God Means It For Good

Having looked at the first part of Joseph’s life, we have learned that his father was Jacob and that his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife (Genesis 30:22-24). We have, furthermore, learned that Jacob spoiled Joseph greatly by giving him a special coat (Genesis 37:3), and that Jacob’s actions caused the Joseph's brothers to become jealous of him (Genesis 37:4). 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 (Genesis 37:5-11). In fact, they began to hate Joseph so much that they plotted how to get rid of him (Genesis 37:16-18). They did this by selling him to merchants who were on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37:28). Consequently, Joseph found himself sold as a slave to a man named Potiphar (Genesis 37:36).

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 (Genesis 39:20). He must have felt that God had forgotten him and his dreams. There was a time when 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 (Genesis 40:9-18). 

And then, unexpectedly, as far Joseph was concerned, he heard a knock on the door of his prison cell one day and he was told he was needed at Pharaoh’s Court (Genesis 41:14). So that is 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 thirteen 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 yet ready. Even the day before the knock on his prison cell door he was not 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 we 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) “I am so tired this morning. The reason is I had two nightmares last night. Not just one, two! And they were dreadful. Of course, I could not sleep very well after them anymore. So I just got up and got dressed. And even before I had my breakfast I called in my wise men and my magicians because I was sure that they would be able to help me understand my dreams. But believe it or not, these men could not give me the understanding of my dreams (Genesis 41:8). I am thinking of getting rid of them for they are of no use to me. They eat all the food from my table and drink my wines. And then what is the result? They are of no use whatsoever. What am I to do? May be I have to now puzzle it out for myself. Oh, here is my cupbearer. What does he want? I don’t want to speak to him. Does he not know that I have had a terrible night? And I am not in a good mood because of it. “Yes, cupbearer, what is it that you want?... You know about my dreams. And you think you know someone who might be able to explain the meaning of these dreams to me. He is a Hebrew person whom you met two years ago when you were in prison because I had sent you there. And you had a dream and that person gave you the meaning of that dream (Genesis 41:9-13). Well, that is a difficult decision because you must understand that we Egyptian people look down on Hebrew people. But I think I have no choice since there is no one else who can interpret these dreams for me. We better have this man come. So, please, send for him (Genesis 41:14).”   

Consequently, a messenger from Pharaoh’s Court was sent to the prison where Joseph was and knocked on Joseph’s cell door (Genesis 41:14).

(Joseph) “What time is it? Oh, time again to check on the prisoners. That is what I do every day since I have been in this prison. I was not always in this prison. I was, in fact, a slave in Potiphar’s home (Genesis 39:1). And I know that Potiphar trusted me very much to the point where I thought he might consider me a son rather than a slave (Genesis 39:4-6a). But then one day I was accused of something which I had not done (Genesis 39:13-19). And Potiphar had me thrown in prison (Genesis 39:20). And that is where I am now. Two years ago I had great hope that I would be set free because I met Pharaoh’s cupbearer and I was able to interpret his dream for him (Genesis 40:9-13). I then asked him at that time to speak to the Pharaoh on my behalf (Genesis 40:14-15). But I have not heard anything as yet. That was already two years ago. So now I am still here in prison and, of course, no one knows that I am here. So I expect to he here for the rest of my life. What is that? A knocking on my door? Who could that be? I don’t expect anyone to come to see me. I better go and check it out for that because that person may not go away otherwise. Let me open the door. “Who are you? You have come from Pharaoh’s Court? Pharaoh wants to see me? He wants to see me now? Please let me change my outfit because I cannot possibly go to Pharaoh in my prison outfit (Genesis 41:14).”   

And so Joseph, after having washed, shaved, and changed his clothing, appeared before Pharaoh.

(Pharaoh) “Are you that Hebrew man named Joseph? You are. I have been told you can interpret dreams (Genesis 41:15). You cannot (Genesis 41:16a). But your God will give you the interpretation (Genesis 41:16b). Ok, let me then tell you my dreams. My first dream was about seven fat cows and seven thin cows. And the seven thin cows ate up the seven fat cows (Genesis 41:17-21). I then woke up, went back to sleep and had another dream. This time I saw a stalk with seven healthy heads of grain and a stalk with seven thin heads of grain. And the stalk with the seven thin heads of grain swallowed up the stalk with the seven healthy heads of grain. What do you think these dreams could mean? None of my magicians and wise men could explain these dreams to me (Genesis 41:22-24). They are of no use to me so I am thinking of getting rid of them.”

Pharaoh looked expectantly at Joseph, for there was no-one else he could turn to. He was not disappointed, for God not only gave Joseph understanding of the meaning of the dreams, He gave him understanding how to implement them.                                                                                                                                                                            (Joseph) “Pharaoh, God has given me the understanding of your dreams. The first dream and the second dream mean both the same. Both dreams point to the fact that you will have a seven-year period of fruitful harvest followed by a seven-year period of famine (Genesis 41:25-32). And may I advise you, Pharaoh, that you put someone in charge who is able to store up at the time when you have an abundant harvest so that you will have plenty of food for the time of famine (Genesis 41:33).”    

After having listened to Joseph’s explanation of his two dreams, Pharaoh understood that in front of him stood a man who was full of knowledge and wisdom, despite the fact that he was nothing more than a Hebrew prisoner. Pharaoh knew too that Joseph was the one who should be overseeing his proposed plan, as we can read in Genesis 41:37-39                                                                                                                                    The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and 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 shall 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.” 

We can see here that Pharaoh recognised and honoured the God that Joseph served. We can see here too that God intended Joseph to use all the practical skills he had developed 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 would now be capable of overseeing the storage of food.                                                                                                       Likewise, you too may know that God has a specific calling for you but you may not be walking in it at present . As a matter of fact, you may be doing something that may not seem to be related to what you believe the Lord is calling you to do. If that is so, then do not despair. God will use your present training to make 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 seven years of plenty, the seven years of famine started. This period did not just affect Egypt but its neighbouring countries (Genesis 41:57). The famine affected even Jacob and his family, so one day he told his sons to travel to Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 42:1-2). With these words, Jacob sent his sons on a path that would end up with them all bowing down to Joseph, as we can read in Genesis 42:6 

Now Joseph was 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.”  

(Joseph) “What an amazing few days it has been. It started three days ago. I was providing people with grain when a group of men came to me (Genesis 42:3). When they stood before me, they bowed down to me. The moment I saw them, I recognised them. They were none other than my ten brothers (Genesis 42:5-6). They had all grown older but I could still recognise them (Genesis 42:7). What a moment that was. For, at that very moment, when I saw them bow down to me, God reminded me of my dreams (Genesis 42:9). The dreams He had given me when I was a young, foolish seventeen-year old. I remember that time. I remember their jealousy because my father, or rather our father, had given me this special coat (Genesis 37:3). And I wore it is front of them. Moreover, I then told my brothers these dream which caused them to hate me (Genesis 37:11). And to hate me to the point of selling me to merchants (Genesis 37:28). But I now see that God was behind my brother’s evil scheme. For he has used my time in Egypt as a slave in Potiphar’s house and as a prisoner to train me up and to teach me many Godly things. And I now understand that God trained me up so that today I can take care of people, including my own family. I know that God has changed my heart. But I do not know if God has changed my brothers’ hearts. So I decided to test them. I did that by keeping one of my brothers, Simeon, in prison and have sent the others on their way back home (Genesis 42:24b). I did listen to some of their conversations and, from what I heard, it seems God may have somewhat changed their hearts (Genesis 42:21-23). However, I am not quite sure at this time.”   

The brothers, except Simeon, travelled back to Jacob and reported everything to him, including the fact that Joseph had insisted that their younger brother be brought back with them. Jacob was not willing to let his youngest son Benjamin go to Egypt (Genesis 42:29-38). But then, once again, in time, they ran out of food and Jacob had no choice but to let them go to Egypt and to let Benjamin go with them (Genesis 43:1-13). Once again, they appeared before Joseph, this time with their youngest brother (Genesis 43:15). Joseph had his staff prepare a special meal for them, and they ate and drank with him in his house (Genesis 43:16, 32-34). The next morning, the brothers were sent on their way home with as much grain as they could carry. Joseph gave them one more test to see if they had changed; he had his special silver cup placed in the sack of Benjamin. (Genesis 44:1-3).

(Joseph) “My brothers have really changed. They came back to me again. And this time they did bring back with them my youngest brother (Genesis 43;15, 29-30). It was amazing for me to see my baby-brother after all these years. Of course, I could not let anyone know what was going on the inside of me. So I stayed calm and all I did was to invite them for a meal at my home (Genesis 43:32-34). And then the next morning, I gave them food again to take home with them. But I decided to test them one more time. Simeon was released, of course. But I had my steward place my special silver cup in the sack of  Benjamin (Genesis 44:1-2). They did not know this, of course. They left. After they had gone, I sent my steward after them (Genesis 44:4). And I waited. And sure enough, a little while later they all came back with the steward. The moment they saw me they all threw themselves on the floor (Genesis 44:14). I then demanded that Benjamin stay behind as my slave (Genesis 44:17). And then I watched what they would do next. And what I watched was a most moving scene for Judah came forward and Judah pleaded with me to let Benjamin go. And for him to take Benjamin’s place as my slave. He explained to me that they could not go home without their baby-brother Benjamin for their father would die if Benjamin would not return to him since he had already lost one son (Genesis 44:18-34). I then knew that the moment had come to reveal to them who I really was; their long-lost brother Joseph. So I spoke to them in Hebrew and said to them, “ I am Joseph.” The brothers were shocked to hear me speak to them in Hebrew and hear my say to them that I am the brother they had sold to merchants on their way to Egypt (Genesis 45:1-3). I then told them not to be afraid for, though they had planned evil, God had meant it for good. God had meant it so that I could now save the family (Genesis 45:4-8). I told them to go back home at once, speak to our father, tell him to come and live in Egypt with the whole family (Genesis 45:9-11). So they have gone back and I am now waiting for their return. But this one thing I know; I will see my father again.” 

And so the brothers returned home (Genesis 45:25). Their minds were still very much on what had happened in these last few days, in particular that they had been reunited with their long-lost brother Joseph (Genesis 45:3). Who would have thought that this “Egyptian” ruler, whom they had met some time ago when they had gone to Egypt for the first time to buy food, was, in fact, their brother Joseph, whom they had sold as a slave to a group of merchants all these years ago. God had made them face their sins and they knew it.

And that how it is for us. Sooner or later, God will want us to face anything we may have done in the past that has not been made right. This is for our sake so that we can be forgiven of those things and be set free from any guilt or condemnation in relation to those things.                                                                                                                     

As for Joseph’s brothers, when they arrived back in Canaan they told their father Jacob that they had seen Joseph (Genesis 45:26). Jacob was stunned to hear that news and he would not believe them. However, the brothers were able to convince him and so they set off for Egypt, as we can read in Genesis 46:5-6                                                       Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. They also took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan, and Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt. He took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters – all his offspring. When they arrived in Egypt Joseph went to meet them.

(Joseph) “Yesterday was the happiest day in my life for a very long time;  I saw my father! Not only did I see him, I was able to embrace him. He looks old and frail. But he is alive. I have dreamed for a long time about seeing him and embracing him. And yesterday that became a reality. And I don’t mind telling you that I wept (Genesis 46:28). I had been wanting to weep for a long time already but I just could not do so. But yesterday when I held him in my arms I could no longer stop these tears from coming down my cheeks. So I wept and wept. And that has helped me so much to let go of the pain of the past. And now my father is here with me. God is so good for He has given my father back to me.”   

Eventually, Jacob died and Joseph’s brothers were once again afraid that Joseph would take revenge for all the evil they had done to him. But God had done work in the heart and life of Joseph, as we can read in Genesis 50:19-20                                                    But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

It had taken Joseph many years to have a full understanding of God’s plan for his life. But the day had come when he realised that having been sold as a slave had not prevented his God-given dreams of his family bowing down to him from happening. On the contrary, God had used the circumstances in his life to make these dreams come true. Joseph had finally learned that with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37) and He will do what He has promised to do. But it will happen in His way, His time and for His purpose.                                                                                                                   Joseph’s story is to encourage us that, just as God had a plan for Joseph, which God fulfilled to its smallest detail, likewise, God has a plan for each one of us, as we 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.

As in the case of Joseph, you may well have to undergo a training program specifically for you, to make you ready for what God has for you to do. That training program, you believe, may not seem to fit the particular calling 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 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 prepared for you all along.     

            The Long Journey Home