In this post, we will be exploring practical lessons from the life of Joseph. If you like a good story, this is one of the best from the Bible. There is so much to learn. Let’s jump right in.
Summary of the life of Joseph
Joseph’s story is recorded in the first book of the Old Testament – Genesis. It is a very meaty story which spans several chapters.
The account begins in Genesis 37, takes a break then picks up in Genesis 39 and continues to the end of the Book of Genesis.
Joseph was born into a family of 10 brothers. His father was Jacob whose twin brother was Esau.
Joseph was the first child born to Jacob and Rachel. His father favored him very much because Rachel was the wife he really loved. Moreover, Joseph’s birth came in Jacob’s old age.
Joseph was a spoiled child. If you are familiar with the story of Joseph’s coat of many colors, this coat was a sign of Jacob’s favoritism. It earned the anger and wrath of his brothers.
To make matters worse, Joseph had two dreams that made not only his brothers mad but his parents uncomfortable. The conclusion of these dreams was that he would rule over his parents and siblings.
It was these dreams that really pushed his brothers over the edge. One day when his father sent Joseph to go check on his brothers in the fields, they tossed him in a hole and later sold him as a slave to some passing Ishmaelite traders. Joseph was only 17 years old at the time.
They covered their tracks by ripping off his coat of many colors, killing an animal and plastering its blood all over the coat.
Jacob was so heartbroken and we learn later in the story that he never recovered from ‘losing’ his favorite son.
Meanwhile, Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt. He did so well that he was put in charge of Potiphar’s house. Potiphar worked for the Pharaoh.
Unfortunately, Joseph’s excellent work but more so his handsome attractive appearance earned the attention of Potiphar’s wife. She tried to seduce him but he refused. His commitment to God was very strong.
She wickedly cried rape and that was the end of Joseph’s career in Potiphar’s house.
His next stint was in an Egyptian prison. There he distinguished himself with excellent work and was made leader.
While doing his work, he met two of the Pharaoh’s officials who had dreams they could not understand.
Joseph interpreted the dreams for them. His interpretations were spot on and the events of their lives unfolded just as Joseph has explained.
Years later, the Pharaoh had a dream he found confusing and troubling. Joseph was remembered by the cupbearer who had been in prison and had had his dream interpreted.
Joseph was summoned by the Pharaoh and sure enough, by God’s power, Joseph was able to interpret the dream. The dream meant that a famine was coming.
Not only did Joseph have the interpretation of the dream but he also had a solution. Pharaoh made him rule over Egypt.
When the famine started, his brothers had to travel to Egypt to buy food. At first, the did not recognize Joseph.
Through a series of schemes and plots, Joseph tested them to see if they had changed. He eventually revealed his identity and his entire family moved to Egypt.
What does the life of Joseph teach us?
The story of Joseph’s life is one of the most relatable in the Bible. It is filled with family drama and saturated with emotions.
The story of Joseph is so important because we can draw so many practical, encouraging and life-changing ideas from it.
Spiritual lessons from the life of Joseph
Lesson 1 – God’s dreams for you can make others uncomfortable
One of the first lessons from the life of Joseph is that God often has plans for us that we ourselves do not desire, yet, it can produce some unfavorable backlash.
As far as we know, Joseph did not have a hankering for leadership. When he had his dreams, there is no evidence that he knew what they meant.
In fact, it was his father who pointed out what it might mean – that at some point in the future, Joseph would rule over his father and brothers.
Joseph did hot have this dream for himself.
Yet, his brothers were angry and jealous. When they called him “Joseph the dreamer”, it was by no means a compliment.
It did not help that Joseph was the favorite child and there was a good chance that his father was going to give him a significant share of the inheritance although he was not the eldest son.
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. (Genesis 37:8)
Not only was his brother unhappy but so was his father.
When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:10-11)
Listen, you can’t help what God has in store for you. If others have a problem with it, they should maybe consider going straight to the source of your dreams.
Lesson 2 – Nothing stops God’s plans
Although Joseph’s brothers tried to destroy God’s plan for his life by selling him into slavery, their actions only served to cause God’s plans to fall right into place. This is the second lesson from the life of Joseph.
People’s jealousy or actual attempts to stand in your way will never ever make a difference to what God has in store. In fact, those things can only delay God’s plan, but not deny them. God has your back.
Lesson 3 – Sometimes generational curses are at work in your life
The third lesson from the life of Joseph actually has to do with forces that had nothing to do with Joseph himself.
Let me explain.
Joseph’s brothers tried to get rid of him because they felt that they would secure their share of the inheritance. Their schemes and lies are quite similar to what their father, Jacob, did.
Back when Jacob was a young man, he and his mother schemed so that he would get the blessing which belonged to his brother Esau.
And just like that, the same behavior presented itself in his sons. Joseph fell victim to a generational curse of deception.
It’s a good thing that God is merciful, even in these situations because Joseph’s story turned out to glorify Him.
Lesson 4 – In hard times, always watch for how God shows up
Although Joseph ended up in Egypt because of unfortunate family issues, God never left him alone in this country of strangers. Such a powerful lesson from the life of Joseph.
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. (Genesis 39:2-6)
God also shows up when the baker and wine bearer’s dreams were correctly interpreted by Joseph. This was another confirmation for Joseph that God had not left him alone.
When there is a calling on your life, God is not in the business of allowing you to flounder. He will always be there. Orchestrating the pieces. Guiding you.
Lesson 5- Integrity and obedience beat lies, all the time.
One of the most powerful life principles from the life of Joseph has to do with integrity. When Joseph worked in Potiphar’s house, there was nothing that was out of bounds for him, except the wife.
Although he tried to avoid her at all costs, she would not leave him alone. But his integrity was driven by his sound commitment and obedience to God.
How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (Genesis 39:9-10)
Never be tempted to cut corners or use shady link-ups. God has your back. There is no need to dishonor him. If his plans for you are sure, then they are perfect.
And God does not lie nor does he default on his promises.
Leadership lessons from the life of Joseph
Lesson 6 – God will test you even if you are called
Other powerful lessons from the life of Joseph has to do with his leadership skills.
Although Joseph was called to leadership, notice that he did not ascend to that great position overnight.
He had various tests. One of them was Mrs. Potiphar and he passed with flying colors. Before tha, he did his work exceptionally well in Potiphar’s house. After that, he distinguished himself in prison.
God needed to be sure that he was going to be faithful little things before he was given more things to handle.
How do you pass the test? Excellence.
Always give your best, even if you hate your job or the situation you are in. God is watching your level of faithfulness with what He has put on your plate now.
This will tell him how you will receive the bigger gifts he has for you. Signature your work, no matter what it is, with excellence.
When the time comes, God will present you with the opportunity to move you into your biggest blessing, just like it happened for Joseph.
So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 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.” (Genesis 41:38-41)
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Lesson 7 – God really knows your readiness for leadership
Why didn’t God choose one of his older brothers for the task Joseph? Because God knows all things and he knew that Joseph’s brothers had evil hearts.
Before they tried to kill Joseph, they slaughtered an entire town after their sister was raped. Forgiveness was just not a thing for them. Judah tried to rob his daughter-in-law of her right to have children. Being above board in their dealings with others was absent from the way they conducted themselves.
But Joseph had a heart for God. He was humble and obedient. He was willing to follow God’s lead. He was willing to forgive. Joseph was truly a genuine soul.
We can learn this one lesson from the life of Joseph: we cannot fool God. He will not trust us with things that he knows our character cannot carry.
Lesson 8 – God will push you into leadership purpose
One of the most powerful leadership lessons from the life of Joseph is the idea that God had to push Joseph into purpose.
You see, Joseph was a natural born leader. We know this because anyone who is humble in following usually will make a great leader. We can also see that he followed his father’s instructions.
However, Joseph was comfortable at home. He was spoiled by his father and was not using the skills God had given him.
In Egypt, he was forced to rise up and shine.
God will sometimes orchestrate situations to force us to use the gifts he has blessed us with. If we will not go quietly and willingly, he will stir up our nest, make it uncomfortable so we have no choice but move into purpose.
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Lesson 9 – Pay attention to others on your faith journey
Another leadership lesson that we see in Joseph’s life is when he helped the cupbearer and the baker with their dreams.
They were troubled by what they had seen in their sleep. Joseph took the time to sit and talk with them.
Although the news was not good for both of them, there is no doubt that it meant so much now that they had clarity around what bothered them.
Lesson 10 – People deserve second chances
And yet another leadership lesson can be gleaned from how Joseph treated his brothers who had wronged him.
Although he put them through grueling tests, those plots and schemes served a purpose. Joseph was willing to forgive and to accept them back into his life, but he needed to see if they were deserving of a second chance.
No one says you have to maintain a relationship with someone you have forgiven. Sometimes self-preservation is better.
So Joseph approached this situation with caution and wisdom. His brothers seemed to be guilt-ridden by the 20 year old secret they had kept from their father. But they also seemed truly sorry.
That is what Joseph needed to see to determine whether or not they should really get a second opportunity to enter his life.
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Lesson 11- Trust God’s process
Perhaps the most powerful lesson from the life of Joseph was that he trusted God completely. This is both a spiritual lesson and a leadership.
Through the 23 years in Egypt before his brothers came, he kept the faith and trusted God.
God allowed Joseph’s suffering because in the bigger picture, his calling was to save the then known world from starvation. In this regard, Joseph is a type of Christ, enduring hardship with the goal of saving others.
Joseph’s suffering brought glory to God. When the entire story unfolded, Joseph recognised how man’s selfishness only served to highlight God’s power and faithfulness.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)
And, in a more personal way, Joseph’s suffering sharpened his faith. It forced him to watch for the glimpses of God showing up.
And while he understood dreams, many times he did not understand what was happening in his life.
Yet, he held on to the dreams of his youth and believed that God would one day bring them to reality. And his faith paid off, big time!
Lessons from the life of Joseph pdf printable
I created this devotional journal from the lessons from Joseph’s life. All the lessons are included with a few more Bible verses, journal prompts, and journaling pages.
Prayer points from the life of Joseph
Joseph’s life story is full with lessons and it’s also filled with prayer prompts. Here are a few things to consider:
- For God to reveal his dreams for you to you and help you to understand what He reveals to you.
- For God to prepare you for whatever will come with that dream.
- For God to surround you with the right people and opportunities to make those dreams come to pass.
- For God to bless you with a spirit of excellence like Joseph and Daniel.
- For God to give you a heart of forgiveness for family and friends who hurt you deeply.
What else would you add?
- Other posts you might like
- The Rich Young Ruler
- The Prodigal Son
- Naaman in the Bible
- Women of Faith in the Bible
Final words on lessons from the life of Joseph
There are tons more that we could dig out of this beautiful and dramatic story. We have learned how we can overcome life’s challenges by applying lessons from the life of Joseph.
But if you if you get nothing out of this message of Joseph and his brothers, get this: God is faithful.
He never leaves those he calls. He is always there, encouraging, orchestrating, equipping, speaking. You are not alone in your difficulty friend.