Gen 39:21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Although Joseph’s brothers had absolutely no idea that they were doing it, they were the first group of God’s people, (even though they were definitely NOT walking closely with Him), to actually launch one of their own into a cross-cultural, geographically distant, living situation.
They basically sent a missionary to the Egyptians and were clueless that they were doing so.
But that’s what Joseph was, a missionary!
His mean-spirited and poor-representatives-of-the-true-and-living-God-brothers, were simply the vehicle that God used to send Joseph on a mission for His glory, the good of His own people, and the good of the Egyptian people.
I’ll unpack the whole concept of Joseph as a model missionary at some time in the future, but for now, I’d like to consider one specific moment in Joseph’s roller coaster life in Egypt.
The backstory leading up to this verse is simple: Joseph had been falsely accused of attempted rape by the wife of his boss and sentenced to prison.
God permitted this to take place. And as is always the case with those who are truly His people, especially when they are enveloped by life-altering difficulties, God was with Joseph even in the midst of the prison.
Although we have no record of God promising His presence to Joseph, because that is God’s promise to all of His people, the first part of this verse makes clear He was present with Joseph right in the midst of his undeserved confinement.
And although the bible doesn’t say so specifically, Joseph had to be a man of prayer.
He was an incredible man of faith whose relationship with God was so real and so vibrant that unbelievers he came in contact with recognized that it was His God’s hand on his life that made him so different from everyone else.
An extraordinary prayer life is the only path to the kind of intimacy with God that Joseph had.
So, would I be going too far if I assumed that Joseph amped up his already healthy prayer life in response to the false accusation and his imprisonment?
And would I then be going too far if I assume that Joseph probably asked God to be merciful to him–for God to show him mercy?
Now when I think about all that had happened to Joseph previously and then try to envision those things happening to me, I guarantee you that I’d be begging God for mercy!
But that’s not all. I’d be defining and describing the mercy I’d like God to bestow on me. And I would do it in 5 words: “Get me out of here”!
And here’s what I find so interesting–and so convicting.
This verse tells us that God did show Joseph mercy–He gave him “favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison”.
Whether we agree or not, it’s God Himself that defines, describes, and bestows mercy the way He desires. And even more challenging to understand is the fact that His bestowal of mercy as He defines it is always what’s best for us, for others, and for His glory.
Missionary brethren, what should you do when your definition or description of mercy is different than His? How will you respond?
Please ask Him to show you how or in what way whatever has happened truly is an expression of His mercy.
Ask Him to give you the same mercy-detecting lenses that He so regularly gave Joseph; yet which so many other followers of His neglect asking for.