The Four J’s: Joseph the Humbled King

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender continues “The Four J’s,” a series engaging the sweeping, chaotic, sometimes terrible and sometimes glorious stories of four characters in the Old Testament: Jacob, Joseph, Jeremiah, and Jonah. Dan dives into the life of Joseph, a story an epic story full of political intrigue, family division, betrayal, envy, and, ultimately, the bold hope that our own stories might join God’s story of reconciliation and life.

“There is something really delightful in this larger story.”

After a quick summary of what is a long, complex, and riveting story, Dan highlights Joseph’s movement from a man who used his gifts and skills to grow his own power and influence over others, into a man who uses those same gifts and skills to write a story of personal, familial, and national salvation. “In some ways the narrative thrust of this whole passage is reversal upon reversal, expectations upset, Joseph playing out the role of a king,” says Dan.

Dan talks about what it means to be a king or a queen, to maneuver, scheme, lead, unite what is divided, and, in a way, to move a story toward a sense of completion. “Joseph is a remarkable story writer and teller, and then gets caught up in the process himself,” says Dan. “All this is for the sake of redemption, for bringing redemption to a people group, to the world, but also to the particularity of his own family.”

Joseph is a profound prototype of the wisdom, playfulness, and in some sense, kingly authoritative writing of the narrative—like Jesus.

Dan also addresses one of the most powerful and well-known lines in this narrative, in which Joseph tells his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good—a verse that is often terribly misused to minimize or justify suffering. While it is not a verse to be used flippantly, Dan insists that there is great power in its truth.

“You will discover, over many, many leagues of stories, the unfathomable: that is, the hand of God brings a goodness you could never have imagined. That promise, as I’ve said, does not take away suffering, does not take away the reality of death, but it does open our heart to be able to say, death does not get the final word. That promise is why a king needs to write, needs to be able to plot, and to ask, ‘How do I use my giftedness to be able to bring the greatest benefit to the many, but also for those who are far away and those who are near to be reconciled?’ Ultimately the work of the king is not just providing infrastructure to make the kingdom work, and providing protection against enemies, ultimately it’s always having an eye to what it is that is divided and what it means for me to use my story and my world to bring all things to be whole again.”