Written by Dave Urbanski
Last week we got a look at Joseph’s positive and robust attitude that kept him moving the right direction despite difficult circumstances. And this past Sunday we saw yet another one of Joseph’s positive traits: his integrity.
As Pastor Scott shared, exercising integrity allows us to do three important things in life: 1) Resist temptation, 2) Exercise strength to face challenges, 3) and behave honestly.
Joseph certainly showed his ability to resist temptation by avoiding the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, going so far as to run out of her house rather than being around her one second longer! He also showed his strength in the face of immense challenges — most notably being thrown in prison for years after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. And Joseph was incredibly honest, telling the baker hard truths and not taking credit for helping Pharaoh but instead giving credit to God alone as the one who interprets dreams.
And now with the Lord having delivered Joseph from prison to become the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, we witnessed a massive turning of the tables. With a famine engulfing the region as Joseph correctly predicted, his long-lost family is in trouble. So, we read that his father Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers — save for Benjamin, as Jacob feared harm might come upon him — to Egypt to buy grain so they won’t starve to death.
Do you remember the dream Joseph had years earlier that got him trouble with his brothers — that they would one day bow to him? Well, it came to pass as his brothers all prostrated themselves before Joseph in their plea to acquire grain! Thing is, though, while Joseph’s brothers failed to recognize him after more than 20 years apart, Joseph recognized them! Uh oh.
At this point, one naturally might assume someone in Joseph’s position would take revenge on his brothers. Certainly, Joseph had the power to put them to death with a single command and wave of his hand. But he didn’t. No, instead Joseph tested their honesty and integrity. And amid various tests Joseph put them through, his brothers had the chance to examine their hearts and experience a reckoning in regard to their sinful treatment of Joseph when he was but a teenager.
It was an important moment: they were enduring the uncertainty of waiting to see what Joseph would do. Would he kill them? Throw them into prison? Turn them away and leave them in hunger? As Pastor Scott noted, we all endure periods of waiting and uncertainty — and it’s rarely fun. But as believers in Jesus, we can be confident that he knows the outcomes and is holding our lives in his hands. And as Christians, we can rejoice that God has forgiven us of our sinful pasts through the blood Jesus shed on the cross.
But Pastor Scott shared something else all of must take to heart, no matter where we are in our spiritual lives: If one believes in Jesus but is living a sinful life, that person is asking for trouble. Because the Lord loves us and wants us close to him, he will discipline those he loves — and that can result in serious and even unpleasant circumstances as God motivates us toward repentance. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be better to act now in repentance so we don’t live in unnecessary fear of “what might happen”? To live in the promise of Isaiah 41:10? “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
As we made our way into chapter 43 and encountered Joseph’s brothers telling their father everything that had happened to them, Pastor Scott noted yet another game-changing moment: Jacob reluctantly agreed to let his sons return to Egypt with Benjamin and face Joseph, and he told his sons, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man.” In other words, “El Shaddai” — the God who fulfills promises.
Are we passing the integrity test in our own lives? We must remember that our feeble human strength not sufficient to live lives of integrity, filled with instances in which we resist temptation, face difficulties, and operate in complete honesty. We can’t do it on our own. We need the strength only El Shaddai possesses. Only he can bring about deep change in us.
That principle is present in Jesus’ words found in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
We are indeed dust; living and breathing at this very moment only because God allows us to live and breathe at this very moment. So, let us acknowledge this truth, come before the Lord in humility, and practice leading lives filled with continual repentance — and integrity.