Those familiar with the characters of the Bible are certainly familiar with the lives of Joseph and Daniel. We have much to learn from these great men, who accomplished more in a their youth than most of us will in our entire lives. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob (aka Israel), who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and ended up ruling Egypt during a time of world famine. Daniel was taken as a young man to serve Babylon under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and ended up ruling over Babylon (and continued to serve the kingdoms of Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian).
The parallels between these two men are stunning, even though their lives were separated by 1300 years. Both Joseph and Daniel were taken against their will away from their families, in order to serve people and governments that did not even acknowledge the God of the Bible. Yet even in their dire circumstances, there is no evidence that either complained about their situations. Instead, they served their God by serving the ones who were put over them. Their faithful service was both recognized and rewarded. Although they did not always have the favor of men and leadership, their lives were marked by the success that they had while serving with great effort and humility. Joseph served admirably in the house of Potiphar, so that his master had nothing to do but decide on his next meal. Joseph was later was given all the power of Pharaoh. Daniel was given 3 years to learn the language of his captors, and was quickly granted leadership over the wisest of the realm. We should respond in the same way when we are given opportunities to serve those in leadership. No matter what the beliefs of our bosses, our government, or our pastors, we are called to serve them as unto God with all of our body, soul, mind, and strength. God is a God of order, and requires us to serve where we stand. Instead of spending all of our time complaining about circumstances of work, country, family, and church, we should rather exhaust our efforts serving with the talents and abilities God has given us. After all, if Joseph could prove reliable to serve even the master of a dungeon, are our circumstances really worse, providing us with an excuse to not serve them with greater honor?
These men also were granted very similar gifts. They were both extremely wise, and were given the abilities to interpret dreams, and the opportunity to use this ability since God gave visions of the future to both Pharaoh and to Nebuchadnezzar. While we are all not likely to be among those who have been given this particular ability, we must recognize that God gives us all gifts to serve at work, and at our churches. We must not take these for granted, but must use them when we are provided the opportunity. For some of us, this means praying that we would see the gifts God has given to us, and actively searching for opportunities to use them.
There are also differences between Joseph and Daniel. Whereas Joseph was a man who was alone in Egypt, Daniel had the benefit of the company of Hananiah Mishael and Azariah (aka Shadrak Mishak, and Abednego). Despite these differing surroundings, God gave each of them grace to withstand the temptations of their unique situations. Tests are recorded for each of them: Joseph withstood the seduction of his master’s wife, Daniel’s three friends refused to bow to the idol and made it through the firery furnace, and Daniel himself later survived the lion’s den after continuing to pray even though it was against the law of the land. Whether alone at work, or having the benefit of the company of other believers, we must spend time in the word and prayer, so that we may be able to maintain our testimony while living in the world that rejects it.
Lest you think that I am preaching to you alone, the message of these two men is just as much a challenge for me as you. I have squandered many hours of my life ignoring those who should be my friends, not exercising the gifts He has given, and complaining and rebelling against those over me. For these times I only ask forgiveness of both God and man, and hope and pray that when the opportunity again presents itself, I would be like Joseph and Daniel, and not like my flesh.