Doing the dirty job of shepherding required that Joseph stepped outside of the palace and into the presence of the people he was called to serve, he had to plan with their needs in mind, and yet the final step was the most delicate balance.
Joseph was in the culture to change it without letting it fundamentally change him! (Genesis 41:50-57) 50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[a] and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim[b] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” 53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” 56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
We get a glimpse into the changes in Joseph’s personal life. On one hand, Joseph appears to become more and more an Egyptian. He is given a wife by Pharaoh, the daughter of a priest of On. The city of On was known also as Heliopolis, “The City of Sun” where worship to the sun-god Ra was housed. The High Priest for Ra was known as the “Greatest of All Seers” and so we get a glimpse at how highly respected Joseph was as a seer, but at the same time, we find that Joseph hadn’t forgotten the God of his ancestors, naming his two children Manasseh and Ephraim—the first which is derived from the Hebrew word for “forget” which honors what God had done to allow him to forget “all my trouble and all my father’s household” and Ephraim which means twice fruitful saying, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
He was willing to become like the people around him without sacrificing what made him valuable to the people—relationship with God. He maintained the relationship that took him from the pit to the palace, the one who had lead him through the trials to the triumph. Yet many find themselves lead astray without ever going to a distant land. For many just going to college is enough to cause their faith to evaporate. Professors push their ideology, their agenda, and yet on campuses around the country are people like Kyle and Chelsea. Kyle joked, “I got into college and never left!” He is in his late 20’s and still lives on campus, listens to whatever music the college kids listen to, he eats where and what they eat, he goes to the student union, he even lives in the dorm with his wife and two kids. Instead of a perpetual student though, he has dedicated himself to being a teacher. He and his wife have fulfilled the words of Paul:
9 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. What are you willing to sacrifice that someone might come to the Savior? The more we embrace the fullness of what Christ has done on our behalf, the more we will be willing to sacrifice everything but truth in the pursuit of the lost. Christ has done nothing less for us.
C.S. Lewis paints this picture of the incarnation…Lying at your feet is your dog. Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress. Some of us love dogs very much. If it would help all the dogs in the world, would you be willing to become a dog? Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved (fellow humans), the poor substitute of looking into the beloved’s face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak? Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father.
You aren’t here today by accident—Just like Joseph wasn’t placed prematurely or accidentally. God has brought you here not to just figure out how to make it to the palace, but to change the world for those who are in the prison, in the pit. The war for the hearts and minds of mankind is only won when regular people—you and I—decide to love others as we were first loved.