The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), January 15
Joseph is the eleventh son in a large household, which must have taken some management to feed, clothe, and care for. Overseeing his father’s extensive flock absorbed all of his and his brothers’ time. Little does Joseph know that his boyhood experience forms the bedrock for a lifetime of management.
Joseph makes the best of his circumstances when he is bought by Potiphar, the captain of the guard. He simply does what he knows best. He manages. He manages with the awareness of God’s presence. And he manages well—so much so that Potiphar promotes him to the overseer of his house and all that he has.
Like Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, Joseph has good genes. His handsome form and appearance catch the lustful eye of Potiphar’s wife (a real cougar!). Joseph finds himself thrown into jail after being falsely accused of attempted rape. Joseph again does what he knows best, he manages. His organizational skills (and the Lord’s presence) promote him to prison supervisor. During his tenure, two of Pharaoh’s servants are thrown into prison and share the dreams that they have with Joseph. He accurately interprets both men’s dreams; one man is restored to his position while the other is hanged. Meanwhile, Joseph continues to do what he knows best. He manages. For two more years.
The Lord interrupts Pharaoh’s sleep with two disturbing dreams. Mystified by these dreams, Pharaoh demands an interpretation. The former prisoner remembers Joseph, and Pharaoh immediately calls for him. He interprets the dream and offers managerial advice. Pharaoh recognizes the Lord’s presence and Joseph’s managerial skills and promotes Joseph to oversee Egypt’s economy for the following 14 years.
Joseph’s whole life prepares him for this one position that will save an entire generation, including his own family, from massive starvation. Who knew that all these management experiences would lead to an even greater position? God did!
This story reveals a number of truths about work ethic, attitude, and providence:
- A right attitude toward God and adverse circumstances prepares a man to do what he knows he should do. A man with a high view of God assesses each circumstance that comes his way as an opportunity to excel for the glory of God. Joseph apparently maintained a joyful attitude and strong work ethic at each juncture of his life. The wisdom writer couples man’s positive attitude with God’s providence, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
- God uses the adverse circumstances brought about by the evil intent of others (the betrayal and treachery of Joseph’s brothers) to further His redemptive purposes. The wisdom writer states it this way, “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24).
- God intersects our lives with people and their problems (the butler and the baker) for His glory and for the furtherance of His redemptive purposes. Joseph had to depend upon the Lord to interpret the servants’ dreams; therefore, we must rely upon the Lord to interpret the intersection of others and their problems in our lives.
Joseph only knew in retrospect that each of his managerial experiences in adverse conditions was crucial for the saving of an entire generation of people, including his own family.
Questions from today’s reading (Genesis 40:1-41:57):
What does Joseph communicate about God to those observing his life while in prison?
Joseph recognized that interpretation of dreams belong to the Lord; how does he interpret the return of the butler to Pharaoh’s household? How does the butler’s lack of activity on his behalf affect Joseph’s faith in God?
What does Joseph learn about God during his years of prison that prepares him for life on the outside as prime minister in Egypt?