...had sent a man ahead of them,My interest is that last phrase: "the word of Yahweh tested him."
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
I take it that this "word of Yahweh" refers to the revelations Joseph had received in his youth. Yahweh had shown him that he would be prominent in his father's house.
Well, he'd been "prominent," all right: prominently hated. His brothers had loathed him, and couldn't decide which was the better idea — kill him outright, or sell him off to pagans and forget about him.
No doubt, this wasn't what Joseph had envisioned. He went down, down, down. Down into the pit, down into slavery, down into Egypt, down into the dungeon.
And all the while, that promise from Yahweh was "up there." I can imagine that what had started out as bright and hope-inspiring became very difficult. None could be surprised if Joseph had been tempted to bitter exasperation. "Some promise," he could have thought. "Some prominence!"
So this, I take it, is how "the word of Yahweh tested him." Joseph had a promise of greatness from God, yet here he'd sunk about as low as he could get. What would dominate his attitude, outlook, affections, perspective? Would the decisive factor be the word of the Lord, or would it be Joseph's circumstances?
It was a fiery test.
Clearly, Joseph continued to believe. Because he believed, he continued to trust. Because he trusted, he continued to hope.
How do I know that? I know it, for one, by how he responded to the temptations of Potiphar's wife.
Did he say, "Sure, whatever, might as well get whatever jollies I can get"? Did he say, "Yahweh sure isn't coming through in the 'happy' department, so, if you've got something, I'm in"?
Nope. You know his response: "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). His hope — born of trust, born of faith — purified him.
And aren't we tested in much the same way?
We, too, have words from God that often go counter to our circumstances. We are promised suffering now (John 16:33; Acts 14:22, etc.). But we are also promised glory to come (Matthew 5:2-12; Hebrews 12:1-2). We are to fix our hopes completely on that ultimate, eschatological hope of deliverance in, through, and because of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-9, 13, etc.).
Sufferings and humiliation, now; glory and eternal joys in His presence, then.
And here's our test: do we believe them, or Him? When tragedies or setbacks strike, do we believe that they are the final word? Do we walk in gloom, bitterness, discouragement — disbelief? Is Satan more persuasive to us than God?
Because without hope, we're doomed. Without hope, we're no more fit for trials than Joseph would have been. The same dynamic applies to us:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3)Hope will purify. Hopelessness will defile. Hope grants that endurance without which holiness is impossible.
And hope depends on faith; and faith depends on the Word of God, and what we do with it.
Or do we believe God? Do we believe that glory, and not groaning, is ultimate (Romans 8:18-30)?
The word of Yahweh tested Joseph.
It tests us, too.