Genesis 40-41 Message

Genesis 40-41 Message


Genesis 40-41
Key Verse: 41:51-52

Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Joseph probably had a strong desire to know God. Then God gave him dream. Since then he communicated with God through prayer. The dream God gave him was his Bible. Last week we saw how Joseph was put into a prison. He had been falsely accused and was in a hopeless situation. On the contrary to his dream, the reality was too harsh to Joseph. In that total dark moment of injustice, God was with him. So whatever he did God gave him a great success. We don’t see any bitterness in him. He didn’t sit down. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He believed that God gave him a vision and God would fulfill that vision. Then he was a light in that dark place shepherding others. There was Lord’s hidden plan as Joseph was going through pains and broken moments. God was forming Jesus’ image in Joseph. We see also Joseph’s godly character when he was rewarded. Finally God raised Joseph as an emperor’s teacher and used him as one part of God’s salvation plan and as an image of coming Jesus. God wanted to use Joseph for His plan. God would make Joseph a prime minister of Egypt for that purpose. Then Joseph needed to have Jesus’ image to be used for God’s purpose. The instrument God used to build godly characters in Joseph was sufferings. When I turn my eyes from Joseph to Almighty God I boldly declare that you can be like Joseph with much suffering when you hold fast Gospel and God’s promises in Bible. It is God, who planned Joseph’s life, dreams, sufferings, 7 years of abundance, 7 years of famine, prophetic wisdom, for His salvation plan. May God make Joseph’s extraordinary life to be yours! May God make Joseph’s extraordinary life to be mine!

I. Joseph in prison (40:1-40:23): God’s character when you are in trial.

When he had to be rewarded for his honest, faithful, and good work, on the contrary Joseph was put in a prison. His integrity was damaged. He was treated as a criminal. In that critical moment, he believed in God. He trusted God. There is God, who sees the thoughts and hearts that are not seen. Joseph was not overcome by darkness. What made Joseph special? There are many books in book stores that inspire us. Sometime those books help us like a book review we had some time ago. But we become thirsty again. We feel our way in dark again and often. However, Joseph was different. He had never been overcome by the power of darkness. We want to skip Joseph’s story because he looks a superman. I find a secret. I give a deep sigh of relief. He was weak as we are. He was also human as we are. There was only one special thing in him, just one. So you may be sure that you can be like Joseph too. I find that secret in 39:21, “the Lord was with him.” Even the Pharaoh in palace was in darkness spiritually. However, Joseph had a light even in a dark dungeon. The Lord was his light. Let the Lord be your light. Then you can be like Joseph whatever reasons you have to make you stumble. Joseph treasured the God-given dreams. It seemed his dream was gone in a prison. It seemed he was lost. That was not true. Joseph held fast God. Then the light shone in him. There was God’s plan that Joseph didn’t know. The light in him shone the people around him and dark human history. Let’s see how God uses the person whom He is with.

“Some time later” in 40:1 refers to 39: 23, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Joseph became a prison manager. It is God who gives you success when your hearts are right. It was just right time that God put Joseph in a prison. Joseph would not do it voluntarily. There were two purposes in God’s plan. Firstly, Joseph needed more training to have Jesus’s heart. Secondly, Joseph needed to meet two very high officials to become a prime minister later. If any of you have been going through pains, see God behind your pains and broken hearts.

What happened? The cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. In ancient time, the cupbearer and the baker were not simply chaffs or butlers. They were very high ranked officers. They were responsible for king’s food. They could put a poison in a food to kill a king. So a king assigned a highly trusted person to that position. This was not just a coincidence that very high officials came to Joseph’s custody. No, God planned it. God was in control of Joseph’s life. God is in control of my life and your life when you remain in the true vine, Jesus Christ.

After these two officials had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” Joseph’s happy life was destroyed by his brothers. When he had been honest and loyal to his master, he was falsely accused and put in a prison. He had many reasons to be dejected and sad. But instead of being dejected, he was caring for the people in the same prison. Again Joseph was not a superman. We become like Joseph when the LORD is with us. How can we be with the LORD? Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Matthew 7:7 says, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Many seek different things, such as human ambition, human recognition, small benefits, or solutions to the problems. What was the difference between Joseph and others? Joseph sought God. Joseph cherished God-given dream. That formed godly characters in Joseph’s heart. We have to seek God more than anything else. We have to seek to be like Jesus more than anything else.

The cupbearer and the baker answered to Joseph’s question, “We both had dreams but there is no one to interpret them.” They had dreams every night. But they felt that the dreams that time seemed very special. God’s finger disturbed their hearts. Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” God gave two officials the dreams that would happen to them in 3 days. Since God revealed the future things to them, only God could know what the dreams meant. What does Joseph’s statement show about right attitude toward God? First, God revealed two official’s futures through their dreams so that Joseph might interpret their dreams. At Joseph’s time there was no written Bible. Now we have Bible. The Holy Spirit guides us to interpret God’s word. When we understand the word of God by the help of the Holy Spirit, we know our way. We can also guide others to the way of life. God uses the person, who is full of the Holy Spirit, to teach God’s way to the people. When we study God’s word or stand on the podium in a church we have to ask God to empower us with the Holy Spirit.

Second, Even though interpretations belong to God, God used Joseph. Joseph could use that opportunity to magnify his name. But Joseph only revealed God’s name. Another good example is John the Baptist, who acknowledged himself as just a voice of Jesus. Sometime we are tempted to show up or boast ourselves about something we do. What is the warning Bible gives? Matthew 6:1 says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Seeking self-glory is most foolish because there is no reward in heaven except for sinful humans’ praise. That’s all. When we were in Wilmington NC, our house church was once full of Bible students in Sunday worship service. David Johnson and I prayed to hold Genesis Bible Academy in the biggest hall of UNCW and fill all seats. I sought self-glory and was proud. I even challenged Chicago UBF. Then there was storm and all were scattered except for David and Taylor. Later I lost them also. This is a life giving lesson now to me. If I had been mature spiritually and sought God’s glory only, Taylor and David both would be pioneering ministers now; Taylor as a medical missionary and David a Wilmington UBF pastor. David was full of God’s grace and zeal when he confessed and repented his past sin. God’s grace in him was much bigger than his forgiven sin. Wilmington ministry could have been fired as much as that in El Camino through one person David Johnson if I knew Jesus. I was a sinner who quenched the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin. I was the person who would go to hell when I thought I was a missionary. I asked forgiveness of my sin to God and also to David Johnson. I called him yesterday. David has a good heart. He remembered many good things with us. He is a good man. We will continue Bible study by skype. Today is happy day since I see Jesus through my repentance.

Third, Joseph believed that his previous two dreams were given by God and would be fulfilled even though he was in a prison. Joseph’s willingness to interpret their dreams means that he has not yet given up on his own dreams. Even though many years have passed, and he has endured the pain of rejection, enslavement, false accusation and imprisonment, down deep inside he still believes that one day God will cause those early dreams to come true. Otherwise he would have said to the men, “My advice is to forget about those dreams. They don’t mean anything. I had dreams of my own once, and look where I am now.” But he didn’t say like that. If you are overcome with self-pity or discouragement, remember Joseph and look around you to the needs of others. Joseph didn’t allow discouragement to stop him from believing God-given dream and from caring about others.

So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. Joseph’s interpretation was good news to him. He would be recovered to his position in three days as he had been. Joseph asked him, “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” Here we see Joseph’s human side. Even though Joseph was a remarkable young man, he was also human. He had his hopes and dreams. He wanted to get out of dungeon as soon as possible.

When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he told Joseph his dream. This was a big challenge to Joseph. Joseph knew what his dream meant. It was bad news. Joseph interpreted his dream as God told him. The chief baker would die in three days. It was difficult to say such bad news. Joseph didn’t hide truth. One of the works the Holy Spirit does is to convict our sin. When the Holy Spirit is in us we can confess our sins and repent our sins. True repentance is not a lip service but should be practical as John Baptist told the people, when they came to him in the wilderness. Then we can deliver the message of God’s salvation and also God’s judgment to the world. Those, who are cleaned by Jesus’ holy blood through true repentance, can be the witnesses of the word of salvation and judgement.

The things became true as Joseph told to two officers. This seemed to be a good chance for Joseph to get out of a dungeon. What happened? Look at 40:23 and 41:1a, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. When two full years had passed….” The chief cupbearer totally forgot Joseph. Nothing happened to Joseph. Joseph thought that this man was a ticket to get out of a dungeon. But the man totally forgot Joseph. Joseph had to wait two more years in a dark dungeon. On one hand, he is faithful and ready to serve God where he is. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to stay in prison forever. Waiting is painful. Waiting is perhaps the hardest discipline of the Christian life. Warren Wiersbe says in his book “Be Authentic, p111”, “God permitted Joseph to be treated unjustly and put in prison to help build his character and prepare him for the tasks that lay ahead. The prison would be a school where Joseph would learn to wait on the Lord. … He would learn that God’s delays are not God’s denials.” We see in Chapter 41 that two years later his request will lead to his release.

I had prayed for Charlotte NC for long years. I declared a big mouth of establishing a world mission center in Charlotte NC. Since I am a tent maker missionary, I was waiting for a job opportunity in Charlotte NC. But instead I came to DuPage area. I felt dying when I came to this area even though a job pays more than GE Hitachi. My dream was to see God’s glory. God saved me through Genesis 40 and 41. What God did for Joseph was to form godly character and Jesus’ image in him so that God could use him for His Salvation He had planned since Adam’s fall. My family faced several times at dead ends. Whenever I thought it was the end, God saved me and my family. What do sufferings mean to godly people? God wants to form godly characters in them. What I now desire to have is not Joseph in an emperor’s chariot but Joseph a small Jesus. Not work, not achievement but Jesus’ image is what glorify God.

II. Joseph became a second man in Egypt (41): God’s character when you are rewarded.

Let’s see how God is working for His plan and for His people. We will see Joseph’s integrity and God’s character when he was in prime time. Keeping integrity and godly character in the time of extraordinary success may be more difficult than in the time of trial. Joseph would be elevated out of a pit to become one of the most powerful men on earth in the ancient world. It happened on just another dungeon day for Joseph. Everything was same. That day was same as the other days for two years. There was one thing that Joseph didn’t know. The night before God gave Pharaoh two dreams. Both dreams had different forms but had the same meanings. In his dream he was standing by the Nile. Out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. Verses 5 – 7 tell us that when Pharaoh fell back asleep, he dreamed the same dream again, only this time it involved heads of grain instead of cows. Verse 8 says, in the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Boom! God inspired a cupbearer. The light clicked on for the cupbearer. Verses 9 through 13 describe the cupbearer’s testimony about a Hebrew young man he met while in a prison a couple years before, who accurately interpreted his dream and that of the former baker. This was exactly what Pharaoh wanted to hear. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. Think of that moment as Joseph walked into the place of power.

Pharaoh addressed the prisoner that he had had a baffling dream and that he heard reports of Joseph’s ability to explain it. Here we learn from Joseph godly character, God wants us to have, “Promote God, not yourself.” I found a good expression from one pastor’s sermon. I borrow it here. [Stand there with the broken man, Joseph. Pharaoh has rolled out the red carpet for him. This is the golden moment for our mistreated, maligned friend to strut his stuff. If he was appearing on The Apprentice, this would be his chance to win the big guy over, to exude self-confidence, to manipulate the situation to his favor, to promote himself. This is when fear can make you desperate: “I’ve got to convince Pharaoh that he needs me here in the palace. I can’t go back to that dungeon again!”]

What did Joseph do? How did he handle that moment of opportunity? Look at verse 16, ““I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Joseph answered Pharaoh that it is God who gave Pharaoh that dream and would tell the meaning of that dream. Even when he gave the meaning of the strange dreams of this pagan king, Joseph constantly gave God the credit. He determined to point this human king to the King of all kings. Then in verses 33 through 36 he offered the counsel to Pharaoh. Joseph’s point was to select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Joseph didn’t try to persuade Pharaoh that he was proper person. He wasn’t selfishly ambitious. Joseph knew that God has His way, His time, and His purpose. Joseph only waited to see how God would work. He knew that next step was on God but not on him. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

What happened? Look at verses 39-45, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.”

Joseph was all of sudden raised to the power. When Joseph got the power there were two people who were afraid of Joseph; (1) the captain and his wife and (2) the cupbearer. However, there is no mention of them. Joseph knew that God was in control of all of events. Instead he used the power to save people and to make Pharaoh rich. God wants to give the power to such a person. For this purpose God had given Joseph pain, humility, sorrow, and sufferings until Joseph became like a small Jesus. Look at verses 51 and 52, “Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.””

Vance Havner says, “God uses broken things. Broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” (Leadership Vol. 4 by Torkom Saraydarian)

Some of you may be once broken. I am. My wife was broken by me, a broken man. Some of you may be waiting for LORD to get out of uncertainty, or misery, or pain, or broken heart, or wound. Only God can bring you through and out of the dungeon. Only God can reward your faithfulness. Remember Joseph. God used Joseph’s broken heart. Joseph’s trials were not accidents. God was watching over Joseph. Trials, Joseph had, were necessary to build godly characters in him. I want to mention that Joseph was not special but God is Almighty, who gave Joseph dream. What was excellent or extraordinary in Joseph? Joseph held fast the dream God gave him even in impossible situations. Only God can reward your faithfulness. So when it comes, don’t pat yourself on the back. Be grateful, not proud. Joseph went through the fire faithful to God and he came out with a character purer, stronger, ready for the assignment God had in store. God’s promises are just as real today as they were for Joseph. His grace is still work. You can trust Him. There is choice for you only: First, you can sit down bitterly. Or second, you can hold God’s promises and do your work faithfully trusting God. Are you once broken? Give thanks to God. God uses a broken heart to understand Jesus’ broken hearts and to build godly character in you as long as you trust God. My point is that Joseph’s extraordinary life can be yours today.

Do you have God-given dream? Have you been broken? Hold your God-given dream, which is Gospel and God’s promises in Bible. Pray and be faithful to God even though reality seems to betray you. Even though you are in pain now, hold your God-given dream and live in the level of God -sized dream.

When Jesus’ image is formed in you through enduring pain and waiting for God, God will use you like Joseph. Are you in pain? Smile, be joyful, strengthen your feeble feet, and move on. When you are rewarded, remember Joseph. Be faithful all the more.

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