The Joseph Narrative and Lenten lessons

By Annie-Rose Keith


In Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s 1999 hit “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamCoat,” viewers were invited on a journey through a whimsical retelling of the Joseph Narrative in the book of Genesis. Fanciful costumes and climactic opuses have delighted audiences for years, arguably peppering an important piece of biblical literature with musical distractions for even the most advanced scholar.

Catchy lyrics aside, the Biblical account of God’s providence in the life of Joseph provides tangible ideals for humanity that are still very relevant. The ideals of contentment and obedience are as applicable today as they were during the timeline of the book of Genesis. Contentment is continually a sought-after virtue in not only religious society, but also in secular realms. It’s important to note, however, that contentment is reachable only with an obedience to God’s will for one’s life. Joseph, in the Genesis Narrative, embodies the virtue of surrender and is an ideal example of obedience to God’s will.

Is that funny how God works? He uses all of the tools available, like plucky British composers, to catch our imaginations and bring us ever so gently towards Himself and the ideals that seem so unreachable. For Lent, we’re called to silence our hearts and focus our eyes on God’s gentle callings and creations; to retune and re-surrender ourselves to God’s plan for us and our salvation. We can see an excellent example of this in Joseph (of Genesis) and his brothers.

Contentment is defined as an inner peace and satisfaction that comes from obedience to and trust in God that bears good fruit. This is exemplified by Joseph through the entire novella as he confidently uses his gift of interpreting dreams to God’s advantage. Noting his father Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph, the claim can easily be made that sharing the first dream, of his brothers’ sheaves prostrating towards Joseph’s, is merely foreshadowing to the end of the story when his brothers meet Joseph in Egypt during the famine. He was also rejected when he tried to share his dream with his father.

Joseph imparting these revelations to his family is out of excitement and arrogance that, understandably, fell on deaf ears. After his initial rejection, Joseph, nevertheless, faithfully follows the orders of his father to retrieve his brothers from wanderings; and his captivity begins (Genesis 37: 13-30). Once Joseph is sold down to Egypt, it is apparent that he holds great reverence for those who are in leadership and/or elder positions as seen with the Egyptian captain who ushers Joseph from his captors. His duty to his “earthly” superiors is a physical example of Joseph’s solid commitment to and reverence of God, and leads to greater blessing for not only Joseph, but also for the house in which he serves (Genesis 39:5).

His actions towards those higher than him reflects his genuine surrender to the generosity and providence of God, and eventually leads him to the position of head servant in the pharaoh’s household; eventually leading him to reconcile with his brothers, who were responsible for his capture and following periods of enslavement. Surrender and obedience to God’s will yield excellent fruit for each of us and those around us.

The only kicker is that we usually don’t see God’s plan until after it happens, as the case with Joseph’s 11 brothers. At the end of this story, Joseph’s brothers make their way to Egypt to ask for help during a time of famine. Lo and behold, they are met by Joseph, who is now the pharaoh’s chief foreman responsible for food distribution; and all is reconciled, proving that surrender to God’s plan means good things for us and those around us.

Lloyd-Weber’s themes of contentment through obedience in this work are timeless. Driven by this sound commitment and obedience, Joseph actively embodies total surrender to God’s providence through trials of arrogance, rejection, capture and enslavement – leading to reconciliation with his family. Joseph epitomizes the virtue of contentment – through chaos – and is a prime example that obedience leads to greater blessing for not only a Christian's immediate circle, but for an entire genealogical line.