After twenty six painstaking years, Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11th 1990. Just over four years later, following South Africa’s first fully democratic election, he became the President of our country. The story of this remarkable man is told in his book “Long Walk to Freedom”. As the story goes; the many things Nelson Mandela suffered, the injustice, the humiliation, the loneliness, did not make him bitter. He learnt to forgive others, even his prison guards, and became the catalyst for reconciliation within the nation. In four short years he went from prison to being president. He became a symbol of wise & humble leadership.
Joseph in the book of Genesis also found himself as a just man who was unjustly sent to prison, but his rise from being a prisoner to Prime Minister of Egypt; one of the major civilizations of the time, was nothing short of miraculous. A mere thirteen years earlier, he had arrived in Egypt as a 17 year-old slave, a foreigner not understanding the culture or speaking the language. Now virtually overnight he was brought from a prison dungeon and elevated to second in the land. No one except the Pharaoh had more power & prestige.
I’ve always loved the story of Joseph; and as I watch the political turmoil at play in this season, I find the story so much more relevant. I believe that as Christians, adopting the “I don’t care who is president, as long as God is still on the throne of Heaven” stance might sound great, but it’s actually the worst attitude we could have at a time like this. Some even believe that the church should not interfere in matters of the state. “Let church be church and let politics be politics. Let’s live a quiet life and not offend anyone” the say.
What I want to know is: why did God not adhere to this rule throughout the Bible?
Why did God keep raising up His own people to meddle in political affairs?
I know that we are in the world, but not of it, but we are called to be the salt and the light too. If we are there, but have no discernible indication that we are affecting the environment around us in a radical and revolutionary way for the Kingdom we represent, then we are not affecting the world the way a stadium floodlight should affect a dark and dingy alleyway. Matthew 5:14 says “You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” We cannot be hidden!
As I read the story of Joseph in Genesis 41, I note that Pharaoh was the ruler of the land. He wasn’t a follower of God per se and in fact, most people worshiped him as if he were a god himself. Admittedly, most African presidents today still suffer from this “God-complex”.
Pharaoh had two very troubling dreams that nagged him until he could find someone that could interpret them. Many Christians would not object that a Christian may be called to be the spiritual advisor to a head of state in order to provide spiritual guidance in the same way that Billy Graham has done for every President of the United States of America since World War II. Joseph provides this service by interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. In v 28 he told Pharaoh, “God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, & the famine will ravage the land.”
I look at the news today and anyone with a fair understanding of economics has declared that South Africa is on the brink of a financial crisis. Recent actions that have been taken by the head of state have impacted foreign investor confidence so dramatically, that it is likely that the cost of living is about to sky-rocket as inflation and interest rates start to rise. We are looking at a crisis and the prospects don’t look great as most countries with a negative credit rating take an average of five to seven years to recover. My Zimbabwean friends have started taking bets that South Africa is headed towards the same fate as all the other failed states in Africa that cannot sustain its own people.
Pharaoh was given a similar prognosis. Egypt was headed towards a famine. But notice, Joseph had more than an interpretation for Pharaoh. He had a plan as well. When God shows us something he usually intends us to do something about it. We need to apply wisdom to the knowledge that we possess. We need to act upon God’s Word. God had shown Joseph what was going to happen and Joseph urges the Pharaoh to appoint someone to take action. There is not even a hint that Joseph thought the Pharaoh should appoint him. He simply shared his suggestions with calmness & dignity. “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning & wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt.” (v 33)
Pharaoh struggled to find anyone on his advisory board with the insight and foresight that Joseph had just displayed, so he decided that Joseph should carry out the task of managing the crisis that they were about to face as a nation. He would have to carry out the duties of both Minister of Agriculture and Finance to ensure that Egypt will survive the famine.
Joseph immediately went about the work to which Pharaoh had appointed him. His primary interest was in getting the job done as unto the Lord, rather than taking personal advantage of his new position at the head of the royal court. He recognized that his wisdom and discernment were gifts from God, but nevertheless that he still had much to learn about the land of Egypt, its agricultural industry in particular. As the senior administrator, Joseph’s work touched on nearly every practical area of the nation’s life. His office would have required that he learn much about legislation, communication, negotiation, transportation, safe and efficient methods of food storage, building, economic strategizing and forecasting, record-keeping, payroll, the handling of transactions both by means of currency and through bartering, human resources, and the acquisition of real estate. His extraordinary abilities with respect to God and people did not operate in separate domains. The genius of Joseph’s success lay in the effective integration of his divine gifts and acquired competencies. For Joseph, all of this was godly work.
Godly leaders are adequately skilled for the job.
Godly leaders are adequately equipped for the job.
Godly leaders are endowed with insight and foresight into the area that they are called to in order to make wise decisions and to avert negative outcomes.
Godly leaders are tried and tested.
Godly leaders are backed up, elevated and promoted by God.
During the seven lean years that followed, Joseph dispensed grain to the Egyptians and other people who were affected by the widespread famine. To create and administer all this, while surviving the political intrigue of an absolute monarchy, required exceptional talent.
After the people ran out of money, Joseph allowed them to barter their livestock for food. This plan lasted for one year during which Joseph collected horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys (Gen. 47:15-17). He would have had to determine the value of these animals and establish an equitable system for exchange. He would have to operate like a modern day commodity trader. As people came from far and wide, Egypt became a massive stock exchange market.
In South Africa, qualified individuals are exiting the government while those who don’t have a positive record are retained and promoted. Excellence is no longer the standard, connections and favors are. Smoke and mirror tactics are devised to confuse the masses, so that instead of having a common cause, they fight each other over racial lines. All while livelihoods are literally at stake. Life savings are at stake. How is a righteous man to leave an inheritance to his children’s children when all that he has worked for is wiped off the stock markets?
In times of uncertainty, the mandate upon every Christian is to pray for the land. We have to speak the things that we want to see over this land. We have to exercise dominion as kings and priests and make decrees and declarations in the spirit realm. Most of all, we have to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to rise up and also act apostolically. If He did it before, surely it can be done again.
God is with us.