In Genesis 42-45 we read the story of Joseph’s brothers going to Egypt to buy food and culminating with Joseph revealing himself to his brothers.
There are several things that we can learn from this story. One is God’s ability to bring about what he had foretold to Joseph over 20 years earlier. Just because it had been over 20 years since Joseph had the dreams didn’t mean that God had forgotten about the plans he had for Joseph. Should it surprise us that God’s timetable and our timetable are not always the same.
Another thing we can learn is about the transformation that happened in the life of Joseph. Joseph seems like a cocky arrogant teenager in the beginning but is a humble God honoring young man in the years to come. Likewise we see the importance of having God’s favor on us. In each of the down circumstances (slavery, prison), God was with him. God was also with Joseph as he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and wisely counseled Pharaoh on what to do in light of the dreams.
Indeed there are many takeaways from this story.
However, one stands out to me is that in the midst of all his negative and positive circumstances, Joseph can see the hand of God at work. Joseph’s ability to see this is a significant part of being able to forgive his brothers. In Genesis 45:5-8, Joseph attributes his being in Egypt to the hand of God and a part of God’s divine sovereign plan. Joseph understands that God used the wicked motives of his brothers to fulfill the dreams and to bring about the salvation of the family, indeed the blessing of the surrounding world through Joseph’s God given insight, wisdom and planning.
At times, devastating things happen to us in our lives. May we see the good hand of God at work in molding us for the plans he has for our lives. May we become better people and not bitter people in the midst of circumstances over which we have little control.
May we learn to forgive and trust God’s sovereignty.
In Genesis 40 & 41 we have the story of 3 people who have dreams (wine bearer, baker and Pharaoh). None of these people are able to interpret their dreams which creates in them quite a bit of stress.
As Joseph engages with them, Joseph makes it clear that the interpretation of dreams belongs to God. Notice that Joseph makes it clear that he is not the one with the special ability but that God is the one who can reveal the meaning.
There is a humility he has in which he acknowledges God’s power and insight. However, he also has a confidence that God will reveal the dreams to him. He has had dreams in the past where God worked in him to reveal what would happen in the future and he is confident that God will do it again. Thus, he confidently interprets the dreams.
With Pharaoh, Joseph goes one step further: Joseph gives Pharaoh advice on how to deal with the upcoming blessing and drought. This advice on Pharaoh’s dream leads to the path to fulfill the dreams he had many years earlier.
In the beginning of the story of Joseph, we see a pretty cocky and favorite-child teenager; when Joseph comes before Pharaoh, we see a humble but confident and wise young man.
In Joseph we see that humility is not weakness but a strength which allows him to understand where real wisdom and insight come from.
In Joseph, we also see patience and a faithful walk with God even in the difficulties and trials. After the dreams of the baker and cupbearer, which Joseph interpreted correctly, he spent another two years in prison. It might have been tempting to throw in the towel and feel like God had given up on him, but Joseph was faithful to his God.
When the right time came and Joseph was thrust on stage, he was confident and prepared but he was also humble and not arrogant or cocky. Let us focus on our character and our relationship with God, and let us wait for His timing for the events and plans He has for our lives.
In Genesis 38 we read about how Judah had sexual relations with Tamar. Basically, what he perceived to be an “opportunity,” presented itself and he took advantage of it – later to discover his own hypocrisy and sin.
In Genesis 39, we read the story of Joseph in which another “opportunity” presented itself for him to engage in sexual sin and yet he refused to do it. In fact, Joseph probably had several built in excuses to engage in the sin, if he wanted. After all, he would simply have been doing what his master’s wife wanted. It was her house, he was a slave in her house, he was just doing what he was being commanded to do. Also, it wasn’t a one-time request and it happened day after day.
Yet Joseph is resolute in refusing to engage in sexual activity with Potiphar’s wife. What is the difference between the two brothers?
Joseph had concern that he not do anything against his master, and he knew that her request was against what the master would have wanted. Note more importantly, that Joseph understood his engaging in this “opportunity” would have been sinning against God. Even more than the concern about those around him, Joseph was concerned about not sinning against God. He wanted to do nothing which would detract from following and glorifying his God.
When we understand the damage sin does to our relationship with God, we are much more likely to be deterred from sin. (Grace is a means to be changed, not an excuse to live in the pig-pen!)
May our relationship with the Almighty God be so important to us that we want nothing which will hinder that relationship.
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At times in our lives, God puts desires in us or gives us a vision of what He has for us. We see this in the case of Joseph. Joseph had dreams which were rather significant and were irritating to his brothers and family.
However, between the time of seeing the dreams and the fulfillment of the dreams, it was a good 13-15 years. The fulfillment did not happen overnight.
We see the same thing with King David. David was anointed as a young man to be the next king of Israel – he then spent the next decade running for his life.
We also see this with the Apostle Paul. The day Ananias went to Paul and prayed for his eyesight, God layed out for Ananias what Paul would be doing ministry wise. Again, there were several years before the ministry plan began to take shape.
The point is this: often we can have a dream or direction we believe God is leading us in our lives, but it may not happen overnight and there may be a few detours in the process. The key is for us to be a person like Joseph, David and Paul—to cling to God and walk with God in the midst of the journey and trusting God for the destination.
In Genesis 35 God tells Jacob to move to Bethel and build an altar to worship the Lord. One of the first things Jacob does is have his household get rid of all their idols. It seems Jacob understands that if he is going to worship the one true God, he must get rid of any idols they might have.
As I reflect on this I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1-3 where we read: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.NIV
The witnesses who have gone before us have demonstrated that a life of faith is possible and that such a life is valued in the eyes of God. So we are challenged to get rid of whatever it is that might be hindering us, especially the sin that entangles us. Picture trying to run with vines wrapped around your legs. That is what sin does for us. It grabs us and keeps us from fulfilling what God has for us. We must throw off the sin.
Notice, however, that we must also replace the sinful activities and thoughts with a pursuit of what God has for us—if all we do is attempt to stop sinning, we just create a vacuum and if we don’t fill that vacuum with Jesus, we will sooner or later be back in sin.
We keep our eyes on Jesus and what He has for us—that is the new focus.