“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character” (Psalm 105:19, NLT)
When I recently did an online search for the meaning of character, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to define when one entry came up as the ”best 74 definitions of character.” The list included such qualities as moral strength, self-discipline, fortitude, values, and integrity. Perhaps my favorite definition of character is “persistent moral virtue.” It’s lasting, tenacious, steadfast.
Although the King James Version of the Bible does not use the word character, it is evident throughout its pages. In Scripture, character is often paired with testing, just as in the above verse in Psalm 105. In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated as “test” means to examine or to prove by trial. Don’t confuse these trials as punishment from God. This is a heart check.
Joseph was a man of great moral character, but God used the circumstances he faced to test the tenacity of his character. God had a special plan for his life, but first Joseph endured thirteen years of betrayal, false accusations, and broken promises. His integrity was challenged over and over, but he displayed “persistent moral virtue” with every test that came his way. He endured the pain of being sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and ended up in prison. Later he felt a glimmer of hope when the chief butler promised to speak on his behalf to Pharaoh, but then the butler forgot him. Did he question the dreams he had back in his father’s house? Did he wonder if they would ever come true?
Joseph was nearing forty years old when he once again met his brothers when they came to Egypt to buy grain. Standing before them was a man tested by adversity and yet with his integrity intact. He was no longer the untried, frightened seventeen-year-old who had been torn from his home. He now had the power to take revenge on those who had harmed him; instead he chose forgiveness and reconciliation. God had proved his character and prepared him for this position of leadership.
Joseph wasn’t the only one to go through tests and trials. God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, the son he and Sarah had waited so many years to have (Genesis 22). Daniel endured times of testing throughout his lifetime. Taken from his homeland as a youth and separated from all that was familiar, he had many opportunities to compromise his core values, but he stood firm.
None of us enjoy having to face times of testing. If given a choice, we would prefer a pain-free existence, not a cloud in the sky or rock on our path. But is that best for us? Will we ever know how strong we are if our character is never challenged? In Psalm 26:2 David invited God to test him.
“Test me, LORD, and try me; examine my heart and mind” (CSB).
David wanted the Lord to search his heart. He realized it was needful. Otherwise, little things might creep in—small things that might easily lead to bigger things. David knew his heart could deceive him, so he asked God to reveal anything that might damage his integrity.
“Test me, Lord” is a bold prayer, perhaps even a difficult prayer, but one each of us should be willing to pray.