Read Genesis 41:41-57
In our last post on Genesis we saw how Joseph, after living faithfully through all kinds of hardships: betrayal by his family, slavery, false accusation, and ten years in a dungeon, was ultimately raised up, raised up in one day, to second in command over Egypt. In today’s post we’ll look at what happens to Joseph and Egypt, after Pharaoh’s decision to appoint him as governor. Where Joseph’s life continues to paint a picture of Jesus, I simply couldn’t help myself, I just had to insert commentary to point out those scriptures. Finally, we’ll look at Joseph’s process for choosing direction as it relates to God’s Spirit and Joseph’s abilities.
So after Pharaoh hears what the cupbearer says about how the Lord used Joseph to accurately interpret dreams, and after Pharaoh hears Joseph’s interpretation of his own dreams, he sees God’s Spirit is in Joseph. (Genesis 41:38) Just as soon as Pharaoh recognizes Joseph is led by God’s Spirit, he makes a command decision.
I’m putting you in charge, of the whole country, Pharaoh says to Joseph. Then he takes off his signet ring and puts it on Joseph’s finger. He orders up some clothes fitting for a man who’s second in command and has Joseph put them on. He gives Joseph a gold chain to wear around his neck. And he has him ride in a chariot, as his right hand man, and the people shout out before him, Make way!
And that’s how it went down when Joseph was appointed as the governor of Egypt, only with respect to the throne, was Pharaoh greater than Joseph. (Genesis 41:40)
After all the ceremony, Pharaoh says to Joseph, Yes I’m Pharaoh, but nobody will lift a finger in all of Egypt without your word. Pharaoh renames Joseph, he calls him Zaphenath-Paneah. And he gives him a wife named Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
Joseph is given a Gentile bride. Even as Jesus is given His Gentile bride, us, you and me, the church. (Revelation 21:9)
Then Joseph travels all over Egypt to learn about the land he’s governing.
He’s thirty years old when he enters into public service.
I can’t help but notice Joseph is thirty years old when he enters into serving the public, even as Jesus was thirty when he entered into public ministry. (Luke 3:23)
So he’s traveling throughout Egypt, and during the seven years of prosperity the land produces bountifully, just as God, through Joseph, said it would. And Joseph collects all the food produced in those seven years and stores it in the cities. Each city has it’s storage from the food produced in the fields around it. The quantities of grain Joseph collects and stores are like the sand of the sea; there’s so much that he can’t keep track of it so he stops keeping records. The crop production is so great, it’s beyond measure.
During these first seven years Joseph has two sons with his wife Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph names his first son Manasseh (which means causing to forget). He says he named him that, “…because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he names Ephraim (which means I shall be doubly fruitful), “…because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Well, just as God’s Spirit predicted, the seven years of abundance come to an end, and the seven years of famine begin. All around people are hurting for food. But Egypt is prepared for the shortage. When Egypt begins to feel the famine, the people cry out to Pharaoh, who tells all the Egyptians, Just go see Joseph and do whatever he tells you.
When the people cry out to be saved, from starvation, Pharaoh directs them to Joseph. “…do what he tells you,” Pharaoh says to the Egyptians. (Genesis 41:55) Even as God, when the people cry out to be saved, from their own sin, directs them to Jesus. Speaking of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration God said, “…listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)
When the famine is effecting the whole of Egypt, Joseph opens the storehouses and sells grain to the Egyptians. The famine is terrible, and everyone both inside and outside of Egypt comes to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine is so severe, everywhere.
Through Joseph, God saves the nations from starvation. Through Jesus, God saves the world from their sin.
God, Joseph, and Decisions:
It’s obvious Joseph was one in whom is the Spirit of God. (Genesis 41:38) And God’s Spirit in him resulted in his prospering and in an ability to make great decisions.
But maybe you’ve read about Joseph and you’re asking yourself, How does that work? Does Joseph use reason and wisdom? Or does he use the leading of God’s Spirit to make decisions?
I believe the answer is both. To gain insight, I think it’s important to see how Joseph had God’s Spirit two distinct ways.
1) First, he had God’s Spirit in the same way some of the craftsmen who built the tabernacle had God’s Spirit: …he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills, Moses said of the man chosen to lead the building of the tabernacle. (Exodus 35:30-35)
Joseph had skills born of God’s Spirit. Joseph was faithful to his duty, even in the beginning, in the day of small things. He was industrious and he had great integrity. Based on his rapid rise to prominence in Potipher’s household, and in prison, and in Pharaoh’s administration, I believe Jospeh also had great skills as a communicator, as an organizer, and as a problem solver. (see previous post Joseph’s 4 Steps to Success)
No doubt Joseph used all these skills in his decision making and problem solving wherever he worked. And I don’t think there’s any doubt these skills served him well.
But there’s a danger here. Sometimes the more skills God blesses you with, the more you tend to rely on those skills — at the exclusion of seeking God’s direction. Which brings us to the second way in which Joseph experienced God’s Spirit.
2) The second way in which Joseph had God’s Spirit was through connection. Joseph was connected to God in a way that opened communication with God’s Spirit. I believe Joseph was someone who was constantly seeking God’s direction. He was seeking God’s will in his life. He was sensitive to God’s Spirit.
Can you imagine the consequences, had Joseph relied solely on his gifts and skills, without tapping into the leading of the Spirit? Egypt’s economy would have gone into deep depression. The recovery from such devastation would have taken decades, if there even was a recovery. And most importantly, millions in Egypt and in the surrounding nations would have died of starvation.
I’m reminded of Joshua, another man gifted with great administrative abilities. When the Gibeonites came and requested of Joshua that Israel enter into an alliance with them, they told him they were from a far away country. Joshua, relying on his powers of deduction, saw they had worn clothes, and old wineskins, and moldy bread. What a seemingly simple decision. It’s so obvious. They’re from a far away country.
We’re not to ally ourselves with anyone local, Joshua told them, but an alliance with you? No problem. It’s easy to figure out, you’re not from around here.
Joshua 9:14 says, they checked out their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. (see Joshua Chapter 9)
Three days later the Israeli people find out the truth about the Gibeonites. And they’re protesting against Joshua and the others leading Israel, because they were duped.
Not long after that, Israel has to march all night, and risk lives in battle, to honor their alliance with the Gibeonites.
Like Joshua, Joseph was blessed with brains and abilities, but he recognized the value in seeking God’s direction. And like Joseph, like Joshua, and like anyone, you and I can’t see one single second into the future. Right now you can’t see beyond the four walls of the room you’re in, or if you’re outside, you’re limited to the strength of your eyesight. You can’t see into the past except for what others have recorded and what you remember. Even with television and the internet, your awareness of the time-space continuum is just the tiniest fraction of what God sees, which is everything.
Joseph recognized this. “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” He said to the cupbearer and to the baker. (Genesis 40:8) When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dreams he immediately said,
“I can’t do it…”
“…God will give the answer…”
God had the answer. He saved millions of lives from death by starvation.
God has the answers still. For you and for me.
Thank God for the skills, gifts, and abilities He’s blessed you with. But don’t rely on your gifts exclusively. Don’t neglect seeking His direction.
Pray through life decisions.
Seek His direction constantly.
Pray for Him to direct your steps.
Pray for sensitivity to His Holy Spirit.
If you do you could be blessed like Joseph was.
If you do you could be led down a path that will save you and your people from disaster.
I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
J.B. Jackson, A Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names, 1908
Walton, Matthews, Chavalas, (2000) IVP Bible Background Commentary, Old Testament