By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. Hebrews 11, verse 22.
I respect wisdom; I only wish I practiced more of it. Like I said the last time, I’m Jacob. I tend towards living out the unwise even as I crave to be wiser. If I’m Jacob, that makes Joseph my son. It’s as if my Dad and I had switched roles. When I think of Joseph, I think of my Dad because I believe they shared a similar temperament.
If you don’t know the story, Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. He’s his son by Rachel, the beloved wife for whom Jacob had slaved seven years. Joseph is animated, insightful, lively, and honest. He’s also naïve and wise, and not very tactful. Joseph alienated his older brothers so much that they wanted to murder him, but couldn’t bring themselves to do it. So they sold him as a slave to passing travelers, who carried him away to Egypt. There Joseph became a slave in a rich man’s house. Over ups and downs, God provided for Joseph in everything, abiding with him when he was unjustly thrown in prison, and abiding with him when he rose to great power afterwards. Second only to the king, Joseph worked miracles in using the knowledge and talents God gave him to prepare for seven years of famine. Because of Joseph’s faith in God, all Egypt had food to eat during that famine, so much so that the extra was sold to foreigners…including Joseph’s family. After some drama even Hollywood couldn’t imagine, Joseph is reunited with his family, and his father, Jacob, is able to die in peace.
Joseph was wise. He recognized the hand of God in all good that had come his way. When bad things happened, he thanked God for providing rescue and knowledge. When good things happened, he gave all credit to God who had made it so. Yet Joseph never underestimated the power of human depravity. He understood the fickle nature of politics, and of being a foreigner serving a foreign king; Joseph believed there would be trouble after he died. Thus, he prophesied that a time would come when his Israelite kinfolk would become a nation in need of deliverance. “God will come to your aid” was what he told his children and grandchildren. Joseph was a wise realist. He ‘played long ball’ were good and when they weren’t. He knew that, in both, God is still God and over it all. His faith didn’t decrease even when he realized he was dying. Indeed, he clung onto it steadily even when he knew God would see him die in a strange land.
My dad was a Kenneth, not a Joseph. Yet I’m reminded of Joseph when I think of my dad. Dad wasn’t a deeply religious man. He went to church nearly all his life, yet it seemed like he taught my sister and I to be Sunday morning Christians. It wasn’t that he was a bad man, or that he lived a moral life on Sunday and immoral otherwise; nothing could be farther from the truth. Dad always believed in Jesus. It’s just that his faith wasn’t something he practiced openly. That is until he was dying. Dad died of cancer in 1997. The disease took him in a little over two years of up’s and down’s and painful treatments. Through it, like Joseph, Dad learned to cling onto his faith. Even up until the last time I talked with him, Dad was content with his life and realistic about his death. “I know where I’m going. I wish it wasn’t now, but that isn’t up to me.” His words; not mine.
My Dad wasn’t a perfect man, and he didn’t try to be one. He did his best. His father did the same even as he, my grandfather, wasn’t a particularly strong example of the kind of man my father once wanted to be. Dad worked to teach the people around him to have faith and be better. He did his best to prepare us for hard times that would one day come.
If I as the son am more Jacob – an impetuous believer – then I remember my Dad as more Joseph: a wise believer. God took Joseph from obscurity to the depths to great fame. God took my Dad from obscurity, through the hills, and to a quiet grave in a green field of white stones. Yet I remember him as wise, and prospering, and usually laughing, and good. I learned from my Dad to always try my hardest, and to ‘give it my all’ no matter what ‘it’ is. And I learned from him the basics of believing, of learning how to trust God. I’m betting Joseph could have said the same thing about his dad.
For further reading: Genesis 50:24-25, Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32.
Lord, thank You for letting me be my Dad’s son, and Your created son. Thank You for the example of Joseph, for all he did.