By Pastor Hal Mayer
Dear Friends, 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 to bring 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, it is His way of making you the man or woman that He can really use.
Remember that Satan can do nothing except that 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 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 them to a higher position when they are 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. It is the very injustice that justifies God in raising you up, in the end, to a position of honor and responsibility. If we are disciplined justly, then perhaps we deserve a lower position, but if we endure injustice, when God resurrects us, we are placed beyond the reach of those who would do us harm, especially to our souls. We are the only ones that can hurt our own soul. 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, there is nothing that can happen that will cause us irreparable damage.
When Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave, he look up at the stars and took the promises as his own. Now God tests his faith further. He 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 mostly 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 in 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 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 judgeth righteously? There is only One that can do that. That is God. He doesn’t make mistakes. But here we read that we must follow in his steps 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. Genesis 39:23. “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.” 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, he would 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 and 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 in prison as happy as Joseph. 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 his captors good including the keeper of the prison. How strange. Prison is a terrible, gloomy place. But not for Joseph. He couldn’t see the stars and night but he had faith that they were there. He couldn’t breath 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 and when he would move on to others, they felt 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. Apparently Potiphar wanted these high value prisoners to be especially looked after and 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 an suspected plot on the king’s life. All suspects or potential suspects were rounded up and put in custody. Even though they may be 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. Verse 7 says 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 has 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.
Verse 9-13 “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.”
After Joseph tells the butler the interpretation of the dream, we see a very human side of Joseph. Notice verse 14. “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 been placed there unjustly. Perhaps he saw an opportunity to come work for Pharaoh. While that was God’s plan, it was not to be any time soon. Nor was it to be in some small capacity. Perhaps Joseph was thinking that if he could work as one of the butlers under the Chief Butler, he could 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 vault him surprisingly 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 that he will 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 he had hope that 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. Verses 16 – 22. “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.
This must have given all that 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 gives the glory to the God of heaven. Instead of becoming proud and boastful, Joseph humbly tries to tell them about the God he serves, the true God, the God who is way above the Egyptian Gods.
The scripture says in chapter 40:23, “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 were forgotten? My guess is that the butler didn’t want anyone to remember is 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 of the Butler in prison, but now it seemed as if the friendship didn’t mean anything. Have you ever invested in a friendship and have them 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 hear 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 plead with God on his way to Egypt with the Ishmeelites, only silence. Why won’t God speak to him and comfort him. At the times when Joseph really needed God, He wasn’t there it seemed. 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 the idea 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. It is often exactly the opposite.
But then why be true to God if the reward is adversity (only this pit or 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. He could not return to Potiphar’s house for obvious reasons. He could be set free, and there would be great rejoicing in Hebron, and 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 to 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 the 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, and that takes time. 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 that they accomplish. Even our mistakes, by which we inflict pain on ourselves, God uses. Neither is character inherited. God has to take measures that will 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 has all this trouble. 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 10 years. Some think it was more than three years. We know that it was more than two years because it was two years after the Butler forgot him. Without that patient endurance and trust, Joseph could not have been the man that he became. Without that 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. Trusting in God patiently, 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 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 summand 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 that no one could tell the 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 they 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. Chapter 41:13. “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.“
Notice the Butler doesn’t admit that he was in prison. That’s 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. His warm smile grows knowingly on his face. This can 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, he fears if would fall back on him. Possibly 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, he 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.
Verse 15. 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.”
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 the contrast between their false religion and Joseph’s trust in the true God even more obvious.
Without hesitation Joseph interprets the dreams. To him the meaning is obvious. Not because of Joseph’s 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 to make the final gather 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.
Verse 25. “And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do.” Both dreams refer to the same thing. The sevens refer to years. There would be seven years of plenty, then seven years of famine. Verse 32. “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.” Joseph affirms that this is a clear message from God and that it is very important that he 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. Verse 33-36. “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.”
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 some day to remind Pharaoh that he trained Joseph (so to speak), which will no doubt effect 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 and in His time, He will bring us to the place where we can powerfully serve Him.
Verse 37-38. “And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.” 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 is 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?” 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 supervise 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. There was a core of strength in Him 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 7 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 7 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 have, 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 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 of them 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, just so he could bring Israel down to Egypt, but also to deal with the characters of Joseph and his brothers. And 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 He 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 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 were, so that their wickedness and their hereditary influence on their children for generations to come, will have the character (if they chose 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 he could make them 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 did 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 above 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 of others, in order to save you and give you a destiny, 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 and 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 and 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 to not let our circumstances discourage us. Please help us to not 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.
The following is a current events update of interest to those that love the appearing of Jesus Christ and are watching the fulfilling prophecies. This part of the program is only available on CD and on our website. We can see the signs of the times telling us that we are nearing the world’s great crisis. May the Lord find us faithful.
Our first item this month is about Rome’s intolerance of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The following comments are taken from the National Catholic Register, and American Catholic Periodical, of March 26, 2006.
“Poland’s former communist regime spokesman has been fined for insulting Pope John Paul II in a 2002 newspaper article, in the first binding court judgment of its kind.
“In a March 7 ruling, the Warsaw Appeal Court rejected a claim by former spokesman Jerzy Urban that he acted “within the bounds of free criticism” in writing the article, in which he described the late Pope as a “hoary idol” and “living corpse.
“The court said Polish law did not permit free speech to be cited for ‘violating the honor of public figures.’
Urban, who gained notoriety in the 1980s as a spokesman for the regime of Gen. Wojciech Jarzelski, published the front-page article, ‘Mobile Sado-Masochist,’ in his satirical weekly, Nie (No), on the first day of Pope John Paul’s August 2002 visit; he urged the then 82-year-old to ‘die and save us all embarrassment.’
In his article, ,the spokesman urged ‘all sensible people’ to write to the Pope, advising him to ‘go to bed’ and ‘stop making a scary spectacle of himself.”
“…In its ruling, the court said freedom of speech did not have an ‘absolute character,” adding that Polish law prohibited the insulting of heads of state.”
In a country where Rome has the ascendancy, freedom of speech goes on the rubbish heap.
In another Catholic news, the Associated Press on Wednesday, January 25, reported that “Pope Benedict XVI said in his first encyclical Wednesday that the Roman Catholic Church has a duty through charitable work to influence political leaders to ease suffering to promote justice.”
The Pope went on to say that “the Church has the right and the duty to be involved in politics by helping ‘form consciences in political life and stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as a greater readiness to act…’
Benedict XVI also stressed that the “church’s charity workers must never use their work to proselytize or push a particular political ideology.”
The Pope essentially admits what those who love religious liberty have always understood, that the Catholic Church uses its charitable activities to favorably influence the public in general, and political leaders in particular, and thereby gain greater access to the ears of lawmakers and politicians than others.
The prohibition against its workers pushing a particular political ideology is very self-serving. Rome works with all political ideologies in an effort to gain influence with all governments. Siding with one or the other creates animosities against the church which she can ill afford. Rome often plays one ideology off against another to her temporal advantage, and thereby gains greater influence. If her workers avoid political advocacy, she can point to that as a positive contribution to peace, and hence gain more adherents and influence.
While the prohibition against advocating political ideologies is comforting to a shallow thinker, it should be pointed out that it does not apply to religious doctrine or dogma. Rome is constantly pressing its views of morality, including Sunday rest and worship, on governments and their citizens world-wide.
Benedict also made a speech to some 500 parliamentarians of the European Popular Party, who were holding a congress in Rome on March 30, 2006 in which he insisted on “three non-negotiable principles for the church and Christians in public life: protection of life, recognition of the family and freedom of education.”
He began his remarks, reported ZENIT, the Vatican’s Internet news agency, “by pointing out the right of religious parliamentarians to express their principles in a democratic society.”
While it is true that political leaders should be free to speak their views and vote their consciences, Rome’s historical experience in using her dual nature of church and nation to develop an entanglement between church and state, gives Rome an inordinate advantage when advocating church teachings. Coupled with a dramatic increase of Roman Catholics in politics in recent years, places the church in a powerful position to greatly influence western societies with her teachings.
On April 11, 2006 ZENIT reported that 55 Catholic democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives released a statement concerning the responsibilities of Catholic politicians. “The signatories of the letter stated that “we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience.”
“But, according to Jesuit Father Joseph Koterski, professor of philosophy at Fordham University, the Catholic understanding of conscience requires a distinction. The crucial factor is not fidelity to one’s chosen moral principles, but rather fidelity to moral principles given to us by God. Father Koterski explained to ZENIT the importance for Catholic politicians to inform their conscience in accord with divine moral principles as mediated by the magisterium of the Church.”
Father Koterski further pointed out that “the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1782, reflects a long-standing tradition in Catholic moral teaching that every person has the right to act in conscience and that no one must be prevented from acting according to one’s conscience,” but he pointed out that “in the sections that follow, the Catechism reviews the importance of a proper formation of one’s conscience, including the duty and right of the Church through her bishops to be the authoritative interpreter of moral principles for this formation of conscience.”
In other words, Catholic politicians have the right to act according to their conscience, but their conscience must be molded by church dogma, as authoritatively defined by the bishops, and in particular, the Bishop of Rome. He went on to say that a “common misunderstanding has grown up in modern culture about the notion of conscience. And I think that this misunderstanding is at the root of the notion that politicians may disagree with and even work against Church teaching through an appeal to conscience. The misunderstanding occurs when one thinks of conscience in terms of fidelity to one’s chosen moral principles…” rather than those of the Church.”
This is quite a statement! What Koterski is saying is that politicians have the responsibility to act in accordance with church teaching in fulfilling their public duties as elected or appointed officials. In an environment in which Catholic politicians are in the ascendancy, this teaching will one day greatly influence the direction of western nations where they are in power. When Sunday laws are pressed and openly debated, Catholic politicians will be pressured to conform to church teachings, by legislating and enforcing Sunday laws.
Jesuit Koterski went on to say that when politicians choose their own principles or the principles of their constituencies, “they risk doing precisely what one may not do as a Catholic, namely, acting as if one were permitted to choose which moral principles one will use…”
Rome has always defined the primacy of conscience only in terms of its own teaching. In other words, those who hold other views than those approved authoritatively by the church magisterium (that’s its ruling body), are not properly Catholic. Rome recognizes that society often has many different understandings about moral questions, but when Cannon law controls the laws of the land, dissent is marginalized at best, and often persecuted.
Koterski continued… “the Church has long recognized the primacy of conscience, so long as one understands the term properly. It is not that one may obey one’s conscience, but that one must do so — but, first, one must form one’s conscience correctly,” that is in harmony with church teaching. John Paul wrote in “Veritatis Splendor” that since the conscience is subject to error, “we must constantly work to form the conscience truthfully. The magisterium of the Church is at the service of this formation,” Jesuit Koterski said.
This mild sounding concept is really at the core of Roman Catholic Persecution. Those that don’t agree with Rome do not have the freedom to live and act according to their conscience, especially politicians. When Rome claims the primacy in any nation, this teaching will effect the way the nation views those that dissent from Rome.
This teaching is also the basis of Roman Catholic meddling in politics. The American founding fathers knew that if the national conscience was guided or dictated by Rome, it would lead to oppression and persecution. Therefore they separated church and state in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. They knew that there were important moral principles in the law of God, particularly in the last six commandments. But they were careful to prevent any meddling in that which involves personal conscience in the worship of God.
Our next item involves President Bush and the Catholic Church.
On April 7, 2006 ZENIT reported that President George Bush spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in the U.S. capital. The Catholic Church the President said today, “offers a vision of human freedom and dignity rooted in the same self-evident truths of America’s founding.”
Imagine that. President Bush must not understand history, or perhaps he is willing to distort it. The United States was established on the very principles of freedom that Rome opposes.
President Bush went on to say that “Like his predecessor (John Paul II), Benedict XVI understands that the measure of a free society is how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable among us.”
Keep in mind that this is the same man that has pressured congress to enact laws that remove the key freedoms that Americans have enjoyed for more than two centuries. It is the same man that defends eavesdropping on American citizens, and spying on houses of worship. Perhaps God’s people should be paying more attention to the legal developments in the United States that erode the Constitution.
Our next item involves torture again.
The issue of torture is still being discussed and debated. Recently the U.S. congress passed a law that makes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody illegal.
On March 3, 2006, the Washington Post published an article that said that “Bush Administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee,” argued that the new law “does not apply to people held at the military prison.”
“U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used… ‘extremely disturbing’ and possibly against U.S. and international law.”
It is patently obvious that the Bush Administration does not believe that it must abide by domestic law or international treaties in the way it has continually defended the abuse of its detainees.
It seems that the McCain law, as it is known, does say that detainees cannot be tortured at Guantanamo Bay, but also that it cannot be enforced in the courts.
“Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforce. ‘This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can’t go to court.” Wilner said.”
This shocking saga of torture and abuse by the U.S., and which has now spanned much of the world, from Guantanamo, to Eastern Europe, to the Middle East and north Africa, is an amazing development which will one day play very hard against God’s people no doubt.
Now we turn our attention to Great Britain.
New Terror Law Comes into Force in Britain.
On April 13, 2006, the BCC reported that it is now illegal in Britain to glorify terrorism or distribute terrorist publications. Groups or Organizations can be banned if they engage in any of these activities. “Human rights campaigners argue that the law is drawn far too widely and it faced stiff opposition in the House of Lords,” said the BBC.
“The bill was introduced after 7 July bomb attacks in London, and prime minister Tony Blair said the new law would allow action to be taken against people glorifying those attacks.
“People had held placards praising the 7 July bombers during protests in London against cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad…
Concerns over the rules of glorification drew assurances from the government that the matter would be revisited after it was passed. But what does that mean? In reality, once the law is passed, some slight modifications might be made to it, but the government can now criminalize free speech. For now, it is a law that is going to be used against an enemy everyone can agree upon. But what happens once a new enemy is villainized, perhaps God’s people who proclaim the truths of scripture about the antichrist of the Bible. Will the law be expanded to criminalize them too?
Free speech is vital to a free society. If a nation can ban certain expressions related to terrorism, can it not ban other expressions in the name of keeping harmony between religions? If Islamic protestors against offensive cartoons cannot say what they want in a so-called “free country” like Britain, who else will one day be banned from public discourse of their religious beliefs, particularly those offensive to the catholic church or any of its apostate daughters? Will God’s people one day find themselves criminals for proclaiming scripture, under these new laws, expanded to prevent them from disseminating the last warning message.
British ID cards.
The privacy issue is being debated in Britain too. The BBC reported on March 30, 2006 that the MPs have approved a compromise to implement ID cards for everyone by 2010. Those who get passports before then will have their information placed on a governmental database.
The bill’s proponents argue that there isn’t much more data that will be kept over and above what is already kept on the governments records, opponents say that it is a “ridiculous incursion of the state on the individual,” said Simon Hughes, liberal democrat and constitutional affairs spokesman.
The main reason for the delay to 2010 is because it will come after an election. The compromise between the MPs and the House of Lords was worked out because of the strong opposition in the House of Lords to the ID program.
This is one big step toward a totalitarian government. Those who know history, realize that ID cards for every citizen is a common development on the way to dictatorships.
Final approval of the Patriot Act.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has given its final approval to the renewal of the Patriot Act. The act was delayed because of debate over civil liberties. The law does undermine the constitutional liberties of American citizens in a number of important ways, such as in privacy, surveillance and detention, even though Congress was able to force a number of compromises from the government.
The trouble is, President Bush has a habit of ignoring the law in the name of fighting terrorism. So even the mild compromises given back by the government are not likely to be followed.
And lastly, The Ecumenical Movement in Norway
In other religious news, on April 4, 2006 the Adventist Press Service (APD) reported that “two Christian church councils in Norway have agreed to form a new national council including Lutheran, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Adventists and Pentecostal denominations. The new national grouping will formally be inaugurated on September 1, 2006, and results from the merger of the ‘Christian Council of Norway’ (NKR) and the ‘Norwegian Free Church Council’ (NFR)…
“The willingness of representatives of the Pentecostal Movement to work together with the Roman Catholic Church Has been seen as a key element in the founding of the new grouping… ‘We’ve seen strong antagonism in [Latin America], and we’ve had negative experiences with the Roman Catholic Church there,’ said [Torsten] Metzoni.
“Also taking part in the newly established Christian Council of Norway is the Norwegian Seventh-day Adventist Church… They will join the CCn in the status of an Observer member church.”
While we don’t know what an “observer member” really means, the APD reported that the President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway “has participated in the merger process of the two councils.” Participation in the ecumenical movement has only one direction, Romeward. It is amazing that so many church leaders have so little discernment concerning how the ecumenical movement has undermined the Protestant message. Seventh-day Adventists in particular have much more of their distinctive message to lose.
That’s all we have time for today my friends. God bless you and you consider these important matters, and as you get closer to Jesus, our Lord and our loving Savior.
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.