From The Pit To The Palace
The second story we will look at is the story of Joseph. He was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Joseph’s mother was Rachel. And Rachel had been barren for many years until she became pregnant with Joseph, as we 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, and he had a special coat made for him. Consequently, his brothers became very jealous of him. In fact, their jealousy was so great that they began to hate him (Genesis 37:3-4). Their jealousy only increased when, one day, Joseph spoke to his brothers and told them the following:
(Joseph) “Listen to this, brothers, you all know that our father favours me over you. But I think God favours me over you as well. You don’t think so? Well, let me prove it to you. You see, I had a dream last night. Don’t look at me with eyes of unbelief. I really had a dream. And this was the dream: We were all binding sheaves of corn out in the field. And then suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright. And your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it. So you see, God does favour me over you. And there is nothing either you or I can do about it (Genesis 37:5-7).”
His brothers listened to him and then in one voice spoke up, as we can read in Genesis 37:8 “So 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.
(Joseph’s brothers) ”Who does he think he is? He is nothing more than a seventeen-year old spoiled brat. And he think, he has had a dream from God. It is nothing more than his own imagination. Such nonsense so let’s forget it. That’s Joseph again! What has he come for this time? “Yes, Joseph, You have come to tell us you have had another one of these dreams. And you think that not only we, your brothers, will bow down to you but that our parents will bow down to you as well. Because you have told us now that there were eleven stars in your dream and the sun and the moon. Joseph, please stop talking such nonsense. These dreams are not from God. They are simply your own imagination. (Genesis 37:9-11)”
Perhaps you also 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. As for Joseph, apparently he felt the need to tell his brothers these dreams. This shows us that he was far from ready to actually fulfil God’s plan for him, so God sent him on a training program which was tailor-made for him to build Godly character into his life. Likewise, as yet you may not have seen happen in your life what you believe God has in mind for you, and you may not 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 was not done at home but far away in Egypt. Let us go back to Joseph’s story to find out how he got there.
(Joseph) “My father has sent me on a mission to find my brothers for he seems to be quite worried about them. They have taken out a flock somewhere out there and they have been away for some time. So he has asked me to find them to see if they are doing okay (Genesis 37:12-14). And I have been looking for them for some time and it has been quite difficult to find them but I do think I spot them in the distance. Yes, these definitely are my brothers so I better hurry to go and find them so that I can return to my father for I have promised to come back to him so that I can give him a report of their well being (Genesis 37:15-17).”
However, before Joseph reached his brothers, his brothers spotted him (Genesis 37:18). (Joseph’s brothers) “That looks like Joseph, don’t you think? Yes, it is definitely Joseph! After all, look at the coat he is wearing! Only Joseph would wear such a coat! You know what? This is our chance for revenge. Let’s do something to get rid of him because then his dreams will never be able to come true (Genesis 37:19-20). “Hello, Joseph. Why have you come? Come to spy on us? No, Joseph, that will not happen. We are going to throw you into this cistern. And Joseph, we are not going to be merciful. We are going to keep you here (Genesis 37:23-24).” “Look some merchants. You know what, let’s find out who they are and where they are going. Perhaps we can sell our brother to them. After all, he is our brother and we shouldn’t really kill him.” “Oh, you are going to Egypt. Could you take Joseph with you? You can sell him off as a slave. How much is he worth, you think? Twenty shekels. Agreed. You can have Joseph and we will take your twenty shekels (Genesis 37:25-28).”
So Joseph did not return home as he had promised his father. Instead, he was taken to Egypt. When he arrived in Egypt, he was sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials (Genesis 37:36). 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 to prepare you for whatever He has for you to do. Let us read it again, 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.
Let us now go back to Joseph’s story, and see how he is doing far away from home.
(Joseph) ”Who would have thought that I, the favourite son of my father, would find myself in Egypt. And I believed that God had given me dreams. And in these dreams my family was bowing down to me. Of course, that will now never happen for I am in Egypt and my family is in Canaan. So what am I to do? It seems that God may have forgotten about me. And yet, I do sense that He is still watching over me because the home I am in is a good home. My master is a good and kind master. And he does treat me well. Perhaps one day he might allow me to go back to Canaan so that my dreams can be fulfilled after all (Genesis 39:1-6).”
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 were changed by God who, all along, had been watching the progress of Joseph. Yet God knew there were still issues in his life that needed to be dealt with, and that further training was required to make that happen. So God designed a plan whereby Joseph did indeed leave Potiphar’s house. However, his destination was not Jacob’s tent. Let us go back to Joseph’s story to see what happened next. (Joseph) “As I already told you Potiphar has been a very kind and good master and he, in fact, placed me over his whole household. This means that he completely trusts me. And I know I will never do anything to harm him. I wonder if, perhaps, he has begun to care for me like a son rather than a slave. Unfortunately, his wife is not as good as he is. And she has been trying to tempt me to sin. But I don’t want to sin because I want to be pleasing to my God so I have been praying for God to protect me in these difficult circumstances because, I believe, I should remain at Potiphar’s house since it is such a good home and I believe this home has been provided for me by God (Genesis 39:7-10).”
Joseph may have believed that God would keep him at Potiphar’s home for further training, but God had other plans for him. Let us find out where they took Joseph. (Joseph) " I cannot believe what has happened to me. I am no longer in Potiphar’s house. But that is not because I did something wrong. I did something right and because of doing something right I am now in prison. You see, one day I was in the house and all the other servants were gone somewhere else. And my mistress insisted that I spend time with her. So the only thing for me to do was to flee the house. But I was in such a hurry that I forgot to take my coat. If only I had remembered to take my coat. But there was no time for me to do so (Genesis 39:11-12). My mistress then showed my coat to my master and told him that I had gone to see her to take advantage of her (Genesis 39:13-18). My master believed her, of course. And in his anger he has thrown me in prison (Genesis 39:19-20). That is where I am now. One day I am his favourite slave, nearly like a son, the next day I am a prisoner. What is God doing to me? Has He forgotten about me?”
Joseph would have never expected to be thrown in prison, especially since he had done the right thing. How could God have allowed this to happen? It was true, he had been placed in a prison where only the king’s prisoners, the prisoners from Pharaoh’s Court were being held (Genesis 39:20). That fact may not have mattered much to Joseph for, to him, all prisons may have been alike, but to God it mattered very much in which prison Joseph spent time, as we will find out later on. Circumstances may have changed for 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, since you may have asked God for easier circumstances, not more difficult circumstances. But that is what He seems to have allowed to happen in your life. As far as you are concerned, you have done the right thing and you should have been rewarded accordingly. But that is not what seems to have happened. You would like to say to God, “God, have you not heard my prayers? 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 more issues He wants to deal with in your life, and He wants to use these new circumstances as part of your further training. As for Joseph, one day Joseph was told to take care of two new prisoners. (Joseph) “I am just so excited about what has happened. And it has happened in prison of all places. You see, I may be set free any day now. I know it is impossible for that to happen for once in prison, always in prison. But I believe God is going to do a miracle on my behalf. Let me explain why I think that is so. A few days ago I walked into the cells of two of my prisoners. One is Pharaoh’s cupbearer or, at least, he was Pharaoh’s cupbearer. And the other was Pharaoh’s baker (Genesis 40:1-4). When I walked into their cells I noticed they looked very depressed. So I asked them why they were looking so unhappy (Genesis 40:5-7). And they both told me they had had a dream but there was no-one to interpret their dream for them (Genesis 40:8a). Then God reminded me that long ago He had given me two dreams. I had chosen to forget these dreams because I do not believe these dreams will ever come true. However, God told me to pray to Him for He would give me understanding of their dreams. And so I did (Genesis 40:8b). And then God showed me that the cupbearer would be re-instated in his position at the Court (Genesis 40:9-13). Before he left for Pharaoh’s Palace I spoke to him. I told him that I am here in prison without any cause because I have not done anything wrong. Therefore, I do not deserve to be in prison. I asked him to speak to Pharaoh on my behalf (Genesis 40:14-15). And I believe he will do so because, no doubt, he will be very grateful that I have been able to save his life. And so now I am waiting for I am sure that very soon I will hear a knock on my cell door. And will be taken to Pharaoh’s Palace.”
God had made sure that Joseph was in the prison where only the king’s prisoners were being held, so that he would meet Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, to help them understand their dreams. And Joseph was convinced that God was going to use the cupbearer to help him come out of prison (Genesis 40:21-22). So he waited to hear from Pharaoh’s Court. Day after day, he expected someone to knock on his cell door to tell him, “Joseph, get dressed, the Pharaoh wants to see you.” But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and no-one ever came to fetch him (Genesis 40:23). Surely, God must have forgotten him and the dreams He had given him. After all, many years had passed since he had been sold into slavery.
Some of you may have come to believe that surely your training has ended, 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 find yourself in your circumstances. You have done nothing to deserve them. But then, like Joseph, you wait and wait for a change 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. As for Joseph, one day Joseph did hear a knock on the door of his cell. Who could that be? He did not expect anyone to knock on his cell door. It must be a mistake. The last time he had been expecting a knock on his cell door was two years ago. But no-one ever came, so he was no longer allowing himself to hope for a miracle. That would be too painful to bear. But the person outside his cell door did not stop knocking so perhaps he should open the door, just in case this person had come from the Palace.…… (Genesis 41:14).
Like Joseph, you may know that God has a plan and a purpose for your life but you have not seen its fulfilment as yet. Don’t give up hope, for you are still 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 do not see it.