He sent a man before them-- Joseph--who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons.
[He was laid in chains of iron and his soul entered into the iron.] (Amplified) Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.
[until the word of the Lord tried and tested him.] (Amplified) The king sent and released him, the ruler of the people let him go free. He made him lord of his house, And ruler of all his possessions,
To bind his princes at his pleasure, And teach his elders wisdom. Israel also came into Egypt, And Jacob dwelt in the land of Ham. He increased His people greatly, And made them stronger than their enemies.
Psalm 105:17-24 (NKJV)
Joseph is a man whose life provides us with so many life lessons. He is one who early on in life had a sense of God's favor and calling with high purpose in life. He had dreams. He had a position of favor in his family. I wonder how many times after his brothers sold him into slavery that Joseph asked himself, "What happened?" ...Why did his family turn on him and reject him? Even after he went into captivity, how could he end up in a dungeon when he had tried so serve and walked in integrity? How had his life spun so wildly out of control?
We can take heart as we meditate on God’s working in Joseph’s life and the questions that undoubtedly entered into his mind in those dark days of imprisonment and slavery. There are so many plans and dreams yet fulfilled in my life. Did I really hear from God? Was that His plan? Yet, we've read Joseph's story from beginning to end and we know that those days when he endured trials and hardship days were part of God's plan. God never lost control or forgot Joseph. He did not make a mistake in moving Joseph into exactly the place and position He wanted him for His purposes.
Psalm 105:17-19 has an interesting insight regarding this time that Joseph spent in prison. It says that “the word of the LORD tested and tried him.” F.B. Meyer notes that where it says, "His soul entered into iron," we also might translate this into our language as saying, "Iron entered into his soul." I often think of God's testing as one in which He seeks to find our weaknesses, but in fact, a study of God's testing reveals that in these times, as we yield to Him, He creates in us strength. The testing of metal finds its weak places and allows them to be strengthened. It is when we go through a trial that God is able to forge His strength in the place of our weaknesses. Without the times of trial and testing we would happily go along on our own strength, never realizing we are ill-prepared for the next phase of our lives.
Perhaps the greatest trial Joseph faced was not those we see from without, but those he faced in his heart where he was able to forgive his brothers who had so cruelly rejected him and treated him with such contempt. He clearly forgave them as we see in his tears and his kindness to them.
“And Joseph said to them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God?
[Vengeance is His, not mine.]
As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good,
to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day.
Now therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for and support you and your little ones. And he comforted them [imparting cheer, hope, strength] and spoke to their hearts [kindly].” Genesis 50:19-21 (AMP)