Joseph and the Straight Path

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s easy to hope that God’s straight path for our lives would mean a life of peace and contentment, of prosperity and success. But what if this doesn’t describe your life? What if your current experience is full of struggle, of heartache, of discouragement and despair? Does that mean you have left God’s path for your life?

The story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) shows how the straight path can include times of suffering and loss, of setbacks and (apparent) failure, of uncertainty and fear.

We read in Genesis 37 that Joseph was greatly loved by his father, that he dreamed dreams that suggested a promising future, and that his brothers were jealous of their father’s love for Joseph and resented Joseph’s dreams. As a result they sold him as a slave into Egypt.

How did Joseph feel when he was thrown into the cistern by his brothers? Did he wonder if his troubles were his own fault? When his brothers pulled him up out of that pit, only to sell him to slave traders, did Joseph doubt God?

Joseph had done nothing to deserve this treatment, yet it was a part of his path.

The story continues in Genesis 39. Joseph is now a slave in the house of Potiphar, where God blesses Joseph and prospers him in the eyes of his master. Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he refuses her. She then lies about him, accusing him of sexual assault, causing Potiphar to have Joseph thrown into prison.

Again, Joseph has walked honorably with God, and yet seems to suffer for it.

When Joseph’s obedience to God caused him to reject Potiphar’s wife and be thrown into prison, did he fear that his life was over? Did he wonder if God had abandoned him? Did he fear that his was a failed life?

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

God had a plan for Joseph’s life that Joseph could not see. His purpose was to save the nations from famine. He chose Joseph to be the instrument of salvation from that famine.

Joseph trusted God, always acknowledging Him and submitting to Him even when it resulted in trouble. As a result, God was able to make Joseph’s path straight, exalting him from prisoner in the morning to 2nd in command of the nation of Egypt by afternoon.

Joseph’s straight path looked like this:

  • Dreams of honor and success, and the special love of his father; followed by
  • The rejection and hatred of his brothers, who plotted to kill him but instead sold him into another country; followed by
  • Lies about his character and behavior, resulting in his being thrown into prison; followed by
  • His exaltation to the right hand of Pharaoh.

Scripture says that Joseph, at each stop along the way, was blessed by God, and that his work was blessed. But the benefits of that blessing never accrued to him. He only seemed to suffer, to fall lower, and lower, and lower.

Still Joseph trusted God with his dreams and his future. He followed God’s truths rather than relying on his own understanding. Even as his path seemed to sink further and further he acknowledged his God as the Sovereign of his life.

All of this was a part of God’s straight path in the life of Joseph. It allowed God to exalt Joseph to highest position in Egypt under Pharaoh, and to save the lives of millions of people.

If you want to follow God the way Joseph did, you must trust Him with everything. You must reject your own understanding of the world and the way you think it works and lean on God. And you must submit to Him, in everything and for everything.

You can then believe you are on His straight path for you.

Be blessed!

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