I have studied the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis on a number of different occasions, but this time, something new stuck out to me like never before. If you know the story of Joseph, you will know that he had a dream that he would be great. So great that his brothers and parents would bow down to him. His brothers didn’t like this dream or the fact that their father, Jacob, seemed to favor Joseph, so they sold him to slave traders headed for Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph became the slave of a prominent man, Potiphar, the captain of the palace guard. Joseph served his master faithfully, but when he didn’t respond to the repeated advances of Potiphar’s wife, she falsely accused him of attempted rape. This landed Joseph in prison. In prison, Joseph becomes a faithful prisoner – so faithful that he ends up in charge of the other prisoners and all that takes place there. Years later Joseph is called upon to interpret a dream for the Pharaoh. (This opportunity comes to him because Joseph had successfully interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer during his stint in jail.) Joseph’s interpretation is well-received by Pharaoh and his advisors, and Pharaoh decides to appoint Joseph as the head of a nationwide program that will prepare the land of Egypt for the terrible famine to come.
Pharaoh makes it clear that he is giving Joseph this position because he considers him the wisest man in all Egypt. But what blows me away is that Pharaoh also gives Joseph a new name, Zaphenath-paneah. The footnote in my Bible says that this name probably means “God speaks and lives.” In essence, Pharaoh is saying, “Because of you, Joseph, I know that God speaks and lives. Your life makes Him obvious to me.”
Wow! What an amazing statement, especially coming from someone outside of the Jewish faith at that time, and yet, this is exactly how God intended it to work! God’s desire is that our lives would reveal Him to those who may not know or ever have heard of Him.
Joseph had been a slave for about thirteen years, spending most of those in prison. We have all sorts of accounts of him being faithful; none of him complaining, whining or lamenting his situation. It’s not to say that he didn’t have rough days – of course he did! But he didn’t choose to stay in that place of self-pity. He didn’t allow anger over his circumstances to destroy himself and his witness. Instead, he chose to be faithful in spite of those circumstances. In doing so, he lived a life that got people’s attention. A life that caused them to believe that God speaks and lives. That is the kind of life that I want to live – one that makes God evident to those who may never have seen Him before. To do so requires being faithful whatever the circumstance. How many times in those thirteen years could Joseph have thrown in the towel and missed out on the awesome plans that God had for him? Too many times to count! Yet through his faithfulness, he received great blessing, but more importantly, became a blessing to others.
Joseph’s new name is a reminder that our lives have the power to show people that God is real. That He is alive and speaking. The only question is: Are we up to the challenge?