God Means It For Good
Having looked at the first part of Joseph’s life you have learned that his father was Jacob and that his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife.
Furthermore, you have learned that Jacob spoiled Joseph greatly by giving him a special coat, and that Jacob’s actions caused Joseph's brothers to become jealous of him.
Moreover, God gave Joseph two dreams. From these dreams, Joseph understood that one day his family would bow down to him. He announced that to his family and this caused his brothers to become even more jealous of Joseph. In fact, they began to hate Joseph so much that they began to plot how to be rid of him. They did this by selling him to merchants who were on their way to Egypt. Consequently, he found himself sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar. However, that was not the end of his misery for, after he had served Potiphar well, he found himself thrown in prison for doing what was right.
He must have felt that God had forgotten him and his dreams. One day in prison things seemed to have taken a turn for the better when he was able to interpret the dreams of two men who had served at Pharaoh’s Court but that too ended in disappointment for he never heard from either one of them again. And then, unexpectedly as far as Joseph was concerned, one day he heard a knock on the door of his prison cell and he was told he was needed at Pharaoh’s Court. And that’s where we pick up the story. For God had not forgotten Joseph, neither had God forgotten Joseph’s dreams. God had obviously decided that after 13 years, Joseph’s training at Potiphar’s home as well as the prison had paid off, and that Joseph was now ready for the task God had for him. A week before the knock on his prison cell door he was not completely ready. Even the day before the knock on his prison cell door he was not yet completely ready. But then the day came when he had passed all the tests God had prepared for him in order to be able to fulfil his God-given task. So that night God gave Pharaoh 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 river bank. 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.
God then made sure that Pharaoh would be so troubled by these dreams that he would ask for help. At the same time, He made sure that the help Pharaoh had in mind would not be useful at all, 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 dreams, but no-one could interpret for him.
God then brought back to the cupbearer’s mind an experience he had had with someone when he was in prison, as you can read in Genesis 41:9-13
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcoming. 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.”
This caused the Pharaoh to call for Joseph, as you can read 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.
Now you need to remember that Joseph would not have known that that day things would be changing dramatically for him. As far as he was concerned, this day was going to be like any other day in prison and so would tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and the day after…and the day after….
But then there was a knock on his cell door and life changed forever for him.
As he stood before the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh began to explain the reason for Joseph’s coming to Court, as you can read in Genesis 41:15
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
You can see from Joseph’s answer that he really has changed since he had his dreams. Let’s read Genesis 41:16
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
It is clear from Joseph’s answer that the pride he displayed in his youth, has completely gone. He has become a humble man who has learned that he can do nothing of himself, as you can read in John 15:5 where Jesus says:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
And Joseph makes sure the Pharaoh knows that it is God who gives the interpretation of dreams. Pharaoh then tells him his dreams in Genesis 41:17-24
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up –scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no-one could tell that they had done so; thy looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up. In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, healthy and good, 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. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.”
The Pharaoh mentions as well that the magicians are not able to explain the dreams. No doubt this will have upset him. After all, these men claim to know things beyond the natural, and he will have relied upon them all these years. But this time they have completely let him down, and that at a time when he is in such a great need of understanding his dreams.
Pharaoh must have felt such a relief when he hears the words of Joseph that God will give him the answer he desires. And he is not disappointed, because Joseph does indeed give him the explanation, as inspired by God in Genesis 41:25-32
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.
The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind; they are seven years of famine.”
However, God does not only enable Joseph to interpret the dreams for Pharaoh, He gives Joseph wisdom in knowing how to put the dreams into action, as you can read in Genesis 41:33-36
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
Pharaoh is wise enough to realise who should put that plan into action for it can only be the one who has been given the knowledge not only what his dreams mean but how these dreams should be implemented. And that person is Joseph, as you can read in Genesis 41:37-39
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no-one so discerning and wise as you. You should be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
You can see here that Pharaoh recognises and honours the God that Joseph serves.
You can see here too that God is using all the practical skills Joseph has learned when he was in charge of the household of Potiphar, as well as the time when he was overseeing everything in prison, so that he can now administrate this great task of overseeing the storage of food. Likewise, you too may know that God has a specific calling for you but you are not at present walking in your calling. As a matter of fact, you are doing something which may not be remotely related to what you believe the Lord is calling you to do. Like Joseph, do not despair. God will use your present training to get you ready physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and, at the right time, you too will walk in what God has for you. Going back to the story of Joseph, after the seven years of plenty, the seven years of famine start. This period does not just affect Egypt but its neighbouring countries, as you can read in Genesis 41:57
And all the countries came to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.
The famine affects Jacob and his family as well so Jacob sends ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, as you can read in Genesis 42:1-2
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, ”I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
With these words Jacob sends his sons on a path which will end up them all bowing down to Joseph, as foretold in the dreams of Joseph. Let’s read Genesis 42:6
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.
It is only then that God brings to Joseph’s remembrance the dreams God had given him so many years ago, as you can read in Genesis 42:8-9
Although Joseph recognised his brothers, his brothers did not recognise him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them: “You are spies. You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
Joseph may have originally thought that his dreams would be fulfilled in his father’s tent, but God had never shown him how, or when, or where, these dreams were to be fulfilled. It must have been such a bitter-sweet moment for he will not only have remembered the dreams themselves, he will have remembered that he had gone to his family members to tell them that they would bow down to him. O, how full of pride he had been, how full of arrogance, how full of foolishness. He recognises these things now but he had not then. Moreover, he recognises that God has been the source behind his brothers’ scheme to sell him as a slave to Egypt…. so that godly character could be formed in him and he could prepare the way for the eventual coming of his family to Egypt.
Joseph recognises his brothers but they do not recognise him so he puts them through some tests to find out if they have changed. He demands as well that that they return with their youngest brother, as you can read in Genesis 42:14-20
Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have told you: You are spies. And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies.” And he put them all in custody for three days. On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.
The brothers, except Simeon, go back home to Jacob and report everything to him. But Jacob is unwilling to let his youngest son Benjamin go. However, in time, they completely run out of food again so Jacob has no choice but to let them go, and this time Benjamin has to go as well. Once again they meet with Joseph, who still does not reveal to them who he is, as you can read in Genesis 43.
This chapter starts with the following words in verses 1-2
Now the famine was still severe in the land, so when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little food.”
And ends with the words in verse 34
When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
Joseph tests them once again and they pass each test. For their final test. he has his personal silver cup placed in the grain sack of Benjami, as you can read in Genesis 44:2
“Then put my cup, the silver one in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.
Joseph then tells the brothers that Benjamin has to stay behind as a slave, as you can read in Genesis 44:17b
“……Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
However, a real change has taken place in the lives of these men, as you can see from the account of Judah in Genesis 44:18-34
Then Judah went up to him and said, “Please, my lord, let your servant speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, “Do you have a father or a brother? And we answered, “We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.” And we said to my lord, “The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.” But you told your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” When we went back to your servant, my father, we told him what my lord had said. Then our father said, “Go back, and buy a little more food.” But we said, “We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons. One of them went away from me, and I said, “He has surely been torn to pieces. And I have not seen him since. If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in misery.” So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the grey head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life.” Now then please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.”
Previously, they had callously thrown away the life of Joseph which had brought so much grief to their father’s heart. But their hearts have been so softened they cannot do this again. God has been at work in the life and heart of Joseph, but He has been at work in the lives and hearts of the brothers as well. Joseph knows the time has come to reveal himself to his brothers, as you can read in Genesis 45:3
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living? But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”
You need to remember that Joseph has known for some time already that these men are his brothers, for he recognised them the first time they stood before him. But his brothers have absolutely no idea that the “Egyptian” who stands before them is not who he claims to be. So Joseph’s revelation of who he really is comes as a great shock to them, for they will have realised that the past has finally caught up with them. And there is no running away from it; they have to face it.And that is how it is for you. Sooner or later God will want you to face anything you may have done in the past that has not been right. This is for your sake so that you can come clean of these things, can be forgiven and be set free from any guilt, condemnation in relation to these things.
Joseph understands then as well why God has allowed him to be sold into Egypt by his brothers for it has happened so that their lives will be saved, as you can read in Genesis 45:4-5
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, for it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Furthermore, Joseph tells his brothers to bring their families as well as their father with them to Egypt, because the famine is going to continue for a number of years, as you can read in Genesis 45:13
“Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
So Jacob and his family end up travelling back to Egypt where they meet Joseph, as you can read in Genesis 46: 28-29
Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.
The moment that Joseph has been anticipating ever since he has told his brothers to return to him with their families has finally arrived; they have returned. But Joseph only sees one person; his aged father!! It is to him he runs. At that moment he is not the most important official in Egypt. No, he is the son who has been separated from his father for many, many years and the time to grief over the loss of that time has finally come. No doubt, this pain, this grief has been locked up on the inside of him and no one has ever been allowed to see it. But that day he can no longer hold it back and he allows the tears, which have been there for all these years, to freely flow so that a healing, a restoration can take place on the inside of him. Then it is time for Jacob and his family to settle in the land of Egypt.
Eventually Jacob dies in Egypt, and the brothers are still afraid that Joseph will take revenge for all they have done to him, as you can read in Genesis 50:15-18
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died, “This is what you are to say to Joseph: “I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
Perhaps at an earlier stage in Joseph’s life he may have wanted to take revenge, but God has done a great work in Joseph’s heart and God has shown him the reason he has suffered so much, as he explains this to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-20
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
It has taken Joseph many years to have a full understanding of God’s plan for his life. but the day has come when he realises that him having been sold as a slave has not prevented his God-given dreams of his family bowing down to him from happening. On the contrary, God has used the circumstances in his life to make these dreams come true. Joseph has finally learned that with God nothing is impossible and He will do what he has promised to do but it will happen in His Way, in His time and for His purpose.
Joseph’s story is to encourage you that, just as God had a plan for Joseph which God fulfilled to it smallest detail, likewise God has a plan for you, 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.
As was in the case of Joseph, you may well have to undergo a training program, specifically prepared for you, to get you ready for that which God has for you to do. That training program may not seem to fit the particular calling, you believe, God has for you. Nevertheless, if you do as Joseph did and are willing and obedient to serve the Lord wherever that may be and to do whatever He has for you to do then, when the time is right, you will walk in the fullness of your calling. And, like Joseph, you will then fully understand that your training was absolutely necessary as preparation for the task God had all along prepared for you.