Joseph and Jesus: God's Successful Setbacks

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Founder & Teacher,

Here is the Christmas letter that we sent (with Elsie’s help!) to our conference missionaries. I share it early to help your advent meditations.

Here’s a picture of Christmas in Egypt, 1800 B.C.

Christmas was God’s most successful setback. He has always delighted to show his power through apparent defeat. He makes tactical retreats in order to win strategic victories.

Joseph was promised glory and power in his dream (Genesis 37:5-11). But to achieve that victory he had to become a slave in Egypt. And, as if that were not enough, when his conditions improved because of his integrity, he was made worse than a slave—a prisoner. But it was all planned. For there in prison he met Pharoah’s butler, who eventually brought him to Pharoah who put him over Egypt. What an unlikely route to glory!

But that is God’s way—even for his Son. He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Worse than a slave—a prisoner—and was executed. But, like Joseph, he kept his integrity. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee might bow” (Philippians 2:9,10).

And this is God’s way for us too. We are promised glory—if we will suffer with him (Romans 8:17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure. But if Joseph and Jesus teach us anything this Christmas it is this: “God meant it for good!” (Genesis 50:20).

You fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.

May your Christmas be full of faith,

John Piper