Joseph’s fruitful vine: planting, pruning, and plans

picture1All of us enjoy fruit, but few of us love the labor that goes into it.  Planting and pruning, for example, can be a real pain:  breaking up hard ground, bending down in the dirt, sowing seeds that may or may not sprout depending on the weather and other factors not yet seen, regularly checking and cutting away dead buds and branches to stimulate more life.  It’s a long and arduous process toward the good plans ahead.

In this series, “Fruitful Fridays”, we’ve been considering what it means for us to bear fruit as the “seed” of God’s image and related blessings and concerns. Since we left off looking at “Genesis 12, being fruitful and blessed”, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been through a roller coaster of challenges and blessings.  But it could be fair to say that their highs and lows were nothing compared to what Joseph was about to experience.

In Genesis 37-49, we see Joseph going through similar hard processes, like planting and pruning, that lead to God’s fruit.  He was almost literally buried by his brothers who threw him in a pit (Genesis 37:23-24), by Potiphar who threw him in prison (Genesis 39), and by 14 years of famine that – except for the sovereign grace of God – could have buried him and everyone around him.  But just like the Lord uses the unpleasant elements of dirt, rain, and even manure to bring dead seeds to life, He used Joseph’s extreme hardships to raise him to the second highest position in all of Egypt (Genesis 41:43) to bear much fruit for God’s kingdom.

In Genesis 39, we see Joseph’s trial with Potiphar’s wife revealing the fruit of Joseph’s integrity.  But that’s not what she wanted.  That reminds us that God’s work in His people is the “aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. ” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)  So we must bear the fruit that God calls, regardless of others’ response.

In Genesis 40, we see Joseph bearing the fruit of praise to the Lord, not himself as the interpreter of dreams.  Joseph could have easily used what God gave him to bring credit and fame to himself, but he immediately pointed straight to the Lord.  Similarly, the Apostles remind us of the purpose of all spiritual gifts given to members of the Body of Christ:  building up His people in Christ and witnessing of His glory to the world (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4, etc.)

In Genesis 41, we see Joseph bearing the fruit of protection for God’s people and all of Egypt.  And, of course, the Pharaoh and generations after Joseph did not know him or acknowledge the Lord (Exodus 1:8ff).  The Israelites, the very people on whom the Lord had set His affections, were enslaved.  And the Egyptians, those who received a kind of “second hand blessing” simply by living where the Israelites lived, were the ones who enslaved them.  Yet, after 430 years of crying out to Him, the Lord used that, too, to show His great grace, power, and plan to save a people for Himself (Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:17).  The Lord calls us to bear good fruit and to leave the results to Him.  Most of us are probably familiar with Romans 8:28-30, that He will use all things for the good of those who love Him, but we must also remember what follows in Romans 8:31-39.  Take a moment to look again at the strange circumstance that He often uses to cultivate His fruit in our lives.

In Genesis 42-50, we see what may be the most unusual part of Joseph’s story:  the fruit of forgiveness instead of justified judgment.  It may seem that Joseph is playing games of cat-and-mouse with his brothers who had sold him into slavery.  It’s more likely that, as an image of a type of savior/messiah, the Lord is showing that Joseph had every right to condemn them to death for what they had done.  But, like Jesus later did perfectly for all eternity, he forgave them.  The evil Joseph’s brothers meant to do, God used for good (Genesis 50:20).  In the same way, Judas and others effectively crucified Christ, but the Lord used it to save all who would trust and follow Him (Luke 22:14-22).

All believers find themselves in Joseph’s shoes from time to time.  Bear the fruit He’s already given you or is cultivating in you, watch what He does with your faith and obedience, and praise Him for planting and pruning you, even when it’s painful.  The Lord always, always, always has good plans for His people in Christ.


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