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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 24, 2016

Genesis 39:20:23, 41:1-45

  1. Verses 21-23. From the untrained eye, it would seem like Joseph life is heading in the wrong the direction. But from the faith perspective we know that God is just pulling Joseph back to launch him forward. Arrows must be pulled back on the bow for them to hit their targets. Just because you are being pulled back doesn't mean you won’t go forward at record pace. He does right and becomes a slave and then ends up spending years in an Egyptian prison. The more Joseph obeyed God, the worse life got it would seem. The final paragraph creates a perfect symmetry for the chapter. Each phrase matches almost perfectly with a corresponding phrase in the beginning of this section (39:2-6a). Once again Moses states, “The LORD was with Joseph” while he was in prison, just as He had been with him in Potiphar’s house (cp. 39:20-21 with 39:2). Joseph found favor in the sight of the prison warden, just as he had with Potiphar (cp. 39:21b and 39:4a). The prison warden put Joseph in charge of everything that went on there, just as Potiphar had placed Joseph over his entire household (cp. 39:22 and 39:4b). What happened in Potiphar’s house, also happened in Pharaoh's prison. Joseph soon became the chief administrator of the entire prison. Handling prisoners was a more difficult matter than handling the possessions of Potiphar. It was the same area of training; Joseph was an administrator. But the level of training was now higher. God was preparing Joseph for the day when he would be administering the entire land of Egypt. (41:41). The Lord blessed Joseph's work and made everything he did in prison prosper, just as He had done earlier when Joseph was in Potiphar’s house (cp. 39:23 and 39:5). In light of the tragic events in the intervening verses, this symmetry illustrates God's sovereign and gracious control. No matter where you end up, God is with you. Joseph is a great lesson on how to turn lemons into lemonade. This is why you can't let your situation defeat you. If so you might miss an opportunity for promotion.

  2. Chapter 40:1-3. These three verses demonstrate God's sovereignty. While Joseph is apparently wasting away in jail, God brings some influential and unexpected guests. The cupbearer and baker were responsible for Pharaoh’s drink and food. The word “in” is repeated three times in 40:3 to emphasize that God is the One that sovereignly drops these two men into prison with Joseph. God placed these men in the prison for Joseph’s sake. God will place people “in” your life for your benefit. Never underestimate why folk are placed in your life at your lowest moments. There are some folks that you won't meet until you are at some low points in life.

  3. Verses 4-8. “The captain of the bodyguard” (none other than Potiphar) put Joseph in charge of the cupbearer and baker. Moses writes that he “attended” (sharath) to the men. This word means “to wait on as a servant” (cf. 39:4). Joseph isn't consumed by bitterness. He doesn't spiral into depression. Instead, he chooses to focus his attention on serving those around him. In time, the cupbearer and baker each had a dream on the very same night. When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. It is important to observe that Joseph took notice of the condition of the men. He could have easily become mired in self-pity. Instead, he takes notice that the cupbearer and baker look uncharacteristically discouraged and immediately discerned that something was wrong. Joseph was the one that ought to be sad. He was the one who had been falsely accused and put in prison. Yet, here he is, cheering up somebody else! Even though we may be in adverse conditions we can still encourage a person who is in even greater trouble than we are. When we are waiting for somebody to encourage us, it may be that we can be encouraging somebody else. The cupbearer and baker are sad and discouraged because there was no one to interpret their dreams. Dreams played an important role in ancient Egypt, and their interpretation was a specialized skill. As prisoners, the cupbearer and baker have no access to expert interpreters. Joseph recognized that the dreams of the cupbearer and baker were revelations from God. Realizing that God had given him the ability to interpret their divine revelations, Joseph invited the two prisoners to relate their dreams to him. He was careful, however, to give God the glory for his interpretative gift (40:8; cf. 41:16, 25, 28, 39).

  4. Verses 9-19. Joseph prepared himself to hear the cupbearer’s dream. The dream was about vines and branches. Joseph said to him, “’This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh's cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon (40:9-15).’ Joseph probably saw this as the means of God's provision to his prayers.” While content to remain in the dungeon for as long as God willed, Joseph also made every effort to seek his release through every legitimate channel. Being content is your mind set not your effort. Don’t lose your mind while you’re waiting. When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favorably, he told Joseph about his dream about baskets and bread. Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh off you” (40:16-19). The baker would not simply suffer execution, but his corpse would then be impaled and publicly exposed.

  5. Verses 20-23. Joseph's predictions came true just as God had said! He was two for two in his interpretations. Unfortunately, the chief cupbearer “forgot” Joseph. Our text does not indicate what happened in Joseph’s heart as he waited in vain day after day. It just ends with the bleak words, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (40:23). This is yet another reminder that people will disappoint us. Joseph is forgotten for two years. Two years in a dungeon, two years out of his twenties--the prime of his life. Those two silent years in the dungeon after his disappointment with the cupbearer were a time of learning to hope in God. Joseph's life teaches us that disappointments are essential to spiritual growth because they demand faith and resting all hope upon God. Nowhere in this narrative do we see Joseph feeling sorry for himself or blaming others. He simply took each situation as it came and made the best out of it. The biggest problem in life is not having problems. Our problem is thinking that having problems is a problem. Every setback is an opportunity to grow in dependence on the Lord. Today, God wants to use adversity to benefit you. He wants to use your suffering to prepare you for extraordinary service.

  6. In 41:1-14 Pharaoh has two hideous dreams. In the first dream, seven fat cows are eaten by seven gaunt cows (41:1-4). In the second dream, seven plump ears of grain are eaten by seven thin ears (41:5-7). In 41:8, Moses writes, “Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so 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 to Pharaoh.” The “magicians” that Pharaoh sent for were the wisest, most educated men of Pharaoh's kingdom. They were schooled in the sacred arts and sciences of the Egyptians. Yet, Pharaoh's magicians and wise men were totally baffled because the two dreams were a revelation from God. It was not good for the king to be in such a state, and certainly not for anyone who worked so closely with him, as did the cupbearer. So at the opportune time, the cupbearer delicately volunteered that he knew of someone who could interpret Pharaoh's dreams (41:9-13). “Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh” (41:14).

  7. Verses 15-16. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Joseph desired to be released from prison, he never brought up the subject. His first concern was not with his own comfort, but with serving God faithfully in the midst of God’s divine appointment. Joseph quickly attributes his powers to God. He freely admits he has nothing to offer in and of himself. The interpretations come from God alone. Joseph is a man of steel. He told Pharaoh, who himself was considered to be god incarnate that “the God” (ha Elohim) would explain his dream! Thus, to Pharaoh’s face, Joseph asserted that his God was superior to and sovereign over Pharaoh and the “gods” of Egypt. The reader of Genesis can see that God was moving, because this was the third pair of God-given dreams that Joseph had been given to interpret. But Pharaoh did not know this. In fact, he did not believe in Israel’s God. And besides, he thought that he himself was a god.

  8. Verses 17-36. Pharaoh explained his dreams to Joseph. Joseph informs Pharaoh that his dreams are “one and the same” (41:25). The seven good cows and the seven good ears are seven years of plenty. The seven lean cows and the seven thin ears will be seven years of famine (41:25-31). Joseph's solution is as follows: “Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh's authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine” (41:33-36).

  9. In 41:37-45, we read Pharaoh's response to Joseph's interpretations: “Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, Joseph went from the pit to the pinnacle, from the gutter to glory: and all in one day!”

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