Read: Genesis 37:12-24
The one thing that stands out to me about the story of Joseph is the long journey of suffering he endures before life is good for him. It appears many times along the way as if God has forgotten Joseph but in the end we will see how God was at work all along and shaping Joseph to be the leader he needed to be.
I heard a talk by Pastor Tim Keller and he mentioned the place “Dothan” which is a location mentioned twice in the Old Testament. The first time, in Genesis 37, is where Joseph found his brothers tending their flocks and they threw Joseph in a cistern. Out of jealousy they planned to kill Joseph but Reuben persuaded them to throw him into a cistern instead. I am sure Joseph was in fear for his life and crying out to God to save him. It would appear God was silent as Joseph was sold as a slave to some passing Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt. So Dothan marks the place where Joseph left everything familiar to him and became a slave in Egypt.
Some centuries later in 2 Kings 6 the story is told of the prophet Elisha who lived in Dothan (this is the second mention of this place). He had been warning the King of Israel where the Arameans were going to attack. The King of Aram became very upset and wanted to know who the traitor was that was informing the King of Israel of his plans. When he found out it was the prophet Elisha he sent troops to Dothan to seize him. He sent chariots and troops and horses. When Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, saw the Arameans that had come against them, he was afraid. Elisha prayed so the servant could see that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them” and the servant saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the army approached, Elisha prayed that the Lord would strike them with blindness. The Lord again answered, and the army was blinded.
Two prayers at Dothan. The first one, God appears to do nothing. The second one, there is an immediate massive miracle. As Tim Keller says “the two extremes of God’s methods meet in Dothan. God was just as present and active in the slow answers to Joseph as in the swift answer to Elisha. He was as lovingly involved in the silence of that cistern as he was in the noisy, spectacular answer to Elisha’s prayer. The Joseph story tells us that very often God does not give us exactly what we ask for. Instead He gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything He knows.”
John Newton says “everything is needful (necessary) that He sends; nothing is needful (necessary) that He withholds.” The story of Joseph reminds me that anything that comes into my life is something that, as painful as it is, I need in some way. And anything I pray for that does not come from him, even if I am sure that I cannot live without it, I do not really need.
That God will help you to trust Him in all situations and circumstances, even those difficult ones where it seems God is absent. Thank Him that He knows what you need, He is for you, He will never leave you, and He loves you.