have learned the skills of interpreting dreams exercising his mind in trying to interpret the dreams God gave him. It is also probable that he had also volunteered to interpret other people’s dreams to exercise this valuable skill (Gen. 40: 5-14). God’s training in this area finally enabled Joseph to successfully interpret the Pharaoh’s difficult-to-interpret dreams, and for this God-given skill (gift) Joseph was quickly elevated from inmate to prime-minster, from prison to the palace.
Looking Forward: What is in a Name?
There is additional wisdom of God in the life of Joseph. There is something Joseph’s name that foreshadows his future. Joseph means “adding”. There is a connection between his name (i.e., “Adding”) and the science of economics. Economists are worried about economic growth — value-adding, productivity, and efficiency. These economic ideas point towards adding to the national wealth. In this sense, we must see Joseph as a primordial economist who prudently manages the largest economy of the day through judicious macro-economic management and legislating.
In Joseph’s name, his future career is implied. Could personal names hide mystery? Could our future be implied in the name we are given? It needs your readiness and cooperation with God to unleash the dream/destiny locked in our name. But sometimes we may need to pay the price of training like Joseph. If God takes us through tough circumstances to train us to the full potential implied and locked in our name, we must say, “amen.” We must not despise the days of little things, the tough days. Our exacting days are God designed stairways leading us up to the elevated seat of influence and effective service.
Glory be to God
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