Patient Prison Preparation
In Genesis 39 we see Joseph as a stark moral contrast to immoral Judah (Genesis 38). The phrase, “The LORD was with Joseph” indicates Joseph had a relationship of faith and trust in God (39:2, also 3, 5). Joseph was approached by Potiphar’s wife and tempted to commit adultery (39:7). Joseph resisted and was uncompromisingly moral (39:8). He knew the sin of adultery with Potiphar’s wife was not only a betrayal and sin against Potiphar but more importantly a sin against God (39:9-10). Therefore Joseph ran from sin (39:11-12). Throughout his life Joseph walked with God and sought to please him by living holy.
As we study Joseph we will see that he is a type of Christ. The first thing in Joseph that we see parallels Jesus is that he did not defend himself (39:13-23). In this situation Joseph gives us a perfect example of how to respond to temptations in the world (See Psalm 119:9, 11; Philippians 4:8-9). It is possible to resist sin if we keep our eyes on God and have a trusting relationship with Him (39:9). Sin often seeks us out and we should run from it as Joseph did (39:8-12). The best thing to do when sin presents itself is to turn and run from it (39:12). When temptations to sin present themselves it is best to turn away from them and trust God to show you a way out. God promises to always show us a way out of sinning (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even if trials are prolonged, we need to remain faithful, trust in God, and give Him glory.
At the end of Genesis 39 Joseph is thrown in prison. Doing what is right does not guarantee freedom from injustice and trial. In fact the Bible tells us that doing what it right and living a holy life is a guarantee of hardship (cf. Job 1-2; 2 Timothy 3:12). The devil (1 Peter 5:8-9) and those caught in his blinding deception oppose the godly (John 8:42-59; Ephesians 2:1-3). But God uses such trials to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle” us (1 Peter 5:10). God can and will bless us regardless of the circumstances we are in (39:21). Trouble is not limited to the unrighteous; in the case of Joseph we see that all of His troubles were according to the will of God to accomplish a greater plan and that “the LORD was with Joseph” in all these trials (Genesis 50:20). We should not assume that because someone is going through hard times that they are being judged by God. Instead we should understand that God remains sovereign regardless of our circumstances and that He has an ultimate plan that He is working out. We need to be patient no matter the circumstances we are in; even if that means prison. That is why this section of Genesis is entitled Patient Prison Preparation.
Patient Prison Preparation
Genesis 40 -
It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. 3 So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. 4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while.
5 Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. 6 And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”
8 And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”
So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”
9 Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “Behold, in my dream a vine was before me, 10 and in the vine were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. 11 Then Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”
12 And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. 13 Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler. 14 But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. 15 For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”
16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, “I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. 17 In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.”
18 So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”
20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
In Genesis 40 we see the hand of God in the life of Joseph even though he is in prison. The account starts with the king’s butler and baker being thrown into prison for offending the king (40:1-2). They are placed “in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined” (40:3). The “captain of the guard” was Potiphar (39:1). It’s interesting that Potiphar, though Joseph was imprisoned for offending his wife, kept Joseph close at hand and apparently still had confidence in Joseph enough to rely on his services. “The LORD was with Joseph” and “He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (39:21-23). Potiphar either had regained (at the urging of the LORD) his trust of Joseph or knew the truth about the charges his wife had brought against Joseph. A spouse can sense such things. Now Potiphar put Joseph in charge of looking after the butler and baker of the king’s court (40:4).
Then the butler and baker each have separate dreams (40:5). The dreams caused the two incarcerated officials to be sad (40:6). Joseph is attentive and cares enough to ask them why they are saddened (40:7). This sheds a little light on the caring nature of Joseph. In prison he may have been tempted to be caught up in self-pity. Instead he is more concerned with the people around them. This is a true Christlike characteristic (e.g. Philippians 2:3-8).
When the two officials tell Joseph the reason for their sadness is that they had dreams and there is no one to interpret them, Joseph is quick to state, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (40:8). Joseph was used by God because his witness was uncompromising. He is willing to confess God to people no matter where he is (e.g. Matthew 10:32). Joseph’s belief in God was such a strong and close part of who he was that it was natural for him to share God with others.
The chief butler shares the content of his dream with Joseph (40:9-11). Then Joseph interprets the dream telling the butler that he will be fully restored in three days according to the dream (40:12-13). Joseph then asks the butler to “remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house” (40:14). Joseph explains was unjustly “stolen away” from his homeland and that he has done nothing to deserve being put in the dungeon (40:15). Asking the butler to remember him demonstrated the faith Joseph had in the interpretation God had given him for the dream. Joseph believed the interpretation would come to pass and so asked the butler to help him. Joseph probably saw this as the hand of God to help him out of prison.
When the chief baker saw the Joseph’s interpretation of the butler’s dream was favorable he shared his dream with Joseph too and asked him to interpret it (40:16-17). However this time Joseph’s interpretation involved the execution of the baker in three day’s time according to his dream (40:18-19). Joseph demonstrated faith in the interpretation God had given him in that he did not bother to ask the baker to help him because the baker was not going to be in a position to do so.
Just as Joseph had interpreted, in three days the butler was reinstated to the king’s court but the baker was hanged (40:20-22). But did the butler remember Joseph? No, just like the 9 lepers who were healed by Jesus and then didn’t bother to return and thank Jesus, the butler forgot about Joseph (40:23; Luke 17:17).
There is a lot to be gleaned from the imprisonment of Joseph. Joseph was imprisoned for 13 years (Genesis 37:2 and 41:46). That’s a long time to be without your freedom. That’s a big chunk of time taken out of a life. What must Joseph have been thinking about God’s plan for his life during his imprisonment? Perhaps he thought, “LORD, you gave me a vision of leadership (37:1-7), how come you let my brothers throw me in a pit? How come you let me be sold into slavery? How come You let me be falsely accused and thrown into prison? This doesn’t seem right LORD. LORD why am I wasting my time in this place? LORD, please, get me oughta' here!” While Joseph was going through an assortment of trials, God’s plan was being fulfilled. God allowed Joseph to experience hardship in order to build his character, faith, and spiritual maturity. That’s a valuable lesson to learn from the life of Joseph. And it is a pattern God uses as he develops those He intends to use.
There are many examples in scripture of God patiently molding people into instruments He can then use for His glory. Some of these examples are:
1.) LEVITES – The Levites were trained to be priests from childhood, but they weren’t eligible to take their office until age 30 (Numbers 4:46-47).
2.) MOSES – Moses lived forty years in Egypt, another forty in the desert and it wasn’t until he was eighty years old that the LORD called him to ministry (Exodus 7:7).
3.) DAVID – David was anointed to be king as a young boy (1 Samuel 16:11-13), but didn’t become king until he reached age 30 (2 Samuel 5:4).
4.) PAUL – Paul was trained as a Pharisee, knocked down off his high horse, spent three years in the desert undergoing special training from the LORD and only then did he begin his ministry (Galatians 1:15-18).
5.) THE APOSTLES – Jesus trained the apostles for three years before they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and entrusted with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2).
6.) JESUS – Jesus didn’t embark on his public ministry until He was about age thirty (Luke 3:23). Prior to His public ministry He was “increasing in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52).
The point here is that God prepares those He intends to use. Sometimes the preparation involves confusion, a feeling of forsakenness, a feeling of wasting time and trials like Joseph. All of this is God’s patient preparation of His ministers. A short poem by an unknown author expresses God’s process of molding people in the following way:
GOD KNOWS WHAT HE’S ABOUT
“When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man that the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him, and with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!
How he bends but never breaks when his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses and with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him to try His splendor out - God knows what He’s about!”
- Author Unknown
When we look at how God works in the lives of people through the lens of the New Testament the message of God to those hungry to be used by Him is: Abide in Jesus and bear fruit (John 15:4-8); Wait for the LORD’s outcome (Galatians 6:9); Grow in the LORD (James 1:2-4); Endure to the end (Matthew 10:22); and look for Jesus to return (James 5:7-8). There is a purpose for the prisons in our lives. Be patient for the final product to be revealed.
How can we get the most out of our time of preparation with the Lord? Joseph’s life exemplifies how to successfully come through the patient prison preparation of the Lord by noting the following points:
1.) FOCUS ON OTHERS NOT YOURSELF – 40:6 (Romans 12:3-21)
2.) BE A SERVANT – 40:7 (John 13).
3.) DEPEND ON GOD / GIVE GLORY TO GOD – 40:8 (1 Corinthians 10:31).
4.) USE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT(S) – 40:8b -13, 16-19 (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).
5.) SHARE YOUR TESTIMONY – 40:14-15 (1 Peter 3:15).
6.) DON’T BE SHAKEN BY DISAPPOINTMENTS – 40:20-23 (Acts 16; 23:11; Romans 8:28-30).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of Joseph’s imprisonment, “Better to be in jail with the LORD than anywhere else without Him.” Spurgeon goes on to comment that it is in trials that the proof of our faith is demonstrated. He said:
“Any fool can sing in the day. It’s easier to sing when we read the notes by daylight. But the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by. Songs in the night come only from God. They are not in the power of men.” - C.H. Spurgeon.
In the New Testament Paul said something similar to the Galatians when he was inspired by God to write: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” – Galatians 6:9. That’s the attitude we need in order to make the best of our times of trial which God allows in our lives to prepare us for His use. God has a plan and even though we feel imprisoned at times, we can trust that He is at work. The fruit of God’s labors are seen in the next chapter.
God’s Plan Can’t be Imprisoned
Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. 2 Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. 4 And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. 5 He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. 7 And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream. 8 Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.
9 Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: “I remember my faults this day. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, 11 we each had a dream in one night, he and I. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream. 13 And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him.”
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.”
16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river. 18 Suddenly seven cows came up out of the river, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. 19 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such ugliness as I have never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the gaunt and ugly cows ate up the first seven, the fat cows. 21 When they had eaten them up, no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were just as ugly as at the beginning. So I awoke. 22 Also I saw in my dream, and suddenly seven heads came up on one stalk, full and good. 23 Then behold, seven heads, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. 24 And the thin heads devoured the seven good heads. So I told this to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. 28 This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; 30 but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. 31 So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. 32 And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
33 “Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.”
37 So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. 47 Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. 49 Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable.
50 And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” 52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
53 Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” 56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. 57 So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.
God’s plans can’t be imprisoned by time or anything else. The gifts God gives us are honed by His patient planning and then Divine providence gives birth to opportunity to use them. That is what happens in Genesis 41. God had given Joseph dreams and the ability to interpret dreams (37:1-1-7; 40:8). Joseph faithfully used God’s gift giving credit to God (40:8, 9-22). Now God was going to provide the opportunity for Joseph, by way of using his God given ability, to be maneuvered into the thick of God’s ultimate divine plan. That opportunity came when Pharaoh had a dream.
Notice the account indicates that “at the end of two full years . . . that Pharaoh had a dream” (41:1). It was “two full years” that Pharaoh had his dream. That meant two full years of Joseph still in prison. How must he have felt? It was obvious to him by now that the butler had totally forgotten him. How would you have felt in his position, resentful, angry, confused, depressed, and disillusioned? How did Joseph feel? While God has not given us any detailed insight into the thoughts of Joseph we can learn something from what we do not see from Joseph. Not once in all his trials does Joseph even come close to complaining. The absence of any evidence of frustration or complaints form Joseph is a strong indication of the closeness to God this man had. It is only through a strong trusting relationship with God that a person could get through all that Joseph experienced without an inkling of displeasure. Joseph simply trusted God throughout and that is a profound lesson and corrective those of us who are prone to complaining. We need to be more like Joseph no matter our circumstances. By God’s grace we will be.
Pharaoh had two dreams. His first dream involved seven healthy fat cows coming out of the river followed by seven skinny gaunt cows that came and ate the healthy cows (41:2-4). In his second dream seven plump stalks of grain sprung up followed by seven thin heads of grain springing up and devouring the plump stalks (41:5-7). Pharaoh found these dreams troubling and called his magicians and wise me to interpret the dreams but they could not (41:8). It is at this point that the butler remembers Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams (41:9-13). It was no accident that the butler remembered Joseph at this point; it was the providential hand of God.
Joseph is swiftly brought from the dungeon and prepared to meet Pharaoh (40:14). When brought before Pharaoh the king tells Joseph, “I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it” (41:15). Joseph is quick to clarify and even correct Pharaoh (an act of faith and courage in and of itself since Pharaoh’s didn’t take too kindly to correction and could order immediate execution). Joseph says, “It is not me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (41:16). Joseph’s integrity and humility to not take one ounce of credit from His God reveals the godly character of this man of God. He isn’t angry with God at all. He is eager to bring glory and credit to God. That is the sign of true godly character. God can use a man like that; and He will.
Pharaoh tells Joseph the content of his dreams (41:17-24). The first thing Joseph says after he has heard Pharaoh tell him his dreams is, “. . . God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do” (41:25b). By doing this Joseph is not only giving credit to God but he is also subtly testifying to Pharaoh of the sovereign hand of God in working in the king and his kingdom. Joseph is pointing Pharaoh to God! When we look at the life of Joseph we see him taking advantage of every opportunity to share his faith and testify to God (e.g. 40:8; 41:16, 25, 28). Joseph is humble. Joseph is faithful. God is using him.
Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh telling him that the two dreams are really “one” (41:25a). “God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do” Joseph says (41:28). Joseph states the dreams indicate that there are going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven ears of famine (41:26-27). Joseph says explains Pharaoh had two dreams because, “And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (41:32). Again Joseph testifies to the sovereign power of God over the king and his kingdom.
Joseph then has the faith in God (who has placed him in this situation) to advise Pharaoh to select a wise man to put over Egypt to plan for the times ahead (41:33-36). Pharaoh receives Joseph’s interpretation and instruction and then determines, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? . . . Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you . . . See I have set you over all the land of Egypt” (41:37-41). Incredible! God has brought Joseph from a dungeon to second in command in the greatest world empire of his time, and He has done it in a matter of minutes. Oh there was a lot of waiting by Joseph; 13 years to be exact. But God in a single conversation with a couple of dreams has placed Joseph in a position second only to Pharaoh King of Egypt. Surely this should give us hope too! If God can do this for Joseph, He can do it for us. You may be discouraged and thinking nothing is happening in your life. You may feel forgotten and forsaken. You may feel like you’re going nowhere. And you may feel that time is passing you by, that time is running out. Don’t despair! God is able to restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). God is able to change things around in a moment. Trust Him; He is able to do it (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet ring, a supreme sign of authority (41:42). He had Joseph ride in “the second chariot” and ordered everyone to bow their knee to Joseph (41:43). And finally Pharaoh says to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (41:44). Pharaoh even gave Joseph a wife from a prestigious family (41:45a). That’s pretty impressive.
Joseph then, “went out over all the land of Egypt” (41:45b). Verse 46 tells us Joseph was thirty years old when all of this came about. Our account of Joseph began when he was seventeen (37:2). That means it took 13 years for God to network and maneuver Joseph into the position He had for him. By now it was clear to Joseph that something supernatural was happening in his life. God was working. But the final plan of God had yet to be revealed. Joseph was in a foreign land separated from his family but he knew God was at work and so he did his best to do his best in the place God had put him.
Joseph got right to work and started storing up food in the good years for the seven years of famine that were to come (41:47-49). Again all of this demonstrates Joseph’s faith in God and His interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. During the seven years of plenty Joseph was blessed with two sons (41:50). The names Joseph chose for his two sons show he did not leave his Hebrew heritage behind. They also show the ongoing strength of his faith in God. His first son he named Manasseh because, “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house” (41:51). Joseph had experienced great hardship but like a woman in labor, once God’s plan was birthed the labor pains of delivery were forgotten (John 16:21). His second son he named Ephraim because, “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (41:52). These two names indicate that Joseph still yearned for his family and a big part of him still saw his circumstance as “affliction.” But Joseph also recognized God was using him; “God has caused me to be fruitful.” Sacrifice is a part of being used by God. Jesus said those who follow Him need to deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). If you are going to take the cross of God’s purpose for you it will be necessary to die to self. Only then are you able to follow the LORD. Joseph is an example of how this is to be done.
The seven plentiful years predicted by the dream came to an end and the seven years of famine began (41:53-54). The famine was pervasive throughout the land but in Egypt there was bread. When the people ran out of provisions they came to Pharaoh who directed them to go to Joseph (41:55). The famine was over “all the face of the earth.” Because of the heaven sent wisdom of Joseph the people of Egypt and from “all countries” came to Joseph to buy grain (41:56-57). This further enriched Egypt and put this country in an influential position.
So what do we learn from Genesis 41? We can summarize the chapter in the following way:
1. God has a plan even when it seems we are imprisoned in circumstances – 41:1-15.
2. Always give glory to God; point people to Him – 41:16, 25, 28
3. Testify to the sovereign power of God to carry out His plan – 41:32
4. Be ready when God brings His plan to pass – 41:33-44
5. Maintain a holy attitude of trust in God; even if it takes 13 years to come to pass – 41:46 with 37:2
6. Remember who you are in God – 41:51-52
7. Trust God’s plan and be fruitful wherever He places you – 41:51-52
God has a plan. And His plan cannot be imprisoned. The doors he opens remain opened. The doors He shuts, remain shut (Revelation 3:8). He is always working behind the scenes. There are times when God permits trials in our lives. And there are times when we may feel like we are in prison and life is passing us by. In and through it all, God has a plan. There is patient prison preparation that the saint desiring to be used by God will go through. But in the end it will be worth it all. Look at Joseph. Follow his example. He didn’t complain. He gave glory to God. He remained ready for when God’s plan was revealed. God isn’t wasting your time. He’s fulfilling His plan. Trust Him.