Genesis 40


Genesis 40 -41: HE knows the way I take.  

Joseph had a can-do spirit- but he also had a ‘cannot spirit.’ . When it came to sin against his employer/owner, Potiphar and sin against God- Joseph said I cannot do such a wicked thing.  

Do you have a can do spirit?  A spirit that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  

Have you decided beforehand- there are things you cannot do? Do you prepare daily to resist temptation and sin? You and I know they will be lurking there sometimes catching us unaware- that is why we must walk in the light, abide in Him- and have a conscious awareness of God at all times.  

When we last saw Joseph in chapter 39, Joseph had found favor with the jailer and was now in charge of the prison. Once again we hear the familiar and comforting phrase- the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.  

I suspect you are thinking- it must be nice to have the Lord paving the way for your success-  but clearly this is what the Lord wants to do for each of us.  

What we see in this story of Joseph is a man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  In Jeremiah 17, the Lord tells us:  “Cursed is the one who trusts in man who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; and he will not see prosperity when it comes.” This statement tells us much of a man who trusts in men and their own strength. Their hearts will be turned away from the Lord. They will not recognize true wealth when they see it and their lives will be barren.   

The Lord goes on to explain the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots in the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has not worries in year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. 

Psalms 1 tells us similar truths:  ‘blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of the sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers. This man of God finds his delight in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. The result is a fruitful life. And whatever he does – prospers.  

Surely Joseph was tempted in this part of his life when it seemed the dream he held onto- and believed was from God was becoming harder to believe due to his circumstances.  

How the devil must have come to Joseph often in the dark night of his imprisonment. How he must have gone over the events and wondered why was this happening- was this dream only his imagination- had he interpreted it wrongly? Satan loves to attack with the fiery darts of doubt—which must be quenched with the shield of faith.  

Here in the prison this dungeon of doubt, an innocent man falsely charged- Joseph would learn of: faith, hope and  charity-love.  

Perhaps staying busy was one of Joseph’s way of keeping his mind off his circumstances. But it must have been often at night- as we all have experienced- the doubts crept in. The enemy must have brought the questions  to Joseph’s mind as the years dragged by- how will this work out? Why was my hard work and honesty not rewarded instead of being falsely imprisoned? It has to be Joseph kept reminding himself of the dream and the God who gave him the dream. Surely Joseph must have said something like ‘I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I  have committed to Him.  Joseph believed this prison experience, his being sold as a slave, the false accusations were in some way a part of God’s plan to fulfill his dream. We must realize as Joseph came to realize that faith is strengthened by testing- by adversity. I wonder if Martin Luther King’s famous speech- I Have A Dream did not find its basis in this story of Joseph. Adversity is to our faith what exercise is to our muscles.  And God knew just how much Joseph needed and He knows how much you and I need and can stand.  

Do you know the two ingredients the Bible tells us are necessary to inherit the promises?

Hebrews 6:12 says- “…it is through faith and patience we inherit the promises.”  

Now how do we learn patience?  Romans 5 tells us through tribulations we learn patience. Uh-oh, you’re thinking- I don’t want bad stuff to happen to me and mine.  

But it also through these experiences, these tribulations that Joseph came to experience the love of God. As the love of God showed Joseph kindness and continued to give Joseph favor with those he encountered on his journey to the throne.  

I believe Joseph was so overcome by the Love of God that he was able to see that he could curse the darkness because of his circumstances or he could light a candle. The candle which would shine brightly in such a dark place was the love of God shed abroad in Josephs’ heart. This love worked its way out of Joseph’s heart into his actions, attitude and words as Joseph displayed this love for others given to him by God.As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.  Joseph served others- and he did it out of love. 

In serving others and caring for others with genuine concern for their well being- God in his providence brought two men into Joseph’s care- the cup bearer and the baker.  

Noticing their sadness and dejection and depression- Joseph inquired what was wrong. In prison environment- Joseph not only had the position of trustee which carried the responsibility of caring for prisoners—Joseph had come to have a ministry in the prison.It was a ministry of love and truth. 

His genuine love and concern allowed him to gain the confidence of the prisoners. Since we know from the details of this story as it leads into chapter 41- we know after Joseph interprets the dreams he will spend two more years in prison. Since he was 30 years old when released- we know at this time Joseph is 28 years old.  He has spent the last 11 years as either a household slave or a prisoner. Most believe he was in Potiphar’s house fro 2- 3 years. Which means his time in prison was up to 10 years.   

Now Joseph learns the lesson of hope and where true hope comes from. It is a difficult lesson but Joseph learns hope deferred makes one heartsick.  

Joseph interprets the two dreams the cup bearer and baker had experienced that puzzled them both.  

The reason I said Joseph had not only a responsible position of authority in the prison but also had a ministry is contained in Joseph’s reply to the two prisoners regarding their dreams.  

Joseph says ‘do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams’

Joseph’s statement shows that in his caring for the prisoners- in his love for them and his God- Joseph never missed an opportunity to witness and tell others about the True and Living God.

You might imagine some of the prisoners would have been skeptical of Joseph’s God in a land where there were over 2000 gods. They must have said or thought- if Joseph’s God is so great why doesn’t He get Joseph out of here. Imagine what they thought when Joseph not only walked out a free man- but became the second most powerful man in the whole land- if not the world at that time.  

Joseph’s interpretation of the two dreams turns out to be completely accurate. The cup bearer who will be set free and restored to his previous position is asked by Joseph to remember him to the Pharaoh.  

We are told cupbearer did not remember Joseph- he forgot him. We will see God more  than likely caused him to forget Joseph to teach Joseph a lesson.  But it will also be God who reminds him of Joseph at the right  time. God is never late and has promised if we will not grow weary in well-doing in due time we will reap.  

I know God is never late— but sometimes it seems like He has missed some good opportunities to be early! 

Joseph learned to hope no longer in a man. Hope thou in God, for I shall praise Him for the help of His countenance. ( Psalm 42)  

So we see that Joseph through the years of adversity has been taught the lesson of faith, hope and love. Which Paul tells us in I Cor. 13- the greatest of these is love.    

Once again we see love triumph for love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast nor is it proud. It is not rude nor self –seeking, easily angered or bent on revenge. This love which God was developing in Joseph and wants to develop in us is a love that does not delight in evil but always rejoices in truth. It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes  and always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Do you not see this love is being developed and exhibited in Joseph’s life?  

In fact to continue in Paul’s words in this great chapter- can you see that perhaps Joseph when he spoke of his dreams of ruling over his family to his brothers that he might have spoken as a child?   And now God has prepared Joseph to put away childish things.   

God is love. God has communicated His love to us at Calvary. God has commanded us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and being and to love one another as ourselves.  

I am now moving us into a continuation of the story of dreams that is completed in chapter 41.  

This chapter tells us by the time the Pharaoh has his dreams two years have passed since the cupbearer was set free and forgot about Joseph.  

But God has not forgotten about Joseph.

God has not forgotten about you and me either. Psalms 139 tells me God knows and is familiar with all my ways.

He created me and knit me together in my mother’s womb over 64 years ago.

All my days were written in His book before the first one ever came to be.

But let me tell you something that will take your breath away— this God, creator of the Universe- loves me unconditionally and His thoughts – His precious thoughts toward you and me outnumber the grains of sand! He cares for you and me like no one else ever has.

On the day that you and I got saved—there was rejoicing in heaven- there was rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  

And you need to know that God’s plans for you and me are just as important to Him as the plans He had for Joseph.  

Thus we see the Pharaoh has two dreams  one night. Dreams that were sent by God all in His perfect timing. The two dreams were similar:  7 sleek, fat cows grazing among the reeds devoured, eaten up by 7 gaunt, ugly cows.

The second dream was about seven healthy heads of grain or wheat growing on a single stalk. Then seven other heads of grain – thin and scorched by the east wind spring up. These seven thin heads of grain swallow up the seven full heads.

The Pharaoh awoke and was troubled by his dreams.  

Calling for his magicians and wise men- the Pharaoh told them his dreams and demanded an interpretation but they could not .  

Now the cupbearer who had forgotten Joseph is reminded of Joseph.  

The Pharaoh sends for Joseph.

First he must be shaved, cleaned and given a new set of clothing suitable for an appearance before the Pharaoh.

Once again Joseph gets a change of clothing. What is God saying to us abut this clothing?

He once wore the multi-colored robe of favoritism  and perhaps pride that the very sight of this robe angered his brothers. Its torn blood spattered remains were a symbol of pain and suffering for his father, Jacob.

He was then given the simple clothes of a servant a house slave.

But in time probably was given a better garment as head of  Potiphar’s house that turned out to be the evidence used against him to convict him falsely of sexual assault.

He would then wear the clothes of a prisoner for the next 10 years.

What a humbling experience as we look at Joseph’s journey just by his wardrobe.

But God gives grace to the humble.

Joseph is ready. God’s perfect timing is all falling into place.

And now he is washed, shaved and given robes for a court appearance before the Pharaoh that would become the robes of a ruler.  

One day you and I will appear before the King of Kings and we will be appropriately dressed in suitable clothing for we will be clothed in Christ’s Righteousness. Having had our prison clothes which were filthy, sin stained garments taken away and been supplied with the garments of righteousness for  suitable apparel. On September 16, 1977 I took off those old sin-stained garment and put on the new white robes of His Righteousness. 

Now have you learned like Joseph did- the lessons of faith, hope and charity?  

Here is the moment- after 13 long years.

Joseph stands before the Pharaoh.  

The Pharaoh tells Joseph- I have had a dream no one can interpret. I have heard it said you can interpret it.  

Joseph’s reply must have created a silence in the courtroom of the king –so you could hear a pin drop. The cupbearer must have shut his eyes and wondered why did I open my mouth. Perhaps Potiphar is standing there looking at his former servant and slave thinking this could be bad…

Joseph’s reply is : I cannot do it…( maybe there was a dramatic pause) but God will give the Pharaoh the answer he desires. 

Do you see the lesson of humility that Joseph has learned. He will not take credit for anything – all honor and glory is due to the True and Living God. Joseph who has been faithful in little will now be given a lot. He is about to tell the Pharaoh what must be done for the next 14 years. He, Joseph, who just minutes before was a prisoner in the Pharaoh’s own prison system.  

But do you see the Holy boldness, that Joseph has?  He has just put the True and Living God on the throne above the Pharaoh.  

Joseph then interprets the dream that foretells us God’s plan to send 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine.  

Remember all of this is part of God’s plan to remove Jacob and his clan out of Canaan to Egypt to grow them into a nation unpolluted by intermarrying with the Canaanites.  

Joseph, then as God’s consultant, advises the Pharaoh to find a wise and discerning man and put in charge of the land of Egypt. Appoint a board of commissioners over the land to take 20% of the harvest during the 7 years of plenty and store it for the 7 years of famine.  

The plan seemed good to the Pharaoh and of course his ‘yes men’all agreed.  

Listen to what the Pharaoh then says and does:  

Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?

Then the Pharaoh said to Joseph: “ Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You will be second in command, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only I the Pharaoh will be greater than you.  

I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.  

Can you imagine what Potiphar had to tell Ms. Potiphar at dinner that night?  

Can you see Joseph returning to the prison to pick up some of his belongings and say good-bye to the warden and the prisoners?  Can you hearing them cheering Joseph?  

The story of Joseph will continue— but on that day Joseph began to realize the dream a dream that he refused to give up on—because it was God’s plan for his life. And Joseph came to believe that everything that happened was for a reason and for the fulfillment of the dream that God had given him.  

God has a task for you and me that to Him is just as important as His plan for Joseph.  

You see at sometime during this odyssey Joseph came to realize that to try and manipulate the circumstances and make them work out for good is not our responsibility but God’s . Our responsibility is to trust and obey.  

Job 23:  ‘Oh that I might find God, that I might come to His seat. I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn the words which He would answer and understand what He would say to me. Behold I go forward and He is not there. I go backward and perceive Him not. He acts upon the left and I behold Him not- He turns right and I see Him not.


Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14