Within the sovereignty of God is a fundamental truth, nothing is wasted. Each and every minute of our lives is preparing us for something, though we may never know how significant that something will be.
I used to tell the college students I worked with that Matthew 1:2 "To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers;" was my favorite verse for encouragement. Of course they would read it and ask me why and I would take them to Genesis and give my version of the story of Joseph. It went something like this:
Joseph wasn't smart enough not to rub it in his brother's faces that he was their father, Jacob's, favorite. Maybe he was that naive, or maybe without guile- I don't know for certain, all I know is he got to hang out with Jacob while his brothers had to do the real labor. It was sort of silly of him to mention his dream to them, don't you think? How would you react if your brother said he had a dream where you would be worshiping him? It's no wonder the boys got mad and threw him in a big hole and schemed about what to do with him.
It was pretty fortuitous that a caravan happened by too. I think that they would have killed him for certain, except that one brother, Reuben, said no. Then, along comes this caravan and with it came the opportunity to sell Joseph into slavery. With a way to get rid of him, it's off to Egypt for Joseph.
Now of all the folks who could afford to buy a slave, Potiphar, a high ranking official of Pharaoh's, becomes Joseph's master. Joseph must have demonstrated remarkable integrity and ability, because Potiphar treated him well and Joseph had a lot of responsibility. Yes, I know Potiphar sent Joseph to jail when that wife of his lied about Joseph and accused him of a crime...but he had the right to kill Joseph for such an offense. I think he may have known his wife lying, however, that's just speculation on my part.
We think of Joseph being jailed and how unfair it is. Again, Joseph demonstrates some remarkable character and integrity because after a while the jailers have Joseph running things. And you know the story about how Joseph interprets some dreams for Pharaoh's baker and cup-bearer. Things wouldn't work out so well for the baker. The cup-bearer would be released from jail and return to Pharaoh's service. And it just so happens that the cup-bearer will remember Joseph's ability to interpret dreams when Pharaoh has one that troubles him and wants it interpreted.
You know the rest of the story. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream, which just happens to be about years of plenty and years of famine. He impresses Pharaoh, and Pharaoh makes him second in command of the kingdom and in charge of food. I love the part where one of Joseph's brothers comes to Egypt to beg for food and how he doesn't recognize Joseph. I also love the way Joseph toys with him a little, but only to have a reunion with Jacob and his siblings. Joseph saves the lives of the very people who wanted to harm him. What they intended for harm, God intended for good. The whole story is great, but I think most people miss the best part.
None of us would sign for a life like Joseph's. We would like to think we would, knowing how the story ended, but we wouldn't volunteer for that sort of treatment. Most of us wouldn't volunteer for our own lives if we knew what was going to happen to us- all the bad things and stuff that breaks our hearts. Each step in Joseph's life prepared him for next job God had for him. It was a pretty important job too. Because of all things he went through, Joseph was able to preserve his family line. The very line in which it was prophesied that Messiah would come.
Here's why Matthew 1:2 is one of my favorite verses. Look at it again with me: "To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers;"
It was through Joseph's life that the family line was preserved and he doesn't even get honorable mention in the genealogy of our Lord. It was one of the brothers who wanted him dead who gets the honor of being in Jesus' genealogy by name.
So, why do I like this verse so much? Because it puts things into perspective. Whatever hard things life consists of, whatever jobs God has given us to do, we may never have our names in lights or in the credits, but it could be pretty important generations later. It's only in God's economy, it all counts.