Gems from Genesis: Chapter 41

Joseph is still in prison. Yes, he’d given an accurate interpretation of the two dreams, one which restored a man to his position in Pharaoh’s court and another which led to the death of the baker. One would think that the cupbearer would have given credit to Joseph, but chapter forty of Genesis ends with this phrase: “but forgot him.”

Now as chapter forty-one begins, we have an idea of just how long he forgot Joseph:

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed.

Genesis 41:1a ESV

Wow, two years more in that prison—forgotten by man but not by God. How do we know? Because of the second part of that first verse: Pharaoh dreamed, and God knew this would be a dream no one could interpret but the man he’d chosen for the job.

When we think God’s not at work, not seeing our faithfulness to him or our good deeds on his behalf, think again. Joseph’s wait in prison had to do with God’s timing, not a man’s forgetfulness. This is where we find our gem. It comes after all the magicians and wise men of Pharaoh’s court failed to interpret the dream.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

Genesis 41:9-16

God’s timing is always perfect.

The Lord set the stage for Joseph’s act of kindness to be remembered when it benefitted God’s plan for his people. If Joseph had been released two years earlier, he may have ended up a servant in another home, lost to the memory of the cupbearer and not within easy reach of Pharaoh’s guards. The fact that he remembered him and spoke up at a critical time for the ruler of Egypt enabled God not only to use the gift he’d given Joseph to answer Pharaoh’s question, but to have maximum impact on the people of Egypt and Israel for years to come.

Joseph didn’t seek imprisonment, nor did he seek rising to leadership in Pharaoh’s court. God opened both doors for reasons Joseph would not understand at the time. He may not have understood them until the day, years later, when he saw his brothers standing in a line for grain.

Instant gratification can be disheartening.

If the cupbearer had remembered Joseph in the moment, think what Joseph would have missed. After all, rising to the number two spot in Egypt was pretty amazing, right? He got to see how the Lord provided in abundance during the years of harvest in order to meet the needs of his own people in time of famine. That wasn’t a Joseph thing—it was a God thing!

Do we sometimes seek instant recognition for our deeds to the detriment of God’s timing in having a person remember them? What blessing do we miss by wanting credit in the moment? How often do we miss God’s opportunity to use us for a big thing, because we don’t give him credit in the small?

Pharaoh heard from the cupbearer that there was this guy who could interpret dreams, so when he told that to Joseph, Joseph could have easily said, “Yeah, that’s me,” but he doesn’t. Instead, he gives credit where credit is due—to God. “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

Because Joseph gave the credit to God and then proved his faith by interpreting the dreams that must have been hard for Pharaoh to hear, the ruler of Egypt exclaimed:

“Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”

Genesis 41:38-40

When we give credit to God, others see him in us.

It was clear as day, even to a pagan ruler, that the Spirit of God was in Joseph. If the Spirit of God was in him, that was the man he wanted for this important job. For where the Spirit is, there is discernment and wisdom, which is highly lacking in our world today.

Forgotten by men, but not forgotten by God. Joseph rises to the top by staying faithful while on the bottom. Is God using you today in the lowly place or in the place of power? Either way, be faithful, give him the glory and credit for all he enables you to accomplish, and he will bring you honor as his Spirit works in and through you.

Grace and Peace

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