The following study is based on Hebrews 11:22, “By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.”
Joseph spent his whole adult life pretty much growing up in Egypt. In the last lesson we studied about his early years in Egypt. Remember – God was with Joseph, because Joseph was with God! God was with him in Potiphar’s house. God was with him in prison.
Now we pick up where we left off, with Joseph in the prison. The butler and baker would end up in prison by God’s providence – the same place as Joseph.
- Both of them dream dreams and they are perplexed by the dream that each dreamt.
- Genesis 40:8
And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.
- I don’t know what would have ever possessed Joseph to say such a thing. Did he know that he could interpret dreams? Probably not.
- But the important thing here is – he tried.
- You know, we will never know what God calls us to if we never try.
- How did Joseph know that God was calling him to that of a prophet? That’s what we call someone who can interpret dreams right? Just like Daniel! But he was in charge of the prison, and these people were under his care, and so he tried his best to help them!
- We don’t see any record of him going to prayer like Daniel did in Daniel 2 when king Nebuchadnezzar could remember his dream. But we know he certainly went to God because he told them – interpretation of dreams belong to God!
- Here’s a really important lesson:
- Whatever position you are in right now, don’t limit God. He put you there, and you have to try.
- As a church leader maybe this is not what you signed up for in your own mind at the beginning when you accepted the position. As a Bible worker, the same thoughts. As a lay worker for God. As a missionary in a foreign land.
- Things change, circumstances change, but just keep trying. Keep attempting great things for God and you never know which door God will open for you to step through. Don’t put God in a box by saying – I can’t do that. Let’s attempt much for Him.
- So Joseph figures out what the dreams mean. God tell him the meaning. And the interpretation of the dreams that Joseph gives comes true. So he’s thinking – Hmmm, God is still with me after all!
- But at the end even after Joseph tells the dreams and the butler gets out of prison, what happens?
- Genesis 40:23
Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.
- Genesis 40:23
- Genesis 41:1
And it came to pass at the end of two full years…
- Genesis 41:1
- Forgotten for another 2 full years. We don’t know how long he was in prison already, but this is on top of what he had been going through already.
However, in God’s providence, Pharaoh dreams a dream and no one is able to interpret it except Joseph. But you see, if it wasn’t for Joseph helping the butler in prison, and if it wasn’t for Joseph attempting to help, he would not have remembered Joseph at all. It is a domino effect.
- Joseph tried to help, it worked! And it came back as a blessing to himself later on. But why did God wait 2 years to give the dream? We don’t know. Why did God allow Joseph to be forgotten? We don’t know. Most likely what he was learning as manager in Potiphar’s house and manager in the prison was preparing him in the next phase – as prime minister of Egypt
- Joseph interprets the dream. What is the result?
- Genesis 41:42-44
42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; 43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
- Genesis 41:42-44
- Who else do you think is standing there when Pharaoh makes this announcement?
- The butler and Potiphar!
- The butler was in the service of the king.
- And Potiphar was the captain of the king’s guard!
- Joseph was now in the power to do these 2 harm. He could have revenged himself.
- To the butler – thanks for forgetting me for 2 years!
- And to Potiphar – how could you believe your wife over me? I never did anything wrong!
- BUT Joseph had learnt to see God’s hand in each situation. Even though sold as a slave by his brothers, God was with him in Potiphar’s house and he became ruler over his whole house.
- There was EVIDENCE that God was with him!
- Friends, even through the tough times of what we go through, we must look for God’s leading and confirmation.
- Now in prison, down and discouraged, he still had evidence that God was with him.
- He became manager of the prison.
- Also, he interpreted 2 dreams that came true!
- He had evidence that God was with him. He couldn’t understand why this had all happened, but he knew that even though it did, God was right there.
- And now as he stands before Pharaoh, it all begins to make a bit more sense.
- There’s this saying – hind sight is 20/20 vision. We can’t see into the future. That is why we need faith to live each day – to trust God no matter what happens to us. God had been preparing Joseph for this day
- Genesis 41:46
And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.
- Even through all the hardship, this is a pretty amazing accomplishment (if we could call it that). Joseph became prime minister of one of the most powerful nations on earth at that time, at the age of 30! 15 years split up between Potiphar’s house and prison – God’s way of training His people.
- You know, God doesn’t train us all the same. And He doesn’t prepare us for His work by bringing us to theology school, or whatever other degree you pursue in university. It’s the experiences in life.
- Joseph as a captive in Egypt.
- Moses in the wilderness.
- Jesus as a carpenter.
- John the Baptist in the wilderness.
- Just maybe, God is seeing how we are like when we are a nobody, in the obscurity of life. He is waiting to see if we are faithful in the little things, whether we make the best of whatever situation we are in. Then only He can see and trust us in the big things of life.
- Joseph doesn’t take revenge on the butler nor Potiphar because he understands God’s providence.
- Remember – God was with Joseph because Joseph was with God.
So the dream of Pharaoh was about what was to come on the earth.
- 7 years of plenty, then 7 years of famine.
- Joseph, his leadership and wise management, saved the whole land of Egypt.
- The Abrahamic covenant was coming to fruition – I want to bless you, so that you can be a blessing to others!
- We always want the blessing to ourselves though, isn’t it?
- A better life.
- A better job.
- A bigger house.
- A better car.
- More money in the bank.
- Better clothes.
- Better health!
- Joseph was a blessing to all he came in contact with, whilst his life got worse! The blessing to the world, came at the expense of his own comfort and life, except for the case of being elevated to Prime Minister. But that was a result of his faithfulness in the valleys of his life. And even then, through this elevation to Prime Minister, God wanted Joseph to be an even greater blessing to others! He would single-handedly save the whole nation of Egypt and become a blessing to many surrounding nations as well, including his own family.
- God wants each of us to be a blessing to everyone around us. To give, and not be a taker or consumer. To sweeten the atmosphere with our presence.
So Joseph’s brothers come into the picture after the 7 years of plenty as obviously the famine has hit the land of Canaan as well where they were staying. It’s been over 20 years in Egypt already. Joseph is around 37 years old already. And the Bible describes the long journey that he takes his brothers on to test if they have changed or not. We aren’t going to go into the details. But there is one over-arching theme of Joseph’s life. It is about forgiveness. He forgave the butler and Potiphar. And then now he is able to forgive his brothers for what they did to him.
How was he able to do that? How was he able to forgive his brothers?
- Finally after a long test with his brothers, this is what Joseph says to his brothers after he reveals himself to them.
- Genesis 45:5-8
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
- What does Joseph say? He says that it was God that sent him ahead of them so that he could save them! And it’s not just once that he says this. Joseph reiterates the same message to them after their father dies. The brothers think that Joseph was just nice to them because father was still alive and not that he is dead he is going to take vengeance and they are pleading their case and saying sorry to him again.
- Genesis 50:20
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
- The reason he is able to forgive is because he was able to see God’s hand in his life – every step of the way. So forgiveness came easy because he realised that God is the One that allowed all of this to happen.
I like the story of Joseph because I can see how God guides my life as well
- I’ve shared this before. I grew up all over the world.
- Born in Singapore.
- 2 years in Penang, Malaysia.
- 5 years in England.
- 6 years in Penang again.
- 10 years in Australia.
- 7 years in US.
- I’m more a westerner than a Chinese. The only thing Chinese and Malaysian about me is my taste buds, that’s about it. I’m a banana – white on the inside, yellow on the outside. I never thought I’d come back to Malaysia. To ASIA! My brother and I had discussed this when we were working together in US – to go back to Asia one day. Asia does not have the light that the western, English speaking countries do. But even though we said that, our hearts were more than happy to remain in USA. Who wouldn’t right?
- But God sent us back here in the most uncanny of ways – the most unexpected of way. Through a lot of heart ache, uncertainty, and humbling experiences. And for a time, I was totally opposite to Joseph. I was angry at God, angry at the uncertainty. I was wondering why God did this to me. I wasn’t unfaithful in my work for him in US. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t offend anyone. Why God?!
- I didn’t get any immediate answer. And without any choice I came back to Malaysia. But since then God has been so gracious to me. He has been so good!
- Blessed me with a wonderful wife.
- Blessed us when we were in Taiwan.
- Blessed us with 3 wonderful healthy kids.
- It was in Taiwan after 2 years working with the Taiwan Conference that I was ordained as a minister of the gospel.
- Blessed me here in Malaysia now with 2 wonderful churches.
- A wonderful Mission to work with.
- 2 amazing church boards.
- Wonderful Bible workers!
- And this year He blessed us with a home to call our own.
- I always loved to teach – when I graduated I asked the college I graduated from if they needed a Bible teacher, they said no and hired someone else. But now I’m blessed with a training school that I can teach at and be involved with and see lives of young people that come through be changed by the study of the word.
- God is so good! And He works in the most unexpected of ways. Our work is not to reason why. God just expects us to have faith in Him and remember that He cares for us.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
- All things work together for good. Not some things, not most things. All things! But yes, there is that condition. To them that love God.
- Problem is too many of us let go of God, we blame Him, we turn and do our own things in times of crisis, temptation and discouragement because we don’t trust Him, because we don’t love Him.
2 Corinthians 13:8
For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.
- The devil thought he was triumphing over Joseph by having sold him into Egypt as a slave.
- He thought he was gaining an advantage when he sent him to prison through the lies of Potiphar’s wife. But God had even better plans.
- The devil thought that he was triumphing by destroying Job’s life – his wealth, his family, his health.
- But Job held on, and the latter end of his life was more glorious than the former.
- The devil thought that he was triumphing by exiling John to the isle of Patmos.
- But God had different plans – and it was there on that island that he wrote out that amazing prophetic book called Revelation which reverberates even to our time today.
- The devil thought that he was triumphing by killing the reformers during the dark ages.
- But God had different plans because where 1 died, 10 sprang up!
- The devil thought that he was triumphing when the last nail was piercing through the palms of the Son of God, Jesus our Saviour, and as He took His last breath, the devil thought he had victory.
- But God had different plans, because through that death, He became the firstborn of many, of an innumerable multitude, bringing in a rich harvest of souls, and putting the last nail into the coffin of the devil.
Do you see as Joseph does? That others mean it unto evil, but God has different plans, even through your heartaches, losses and sorrows?
Through all this, He is preparing each and every one of you. Why you? I don’t know. But I know He knows you can handle it with His strength. Just hold on and be faithful to Him. He will carry you through to its final fulfilment.
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
- Even through all the lows and highs of Joseph’s life, he never lost sight of God’s covenant with Abraham
24 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
Friends, through the highs and lows of each of our lives, let’s not forget God’s covenant and promise to us today as well.
- There’s a heavenly Canaan. It’s beyond what we see here on this earth.
- So let’s learn to live like Joseph, to see beyond the seen, and to commit our ways all to God.
- May God help us to be faithful until He comes again in the clouds of glory!