March 16, 2015.
Daily Reading: Genesis 40-43.
Background: Genesis 36-39.
Concepts and Connections.
Joseph’s interpretation of dreams: As Joseph is in the prison that he was sent to because Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to lay with her, we learned from the last chapter that the Lord was with Joseph and the guard of the prison appointed Joseph over the other prisoners. The prison that Joseph was in was a high level prison where Pharaoh sent prisoners; he was put there because Potiphar was a officer in Pharaoh’s army. At the beginning of this chapter enter two new prisoners, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and his baker, because they had offended the king in some way. There are three characteristics of Joseph that are revealed in this story that make him a good example for us to look to and implement similar characteristics in our life. First, we see that Joseph was aware of the needs of others. When the two prisoners had troubling dreams one night, Joseph came in the next morning and noticed that they were troubled. He saw that they were downcast and attended to their needs. We would be wise to put on this spirit of attentiveness and caring for the needs of others. Secondly, Joseph knew (and taught) that he had no power in and of himself, but all things came from the Lord. When the two prisoners told him that they had troubling dreams that no one had been able to interpret, Joseph quickly alerts them that interpretations belong to God. Then he had them tell him the dreams and let God interpret them through himself. We should remember that when we serve in the kingdom, we serve because we were given those talents by God, and it is through His power that we are capable of doing anything. Finally, Joseph spoke the truth, even when it was unfavorable. When the cupbearer told Joseph his dream first, there was a favorable interpretation, for Pharaoh would raise him up and restore him to his position in three days time. The baker, hearing the favorable interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, was eager to hear the interpretation of his own dream. The interpretation of his dream, however, was not favorable, for it meant that he would be hung in three days time by Pharaoh. Though this was a bad thing to hear, Joseph told him the truth, and did not apologize for the truth. As we serve in the kingdom, the gospel will likely offend many people. Whereas we should not be trying to offend, we should never shy away from the truth because it might turn people off. We should always speak the truth in love, with our words seasoned with salt (see Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6).
1. Pharaoh’s dreams: When Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream, he asked the cupbearer to remember him when his position was restored so that he might be able to get out of the prison to return home to his family where he was taken from. The cupbearer, however, forgot about Joseph when he was restored to his position. Two full years past while Joseph remained in prison. Finally, Pharaoh dreams two dreams and is very troubled by them, but no magician or wise man in the land is able to tell Pharaoh the interpretation of his dream. At this, the cupbearer remember Joseph and how he had interpreted his dream as well as the baker’s dream, and the interpretation had come true just as he said it would happen. Joseph is then called into the presence of Pharaoh, where once again we see him attribute all the glory of interpretation to God. Joseph is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, along with some advise that Pharaoh would be wise to follow in the years to come (seven years of plenty and seven years of severe famine). Through this, Pharaoh sees that the Lord with with Joseph and he is a man of wisdom and understanding, and he chooses to set Joseph up as second in command over all Egypt in order that he might oversee the gathering/storing of food in the years of plenty so that there will be enough during the years of famine. Joseph had been set in a position to save not only the people of Egypt, but also his own people.
2. God’s providence: The story of Joseph is perhaps one of the greatest examples of the providence of God working in someone’s life. Joseph’s story starts out in hatred and bitter envy from his brethren both because his father loved him more than the rest of them and also because he had had dreams that implied that they would one day bow down to him. He was thrown in a pit and almost murdered, until Ruben intervened, and then Judah convinced his brothers to sell him as a slave. As he found favor with his master, his master’s wife desired him, but he would not go into her. For this, she falsely accuses him of trying to lay with her and gets him thrown in prison. Once again, he finds favor with the guard and is appointed over the rest of the prisoners. Even when things look like they are about to change for the better, the cupbearer forgets to mention Joseph when Pharaoh restores him to his position. Joseph remains in the prison for two more years. Does that sound like a life that has been blessed by God? Perhaps not, but God’s providence was working in a way that Joseph probably didn’t even understand. Here we find Joseph, a Hebrew sold into slavery in the land of Egypt, appointed as second in power over all the land of Egypt. God had been working out a way for saving his people, as well as the land of Egypt from the severe famine that was to come. God’s providence led to Joseph’s high command. This thought is no less than amazing. When times are rough in our lives, we can look to this story and see that it very well may be the case that God is working out something great for us, something that we might not even be able to imagine. Let us trust in the Lord that He will lead us into His will, and until we reach our home, let us labor in the Kingdom.
Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt: In this chapter we learn what is perhaps the greater plan of God to use Joseph to save the house of Israel. As the seven years of famine came, it did not only affect the Egyptians, but also the surrounding lands. Israel and his sons were deeply effected by the famine, and when he heard there was food stored in Egypt, he sent his sons to go buy some. Finally, the dream that Joseph had told his brothers so long ago (see Genesis 37) was about to be fulfilled, as Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before Joseph, though they did not recognize him. Joseph likely harbored mixed feelings when he saw his brothers, and he disguised his voice so that they would not recognize who he was. It is hard to understand what Joseph’s actual intentions were for the next series of events, but it was likely involved a range of emotions. He may have had some resentment at first, followed by satisfaction/relief when he heard that his brothers were troubled by what they had done to him. He may have just been working out a way to see Benjamin and his father once again. Or perhaps he was just buying time so he could figure out what he was going to do. Regardless, Joseph puts his brothers in a tight situation, and sends them back, keeping Simeon in Egypt as collateral that they would return with Benjamin. He sent them back to their father with grain and provisions, and he instructed that each man’s money be replaced in their sack without their knowledge. When his brother’s got back home, their father took the news badly and would not let Benjamin go, fearing the same fate would fall on him that did Joseph and Simeon. Thus his brothers delayed in returning, likely providing even more of a sense of anxiousness.
Joseph’s brother’s return to Egypt: Finally, Israel and his sons run out of the provisions that Joseph has given them, and the famine is so severe that Israel decides to send his sons back to Egypt, still not wanting Benjamin to go with them. However, his sons would not go back unless they took Benjamin and Israel is finally convinced, saying “if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved,” which sounds like he has just given up. However, when they return with their youngest brother, they are in for a great surprise. At once they explain the money situation, and Joseph just plays it off completely. Then they are brought to Joseph’s house to have a meal with him. They marveled at the fact that Joseph was able to place them in position from oldest to youngest. Simeon was restored to them and they had a good time eating and being merry. It seems that Joseph had completely forgiven his brothers at this point, which will later be shown more extensively. This spirit of forgiveness is something that we should possess as Christians, forgiven others just as Christ has forgiven us.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Samuel 1-6.
Grace and peace.