Joseph was one of the brightest lights in the OT.
He was a man who remained faithful to the Lord despite the many difficulties and injustices he experienced. His story is found in Genesis 37–48.
He was severely mistreated by his own brothers and became a slave in Egypt. He rose to be the head of a major household but ended up being thrown into prison on trumped-up charges.
In prison, he again rose to power, essentially running the prison. He befriended the king’s cupbearer, who soon forgot what Joseph had done for him. But God plagued Pharaoh with a dream that eventually only Joseph could interpret.
Joseph was Pharaoh’s right-hand man, leading that nation through seven years of famine.
Later, he forgave and greatly blessed the brothers who had caused him so much pain.
What motivated Joseph to act the way he did? He accepted everything that happened to him and did not hold a grudge against those who mistreated him. One might say that he was a forgiving person. Others might say he was a meek person who shrugged his shoulders when unjust calamities came upon him and said to himself, “What can a person do? That is just life.”
I think there was another thing that more accurately describes why Joseph was the man he was and why he provides such an excellent example for believers then and now. He believed what God said. Specifically, he believed what God said about rewards.
In Genesis, at the beginning of the story of Joseph, Joseph had a dream in which he was highly exalted (Gen 37:5-11). Dreams are often seen in the account of the Jewish patriarchs as coming from God. Joseph believed in what the dream told him. This would explain why he had such a positive view of things when he was a slave and in prison. His status would one day change based on what God had revealed to him.
We know from the NT that Joseph believed that faithfulness in trials would be rewarded in the world to come (Heb 11:22). He knew there would be a resurrection, and he wanted his bones to be in the Promised Land when that happened. Even though he was one of the wealthiest men in the world, he knew his riches were not found in Egypt but in the coming kingdom of God. He was one of those who looked for a “better resurrection” (Heb 11:35). He endured what he did and was the kind of man he was because he knew God would reward him. That is a better explanation of Joseph’s life than that he was simply a man who accepted misfortunes as a fact of life.
We often meet people who say that rewards are insignificant. They claim they want to do good things simply because they love God. That is a great motivation. But when I look at the life of Joseph, I see that love for God was not his only motivation. He would have been discouraged by what he encountered if he had not believed that God rewards those who serve Him faithfully. It would have been all too easy to become bitter and give up.
Love for God grows when we realize He rewards faithful service. The motivation for rewards is entirely consistent with love for God.
When strong difficulties and injustices come, what a great motivation it is that the Lord has promised to pay His children for their faithfulness. Joseph believed that. We should follow his example.