Genesis 45:4 – 8
And Joseph said to his brothers, Come near to me, I pray you. And they did so. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed and disheartened and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life.
For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors.
So now it was not you who sent me here but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
The Old Testament story of Joseph is a verdant treasury of how to handle adversity. Many know the story well – Joseph boasted to his brothers that he saw them in a dream bowing down to him. This enraged his brothers and they threw young Joseph into a well then sold him to slave traders en route to Egypt. Joseph was purchased at a slave market by a man named Potiphar who was a leader in Pharaoh’s court. Joseph did such an excellent job for Potiphar that he promoted him to a position of influence. Genesis 39:4 So Joseph pleased Potiphar and found favor in his sight, and he served him. And his master made him supervisor over his house and he put all that he had in his charge. Joseph definitely knew how to make lemonade out of lemons.
The story progresses where once again Joseph is betrayed by Potiphar’s own wife who lies to her husband while asking for Joseph to be put to death. Potiphar, recognizing that Joseph was incapable of what he was being accused, sent him to prison instead. The story ends in a miraculous release when Pharaoh himself asks Joseph to interpret a dream which he did successfully. Pharaoh appointed him Governor over all the land of Egypt.
Many years before – God made a covenant with Abraham and stated that his descendants would number the stars in the sky. He made the same covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac as well as Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph. Joseph was promoted by the hand of God right on time to deliver not only his own family from famine but thousands perhaps millions of Egyptians and people from surrounding nations that had no food. Joseph saved the remnant of people that God had promised to his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Joseph knew why he had been spared, Gen. 45:7 “God sent me before you to preserve for you a posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors.” Joseph was strong in his own identity, purpose and knew that God had saved him for this very important work despite a life of difficulty and experiencing a level of rejection few have known.
As God Himself is wisdom, He saw the exact recipe of circumstances that would blend Joseph into the man He required, and because He has all foreknowledge knew the exact moment Joseph needed to be drawn from the oven of prison. Our God sees the end from the beginning.
Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning, so there can be no need to conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals with flawless precision. All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done, a better way to do them could not be imagined. An infinitely wise God must work in a manner not to be improved upon by finite creatures.Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all. The earth is full of thy riches!” A.W. Tozer Knowledge of the Holy
Joseph spent 13 total years as a slave or imprisoned. He was 30 years old when Pharaoh promoted him to be Governor of Egypt. (Genesis 41:46)
Few, if any, personally know anyone that would embrace the notion that slavery was permissible or acceptable in any society. Slavery is the enslavement of an individual that historically is forced to live and work under mostly inhumane conditions, suffer abusive treatment at the hands of “owners” – and for all of their days live a life of servitude. The slave trade in Africa began in the 15th century not long after traders from other nations like Portugal, England, Spain and Holland landed. By the time the united colonies became the United States of America, descendants working for landowners had been enslaved between 3 to 5 generations, with most North American slaves coming from western Africa – now modern day Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and the Ivory Coast.
Without question, the day that slavery was abolished was a Red Letter day, ending a destructive and evil culture that harmed an entire race for hundreds of years. But can we consider something new into this equation – the possibility of a new possibility regarding slavery and the perpetuation of this evil? If we understand that God sees life and all circumstances from the beginning to the end, and we believe that God is a good, good Father, is it plausible to assume that He allowed Africans to be brought to the United States, despite the difficult circumstances, knowing that He Himself would produce great good from great evil? That in the United States, Africans could be free to worship, many coming to know God as well as His Son, saving entire generations of families from eternal destruction. That when delivered to the shores of the United States they or their ancestors could have opportunities and a way of living reaching far beyond what their forefathers in West Africa could ever dream? Like Joseph, they were destined with a purpose that required them to experience hardship, not to break them, but to refine and re-purpose.
As monuments of Confederate generals are being dismantled and removed as they serve to some as a reminder of slavery, this raises questions. Because Egyptians enslaved the Jews for 400 years (as a reminder these are God’s chosen people), have the Egyptians destroyed the pyramids and temples that were built by the enslaved Jews because it was wrong to use slaves? Have the Italians bulldozed the Colosseum in Rome where Christians were impaled and lit on fire as human torches or fed to lions for sport? No and No. In fact the Colosseum in Rome is a major tourist attraction with tourism a primary source of revenue, but only ISIS and al Qaeda think its cool to kill Christians. Despite the obvious evil that slavery is – it is pointless to erase historical references, and unnecessary if people understand and believe that their hardship achieved a higher, more prevailing purpose. Through history we learn a better way, with some history left to serve as a reminder that it never bears repeating. When hardship does not result in revealed purpose, it results in revealed bitterness. Perspective is everything.
Tracy L Gatewood
Sacred Ramblings May 2017
Perspective is Everything: My Response to the Removal of Monuments