The story of Joseph is one we have all heard many times. You know, the young dreamer who gets sold into slavery by his siblings, works in a prince’s house in Egypt, interprets dreams for the Pharaoh, and eventually, reunites with his family after having saved many lives through God-given wisdom. There is SO much more to the story of Joseph, however, than just these rough details.
What about all the in-betweens?
All the quiet times and the times where all seemed silent. Joseph had a lot of those.
Let’s do a quick summary of his life before we cut to the heart of the matter.
After the Dreams
Joseph dreamt in some forms of symbolism how his brothers and father would one day bow down to him. He was scolded for it and despised by his brothers. Imagine all the things that may have gone through the mind of this boy in his teens? Was he going mad? All that met him was disapproval.
Sold into Slavery
Joseph knew his father loved him and this caused his brothers’ hatred for him to grow until they despised him. So great was their disdain for him in fact that they threw him into a pit and left him to die. But the Lord had his hand on the life of Joseph. He had a plan to spare Joseph’s life, that he may continue to be used for God’s glory. In Gen. 37:26-27, we read the following:
“What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites….”
Did Joseph wrestle to be set free? Did he scream for help? The Bible doesn’t tell us. What we do know is that Joseph was now on his way to a country he had never even dreamt of seeing. His brothers may have betrayed him, but he was not alone. The Lord held him in His hands still.
Serving Potiphar in Egypt
“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favour in his sight and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority.” Gen. 39: 2-4 NKJV
So here he was, a young Jewish man in the house of a highly esteemed Egyptian. This didn’t happen overnight, however. A reasonable amount of time had passed from the teen that left Canaan and the young man who now served Potiphar. Perhaps now was the first time he had to work hard and prove what he was truly made of. Unlike in Canaan where his father had pampered him, he was now expected to work. And he does so with great loyalty and determination. We see in Joseph a maturity and sense of identity that he had likely acquired during the passing of time. He had learnt to rely on the Lord and not his own strength. And because of this, the Lord equipped him. He was not discarded by God, but rather, he was held in his God’s hands. This was evident by the way Joseph lived and served his master.
When serving like this, there are many times where it is quiet. Not every moment is a radical breakthrough moment. There had to be a period of ‘testing’… of watching Joseph work and serve. A time when his master would not say anything… merely observe. All was quiet. It is often in the silence where you are asked to be faithful. In the moments when no one is watching or praising you where your character gets built. It’s between you and the Lord and who you are allowing Him to make you.
Alone time with Jesus shows.
“So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.” vs 5-6 NKVJ
After a whirlwind of happenings, Potiphar’s wife treated Joseph unfairly when he acted righteously in spite of her. Joseph was walking with God and fled from sin. He could see it for what it was and refused Potiphar’s wife request to be intimate. He did what was right but through her lies was accused of wrongdoing.
“So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, ‘Your servant did to me after this manner,’ that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison” Gen. 39:19-20a NKJV
Disbelief, anger, desperation – how could this happen to him? He did what was right and now he was paying a heavy price for it. He must have asked, “God… what now?”
“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” vs 21 NKJV
The Lord sees and He knows. Even when we are in the pit of despair, He knows how we are treated. May you also be the one to be able to stand on the fact that you did what was right rather than what was popular or produced pleasure. God honours righteousness.
“And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison’ whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.” vs 22-23 NKJV
He earned trust wherever he went because it was evident God was with him. He chose to do what was right and it showed, but it was because of God’s grace and favour.
In the prison he served the other prisoners and the warden of the prison faithfully. He worked as if unto his Heavenly Master and not the humanly systems he was placed under. (Col 3:23)
Even though it must have seemed like this was dragging on for a real long time, he kept doing whatever God placed in front of him faithfully. He entered into a different phase of his life where the Lord used him as a different kind of instrument: an interpreter of dreams. It is important to note that this gift was allowed him at this stage of his life, after he had grown so much in the Lord, after he had established who the Lord is and how awesome and mighty He is. It is often at the point where we are humbled that God chooses to use us for great things. He knew, however, that it was only because of the Lord that he was able to translate the dreams of these men. He was merely the vessel God used.
“‘We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it’ so Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me please.’” Gen. 40:8 NKJV
Through God’s wisdom Joseph was able to interpret the dreams and things happened just as he said. He saw a glimmer of hope when the cup bearer was released and restored to his position with Pharaoh and Joseph pleaded:
“But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon… yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Gen. 40:14-15; 23 NKJV
Joseph became discouraged. He had relied on the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh of him, but the cupbearer forgot all about him. The Lord, however, had not forgotten Joseph.
Summoned by Pharoah
Two whole years had passed and Joseph was still forgotten by the world. It was only after Pharaoh had some alarming dreams that the cupbearer recalled the Hebrew that had interpreted his dream so long ago. Finally, he told Pharaoh of Joseph. It may seem to us at times that eternities pass before something happens, especially when we are waiting on people. That is why it is so crucial to realise that God is in control of our circumstances. Still haven’t heard back from the new school? God is in control! Still haven’t received a call for a job interview? God is in control. Still haven’t been able to see a person return to the Lord after you have been praying for so long? God is in control. Take note that we ought never try to take matters in our own hands in order to ‘fix’ things. Sarah and Abraham tried that by having Hagar marry Abraham and the results were not good. When we do things out of the flesh, they will fail. Wait on the Lord.
“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved and changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.’ So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.’” Gen. 41:14-16 NKJV
Joseph put the praise where it was due and recognised yet again that it was not of or through himself. It would have seemed very easy to act as if he had it all under control and take all the credit himself, but because of all he had learnt in the silence, he was able to stand righteous still when he had the spotlight.
“So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “see, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Gen. 41:37-41 NKJV
When we are led by God and humble under His guidance, He can do great things in and through us.
Joseph was used to save many many lives through the wisdom God granted him. He was used by the Lord in many ways and he always honoured the Lord first and foremost. When we surrender our lives to Him, He can mold us to serve Him and others in amazing ways.
Joseph continued faithfully with what he had been given.
Live It Out
You know what is before you to do. You know that the Lord expects faithfulness. Examine your heart to see if you might be slacking in areas entrusted to you or where you might be seeking human approval instead of God’s. Perhaps you feel you are in an area where you continually pour out without being appreciated, thanked or even acknowledged. Do not be discouraged. You are working as unto the Lord, not for man’s approval. Test if you are truly being faithful in what’s entrusted to you. God uses us in the quiet and builds us in the silence. Always acknowledge and glorify Him alone when the silence passes.