From The Pit To The Palace

Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Rachel, as you can read in Genesis 30:22-24

Then God remembered Rachel; He listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

Now Joseph was Jacob’s favourite son, as you can read in Genesis 37:3

Now Israel (or Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in his old age, and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.

As can be expected, Jacob’s favouritism of Joseph caused his brothers to become very jealous of him, as you can read in Genesis 37:4

When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Their jealousy only increased when they found out that God had given Joseph a very special gift: that of receiving and understanding dreams, as you can read in Genesis 37:5-9

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.” His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Then he had another dream and he told it to his brothers, “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

Perhaps you too believe that God has put a desire in your heart, you could call it a dream, to do something specific for Him. You may not know exactly what it is but you know that it is from the Lord.

Apparently Joseph now felt the need to tell his brothers these dreams. This shows us that Joseph was far from ready to actually do what God called him to do, so God sent him for training. This was a training programme which was tailor-made for him to build Godly character into his life.

Likewise, in your life you may not yet have seen happen what you believe God has in mind for you, and you don’t understand why that is so. Very likely that is because you need further training to be made ready for what God has for you to do. And it will be a training program specifically for you, for God knows you, and knows what needs to be done in you before He can work through you.

Joseph’s training is done in Egypt. You may wonder how he got there. Let’s read the story. You can find it in Genesis 37:12-28

Now his (Joseph’s) brothers had gone down to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied. So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. When Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?” He replied, “I am looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, “Let’s go to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. ”Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said, “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the richly ornamented robe he was wearing – and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

When he arrives in Egypt he is taken into the home of Potiphar, as you can read in Genesis 37:36

Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Your training may not take you to another country. Your training may well take place where you were born. Wherever your training will take place, you can be certain that it will be at the place God intends it to be. You are not there by accident. You are there by God’s design. He planned for you to be there at this time to prepare you for whatever He has for you to do, as you can read in Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Joseph’s first training ground is in the house of a man named Potiphar. He will have learned many things there even though he may have wondered whether his dreams will ever come true. Things do look good though for him because he has great favour with Potiphar. Over time Joseph may well have begun to hope that one day Potiphar will give him back his freedom and allow him to return home so that his God-given dreams will be fulfilled. After all, he has earned this man’s complete trust, as you can read in Genesis 39:2-6a

The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

It looks like Joseph is more like a son to Potiphar than a slave… or is he?

Like Joseph you may find yourself in circumstances you would not have chosen, if you had been given a choice. However, God wants you to know that He is with you even in these circumstances and that He is teaching you things you would not otherwise learn. Perhaps you have been asking God for a change in your circumstances, believing that he will answer your prayers.

Joseph’s circumstances are changed by God, Who all along has been watching the progress of Joseph. Yet God knows that there are still issues in his life which need to be dealt with and that further training is required to make that happen so God designs a plan whereby Joseph does indeed leave Potiphar’s home. However, his destination is not Jacob’s tent but an Egyptian prison, as you can read in Genesis 39:6b-20a

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story, “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

Joseph will have never expected to be thrown in prison, especially because he has done the right thing. How could God have allowed this to happen? And what will happen to his God-given dreams? Who will find him now? It is true, he is placed in a prison where only the king’s prisoners, the prisoners from Pharaoh’s Court are being held. That fact may not matter to Joseph for to him all prisons are alike but to God it matters very much which prison Joseph spends time in as you will find out later on.

Circumstances may have changed for some of you as well. However, just as in the life of Joseph, these new circumstances may not have been in line with what you have asked God for. You have asked God for easier circumstances. However, it seems He has allowed more difficult circumstances in your life. You don’t understand why this is happening. As far as you know you have done the right things and you should be rewarded accordingly. But that is not what seems to have happened. You want to say to God, “Have you not heard my prayers, God? I have asked you for easier circumstances, not more difficult ones.” If that is the case with you then God wants you to know that He has some more issues He wants to deal with in your life and He wants to use these new circumstances in your life as part of your further training.

One day Joseph gets to know two new prisoners, as you can read in Genesis 40:1-19

Sometime later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men – the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison – had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness, mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favourable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream. On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

Two men have been put into the prison where only the king’s prisoners are being held because they have been serving at Pharaoh’s court. God has made sure that Joseph is in the same prison so he can meet them. God then gives both men a dream and gives Joseph the interpretation. Everything works out exactly as Joseph has foretold; the baker is hanged and the cupbearer is reinstated in his position at Pharaoh’s Court.

Joseph is convinced that God will use the cupbearer to help him come out of prison and so he waits to hear from Pharaoh’s Court. Day after day he expects someone to knock on his cell door to tell him, “Joseph get dressed, the Pharaoh is expecting you.” But days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months and no one ever comes to get him….

Surely, God must have forgotten him and the dreams He has given him. After all, thirteen years have passed since he had been sold into slavery…

Some of you may have come to believe that surely your training time has come to an end for it seems God has begun to put things in your life which might take you out of your circumstances. After all, it is not your fault that you are in your circumstances. You have done nothing to deserve them. But then, like Joseph, you wait and wait for a change to come but nothing happens. At last you give up. God must have forgotten you and the desires He had placed in your heart. After all it has been a long time since you first had these desires.

But God has not forgotten Joseph and just at the right time when God knows that Joseph is ready for the task God has prepared for him God gives Pharaoh a dream. In fact, He gives him two dreams, as you can read in Genesis 41:1-7

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream. He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.

Pharaoh wakes up after a night of dreams. These dreams do not make sense to him but he believes he knows who can interpret these dreams. However, he soon finds out that he is mistaken, as you can read in Genesis 41:8

In the morning his mind was troubled so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dream, but no one could interpret them for him.

There was only one person in all of Egypt who has the God-given ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and God has made sure he is in the right place at the right time as, you can read in Genesis 41:9-13 

Then the chief cup bearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.”

The cupbearer may believe that he should have mentioned Joseph to Pharaoh before this day but he will not have realised that God has prevented him from speaking to Pharaoh about Joseph since it was not yet the time to do so. However, the day has come for Joseph to be released from prison according to God’s schedule and, consequently, God gives Pharaoh two dreams that no one can interpret, apart from the man chosen by God.

Now for Joseph this has been a night as any other night and when he gets up that morning he has absolutely no idea that his circumstances are about to change drastically. As far as he is concerned, he knows the day’s routine…. But then there is a knock on his cell door. Who can that be? He does not expect anyone to knock at his cell door. It must be a mistake for no-one ever comes for him. He better tell that person who is outside his door that he has knocked on the wrong door. The last time he has been expecting a knock on his cell door has been two years ago. But no-one has ever come so he is no longer going to allow himself to hope for a miracle. That will be too painful to bear. But then the person outside his door just will not go away so he better open the door….

“You mean, Pharaoh is asking for me? He wants me to come to his palace?

Now? Only let me get ready for I cannot appear before Pharaoh in my prison outfit. I have been set free and I must wear the appropriate clothing.”

You can read this in Genesis 41:14

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

Likewise, God has not forgotten you either. Neither has He forgotten the desires, the longings He has placed in your heart. And at the right time, when you are ready He will make these desires, these longings come true.

And like Joseph you must make sure that you are wearing the right garment when that happens. So change your garment of despair to a garment of praise, as you can read in Isaiah 61:3

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

It may be that you do not know that God has a plan for your life, just as He had for Joseph. In that case, you need to ask God for His plan for your life and then trust God to work in your life through your circumstances to make you ready to fulfil His plan for your life.

Or it may be that you do know that God has a plan for your life but have not seen it happen as yet. Don’t give up hope for you are in training and when the training has finished God will use you for His purposes. Just be patient for God is at work even when you don’t know it.

Or it may be that you have gone through the training and you know that God has said, “Now is the time to serve Me in the way I have shown you”. In that case, I would like to invite you to put on the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair which may have crept in because of the long wait. Then go and serve the Lord in the way He has asked you to.

God Means It For Good