Joseph’s Troublesome Coat, Part 3
By Pastor Hal Mayer
As we near the end of time, we are going to need an experience like Joseph. The way God’s people are going to be treated will have many of the same elements of injustice. Yet, we must maintain our faith that God is working out His larger plan, that He is using us and bringing about our ultimate destiny. We have to learn now to trust Him in all things and let Him prepare us for the time of trouble. Whatever “pit” or “prison” God allows you to experience is His way of making you the man or woman that He can really use.
Remember that Satan can do nothing except God allows it. And if God allows him to do something to us, it is for our good and the good of His cause. To get upset, angry, bitter or revengeful is only going to delay or even derail God’s great and wonderful purpose for us.
Before we begin our study, let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for the story of Joseph. It has great lessons to help us navigate the difficulties of life. Help us to understand them and learn them ourselves. Thank You for Jesus, too, of which Joseph is a type. Thank you for His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. May it change our lives, we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
You may remember that God allowed Joseph to be put in prison – another pit, so to speak – to prepare him to become prime minister of Egypt. Isn’t that strange? The world doesn’t think that way. Going to prison usually means the end of one’s career or one’s reputation, not the beginning. If someone is judged guilty of a crime and is sent to prison, people don’t usually think of promoting that person to a higher position when he is released. Yet, this is what happened to Joseph. Prison was God’s way of positioning him to do what God intended all along. Do you think God works that way in your life? He does in mine. I can see it, especially when I look back over my life. I can see that God has been preparing me, often through trials and difficulties, restrictions and limitations, hardships and injustice.
Every time Joseph was crucified, God raised him up to something better. Whenever there is a crucifixion, there is always a resurrection, if we are faithful. In the end, it is the very injustice that justifies God in raising you up to a position of honor and responsibility. If we are disciplined justly, then perhaps we deserve a lower position; but when God resurrects us after we endure injustice, we are placed beyond the reach of those who would harm us, especially our souls. We are the only ones that can hurt our own souls. By ungodly or unbiblical reactions to injustice, we become slaves of our carnal nature. We are imprisoned within our own walls of bitterness and anger. But if we trust God, live by principle, and have a true spirit of love and forgiveness, nothing can cause us irreparable damage.
When Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave, he looked up at the stars and took the promises as his own. Now God tests his faith further. Joseph has seen the hand of God in making him prosper in Potiphar’s house. Could he now trust God even though he couldn’t see the stars? This time Joseph is put in prison, probably underground, where he couldn’t look up at the familiar heavens and see the stars. But Joseph still gathered his faith in spite of the fact that he couldn’t see the stars. God often does this with us. We go through one trial, and if we pass through it by faith in the promises of God, He sometimes takes us deeper where we can’t see Him and His providence as well. Do we have the faith to take the promises as our own possession, to still believe that He is with us and that His promises will not fail?
While Joseph was in prison, he was actually free in his soul. This is a tremendous thing. No one can take away the freedom of your soul. They may persecute you, but you don’t have to give up your soul’s liberty. You don’t have to grumble and complain. You don’t have to wallow in discouragement. You can still be a blessing to others wherever you are, and in the process you will be a blessing to yourself.
But wasn’t there a better way for God to test Joseph and prepare him for great responsibility? God knows what He is doing. He knows how best to prepare us for our work. He knows exactly what our characters need. But most importantly, He knows that we cannot understand Christ’s suffering for us if we do not likewise face injustice. Furthermore, without entering into Christ’s suffering, we are unable to comprehend the self-sacrifice of heaven in sending Christ to this world to save the lost race. We will never be able to understand what Jesus did unless we suffer like Him. There is a very important text that will help us understand this. It is found in 1 Peter 2:21-23: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”
Can you commit yourself to Him that judges righteously? God is the only One that can judge righteously. He doesn’t make mistakes. But here we read that we must follow in the steps of Him who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, but yet He was reviled; He suffered unjustly and was abused. But He did not retaliate, which He could have easily done. He could have called one angel to destroy His enemies, and He would have judged them righteously. Yet He endured it, even hanging on the cross, so that He could righteously forgive us and give us a future and a hope. Do you trust God like that?
The Bible says that while Joseph was in prison, he actually prospered.
“The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.” (Genesis 39:23).
Why? That’s because he didn’t go alone. God went with him. Remember what it means to prosper? It has nothing to do with physical assets. It has to do with character and spirit. Joseph lived in the Spirit, and he prospered. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, nor how difficult your experience, you can prosper when you live in God. The Lord will be with you just like He was with Joseph, and you will prosper. It is a matter of attitude. Your attitude and vision determine your prosperity. While Joseph was in prison, he determined that he would be a blessing to others. He would cheer them up and help them deal with their issues. He would counsel them and encourage them. You can make any situation or difficulty a blessing just by your attitude. If the Lord is with you, you will prosper. If you treat others with respect, kindness, and cheerfulness, it will go a long way, and the Lord can cause you to prosper even when you seem to be defeated. It is not the circumstances that prosper a man or woman. It is the way you see them.
We open this story today with Genesis chapter 40. We are told that something happened in the palace of Pharaoh that introduced Joseph to two men. Let us read verses 1-3:
“And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.”
Imagine what it must have been like for the chief butler and the chief baker to find someone as happy as Joseph in prison. They were sad, anxious, and scared. Yet, here was a prisoner that was happy and helpful. He actually wanted to do them good, to help them. He even wanted to do good to his captors, including the keeper of the prison. How strange. Prison is a terrible, gloomy place. But not for Joseph. He couldn’t see the stars at night, but he had faith that they were there. He couldn’t breathe the fresh air and see the sunshine, but he had sunshine in his heart, and his presence was like a breath of fresh air. There was something strangely different and wonderful about Joseph. He lightened everybody’s burdens. They felt blessed in his presence as though they could face any difficulty.
Verse 4 gives us a little insight. Apparently, Potiphar still trusted Joseph and perhaps sensed the truth about his wife. Though he couldn’t bring Joseph into his household again, he nevertheless either gave Joseph authority in the prison or suggested it to the keeper, knowing that things would prosper and go well there under Joseph’s leadership. Listen to this: “And the captain of the guard [that’s Potiphar] charged Joseph with them [the butler and baker], and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.” In other words, this verse gives us an insight that is quite amazing. Potiphar wanted these highly valuable prisoners to be especially looked after, and he put Joseph in charge of them.
So the chief butler and chief baker were in prison with Joseph for a season. Apparently, they were both there while there was an investigation into a suspected plot on the king’s life. All suspects or potential suspects were rounded up and put in custody. Even though they may have been innocent, Pharaoh could not take any chances.
While they were there, Joseph talked with them and learned a lot about the court of Pharaoh. This was partly God’s way of preparing him for his future role. He learned about the character of the king. He learned about court etiquette, its customs, and practices. He learned what influences swayed public thinking. He learned many details about government and how laws were administered. He learned the general conditions prevailing in Egypt at the time. While there in the royal prison, he added to his wealth of knowledge an in-depth understanding of Pharaoh’s palace and the workings of Pharaoh’s government.
It was customary on Pharaoh’s birthday that he would dispose of pending legal cases. Three days before the birthday these two men had dreams during the night. Joseph asked them why they looked so sad. Verses 7 and 8 say that Joseph asked them: “Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me them, I pray you.” Joseph offers to interpret the dreams. After all, he knows something about dreams, doesn’t he? He’s had his own dreams. But notice that Joseph doesn’t take credit for the interpretation. He gives the credit to God. You see, Joseph had not lost his confidence in God. He senses that God is guiding him and directing his steps even in this prison. He hasn’t lost faith in God’s will, even in prison.
“And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand. And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.” (Verses 9-13).
After Joseph tells the butler the interpretation of the dream, we see a very human side of Joseph. Notice verses 14 and 15: “But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.” He tells them his story and explains that he was placed there unjustly. Perhaps he saw an opportunity to come work for Pharaoh. While that was God’s plan, it was not to be anytime soon. Nor was it to be in some small capacity. Perhaps Joseph thought he could work as one of the butlers under the chief butler, gain the confidence of the king, and move on with his life. But God had other plans, bigger plans than Joseph could have possibly imagined. Instead of working his way up the ladder of progress, Joseph was to develop more faith through disappointment and discouraging circumstances, and then God would surprisingly vault him to the top echelons of power.
“Put in a good word for me with Pharaoh,” he said. Joseph was tired of the prison. He desired to be free. Though he was resigned to the will of God, he thought that if the butler could put in a good word, it might help God out a little. Friends, it is all right to be human. But as human beings, we must put our trust in God to work things out in His own time and way. Trust all to His loving providence. Joseph’s desires were not wrong; they were natural. And God understands them. Christ experienced them, so He understands them too. He doesn’t condemn us for human feelings and desires, so long as we trust Him to work things out in His own time.
The chief baker thought that because the butler’s dream had a good interpretation, his also would be good. The chief baker’s dream, however, was not good at all. But the messenger of God must tell the truth, hard though it may be. These men were his friends now. But he didn’t hold back the truth:
“When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head. And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee. And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.” (Verses 16-22).
This interpretation must have given all who knew Joseph great respect that went way beyond his management principles and character. Here was a man that understood dreams! This made him something of a diviner or a sorcerer in the eyes of the Egyptians who knew him. Yet, Joseph gave the glory to the God of heaven. Instead of becoming proud and boastful, Joseph humbly tried to tell them about the God he serves, the true God, the God who is way above the Egyptian gods.
The scriptures say in verse 23: “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.” How would you like to have done something really good for someone and in return asked a favor but been forgotten? My guess is that the butler didn’t want anyone to remember his time in prison, and he may have had difficulty figuring out how to raise the matter. After all, his own character was under suspicion. Joseph didn’t worry much about it for a few days or even a few weeks. He knew it would take time to organize an appointment in the palace for him. But after months went by he no doubt began to fear that the butler had forgotten him. How disappointing. He had become good friends with the butler in prison, but now it seemed as if the friendship didn’t mean anything. Have you ever invested in a friendship only to have the other individual let go of it like it had little meaning? Of course you have. And it is hard to take.
Weeks went by, month after month, then a whole year. Joseph finally gave up hope. Then came the struggle with God. Why me, God? Why am I here in the dungeon, alone and forgotten? Again, there was only silence. What would become of his dreams down here in the dungeon? Only the usual silence. Had he been wrong? Had his fathers been wrong? Only silence. Just like it was when he pled with God on his way to Egypt with the Ishmaelites – only silence. Why wouldn’t God speak to him and comfort him? At the times when Joseph really needed God, it seemed He wasn’t there. Where was God? Silence!
Nothing seemed to come out as expected for Joseph. His prospects seemed to get worse, not better. His beliefs about God, as told to him by his father and his grandfather, seemed so wrong, or at least unfulfilled. But again we must learn that prosperity and success is different than even most Christians expect. The popular Christian idea is that good comes to those who are good, and bad comes to those who are bad. This must be overthrown in our thinking. Reality is often exactly the opposite.
But, then, why be true to God if the reward is adversity (a pit or a prison)? Joseph was punished for the very sin that he successfully resisted and overcame. Imagine that! The very sin he overcame. Why be good? Why do what is right? It doesn’t make sense. Was there no God after all?
But the Lord never forsook Joseph. He knew that Joseph needed silence. Silence would require him to trust God. But suppose the butler remembered Joseph. Though Joseph could not have returned to Potiphar’s house for obvious reasons, he could have been set free, and there would have been great rejoicing in Hebron, even the view that this was God’s will and providence. But would that have fulfilled the purposes of God in bringing the children of Israel down to Egypt so they could become a nation? Would he have been able to save his family? No. Joseph was to provide a safe place for his family so they could become a great nation under God. Isn’t that what Jesus is to us? Jesus is the safe place for God’s people. He will protect them and shelter them. He had to go through pain and suffering in order to become the safe place where we can hide when our soul is in danger.
Why should we thwart the purposes of God? Rejoice when bad things happen. This is God’s way of refining and preparing you. It is also His way of organizing your future victory and triumph. Think about it. Joseph’s brothers cast him into a pit. It was wicked and painful. But did it really hurt him? He was sold into slavery. It was evil and humiliating. But did it really hurt him? He was sent to the dungeon over a foul lie of Mrs. Potiphar. It was a terrible miscarriage of justice. But did it really hurt him? The ingratitude of the chief butler was sad and inexcusable. But did it really hurt Joseph? God’s timing is always right. All His plans need time to mature. The great clock of heaven is always right. No chance is involved.
You see, God controlled everything so that Joseph could develop a perfect character. God prepared him to be prime minister and save his family and the nation of Egypt. God’s timing was involved. What really hurts us is our own sins, our compromises, and our bad attitudes.
Our lives are no less supervised by God today, are they? We may not recognize the hand of God, but He is there. Perfecting character is a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But He is good at it. Holiness doesn’t mature overnight. God’s purpose is not to punish but to perfect.
Everyone is ordained for trials and tribulations because of the good those experiences accomplish in our lives. Even our mistakes, by which we inflict pain on ourselves, God uses. Character is not inherited. God has to take measures to organize the changes in our characters that will suit His plans and prepare us for a home in heaven.
Two full years passed for Joseph in prison. Again, he no doubt goes through all the questions in his soul. Why am I here in this God-forsaken place? What purpose does all this trouble have? Yet again, he remembers the stars. He considers that he is part of a larger plan and that God is going to look after all that. Little does he know that the next step in his experience will be a complete and almost overwhelming surprise. Little does he realize that all his difficulties and training are nearly over.
We don’t know how long Joseph was in prison. Some think it was more than ten years. Some think it was more than three years. We know that it was more than two years because the butler forgot him for at least that length of time. Without patient endurance and trust, Joseph could not have been the man that he became. Without patient endurance and trust, Joseph would not have had the capacity to deal with his brothers with compassion and kindness. We need to have our endurance put to the stretch. It does things to us that nothing else in the world could do. It changes our perspective. It reveals to us our inner selves. It even helps resolve feelings of bitterness and anger. Patiently trusting in God ultimately brings victory over the darkest parts of our lives. It puts them behind us so that we can move on. But if we fuss and fret over trials and difficulties, if we indulge bitterness and anger toward those who have offended us, we will never rise to the level of character power that God plans for us.
Early in the morning before sunrise, messengers were sent from the palace of Pharaoh all over the city. Households were just waking up as they knocked on the appointed doors. Royal messengers were bringing orders for the full council to attend the king. What kind of emergency would call for such an early council? Hundreds of households began to buzz with excitement and anxiety. What could it be? Why everyone? Why all the wise men, magicians, diviners, soothsayers, priests, and counselors in addition to the supreme council?
As the large assembly gathered as quickly as they could, word was getting around the city. Potiphar was among those summoned to the palace. After all, he was in charge of security and must be in attendance.
As the council began, Pharaoh related his dream. But the auspicious assembly was awestruck and dumbfounded. Here were hundreds of wise men, counselors, soothsayers, magicians, philosophers, priests, and diviners, but not one had even a conjecture with a reasonable possibility. Not a clue. Word perhaps leaked out around the city about the dream and the inability of anyone to tell its meaning. The whole city was in a stir. Dreams were omens of the future in Egypt, and when the Pharaoh had such unusual dreams, there must be serious things in store for Egypt.
Pharaoh tells the council about the seven thin cows that eat up the seven fat cows and the seven lean ears of corn that eat up the seven fat ears of corn. As the vast assembly listens to the dreams of Pharaoh, a deathly silence falls upon the throng. What could the dreams mean? No one moves. No one wants to venture a guess at the meaning because they fear they might be wrong. And this is a very important message.
Suddenly, there is a movement to one side of the throne. One steps forward and bows low before Pharaoh. The assembly is hushed. It is the chief butler. What would he know about the dream? They listen to his words: “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day: Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker: And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.” (Verses 9-13).
Notice the butler doesn’t admit that he was in prison; that would have been too embarrassing. He just says that he was kept under house arrest in the home of the captain of the guard, Potiphar. And with him was a servant, not a prisoner of Potiphar. Potiphar stands near the throne watching and listening carefully to everything that is said and done. A warm, knowing smile grows on his face. The individual could be none other than his trusted servant Joseph.
Notice the butler doesn’t give any suggestions. He is afraid that if Pharaoh doesn’t accept them, or if they don’t work out, that the consequences will fall back on him. Maybe he feels that Pharaoh doesn’t trust him that much, so he is very careful not to remind him nor make suggestions that might backfire upon investigation, such as the discovery that Joseph is actually in prison.
But Pharaoh is so anxious about his dreams that he doesn’t even think about what he is doing. He hurriedly calls for this man. Potiphar dispatches messengers to his palace and calls for Joseph.
Though Pharaoh’s call is urgent, and they are making Joseph come in haste, Joseph nevertheless knows that he must look respectable. So he takes the necessary time to shave and to change his clothes. He knows what is expected in court. He knows that he cannot go in his prison garments. This would be terribly disrespectful, and it might discredit the purpose for which he has been called. Always remember to prepare yourself to make the right impression, my friends.
As Joseph enters the palace, he is awestruck. Here is the noblest assembly in all of Egypt. They are silent as he approaches the throne. He can feel the anxiety in the air as all eyes are on him. You can hear a pin drop. The suspense is immense. Maybe out of the corner of his eye, Joseph sees Potiphar standing erect, arms folded with a slight smile on his face – a smile he’s seen before, a smile of approval.
Pharaoh makes his request known: “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.” (Verse 15).
Joseph responds in confidence and nobly tells Pharaoh that it is God that interprets dreams. “It is not in me,” he said in verse 16. “God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” He implies that God has sent these dreams to warn Pharaoh and offer him a solution to the problem. This is comforting and encouraging to Pharaoh. He senses that there is a divine purpose behind these troubling dreams and that he can have confidence in what Joseph is about to tell him.
Pharaoh tells his dreams to Joseph and explains that the magicians could not tell the meaning, making even more obvious the contrast between their false religion and Joseph’s trust in the true God.
Without hesitation Joseph interprets the dreams. To him the meaning is obvious, not because of his personal abilities, but because the Holy Spirit reveals to him the exact meaning. My friends, this was present truth at that time. This was the message for the world. It was a message of warning and a message of salvation. It is exactly the kind of message that God’s people in the last days have to give. Isn’t that wonderful? If God is going to preserve a people unto Himself, He first sends a message of warning. And in the last moments of earth’s history, God now sends another warning for the final gathering of His people. You are the messenger. You are the one that God has chosen to bring to light the preparation that needs to be made for the crisis and the time of trouble that is coming upon the world, just like Joseph was the one to explain the preparation that needed to be made for Egypt’s time of trouble.
“And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (Verse 25). Both dreams refer to the same thing. The sevens refer to years. There would be seven years of plenty, then seven years of famine. “And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” (Verse 32). Joseph affirms that this is a clear message from God and that it is very important that Pharaoh do something about it to preserve Egypt.
Now the king is awestruck. The interpretation makes so much sense and is so clear. How is it that Joseph’s God is so kind to tell him what is coming? The heathen gods don’t do that. His confidence in Joseph takes an enormous leap.
The Holy Spirit prompts Joseph to give some wise recommendations. Remember, the Lord was with Joseph to make him prosper. “Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do [this], and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.” (Verses 33-36).
Imagine Potiphar’s satisfaction. Here is the young man he loves. Here is the young man who caused him so much prosperity. Now he is recommending the most prudent course to Pharaoh. Potiphar’s pride can hardly be hidden. He will take the opportunity someday to remind Pharaoh that he trained Joseph (so to speak), which will no doubt affect his political career in a most positive way.
Pharaoh is deeply impressed and greatly moved by the humility and clear vision of Joseph. Here is a young man who is so wise and understanding. My friends, this is what God can do with young people who commit their ways to Him and allow the same God that prospered Joseph to guide and lead their lives. For the children listening to this message, I want to tell you that the God of heaven has a purpose for you too. For those youth that are listening to this message, I want to say that Joseph was in corrupt Egypt. There were temptations all around him to compromise his integrity. But he turned from all those worldly attractions and kept his eye single to the glory of God. If you do the same, God will bless you and place you where He can really use you. And for those adults listening to this message, I want to encourage you that no matter what happens, we can look beyond the darkness and by faith accept that God’s plan for us will be made perfect. In His time, He will bring us to the place where we can powerfully serve Him.
“And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.” (Verse 37). Why was it good in their eyes? Was it because of Joseph, or was it because God had made Joseph to prosper? Everyone in that vast assembly was satisfied and felt good about the proposal. “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Verse 38). Did you hear that? Pharaoh comprehends that Joseph has the Spirit of God. He unwittingly reveals Joseph’s inner life, his secret life – the hiding of his power.
Pharaoh appoints Joseph as prime minister. What did the court see in Joseph that would make them want to exalt Joseph, a mere slave, above themselves? Interesting thought, isn’t it? They sensed that God was with him. They sensed that God was in him. Joseph was so transparent a medium that they felt the presence of God. Through him they felt that God was with them. What a testimony to his secret life!
Joseph depreciated himself. He was wholly out of sight, and God was seen. Did Joseph think that Pharaoh would give him the position he had advised him to create? No, I don’t think so. He was a Hebrew, an alien, a different race, a different religion, a slave and a prisoner under a cloud of criminality, and he couldn’t imagine it. No doubt he thought that there were well-qualified individuals in the government of Egypt that could do what he advised. Further, he was still an inexperienced youth. He was only 30 years old. He had never been connected with the court, let alone supervised it. His only contact was at a distance, as Potiphar’s servant and as a friend of the butler and baker. But Joseph had quiet dignity. He had a core strength that God had developed by severe test and trial. And it was this inner strength derived from his trust in God’s promises that gave Pharaoh and the council confidence in his leadership.
Joseph moves from prison to his own palace given him by Pharaoh (what a contrast. Joseph knew how to be abased and how to abound). He goes to work, and for seven years he stores up grain. Now, pay attention to what God is doing here. God’s plan is to make Israel a great nation. He plans to bring them to Egypt. So instead of just bringing them down there, He organizes a famine after seven years of plenty so that Joseph’s family is forced to come and buy food. This famine is not just about food. It is about reconciliation.
My friend, when you have wandered far from God as Joseph’s brothers did, you have a famine in your heart. When you turn your back on God, you hunger and thirst. You may try to disguise it. You may try to satisfy it in your own way, but you are in a spiritual famine. This is God’s way of leading you back. It is Christ’s way of finding His lost brothers and sisters. Think about it; you can come back to God. If you have wandered away, you can return. You can be satisfied with the bread of heaven and the water of life. You don’t have to wander any more. You can come to Jesus and be reconciled, just like Joseph’s brothers would come down and be reconciled to him. Don’t wait. Do it now. Jesus is calling you, my friend.
The famine is not only in Egypt but also in all the nations around. All the people are coming to Joseph. Joseph becomes the most politically important international figure of the times. He becomes the focal point of whole nations.
God does all this big stuff, not just so He could bring Israel down to Egypt but also to deal with the characters of Joseph and his brothers. Furthermore, He wants to teach the Egyptians and Canaanites about Himself. But there is more. God takes Joseph and his family on these large and expensive maneuvers so that Joseph can build up a reservoir of confidence in God through 400 years of slavery. He wanted all of Israel to look at the stars at night and trust that God’s promises are for each one of them personally, just like they were for Joseph; and those promises are for the church collectively, just like they were for Joseph’s family. God sometimes goes through expensive maneuvers in our lives too, just so that we can learn to look at the stars and make His promises our own.
God is thinking ahead. He knows the great laws of heredity. He has to put the whole family through the fire to bring them up a whole lot higher than they are, so that their hereditary influence on their children for generations to come will have the character (if they choose to be loyal to God) to be a peculiar people, a royal nation, the people of God. Moreover, they would have this marvelous history to remind them, even in the darkest of times, of God’s good dealings with them.
God is big. He allows a famine on all the land, just so Joseph’s family would come down to Egypt and become a nation. They would have never chosen it on their own. Jacob maybe, but he was not alone now. He had the influences of his family to deal with, and he didn’t trust his sons. It would have been too difficult to make such a decision. So God helped them out a little . . . well, a lot. Do you think that God would move heaven and earth for you, like he did for Joseph and his family? Of course He would. And He will. God has a destiny for you just like He had for them. At the end of time, this is exactly what He plans to do with His people – make them a great nation.
Why didn’t God just tell Jacob there was going to be a famine so he could prepare? That would be easy. But that would have thwarted His plan for Israel. Isn’t it amazing that God often works behind the shadows, keeping watch over His own? He sometimes keeps us in the dark, but He organizes the best set of circumstances perfectly designed for our specific character needs. He would sacrifice a lot in order to save you and give you a destiny and an inheritance among the saints of God. Incredible! He will move nations in order to make it happen. When things seem to go wrong, why don’t we look at the big picture? Though we can’t see the future, why not trust God? He has it all in His hand. So why get angry at little slights? Why get upset when someone is unkind or unjust? Why hold a grudge? Learn to forgive and let God take care of it.
Perhaps, my dear friend, you have experienced injustice in your life. Perhaps you have been tempted to become bitter and angry or have let feelings of alienation poison your soul. If that is the case, take courage. God allowed it to happen for your good and for the good of those that did it to you. You are part of God’s larger plan. He will use you if you let him. You can be positive, even if you suffer great injustice at the hands of others.
You don’t have to live in a world of frustration or bitterness. God calls you higher. You can go outside on a clear night and look at the stars, the same stars that Joseph saw. And you can take God’s promises for your very own. You need to do that. It will give you great courage. As you look at the sky, think of what Joseph must have thought. Your heart can be mended. God wants to do that for you. He ordains that you go through these kinds of experiences just so that He can mend more in your heart than you thought was needed. He wants to give you the noble character of Joseph that can endure hardship and trial. Can you give Him your heart? Can you trust Him with your future? Can you trust Him with your present, with all the pain, hurt, and sorrow? You can, you know. Do it now.
It is a great comfort to let go of anger. It brings great peace. Let God deal with the brothers of Joseph that are in your life. He will take care of them, discipline them, and chastise them if they need it. You may have no idea how God is dealing with them. But you can trust Him. They may be feeling guilty right now for what they have done to you. They may be suffering from the stress of knowing that they have wronged you, but because of pride or other things going on in their lives, they are unable to reconcile. Give God time. Go on with your life. Don’t live in the past with all its problems, pain, and persecution. What do you say? Why not? You’ll be so much happier.
If you are not dealing with these things right now, perhaps you have in the past. You certainly will in the future. The story of Joseph is there for us to know and understand so that when we are abused unjustly, we can be reminded of God’s deep love and care and His personal plan for each of us.
God bless you and keep you as you think deeply about the things in your life, so that you will understand His larger purpose and the ultimate destiny of your soul if you are victorious. Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, how great You are. We want to learn the powerful lesson of how to trust You through all the circumstances of our lives. We don’t always have the answers. Often, You are silent. But we can trust that You have a master plan, a plan that will bring us a future and a hope and a place in your kingdom. Please help us not to let our circumstances discourage us. Please help us not to let the actions of others offend us or make us bitter. We don’t want to live in that kind of world. Thank You for your personal care for us. And thank you for Jesus who is our Lord and Savior, our Protector and our Refuge. In His holy name, I pray, amen.