If I can’t judge the love of my Master for me when I’m in the crusher, then can I do so when things are going really good? Nope. Paul claims that he learned the secret of being content in plenty and in poverty (Philippians 4:11-13). A change happens for Joseph, but his behavior remains consistently focused on his Master, Yahweh.
Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses. (Genesis 41:8-9 NASB)
The cup bearer has an opportunity to remember Joseph, and what he did for him while in the jail. Joseph is brought out, cleaned up, and given an opportunity to come before Pharaoh. When he does, what does Joseph say? He points to God.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:15-16 NASB)
And God does give Pharaoh a favorable answer, but there’s more than just the answer God gives to understand the dream. Joseph also gives Pharaoh guidance in how to respond to the meaning. There’s an important element to how Joseph does that.
“Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. (Genesis 41:32-37 NASB)
Whether Joseph did this with the hope that he would be “the man discerning and wise”, or whether he simply saw the answer and gave it without hope to be that man, is debated. It’s not easy to know. In every previous circumstance we’re not given the initial response of Joseph to his masters, merely that he succeed under each master.
So, it’s possible that he uses this suggestion as a way to get in good with Pharaoh, who has already demonstrated a lack of wise magicians. But it’s also possible that Joseph is simply without guile by this time, and makes the suggestion knowing that this will be the best response for whoever Pharaoh appoints.
Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:38-41 NASB)
But it works out that Pharaoh has no qualms about who Joseph has been, only for what he has said to Pharaoh now. There’s no “class” problem with Joseph having been a slave, or a felon, or even a Hebrew. Pharaoh makes Joseph the second in the Kingdom of Egypt because it’s clear he has a plan. Joseph has arrived.
Right away, Joseph gets busy implementing his plan for surviving the seven years of famine. And he collects so much grain in the seven years of plenty that they stop counting it. But Joseph also is fruitful personally…
Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50-52 NASB)
The names of Joseph’s sons is an important view into Joseph, and how he sees what God is doing with him. Think about why he names his sons as he does. “God has made me forget all my troubles, and all my father’s household.” He’s done with where he has come from, and is totally invested in his present. His past wiped away his dreams. He has forgotten his father’s house, their dysfunction, their treatment of him, his loss, and his pain.
To Joseph, this is what God is doing in him, this is his “payback” for all he has suffered.
“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” He is finally being blessed for his faithfulness to God. So, the lesson for Joseph is that, if we hold fast to our faith in God, then, eventually, we’ll be blessed wherever we are! God is good, see? Look what He did for Joseph, rewarding his faithfulness.
So, decisions we make, decisions to remain faithful to God, these eventually work in our favor. The question is timing. The problem with pragmatism is that, way too often, time is too heavy of a factor. Understanding and wisdom comes over long periods of time, but we’re impatient. Often it’s the spectrum of experience, bad and good, that helps us better understand where we are, and what our Master is doing around and through us. But keep in mind, the goal isn’t the achievement of power God granted to Joseph, but the serenity Paul learned. We, too, can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
What’s your view through the knothole?