Psalm 105:17-21 (NKJV)
17 He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
18 They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
19 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
20 The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.
21 He made him lord of his house,
And ruler of all his possessions,
These verses about Joseph were in my Bible reading a few days ago.
I think that most people who read the Bible have their favourite Bible stories, I have two:
One is the story of the friendship between David and Jonathan, which could be summed up in the following Bible verse:
The other is the story of Joseph:
Jacob had twelve sons, but Joseph was his favourite. Joseph’s dad made him a coat of many colours because he was the “special one”.
Favouritism does not work well in any family, so Joseph’s brothers became intensely jealous of him and decided to get rid of him.
Joseph ends up being sold as a slave into Potiphar’s house in Egypt. Joseph was far from home and family, living amongst people of a completely different culture.
Everything went relatively well for a while and Joseph worked his way up through the ranks of the household staff. However, when Joseph refuses to go to bed with his master’s wife, she falsely accuses him of attacking her and he gets thrown into prison.
While in prison Joseph interprets the dreams of some other household staff who are also being held as prisoners. They promise to put in a good word for Joseph if they are released, but they forget to keep their promise.
Two years later Joseph is finally released. He finds favour with Pharaoh and becomes Pharaoh’s right hand man.
Meanwhile there is a famine in the land where Joseph’s father and brothers live, so they eventually come to Egypt looking for food.
To make a long story short, Joseph looks after his father and brothers extremely well and makes sure that they want for nothing. Joseph tells them:
Genesis 50:20-21 (NIV)
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
This past week the Bible verse regarding Joseph that has caught my attention has been Psalm 105:18. I decided to do a little background reading into this Bible verse.
When I lived in South London in the mid eighties I attended an amazing church called Thornton Heath Evangelical Church. I had never before heard such in-depth Bible teaching, such as I heard it in this church.
When I was leaving there to move back to Ireland, I wanted to continue learning to understand the Bible in a similar way, so I went to the bookshop at Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in Elephant and Castle in London and ordered a set of the six volume Matthew Henry Bible Commentaries to be posted over to my new home in Strabane. This Metropolitan Tabernacle Bookshop used to sell books like these at subsidised prices.
So today I consulted Matthew Henry about Psalm 105:18. He says that the verse literally means that “iron entered his soul” – that everything that Joseph went through as a result of being falsely accused, was very painful to him.
I feel like this.
I feel like iron has entered my soul.
It’s not the iron of false accusations, it’s the iron of grief and loss and sorrow.
The story of Joseph gives me hope.
God can’t restore Leah to me in the way that God restored Joseph’s family to him.
However, seeing how Joseph went through so much hardship and experienced iron in his soul BUT he never became bitter, his heart remained tender and loving, so that God could use him to bring blessing to others – that’s what gives me hope.
I think so often about the example that Leah set by her response to her diagnosis – she uttered two simple yet profound phrases:
“God has a plan for my life”
“We’ve got to see the bigger picture”
I don’t know if I’ve done a good enough job of explaining myself – I’m by no means a Biblical scholar – just a grieving Mummy trying to find a way forward.
However what I want to say is that the story of Joseph gives me hope, that even though I feel the iron of grief and loss in my soul, I can still cling to Bible promises like Jeremiah 29:11 that suggest that God isn’t finished with my life: