A few observations from Chapter 40:
- God sent had the cupbearer and the baker to the prison Joseph was in (and not a different one). This was God’s way of getting Joseph one step closer to Pharaoh.
- God sent them both dreams that they couldn’t interpret.
- God wanted Joseph – the True God worshiper – to interpret the dreams and act as a witness and testimony to these two men.
- Yet even after Joseph’s correct interpretations came to pass, the cupbearer forgot him.
Lessons for us:
- God’s plans are his own, higher than man’s plans (Isaiah 55:9), and he can (and does) bring good from evil (Genesis 50:20).
- God wants his true worshipers to act as witnesses to anyone and everyone, anytime and every time.
- And it is always important to remember those who help us out so that we can repay the favor (nobody likes someone who always takes and never gives in return).
- Verse 16 is a key verse. When Joseph is brought up out of prison, bathed, shaved, and changed to meet the king of the country and interpret his dreams, he says, “I cannot do it.” Nice. “But,” he says, “God can.” In this, although Joseph may know that God will give him the interpretation of the dream – as he has already done in the past – Joseph takes all the emphasis off of himself and points it all to God. Basically, he’s giving God all the glory, fame, and honor, while remaining humble and servant-like before him. It’s no wonder God chose Joseph to oversee Egypt during their massive famine and to ultimately save his whole family – God’s chosen people.
- A good question to ask here is also: how did Joseph discover the meanings of these dreams and the previous ones? After all, he never actually spoke to God directly. Verse 37 – by Pharaoh’s own admission – gives us this answer: “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” So, Joseph was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Mark Driscoll says this:
Here’s what Joseph didn’t have, Mars Hill. Did he have his family there to support him? No. Did he have a Christian friend to talk to, pray with, Bible study with – accountability partner? No. He’s the only Christian in the whole country. Did he have a Bible to read? No, the Bible hadn’t been written yet. Did he have a church to go to? No, no church, and he’s in jail. How does he make it? How does he suffer for 13 years? How does he live patiently, humbly? How does he serve people? How does he do good and not evil? How does he bless and not curse? He doesn’t have a Bible; doesn’t have a family; doesn’t have a church; doesn’t have a Christian friend for accountability. What he does have is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
And if you know Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in every Christian just like the Holy Spirit took up residence in Joseph. It convicts us of sin and leads us and guides us and matures us and gifts us. And we can grieve him. And we can quench him. And we can resist him. We can make our life hard, or we could submit to him as Joseph did, and we can trust him even when we don’t understand because through this 13 year course of his life, God never spoke to Joseph, friends.
Some of you think, “I just wish God would speak to me and tell me what he’s doing.” He probably won’t, but if he’s given you the Holy Spirit, all you need to do is obey the Holy Spirit, follow his lead, and when he convicts you of sin, repent. When he gives you to serve, serve by that gift. When he empowers you to love, love. When he enables you to forgive, forgive. Don’t grieve. Don’t quench. Don’t resist the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. And you may not ever hear from God, and you may not know anything of what he’s doing, but in the end, he will work out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He will take Genesis 50:20, “Even what is meant for evil and the saving of many lives.”
There are some great lessons for us there from Mark Driscoll and chapter 41. The Holy Spirit is powerful and given to every Christian who trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior. He guides us, convicts us, leads us, and matures us in faith. Even if we are the only Christians in town – with no church, no Bible, no fellowship, the Holy Spirit can and will continue to minister to us as he did to Joseph.
Another interesting thing to note is that Joseph, though a True God worshiper, was not rejected or hated by the people of Egypt. In fact, Pharaoh, the king, put a religious foreigner in charge of the whole land, and second-in-command next to himself. So, God may choose zealous Christians (or anyone else for that matter) to be placed in just a certain position in order to accomplish his purposes. We can not know for certain what God’s plan always is, but looking back in retrospect, we may be able to see more clearly God’s plans and purposes for peoples’ positions (and even our own positions) throughout life.
In this chapter, Joseph’s original dream comes true as well. This will be the third true answer to a dream Joseph has been involved with since his story began. It just goes to show that God is not always timely when answering prayers or dreams – everything is according to His own time. Joseph had the dream originally when he was about 17 years old, and now he is 37 years old!
When Joseph’s brothers arrive, he doesn’t quite know what to expect from them, so he tests them. And when they grieve over his harsh treatment of them by saying, “Surely this is because of what we did to poor little Joseph,” he weeps, but he doesn’t lighten his harshness. After all, he needs to test them further to see if their hearts have truly changed so that he can reveal himself as their brother. Are they truly grieving over their guilt at the terrible thing they did to him, or are they merely grieving the pain and inconvenience it is currently costing them?
This is an important lesson for us as well. When we grieve over sin, do we grieve merely over receipt of the consequences of sin (with no real heart of repentance), or do we grieve over the hurt we have caused to our God and those we’ve sinned against (with no real thought of our own current inconvenience)? It’s very easy to feel sad for our sin when we are caught and suffer for it – but often times we are only sorry we got caught, not that we did something wrong. True repentance is sorrow over the wrong we did, while working to move away from that sin in the future, and also fully accepting our own consequences for our actions.