Humility Before Exaltation

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.”—Genesis 41:46-49 (NIV)

It’s easy to read today’s passage and admire Joseph for the honor that was bestowed upon him by Pharaoh and the wisdom granted to him by God. Imagine the power and status he was given in the context of today’s world. It would be like the President handing him the keys not only to the White House, but also to Fort Knox with access to all the country’s wealth, essentially becoming an A-list celebrity overnight.

But Joseph’s story leading up to this point also involved a great deal of pain and suffering. He was thrown down into a pit, left for dead, and sold into slavery by his brothers. He was accused of sexual indiscretion by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison, then forgotten by his cell mates who promised to remember him once they were released.

So, what’s the lesson here? In his book, Becoming a King, Morgan Snyder notes that in order for us to become the kind of people that God can entrust with His kingdom and power, we need first to be molded by adversity and obscurity.

“The narrow way is filled with story after story of God unearthing a man’s desire—and then hiding him,” Snyder writes. “David was told he’d be king, then spent the next fourteen years hiding out in caves with a bunch of misfits. Joseph was told he’d be elevated to a place above all his brothers, then was thrown into a pit by those brothers and sold into slavery. It was many years and much suffering before he was ready, in his soul as a man, to lead all those God had entrusted to his care.”

In other words, Joseph wouldn’t have been able to handle the responsibilities and authority he was given if God hadn’t humbled him first. For many, we hear God’s call on our lives and dream of doing great things in ministry or in our vocation. In our enthusiasm, we may rush ahead of God’s timetable or try to accomplish His plans in our own wisdom and strength. Oftentimes, the results can be frustrating and even devastating.

In Luke 14:10 (NIV), Jesus tells us that when we’re invited to a feast, “take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

If you’re suffering hardship, remain humble and be patient. God will exalt you in His timing.

DIG: Read the stories of people like Joseph, David, Moses, and Paul in the Bible. What do they share in common?

DISCOVER: What purpose do you think God has in allowing His people to suffer in general? What about you, specifically? In what ways has He used adversity to shape your character?

DISPLAY: Ask God to give you the humility to take the lowest seat at the table and the strength to endure whatever trials He has placed in your path to cultivate the good soil in which He is planting His Word to produce a harvest of righteousness in you.