Joseph embodies the key reality of spirituality: life out of death. God is a God of life out of death. This is His way. Everything He does or creates expresses it. If we would truly know the Lord, our experience will be marked by life out of death.
Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit then sold him to slave traders. Potiphar, Captain of the Guard for Pharaoh, bought Joseph. Joseph quickly became Potiphar’s right-hand man because “The LORD was with Joseph” and blessed everything Joseph did (Gen. 39:2). Joseph went from the pit to Potiphar’s right hand: life out of death, gain out of loss.
Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph. When Joseph didn’t reciprocate her advances, she accused him of trying to rape her (Gen. 39:17-18). Potiphar threw Joseph in prison.
All of this could’ve reduced Joseph to a puddle of self-pity and bitterness. Instead, “the LORD was with Joseph,” and he became the warden’s right-hand man.
Joseph’s reputation was literally divine. He was known as someone in whom God’s spirit dwelled (Gen. 41:38). This, as we know, propelled him to Pharaoh’s right hand. Joseph went from falsely accused to Pharaoh’s right hand: life out of death, prestige out of prison.
Life out of death is something we must embrace, and not just as a concept. We must see life out of death as governing all things, as being a law of sorts. This is probably the greater meaning when the Lord tells Noah seedtime and harvest will not cease (Gen. 8:22).
In laying out the reality of resurrection, Paul says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Cor. 15:36). If someone suggested we could grow a seed without planting it, we would think them ludicrous. We need this perspective with spiritual things and the work of God. Nothing spiritual, nothing of God, can grow and flower unless there is a seed planted: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop” (John 12:24).
Without this perspective, we will lack understanding of the Lord’s work in our lives and in the world. Where would Joseph have been without some sense of this? God revealed in dreams that his family would all bow down to him. His life after that went the opposite direction. He became a slave, then a prisoner. How easy would it have been for Joseph to conclude that his dreams were a lie and there was no God?
We also need to be aware of how the Lord works so that we don’t lose faith when everything seems to go the opposite way of what God has promised. Some deny our participation in Christ’s sufferings and teach us to expect only blessing and good fortune. These lie perniciously to God’s people and set them up for spiritual ruin. This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul summed up in 1 Corinthians: “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Life out of death. The true gospel that helps us understand who God is and how He works; the spiritual reality embodied by those in scripture and most fully expressed in Jesus, from whose death flowers a new humanity and creation.