Political Hero from The Bible: Joseph

In this series we take a look at 'political heroes' from the Bible and see what lessons we can take from them in today's political arena. This latest article looks at Joseph.

A child psychologist would have had a field day with Jacob’s youngest son Joseph. He seemed an incredibly emotional child who believed in his great destiny and superiority, happily recounting his dreams to those that would listen, which largely centered around everyone bowing down to him.  This was backed up by an over-affirming father who decided to demonstrate his deep affection by giving Joseph a multi-coloured coat, hardly something to help you blend in during those awkward adolescent days.

So angry were Joseph’s brothers with the way he behaved and was treated by their father that they plotted to kill him; though they eventually settled with selling him into slavery. Despite his circumstances, years later we find Joseph as the ruler over all of Egypt. So what made him stand out?

Joseph stayed positive

Joseph was pretty unfortunate. Early in the story we read that, out of jealousy, Joseph was beaten by his brothers, thrown down a well and then sold into slavery. Later we find Joseph wrongly accused of attempted rape and imprisoned as a result. Even in jail he struggled to get a break. When he secured the release of Pharaoh’s cupbearer, he was quickly forgotten and left incarcerated.

Despite the trials Joseph faced and the places he found himself in, he never acted out of bitterness or appeared to complain about his situation. Instead he chose to engage positively in the world around him, take on responsibilities and be a leader. To these ends Joseph consistently rose to the top. He was made head servant in Potiphar’s household, put in charge of the jail he was imprisoned in and eventually became second in command to Pharaoh himself.

C.S. Lewis once said that the “sin of despair is greater than the sin that causes it”. How often as Christians do we chose not to engage in the world around us out of despair for the situation we find ourselves in: a world full of corruption, injustice and compromise. Joseph teaches us to have faith in God in spite of circumstance and to stand up and engage in the world around us wherever we find ourselves and however hopeless the situation may appear.

Joseph acted with integrity

Often we complain that politicians lack integrity. Joseph not only demonstrated integrity in action but also that having it can cost you everything.  

In the second verse of the story we find out that Joseph would report his brothers’ misconduct to his father, turning his own siblings against him (Genesis 37:2). Later, as head of Potiphar’s household, Potiphar’s wife tried to tempt Joseph into bed with her. But he fled the temptation, something that cost him his freedom.

Throughout the story, Joseph’s integrity seems to work against him. But the bigger picture shows that God continually honoured Joseph for his strength of character; a pertinent lesson in an age where politics seem riddled by sleaze and scandal.

Joseph had God’s insight

A primary reason for Joseph’s ascension to the highest office was because God gave him insight into situations. This often came in the form of interpreting dreams, from the small dreams of the baker and the cupbearer in prison, to the dreams of Pharaoh himself that eventually determined national policy for over a decade.

Interpreting dreams gave Joseph insight into the future and helped him, in the case of Pharaoh’s dream, to oversee a strategy of feeding Egypt during 7 years of famine.

Joseph recognised his interpretations came from God, but he also recognised God’s hand at work in every aspect of his life, the seemingly good and bad. Addressing his family when they came to Egypt in desperate need of food, Joseph stated that “God sent me ahead of you… to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt”.

God gives those that trust in Him vision for the world around them and often divine insight into how to improve the lives of the vulnerable. If we believe that Christians are the most in tune with God’s heart, how important is it then that those same believers are in positions of authority - like Joseph - securing a better future for all people.

Political Hero - Nehemiah
Political Hero - John the Baptist