April 1, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—Genesis 50:19-21 (NRSV)
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Joseph caught on to the fact that there will be minor key changes and dropped notes and a lot of improvising that will be necessary in life. There will be no sheet music in a basket while you’re on your way to slavery. Joseph had some dreams that reminded him that God was involved and present. Joseph addressed his brothers and let them know that their intent did not supersede God’s intent.
There is a kind of improvisation that happens in music in African American culture. Jazz and blues are the music of a philosophy of life and pain. As a saxophonist, I have joined the ensemble at churches. There is usually no sheet music so I would get a key signature from the pianist and organist and the rhythm from the bass player. My settling-in would be brief. I quickly found an abrupt change of rhythm or heard the major chords begin to diminish. Or worse—the musicians would decide to stop playing without a warning.
New experiences can be difficult. Perpetual shifts and changes in the music can make things feel rushed. You do not get time to catch life’s music because things seem to be moving too fast. All you have are brief dreams of what it could sound like. But the more familiarity you have with the ensemble, the more you begin to recognize what is being assembled. It would be nice to have the sheet music directing what is coming next in life, but there is no script when the music is being written live; only the anticipation that the completed work will be good.
Joseph must have had some of this improvisational angst when his brothers dropped him in a basket and sent him off to new opportunities in Egypt, or perhaps as an immigrant in a foreign land; or maybe in his engagement with the authorities or other workers. There is irony in this masterpiece of Joseph’s life that gives a crucial reminder that occurs when we see God’s presence.
When things fall apart for Joseph he doesn’t check out. We do not find that Joseph punched his brothers or overthrew the government of Egypt or performed a coup deposing Potiphar on account of the pain that he received. Somewhere along the line Joseph caught on to the fact that there will be minor key changes and dropped notes and a lot of improvising that will be necessary in life. There will be no sheet music in a basket while you’re on your way to slavery. Why would he hold back the brotherly beat-down his brothers expected in Genesis 50? Because Joseph had had some dreams that reminded him that God was involved and present. Joseph addressed that their intent did not supersede God’s intent: “Even though you intended to harm me.” The irony is that the worst of circumstances are meant for good when God’s presence is more than a doctrine.
When leaders recognize the presence of God wandering through relationships, they find that reconciliation is occurring. God changes the rhythm or the sound but it is always the same score. The good work God began doing in the garden after the fall will continue—and He will continue it until Christ Jesus comes, looking at a bad, painful, humiliating cross and turning it into something cosmically good for all who believe. Joseph dreams of God’s presence and knows the diminished and flat circumstances will be for major good.
What do you think Joseph’s response to his brothers after all those years teaches you about yourself?
When you see others around you going through unavoidable tough times what are your thoughts and actions toward them?
Take a moment and pause to pray for those whose journey will be arduous. Ask for wisdom and, more importantly, the strength to endure whatever may come their way.
God, we understand that what we may dream and know to be true may delay in coming. We are certain that your gospel teaches us patience if nothing else. When our urgency and anxiety press us to push for change, remind us of Joseph and others in the scriptures who clearly show us your timing is best. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God Meant All for Good (Genesis 50:15-21)
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DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.