This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving for having been set free from physical suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through his suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” David declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of his life’s enlargement. You cannot lift the iron load of your brother if the iron has not entered your life, and have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true?
It is written of Joseph’s time in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had rejoiced in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. We need the iron to enlarge our nature, gold is but a vision, iron is an experience. The chain which unites us to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the
world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.
“And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into a prison… But Jehovah was with
Joseph… and that which he did, Jehovah made it to prosper” (Genesis 39:20-23). Do not say the shades of life’s prison-house have restrained you; your shackles are wings—wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of the prison-house of adversity is a door into the heart of God. He enlarges you by the binding of sorrow’s chains. If Joseph had not been Egypt‘s prisoner, he would have never been Egypt’s governor. The iron chains around his ankles ushered in the golden chain around his neck.
When God lets us go to the prison-house of adversity because we have served Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in. Joseph seems to have known that, he did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because “everything was against him.” If he had, the prison-keeper would never have trusted him so. Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.
The Spirit of God speaks to our souls saying; if you are to be enlarged in human sympathy, you must be brought into the limits of human suffering. Joseph’s days and nights in the dark dungeon were the road to Joseph’s years of glory on Egypt’s throne. Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us—until it is cast completely from us. Joseph faithfully turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph.
“And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck” (Genesis 41:42). Let us pray: “Lord Jesus, when the prison-house of adversity doors close on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding. Prosper Thy work through me in prison, even there, make me free indeed.”
Grady Norman Greene, Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Our Christ
- Joseph Continues to Face Challenges, Sunday School Lesson, September 25, 2011 (heidelberg26.wordpress.com)
- Trusting God When Things Don’t Go Your Way (mainwriters.com)