Joseph’s Secret to Success
Tucked away in his father’s blessing is an illustration that the blessings of the Lord are greater than anything we can imagine on this earth. One commentator has said, “It is the Old Testament equivalent to John 15:1-17 where Jesus taught His disciples to abide in the vine. Whether the Old or the New Testament, the secret of spiritual fruitfulness is union with the Lord God through Jesus Christ.”
“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall” (Genesis 49:22 NIV). That is the testimony of the Bible. “The LORD was with Joseph… The LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph… The LORD was with Joseph… The LORD was with him, and whatever he did, that the LORD made to prosper” (Genesis 39: 2, 5, 21).
The LORD God caused Joseph’s vine to “climb over a wall” into Egypt, and God used him there. “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (41:52). “God has made me lord of all Egypt” (45:9).
Joseph was saying, “I saw God do it!” The LORD God was sovereign in his life, and it was His sovereign grace that delivered and sustained him during those long hard years in Egypt as a Hebrew slave.
If Joseph had been living in our day, he would say without Christ we can do nothing. However, when we are in union with Him, it is His life that is seen in us; it is His power at work in us, and our works are therefore His works.
Jacob told his son Joseph how he would be a fruitful vine. It would not be without adversity, trials, and temptations. Bitter archers who hated him attacked Joseph. “They shot at him with hostility” (v.23a-24a). He kept liberally “in an unyielding position.”
Joseph’s own brothers shot their bitter arrows of hatred and envy at him. “If God loves you, man will hate you; if God honors you, man will dishonor you,” cried Spurgeon. Joseph’s own brothers shot their bitter and hostile arrows at them conspiring to kill him, threw him in a cistern and sold him unto slavery and was taken to Egypt. The first archers were the archers of envying in his own home. “When they saw him, they plotted against him to put him to death” (Gen. 37:18).
The hot arrows of temptation from Potiphar’s lusty wife took aim at Joseph. When given the opportunity that many a man craves for, Joseph ran for his life shouting, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (39:9). It was not just one lustful, passionate advance because “She spoke to Joseph day after day” (v.10).
Joseph said, “No!” “He did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her” (v.10). He fled, and he paid for it by going to prison.
Joseph was maligned in the eyes of his master, and his character was ruined. Spurgeon said, “It was a marvelous providence that Potiphar did not put Joseph to death.” This lying person ruined Joseph’s character.
C. H. Spurgeon drew an application saying, “There are no royal roads to heaven – they are paths of trial and trouble; the archers will shoot at you as long as you are on this side the flood.” Those who are true to God’s Word can expect it, indeed, must expect it. “Bless be God, they have not said worse things of us than they said of our Master.”
Again, the great old Baptist preacher said, “Do not be in a hurry to set yourselves right. God will take care of you. Leave yourselves alone; only be very valiant for the Lord God of Israel, be steadfast in the truth of Jesus and your bow shall abide.”
No one was able to bend Joseph’s bow but he and God. “His bow abode in strength; it did not snap, it did not stray aside. His chastity was his bow, and he did not lose that; his faith was his bow, and that did not yield it did or break; his courage was his bow, and that did not fail him; his character and his honesty was his bow, nor did he cast it away.”
What was Joseph’s secret? How did he bear such fruit of righteousness?
“His bow remained in an unyielding position, and the arms of his hands were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob” (v.24 using the marginal notes). The NIV reads, “But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you…” (49:24-25b).
Joseph’s arms “Were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” The image is that of the LORD God placing His strong hands upon the hands of Joseph as he draws the string of his bow just as a strong father might steady and guide his son in giving an archery lesson.
Who steadies your hand? Who gives you inner strength? Joseph’s “bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). The secret of Joseph’s strength is divine strength. And if you and I ever accomplish anything to God’s glory, it will be in and by and through abiding in Jesus Christ.