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A. The first week in our series on Joseph we saw Joseph as a 17 year old boy being sold by his own jealous brothers to traders who would in turn sell him into slavery in Egypt.
1. Last week we saw how God was with Joseph and prospered him as a slave under Potiphar, and how Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph and, when he refused her advances, accused him of trying to rape her, which landed Joseph in prison. But God prospered Joseph in prison as well, and he was put in charge of the other prisoners.
B. There are six dreams which are central to the story of Joseph.
1. In fact, the DreamWorks animated movie about Joseph is called, “Joseph, King of Dreams.”
2. (Interestingly, Joseph is not the only Joseph whose story with lots of dreams. Joseph, the father of Jesus, had three dreams from God. He also went from Canaan to Egypt and then back again.)
3. In the first sermon we read about a pair of dreams Joseph had when he was a young man: the sheaf dream and the heavenly body dream, both of which foresaw Joseph’s family eventually bowing down to him – which is exactly what happens near the end of the story.
C. Today we read about two more pairs of dreams, only now Joseph is not dreaming the dreams but interpreting the dreams.
1. The first pair of dreams is by Pharaoh’s cupbearer and his baker.
2. And the second pair by Pharaoh himself.
II. Genesis 40:1–23 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody. 5 And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” 9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” 16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” 20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
A. Genesis 41:1–16 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, 2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. 9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11 we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” 14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
B. Then Pharaoh explains his dreams to Joseph in 17-24.
C. Genesis 41:25-49 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” 37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. 46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.
III. One of the great truths which we see in the story of Joseph is the sovereignty of God.
A. Think about it. Joseph was alone in Egypt. No one else believed what he believed. Everyone else thought his beliefs were ridiculous. They looked down at him as a Hebrew & scoffed at his God.
1. It would have been so easy for Joseph to put God out of his mind, or to feel like God had abandoned him, like many Christian young people do when they go to college at a similar age.
2. When Joseph was growing up, he was surrounded by people who believed in God. We are all affected by the people around us. And it’s easy to believe what everybody else around us believes. But when a person who grows up in the context of the faith is then removed from that environment and planted in an environment where everybody not only doesn’t share the same faith, but is hostile to it, many seem to forget about God.
3. But the fact is that no matter how much a person forgets about God, He is still there, He is still on His throne. He is bigger, in fact, than all the peers, all the skeptics, all the influencers, all the academic experts. Even when He was a tiny baby in Mary’s womb, He was bigger than the whole world.
4. Even if every person on earth thought that God didn’t exist, or thought that He was evil, or thought that He was pathetic, or believed that Jesus never existed, that wouldn’t change one thing.
5. The fact is, the invisible God is more real than all the billions of flesh and blood people – and even the nations – you see hear and see and feel. (See Isaiah 40:15, 17; Job 40:8–14.)
6. Much to the chagrin of atheists and many others, you can’t erase God by not believing in Him.
B. In the story of Joseph, even when He’s not mentioned, God looms over every act and every stage.
1. When Joseph is in prison, from a human perspective it looked like he’d wrecked his life by doing the right thing. But the opposite was true – because God is on His throne directing the story.
2. At the end of the story Joseph says to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” – Genesis 50:20
a. But this wasn’t just true with regard to his brothers. It was true with regard to everyone else in the story: the slave-dealers, Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, Joseph’s fellow prisoners – especially the cupbearer, and even Pharaoh himself.
3. They were all fulfilling the purposes of God, whether consciously, unconsciously or rebelliously. Through their actions God worked His marvelous and mysterious will.
C. And so it is with us! God has everything in our lives under control, even the things which seem like they can’t be. And He’s working it all together for our good and for the good of His kingdom. And one day we’ll say, “They may have meant it for evil, O Lord, but You meant it for good.”
1. And so, when we are facing a one-against-1000 type situation, believers in Christ don’t need to be intimidated. God is with us! And if God is with us, who can stand against us? (Rom.8:31)
2. We don’t need to be clever; we don’t need to be well-equipped; we don’t need to be well-connected; we don’t need to have a great army behind us. Ultimately, if we have God, we are well-equipped; we are well-connected; and we have a great army behind us.
3. In fact, we ought to feel sorry for those in the world. They are the ones in a pitiable position. They are the ones you ought to feel sorry for.
D. So all we need to do is humble ourselves before Him, entrust ourselves unto Him, abide in Him, look to Him, and wait for Him, not despising the day of small things (Zech.4:10).
1. God is the One who grants success, who turns people’s hearts toward us or away from us. He makes one prosper and another fail. He makes poor and rich; he brings low and he exalts; He puts one down and lifts up another. (1Samuel 2:6–7; Psalm 75:6–7)
2. Our job is to be faithful and patient, and to trust God with the results.
3. Our job is to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt us. (1Peter 5:6)
E. — God’s quiet control of the unfolding events in the story are evident in the text itself, even before 50:20:
1. We see it in how God gave dreams to Joseph, then to the baker and the cupbearer.
2. We see it in His sending Pharaoh, who was so full of himself, two disturbing dreams.
3. We see that God is sovereign even over people’s memory when the cupbearer suddenly remembers Joseph just at the right time. (You would think that God would have reminded the cupbearer to tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s deeds in prison two years earlier. But God has perfect timing. And sometimes it doesn’t correspond to our sense of timing.)
4. And then the cupbearer suggests to Pharaoh that through Joseph, “God will give Pharaoh the answer” (Gen.41:16).
5. Then when Pharaoh appoints Joseph his deputy, he says, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
IV. This requires a lot of patience.
A. Think about how much patience it required of Joseph! Between the time Joseph was sold to the caravan and the time he was freed from the dungeon and elevated to the right hand of Pharaoh there were 13 years. Now let me ask you, when is the hardest period of life to be patient? From age 17 to 30 has to be one of the periods most difficult to wait.
1. It must have seemed soooo long to Joseph!
2. The story of Joseph is one of the great waiting stories of the OT, along with Job, Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, childless Abraham.
3. And the two year delay after interpreting the cupbearer’s dream must have been the most difficult.
a. Joseph was hopeful than this was the time. He was finally going to get out.
b. But the cupbearer forgot. Or he chickened out. What a bitter disappointment!
c. It always feels like the Lord leaves us too long in the suffering!
4. But God had a better plan. For God, getting Joseph out of prison wasn’t enough. God wanted to rescue his whole family and bring them to Egypt – and to glorify His name!
5. Joseph was looking to get out of prison. But God was looking to save a people for Himself.
6. God isn’t just about you & me. God wants to do great things in the lives of others THROUGH us.
B. Think about what the waiting produced!
1. Genesis 50:20 “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
a. Joseph’s suffering meant salvation for the rest of God’s people.
2. But not only did God use it to rescue His people from the famine, He used it to grow Joseph.
a. At first, Joseph was careless and probably even self-righteous. Even his loving parents must have rolled their eyes often at him as an audacious teenager.
b. But now, the boy had become a man; he had become the essence of humility and wisdom.
3. The signs of his maturity punctuate the story:
a. We see it in how hard he worked at everything he was asked to do.
b. We see it in how he asked the baker and cupbearer how they were feeling. Gen.40:7
c. We see it in how he pointed to God as the One who enabled /empowered him. Gen.40:8, 41:16
d. We see it in how he spoke humbly and respectfully to others. Gen.41:25, 28, 33-36
4. His suffering changed him, deepened him, humbled him.
5. In many ways, I also was an audacious young man. I’m embarrassed to say that when I was a young pastor I had visions of grandeur. But God has taught me that outward success is not God’s best gift. Learning humility, and perseverance, learning to love the ones God gives you to love – these are far better. And these things are not learned by success after success, but by learning to deal with failure and disappointment.
C. The children of God do get rewarded – not just adequately but supremely – though it rarely happens as soon as they wished.
1. We see this here. In one day, Joseph went from prison to paradise, from pain to power.
2. If that happened today, we would expect someone like that to write a book: How I Went From Prison to Power.
3. But Joseph wasn’t the author of his great turn-around. God was. He didn’t come up with a clever plan of how to take over the country. He didn’t outsmart/outmaneuver everyone else. God did.
4. All Joseph did was faithfully perform his mundane duties while waiting on the Lord.
a. He quietly did his work; he did a good job; he accepted the circumstances God put him in; he resisted temptations; he paid attention to the situation; he learned all he could. And he put his trust in the Lord.
b. He had no idea that he was being prepared to run a great kingdom. He was just being faithful in the little things he’s been given to do.
c. “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” – Matthew 25:21
D. We also have a day in our future when we will go from prison to paradise, from pain to power.
1. But that day is God’s day, not our day. And any crowns we receive on that day, we will turn and cast at His feet. He gets all the glory.
2. God does want us to succeed, but He wants us to succeed in a way in which He gets the glory.
3. And God gets the glory at the end of the story of Joseph, doesn’t He?
4. Genesis 50:20 “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
5. We don’t come to the end in awe of Joseph, but in awe of God!
6. And at the end of our story, no one will be in awe of you and me. They will be in awe of Jesus!
V. Lord’s Supper: Christians have always seen Joseph as prefiguring Jesus.
1. He leaves His home ultimately in order to rescue His people
2. He resists temptation
3. Gets unjustly punished for doing nothing wrong.
4. He suffers to save his people
5. And like Jesus, Joseph suffered alongside two others. One went up where he was joined by Joseph, the other went down.
6. But God didn’t rescue Joseph from his suffering, because He wanted to save others through it.
7. And ultimately Joseph’s sufferings were the pathway to his glory.
8. And, like Joseph’s brothers, we are both the ones who caused His sufferings and the ones who benefit by His sufferings. What a gracious Savior!