Psalm 105:16-22 “When He (i.e. God) summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, He had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom.”
In a recent sermon I heard, the speaker made reference to the scripture above. Although I’ve read the entire Bible more than once, this passage hit me like “I wonder when God put that in there?!” for although I’m certain I’ve read this before, I didn’t remember it. So often that’s how Bible reading goes for me. Certain passages breathe life all of a sudden in ways that had never occurred to me before. This is one of them. It recalls the story of Joseph, to whom God had given a dream many years earlier. That dream was that his own brothers, mother, and father would one day bow down to him for he would be given a position of great authority. However, in the intervening years, Joseph’s life was filled with hardship. His jealous brothers plotted to kill him, then changed their mind and sold him into slavery. Eventually he wound up in Egypt where he rose to become an overseer of the house of Potiphar, who was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Later, Potiphar’s wife made a false accusation against Joseph saying that he had tried to seduce her. Outraged, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison, which is referenced in the verses above from Psalm 105.
Joseph languished in prison for over two years. It was there, in prison, that “the Word of the Lord tested him.” You see, although God had clearly spoken to Joseph in a dream about great things that would one day come to him, Joseph’s faith was tested – and strengthened greatly – as he endured some very difficult things in the intervening years.
Surely, this should speak to every one of us who are believers for God has also promised us some things – in fact, many things. He has promised us peace, joy, hope, blessings, fruitfulness, purpose, and much more for all eternity. However, we are often placed in situations where we are tested with trials that can cause us to question whether any of these promises are indeed true. When our health fails, or a loved one dies, or financial difficulties crash into our lives, it is then that we, like Joseph, are being tested regarding the Word of the Lord. Will we believe when everything around us tempts us not to? Will we endure and believe when God’s Word seems unbelievable? Is God there when it seems He has left us or that He doesn’t even exist?
It is in such circumstances that we are to look to passages such as Psalm 105, for that’s exactly why God has given them to us. He has given us a “cloud of witnesses,” in the words of the Hebrews 12:1, which recounts some of the great heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 for our instruction. It is then that we should look to passages such as Romans 8:28 which says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We need to cling to such words, as Joseph did, by our very fingernails, if need be, for although it may not look like it at the moment, God is doing something great both in our lives and through our lives to touch others around us if we will only wait and believe, as Joseph did.
Later, after God raised Joseph to a position second in command to only Pharaoh and gave him the responsibility of storing food to preserve the lives of the entire nation during a seven-year famine, Joseph had this to say to His brothers, who indeed did bow down to him, cowering in fear as they expected Joseph to rain down judgment on them for the harm they had brought him: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:19-21).”
So, are you going through a tough time right now? Does it seem that God is a million miles away? If you do, and you are a believer, know that God is surely testing you by His Word, and working to strengthen your faith for some good purpose to come. Trust Him, as Joseph did, and know that those who endure will never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Its promises are sure. Remember that “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:45).” And that truth stands as certain today as in the time that these wonderful words were written.