By Jason Soroski, Crosswalk.com
I was just a kid when Ronald Reagan was President. It was a long time ago, but I specifically remember the 1984 election where Reagan handily defeated Walter Mondale. It wasn’t even close. Reagan won every electoral vote except for Minnesota (Mondale’s home state) and Washington D.C. The game was over and Reagan was the winner
Was it Really a Victory?
It appeared that Republicans were in the driver’s seat and on top of the world. However, the coming decades would display a back-and-forth momentum between Republican and Democrat Presidents right through the most recent election. Each time, the winning side felt a sigh of relief in knowing they had ‘won’ the culture war, and the other side despaired. But do these victories make an eternal difference, or are we just being short-sighted? Do we spend far too much of our time focused on elections, politics, and who is in charge of government? Are our problems solved by political power?
Over time, our morals, convictions, and values have deteriorated with each passing year regardless of who sits in the White House. Things that were once accepted moral knowledge have been twisted and distorted by a society antagonistic toward God and godly people. Does the White House really determine whether we live in a ‘godly’ nation, or as believers, should we be focused on something more eternal?
What Does This Have to Do with the Story of Joseph?
This has a lot to do with the story of Joseph, actually. Joseph gives us an enduring account of a life seemingly in ruins turned to a life of global political influence thanks to the grace of God and the favor of the Pharaoh. We get to know Joseph in Genesis 37 and find that he has dreams of personal grandeur which include his own family bowing down to him. Enraged that their youngest brother would speak and believe such things, Joseph is hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery by the end of the chapter. Problem solved.
Joseph Becomes a Political Powerhouse
The brothers had permanently solved their Joseph problem and could now move on. Or had they? Jospeh remained faithful to God, even in slavery, and continued dreaming. Eventually his dream interpreting reputation brought him into the presence of Pharaoh. Joseph accurately interprets troubling dreams, and gives the glory to God in doing so. The dreams predict a coming famine, and Joseph’s interpretation allows Egypt to be ready, and foreshadows that others will be seeking out Egypt’s help in order to survive. As a result, not only does Pharaoh reward Joseph, but in Genesis 41:40-42 we see he places Joseph in an astonishing political position:
“‘You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.”
Joseph had been down, but because of his faith in God, he was never out. He was not only free from slavery and prison but now held significant political authority. A man of unshakeable faith was now second in command of the most dominant world power. In a pagan land, God was honored, and Joseph answered to no one but Pharaoh himself. Think about that. Egypt had a believer in high office influencing the halls of power.
The Best of Egypt
Eventually, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt seeking assistance, and he put them through a series of tests (which we will not delve into here) and reveals himself to them as their brother. Now that this relationship is restored, Joseph intends to relocate his family to Egypt, the most powerful and most prepared nation on earth, where he happens to be the guy responsible for the nation’s success in surviving the famine.
Pharaoh agrees that this is a splendid idea, and even allows them the best part of the country to settle in:
“Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.’ “You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours’” (Genesis 45:17-20).
Is it Good Enough?
The people of Israel have been promised their own land, but right now that must seem a faraway promise: they now have their own land. They have the best of Egypt. What else could they really need? When the people of God have been shown favor and have been given governmental authority in the strongest nation in the world, why not grasp tightly the comfort and power that is already theirs? We know the answer. Joseph, the Egyptian leader that he was, gives this command at the end of his life in Genesis 50:24, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Joseph and his family had everything they could ever want in Egypt! Yet he is still looking forward to the promise of something greater. A few verses later in Exodus 1:8 we see why, “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”
Looking to God’s Kingdom and Nothing Less
The power Joseph once had and the security his family once knew was no longer politically useful. Egypt had changed. The godly influence in Egypt had ended, and the comfort and peace would now give way to centuries of slavery. This happened because Egypt was not the promise. Comfort and political authority were not the promise. Acceptance by Pharaoh was not the promise. Do you see the connection? While we are not wrong to speak in the public square, and while we celebrate and support godly leaders in our nation, we can never confuse our earthly, man-made government as a substitute for the glorious Kingdom that God has prepared for us. Even Joseph, second only to Pharoah, confirmed this in his dying words. Joseph's Egypt was nice, but it wasn’t forever. Nothing in this world is. The Israelites eventually lost their favor in Egypt, but they never ever lost the promise of God to enter their own land.
Living for the Eternal, Not the Temporal
As for Ronald Reagan, he left his mark, but eventually, control went to Democrats, then Republicans, then Democrats. Neither party will answer our questions or solve our problems. They can’t. Only God can do that. The battle for the White House is not our end goal, and should not dominate our thoughts and conversations. The greatest of presidents and pharaohs are long gone to dust and history, while God continues to reign. When our eyes are fixed on the eternal, we can quiet the political ranting and rest in peace, joy, and knowledge that regardless of who is in charge of this nation right now, the final, ultimate, and eternal victory belongs to God and always has.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Philip Rozenski
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.