[this post was contributed by Alex Rover]

One of the first questions when I first realized my election as a chosen child of God, adopted as his son and called to be Christian, was: “why me”? Meditating upon the story of Joseph’s election can help us avoid the trap of seeing our election as something of a triumph over others. Election is a call to serve others, and a blessing for the individual at the same time.

The blessing of a Father is a significant inheritance. According to Psalm 37:11 and Matthew 5:5, there is such an inheritance in store for the meek. I cannot help but imagine that the personal qualities of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph must have played an important role in their calling. If there is truth to this measure, then there is no allowance for a smug triumphalism over others who are not chosen. After all, election is meaningless unless there are others who are not elect. [1]

Joseph was in fact elected twice, once by his father Jacob, and once by his heavenly Father, as evidenced by his two early dreams.  It is this last election that matters most, since humanity’s choices are often superficial. Rachel was Jacob’s true love, and her children were his most beloved, hence Joseph was favored by Jacob for what appears to be superficial reasons at first – never mind young Joseph’s personality. [2] Not so with God. In 1 Samuel 13:14 we read that God chose David “after his own heart” – not after his human appearance.

In the case of Joseph, how do we understand the concept of how God chooses people with the image of an inexperienced youngster perhaps indiscreetly bringing bad reports of his brothers to his Father? (Genesis 37:2) In God’s providence, he knows the man Joseph will become. It is this Joseph who is shaped to become the man after God’s heart. [3] This must be how God elects, think of the transformations of Saul and Moses. The “narrow path” of such transformation is one of enduring hardship (Matthew 7:13,14), hence the need for meekness.

Consequently, when we are called to partake of Christ and join the ranks of chosen children of our Heavenly Father, the question of “why me”, does not require us to look for supreme qualities within us presently, other than the willingness to be shaped by God. There is no reason for elevating ourselves over our brothers.

Joseph’s moving story of endurance throughout slavery and imprisonment illustrates how God elects and transforms us.  God may have chosen us before the dawn of time, but we cannot be sure of our election until we experience his correction. (Hebrews 12:6) That we respond to such correction with meekness is crucial, and verily makes it impossible to harbor a smug religious triumphalism in our hearts.

I am reminded of the words in Isaiah 64:6 “And now, O Lord, thou art our father, and we are clay: and thou art our maker, and we all are the works of thy hands.” (DR) This so beautifully illustrates the concept of choosenness in the story of Joseph. The elect allow God to shape them as truly masterful works of his hands, people after “God’s own heart”.


[1] Relative to the countless children of Adam who will be blessed, a limited amount are called, offered as first fruits of the harvest to bless the others. The first fruits are offered to the Father so that many more can be blessed. Not everyone can be first fruits, or there would be none left to bless through them.

However, let it be clear that we are not promoting a view that only a tiny group is called. Many are indeed called. (Matthew 22:14) How we respond to such calling, and how we live according to it, entirely affects our final sealing as elect. It is a narrow road, but not a hopeless road.

[2] Surely Jacob loved Rachel for more than her appearance.  Love based on appearance would not have lasted long, and her qualities made her a “woman after his own heart.”  The Scriptures leave little doubt about it that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because he was the firstborn of Rachel. Consider just one reason: After Joseph was presumed dead by his father, Judah spoke of Benjamin, the only other child of Rachel:

Genesis 44:19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 And we answered, ‘We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.

This gives us some insight into the election of Joseph as the favorite son. In fact, Jacob loved this only remaining son of Rachel so much that even Judah thought Benjamin’s life was worth more to his Father than his own. What kind of personality would Benjamin need to possess to eclipse that of the self-sacrificing Judah – assuming that his personality was the main driving factor in Jacob’s decision?

[3] This is reassuring for young ones who seek to partake of the memorial supper. Even though we may feel unworthy, our calling is between us and our heavenly Father alone. The account of young Joseph reinforces the idea that by Divine Providence even those who are perhaps not yet made whole in the new person can still be called, since God makes us fit through a refining process.