The Joseph narrative from Genesis is an epic of hardship and victory, betrayal, and reconciliation — full of twists and reversals. Joseph’s story is one of the greatest of the whole of Scripture, and it’s no wonder there have been several shows and movies done about his life.
Joseph went from pit to palace, from prisoner to ruler of the greatest nation in the world at that time. This righteous man overcame much, and as followers of Jesus, we’re told to have gratitude in every situation (Philippians 4:6-7). Our gratitude is often expressed in praise, and we enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4).
The name Judah means praise, and the tribe of Judah was the first tribe to get moving when the nation of Israel moved into the wilderness.
The pillar of fire at night or cloud during the day would begin to move, and the process of following God began with the tribe of Judah.
Praise is the first step to following God. We express many things in praise, most notably thanksgiving and gratitude.
During this time of Thanksgiving, what can we learn from Joseph’s narrative?
Here are five lessons of gratitude from the life of Joseph.
1. The Gift of Adversity
Joseph endured many hardships, beginning with his brothers’ jealousy and betrayal. They sold him into slavery, and he found himself far from home in a foreign land, Egypt.
During his slavery in Egypt, he exhibited remarkable diligence and integrity, rising to a position of trust within Potiphar's household. However, adversity struck again when he was falsely accused of misconduct and thrown into prison.
Adversity served as a crucible, forging his character, resilience, and faith. Through slavery and prison, Joseph continued to display his exceptional qualities.
He also became a leader in prison, and through his relationship and favor with God, he correctly interpreted the dreams of other prisoners.
His gift with dreams brought him to Pharoah’s attention, who also had a dream, and Joseph’s insight led to him being given authority over all of Egypt, second only to Pharoah.
The adversity that had once seemed like a curse was, in fact, a gift that prepared Joseph for a remarkable role in history. Through his wisdom and leadership, he ensured that Egypt was prepared for the coming famine, saving countless lives, including those of his own family.
We must understand how God uses our adversity to grow our faith and even lead us to greater positions of favor and ministry later. Through this understanding and hope, we can be thankful in adversity.
After enduring numerous trials and tribulations, Joseph’s life culminates in a remarkable act of forgiveness that exemplifies the profound impact of this virtue.
When he was young, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he had done nothing worthy of such a crime. However, when Joseph's brothers later came to Egypt during a famine, they were unaware that the high-ranking official they were seeking assistance from was their estranged sibling.
Joseph’s response to the brothers who betrayed him is a testament to his remarkable capacity for forgiveness.
Instead of seeking revenge or harboring bitterness, he chose to reveal his identity to his brothers, saying, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).
We may also be wrongfully accused and betrayed, but we are called to forgive as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). We are all thankful for God’s forgiveness, which none of us deserved, and our gratitude for God’s atonement should lead us to forgive others freely.
This doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but just as the Lord’s forgiveness of us paves the way for peace and reconciliation, it does the same with our brothers and sisters and neighbors.
3. God’s Plan
The secret to thankfulness is to constantly remind ourselves of God’s plan. God is reconciling the whole of creation back to himself through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. His plan is good and full of love and restoration.
Joseph was given a glimpse of God’s plan when he was given a dream where he ruled, even his family. This was the basis of his brothers’ jealousy and betrayal since Joseph was the youngest.
The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us how Joseph kept this prophetic dream in his heart and mind, yet we know he understood these images were from God. He spoke of them in wonder and awe. We can imagine how he clung to those dreams through the hardship of slavery and prison.
He was definitely reminded of it when his brothers literally bowed before him unknowingly in Egypt, ultimately telling his brothers how God used what they meant for evil for good.
We must do the same. It is difficult in the midst of adversity, hardship, and tragedy, to believe God’s plan is good, but we are told in Romans 8 how God will work everything for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
As Joseph was thankful for how God saved him and his family through the divine plan, we can also be thankful for God’s great and precious promises and his plan for our good.
4. Stewardship and Abundance
Joseph’s journey, marked by both scarcity and surplus, showcases the wisdom of managing resources and the blessings that come from effective stewardship.
During his tenure as a high official in Egypt, Joseph demonstrated exemplary stewardship by overseeing the collection, preservation, and equitable distribution of resources during seven years of abundance in preparation for seven years of famine. The abundance and famine were part of Pharoah’s dream.
Joseph’s wise management of the abundance during the years of plenty ensured that Egypt was well-prepared for the famine. This prudent stewardship saved countless lives.
Joseph recognized that the abundance itself was a divine blessing, allowing him to fulfill his role in God's larger plan for the preservation of life. Joseph saw his role as a steward not merely as a position of power but as a divine calling to serve and save others.
We must be thankful for our abundance, but we are called to be good stewards of whatever we are given. How are we good stewards?
The Bible is clear we should be content with basic needs, not seek to be wealthy, save appropriately, and be generous to those in need. Part of our gratitude for God’s abundance and favor is to be good stewards of what he gives us, not wasteful and greedy.
As we mentioned earlier, the Father’s ultimate plan is reconciling all of creation back to himself through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no secret; therefore, we see reconciliation at the end of Joseph’s story.
Through forgiveness and the plan of God, reconciliation allowed Joseph to reconnect with his family, particularly the brothers who wronged him but also his father. First, this reconciliation was a blessing in healing those emotional wounds.
We can see how those old wounds remained when Joseph had to get into a private place and weep when speaking with his brothers.
Second, reconciliation brought Joseph into unity again with his family, bringing his father and younger brother and their families into safety and abundance. Joseph experienced great gratitude at the culmination of God’s good plan.
God not only wants us to be reconciled to him but to one another, as well. When asked for the greatest commandment, Jesus gave two: love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. God’s original plan wasn’t for division and hate with others.
His gospel also brings us into healing and reconciliation with family and friends. What a blessing to have this hope! We should be thankful to God for his ultimate plan for peace for all people, with him and with one another.
This Thanksgiving, we may experience abundance and amazing favor. We might have the experience of a reconciled family or the miraculous return of prodigals. Let us thank God for how he has done amazing work in these areas.
In other ways, we may be dealing with sorrow and hardship. Many people around the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas experience grief. People may have betrayed us, or there may be division in our family over an argument or abuse.
Perhaps we have lost a loved one, and the holidays aren’t the same without them. We might feel we are in an impossible situation for one reason or another.
However, even during these adverse situations, God is still good. His good and redemptive plan is still in place. Thank God his plan doesn’t depend upon our strength to fulfill it.
With this sure hope that God will do what he says he will do, let’s come to him with gratitude. He will do what he said he will do. Let’s thank him for what he has done and for what he has promised to do.
Like Joseph in Genesis, let us be faithful in a sure and secure hope, with thanksgiving.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/martinedoucet
Britt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.
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