Delighting in righteousness

A man with a clean heart can never be hurt. The Biblical story of Joseph can be captivating, not only for the young but also for the grown adults. From a physical point of view, Joseph grew up under very complicated conditions. His mother died when he was still very young. He looked handsome when compared to his brothers, which created some envious consideration from those brothers. This was worsened by the fact that Joseph was their father’s favourite.

Joseph loved his brothers, who had a natural hatred against him. His respect for them was conditioned according to their good behaviour. He could not avoid reporting their misdemeanours, committed outside the purview of their father. Joseph loved righteousness so that by giving bad reports of mischief committed by his brothers, he intended for the well-being of those brothers.

He obviously knew that nothing good could come from falsehoods. Although, the father loved all his children he trusted Joseph more, for being truthful when narrating the events of misdemeanours by those brothers. The tipping point came after having shared a dream, but possibly being unsure of its meaning. The dream had something to do with his rise to eminence.

The entire clan would bow down to him. This time even the father became conspicuously prickly. This surprised Joseph; whose love for his family could not be alloyed. However, the father continued to treasure the young man, taking note of his possible rise to eminence. As a token of love for Joseph, the father bought him a colourful jacket, serving to aggravate the hatred displayed by his brothers.

Ordinary humans cannot foretell future events. His brothers delighted in creating unfavourable jokes; arising from Joseph’s dream of becoming ruler over the entire family. They scornfully treated him as a bad boy. However, the Bible does not show Joseph as stressed by such unfavourable treatment. We have a clue that he could not be handsome if carrying bitterness within him. Ordinary humans get affected by malevolent treatments.

The day of reckoning was when his father sent him to deliver food to his brothers in pasturelands. Rather than rejoice seeing Joseph in his colourful jacket, they plotted to kill him. They connived to smear the colourful jacket with blood, using that as an exhibit of him having been killed by ferocious animals. The father would not dispute their narrative, as unsuspecting of them murdering their brother.

However, God miraculously served his life, by causing them to decide to sell him into slavery. Money became more valuable than their brother. That attracted their guilt conscience, but they were comfortable in having eliminated the dreamer for what he had insinuated would materialize. However, for God’s people: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

They gleefully assumed having eliminated the dreamer, but without realizing that they had, actually, promoted the dreamer. Joseph could have committed suicide when reminiscing about the behaviour of his own brothers against him. But his righteous focus kept him in line with God’s plan. His commercial slavery value landed him in the hands of Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials in Egypt. The Lord was with Joseph all the way.

Potiphar could not resist the charming and intelligent young man’s splendid servitude. Joseph was promoted to be in charge of Potiphar’s household. Obviously, there would be privileges associated with those in power. Joseph would be eating special meals, preserved for those in power, including sleeping in comfortable dwellings. Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph’s charming nature.

It was highly unlikely that anyone could ever suspect Joseph contemplating dating a wife of a high-ranking official. Even if Joseph reported the matter to Potiphar, he could not win. Joseph faced the most scandalous case from the unpredictable court of justice. He tried to reason with her, for purposes of preserving her dignity, as well. But the woman’s passion remained stuck with her desire to sleep with the attractive young Hebrew slave.

Joseph eventually got cornered, when the woman pinned him to have sex with her. However, Joseph managed to escape, leaving his outer garment within the clutch of Potiphar’s wife. She would use that as an exhibit against Joseph intending to rape her. Needless to say, he could not be granted an opportunity to provide his side of the story. Joseph was quickly bungled and thrown in prison for attempting to rape his boss’ wife.

The most exciting element is that Joseph never entertained bitterness, even when being unfairly incarcerated in prison. Being imprisoned may have been painful, but Joseph remained clear in his conscience that he had not committed any offence. To cut a long story short, God provided an opportunity for him to minister to a fellow prisoner, who eventually reached out to Pharaoh.

Joseph ended up communicating with the Pharaoh of Egypt. He managed to interpret a dream that Pharaoh’s fortune-tellers and sorcerers had failed to interpret. Through his former prison mate, the name “Joseph” began to ring. Joseph accurately interpreted the dream, to the satisfaction of Pharaoh, who rewarded him with a promotion to become Egypt’s second in command. Joseph’s story can effectively sell to Hollywood movie-makers.

With all his previous relational conundrums, creating uncertainty in his life, Joseph remained focused. He never succumbed to bitterness. The brothers hated him to the point of selling him into slavery. He understood them, although they could not understand him. He focused on doing the right thing at all times. Similarly, when he got unfairly incarcerated in prison, he never lost hope. He appreciated that there was a reason for God to allow him to go through such experiences.

His promotion was not fortuitous but had been designed and crafted for Joseph, possibly before his birth. He couldn’t be aware of God’s chatted plan before his dreams would materialize. But he remained focused on doing the right thing at all times. Each moment of hardship was building onto another step toward the greatest goal that God intended to raise him up for.

When the time came, he would have no reason to keep in memory, the nasty experiences of the past. The climax of the drama was when the brothers of Joseph got wind that food was available in Egypt. They quickly had to make a trip to Egypt to avert the disastrous famine. This would save their lives.

No one can effectively claim to be a champion in averting experiences of natural disasters. But each of us, in our individual capacities our destinies are determined by God. It is at the point of losing focus when allowing bitterness to affect our destiny. We get misdirected to be off-track as long as failing to see the bigger picture, similar to how Joseph applied his own life.

Nothing was peculiar with Joseph, except applying the principle of remaining focused, and doing the right thing. That is what Godliness is all about. People begin to be used by Satan, as long as failing to focus on righteousness. But, the most exciting part of Joseph’s story was after the death of Jacob. They still carried a pang of harmful guilt against the man they knew to have saved their lives. As far as they were concerned, asking for forgiveness was assumed as would settle matters.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘this is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers, for the sins and the wrongs they committed to treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:15-21 NIV).

For all the years that Joseph had treated them well, their guilty conscience gripped them, wondering how Joseph would ever forgive them. I suppose they felt they were safe, as long as their father was alive, assuming Joseph was only waiting for the death of their father before pouncing on them. Apparently, Joseph never entertained the idea of revenge for what his brothers did to him.

As pursuing righteousness most of the time, Joseph had always seen God’s hand in everything surrounding his life: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:19-21).

What Joseph said reveals that his brothers were not on the same wavelength as him. They intended to harm him, but God used that to develop him into something that would save the entire clan. Humans, being humans, I suppose, even after Joseph had given them such educational words, those brothers continued to grant Joseph greatness, rather than God. To humans, greatness is physically limited.

Granting credit to humans, rather than to God, appeals to this world’s people, who cannot see God’s working in humans. Joseph’s brothers could not appreciate God but became limited to seeing the greatness of Joseph instead. Hence, they had been infuriated by Joseph’s dreams, leading to his eventual occupation of the prestigious position.

Does this, therefore, mean there are some people God views as unimportant? All humans were individually created special. God works with each, according to that person’s level of faith. Jesus talked a great deal on the subject of faith. All humans were created in God’s image. However, God will never impose himself on those who choose not to accept Him.

There is an element of Godly nature in every person. Even without the Bible, ordinary people know what is good and what is bad. On a score of ten, a person might have only two points of Godly attributes. Yet another might choose to have eight points of Godly quality. The more points one is inclined towards Godliness, the more God reveals Himself through that person.

However, when one pursues evil intentions, more than pursuing righteous conduct, that person would be classified in the category of sinners. This explains how Joseph succeeded in overcoming evil until he attained what God had intended for his life. Joseph could have also been overcome by bitterness and gotten rejected by God.

Those temptations are necessary requisites in life. The level of overcoming them comes according to the measure of righteousness in that person. The test, regarding Potiphar’s wife, can be more exhilarating. Having been promoted to be in charge of Potiphar’s household, Joseph could not have expected any better promotion.

Romantic infatuation could easily be mistaken for proper love. However, Joseph remained principled and focused on righteousness. He knew that adultery could not be right. To start with, as a slave, entertaining with such behaviour would be peddling with death. The risk involved with adultery at that level, could not be anything else, except the death penalty.

When going through Joseph’s story, one may spot similarities, where one may have failed the test. Another may have gone to Jail, as many people have been convicted of rape cases that they never committed. These are life experiences that should be weighed in terms of what is recorded in Joseph’s story.

The story of Joseph cannot be regarded as peculiar, when compared with what the rest of humanity goes through, in this life. There are many stories of a similar pattern that some of those involved could not overcome. Of greater importance is to not, necessarily, keep track of what the person did in the past. Self-pity should be regarded as a sin that leads to bitterness.

Therefore, it is always advisable to be in the present time, rather than praise oneself for having overcome past trials. It is rather better for others to talk about one’s strengths than one, nostalgically, talking about one’s own successes. The idea is to pursue righteousness at all times. Righteousness ought to be always separated from one’s personality as it is a Godly attribute.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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