…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14
We live in uncertain times. Few of us can be certain we’ll be in the same job till we retire. Globalisation, economic cycles, rising affluence, innovation, government interventions, and downturns, financial crises impact businesses, … growth, new markets, investment, mergers/acquistions, downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, off-shoring affect jobs.
One moment, one can be the department’s high flier, the boss’ protege …. the next moment an unexpected, sudden quota-mandated retrenchment.
Sometimes, it feels like life is a random jigsaw puzzle, buffetted by an ocean of random events which we seem to have no control over.
Where is God in all this?
What on earth is He doing?
At times, Joseph’s life is like a feather floating in the wind … updrafts, downdrafts, turbulence, spirals … until it safely lands … guided by the invisbile hand of the Lord.
Through each challenge, injustice, unexpected change in Joseph’s life,
he chose God’s way to handle matters, and trusted the Lord.
Joseph’s consistent and spontaneous Godly reaction to each unexpected change & turn that happened in his life, … is exemplary for all of us to follow.
I find much comfort in Joseph’s story, … how God’s ever-present invisible hand is at work … through messy situations, imperfect people like me, …
not just guiding our lives, but the larger world, … His purposes, His-story.
There is much we can share about Joseph’s life. His life spans across about 20% of the book of Genesis.
Joseph is a lay person, a marketplace christian.
Joseph’s portrait is painted with the palette of calling, gifts, character development, and skill training framed within the canvas of the marketplace … some strokes bold, some strokes tender, gentle … skilfully and gracefully articulated by the Lord’s hand .
Let’s step back for a moment … and examine Joseph’s life retrospectively with marketplace lens. Let’s piece together Joseph’s career path jigsaw.
His career path is described in Genesis, 37,39, 40, 41.
At its height, God directed his steps to be second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt.
Genesis 42:38-40 (NASB)
38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?” 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.”
Yet, … just moments before his appearance before Pharaoh, …. he was at his lowest, … languishing in prison for a crime he did not commit. Through the good reference recommendation from Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer (his former prison-mate), he was presented to Pharaph.
When Joseph was appointed to this prestigious position, his CV was:
criminal record — (alleged) rape of his boss’s wife.
entrusted to run a country?
Not a sterling record, … a questionable character. But if we take a closer look, we find some interesting details …
How did this foreign slave rose to such heights, … from prison to palace ?
Psalm37: 23,24 (NLT)
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
1 Sam 2:7,8,10 (NKJV)
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
Let’s start at the beginning.
We know retrospectively that God’s purposes for Joseph was to be in Egypt.
But he was born an Israelite, born in Canaan.
Somehow … he had to be physically in Egypt
… and somehow meet the chief cupbearer … and walk into Pharaoh’s life …
Joseph’s life in a snapshot tweet …
Acts 7:9-10 (NASB)
9 “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph
and sold him into Egypt.
Yet God was with him,
10 and rescued him from all his afflictions,
and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household.
Joseph was the favored son of a rich man, Jacob, whom the Lord blessed. Through the jealousy of his brothers, Joseph was betrayed and sold to Midianite traders who happened to be passing by, who later sold him to Potiphar in Egypt.
In spite of his betrayal, … years later when Joseph met his brothers, he forgave his brothers. He saw God working His purposes in his life, but also the larger picture …. of God working his purposes in history – His-story.
Genesis 50:19,20 (NASB)
19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Proverbs 16:4 (NLT)
The Lord has made everything for his own purposes,
Joseph realized that God was able to turn his brothers’ jealousy and evil action for the greater good … similar to the twists and turns in his father, Jacob’s life and his marketplace experience.
Psalm 105:16-22 (NASB)
And He called for a famine upon the land;
He broke the whole staff of bread.
17 He sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;
19 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
20 The king sent and released him,
The ruler of peoples, and set him free.
21 He made him lord of his house
And ruler over all his possessions,
22 To imprison his princes at will,
That he might teach his elders wisdom.
From the last verse of this Psalm, Joseph taught the elders of Egypt wisdom … i.e. Joseph revealed the God he knew to them, he discipled a nation through their executive and political structure, in the heart of the corridors of power.
God’s big picture.
Joseph arrived in Egypt not understanding the language or culture. Joseph had to cross a different culture, and lived amongst people of other faiths, … alone, away from his family … and fellowship support. He went beyond the safety of his ‘church walls‘ into the world … to be a marketplace ‘tentmaker’ … starting right at the bottom … a slave.
Through the unjust hands of those closest to him,
from favored son having everything,
… to a slave having nothing, … abandoned in a foreign place.
Then, in his darkest moments,
through the favor of strangers,
exalted to guide and lead a nation
By God’s hands, God’s purposes, God’s greater good.
Can we see God’s invisible, tender hands in the midst of life’s ups and downs?
Gifts of the Spirit
When we read Joseph’s life, the gifts of the Spirit was very much evident in his life.
One night, Pharaoh had two dreams. No one could interprete it.
Genesis 41:7,8 (NASB)
… Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
With God’s help, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.
God spoke to Pharaoh, who did not know the Lord, … through a prophetic dream about the future of the land.
Genesis 41:16 (NIV)
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
The Lord opened the door for Joseph to share his God with the king of a powerful nation. Joseph pointed Pharaoh to the God who can interprete his dreams, and like all works of God, Joseph humbly acknowledged, “I cannot do it, but God …”
Joseph’s life is characterized by prophetic dreams and interpretation of dreams –
His 2 childhood dreams,
his interpretation of 2 dreams by the chief cupbearer and chief baker,
and Pharaoh’s 2 dreams.
When Joseph interpreted the dreams the cupbearer and baker in prison,
and Pharaoh’s dream in the palace,
he instantly gave them the interpretation.
Thus, revealing the close prayer life he has with the Lord, … hearing the Lord speak,
whether in the dark prison, or in the glamorous palace.
Joseph brought the Lord with Him into every marketplace situation.
The Lord was with Joseph
Joseph’s personal dreams also gave him hope for the future, in the face of the unexpected storms of his life … and great joy when He lived the fulfillment of God’s dreams.
God speaks through dreams. He speaks in dreams to those who know Him (Jacob, Joseph, Paul, etc),
and also those who have yet to know Him (Phaorah, cupbearer, baker).
Today, in some communities, many are coming to Jesus through dreams.
When Pharaoh had his dream …. in the morning his spirit was troubled (Genesis 41:8).
Besides interpreting Pharaoh’s dream — 7 years of abundance, followed by 7 years of famine,
God also gave Joseph a word of wisdom — a practical plan on how to manage the 7 years of a booming high growth economy, and the 7 years of catastrophic recession that was to come. Joseph’s plan won the hearts of Pharaoh and his cabinet.
Genesis 41:33-37 (NASB)
33 Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35 Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. 36 Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” 37 Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants.
Joseph’s plan was wise fiscal policy, building up the nation’s commodity reserves during the boom years; prudent management of budget surpluses to invest for the future.
The supply-chain plan involved a distributed network of large secure warehouses across the land for collection and distribution. What was collected locally was distributed locally later; fair and efficient. The plan was executed through delegated overseers, rather than centrally run.
The goal was to ensure food security for the population.
Through Joseph’s plan, God’s bigger purpose was fulfilled — preserving the life of many including Joseph’s family living in Canaan.
Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?” (Genesis 41:38)
God gave Joseph the gift of administration, which we will elaborate later.
Often, the gifts of the Spirit are explained in the context of use in the church.
But here, the gifts of the Spirit are used by a marketplace believer in the marketplace
solving real problems that impact many.
Another person who had similar gifts and marketplace ministry was Daniel, a statesman and a prophet.
In Daniel’s story, God spoke to King Nebuchanezzar through a dream about future empires and his future, and Daniel interpreted them.
Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
A man’s gift makes room for him,
And brings him before great men.
Joseph was also sustained by the faith in God he learnt from his father, Jacob, and his dreams — how Jacob toiled for 14+ years for his deceptive brother-in-law Laban, and how God blessed him in spite of Laban’s schemes, … how later, Esau his brother forgave Jacob for stealing his birthright and their father Isaac’s blessing.
Joseph’s faith was anchored upon the Covenant that God made to his great grandfather Abraham through Isaac and his father Jacob … God’s fingerprint etched upon the stories of their lives …. upon the limb of his father Jacob (Genesis 32).
Today, in most news reports of the political or economical happenings of the day, … often there are interviews with analyst experts predicting possible scenarios and impacts, or where the economy is heading. There is definitely an interest in the marketplace for crystal-ball insight into the future, and possible real solutions. Everyday, financial markets dance to the rhythm of instant data streams, events and forecasts.
Amazingly, God gave Pharaoh & Joseph an accurate 14-year economic forecast of an economic cycle.
God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do
… the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. (Genesis 41:28, 32)
In other words, a prophecy predicting an economic cycle,
and a looming catastrophic economic disaster, market crash – famine.
God also gave Joseph a practical, achievable, wise plan to solve the crisis.
Similarly, in the New Testament, when the prophet Agabus predicted a coming famine,
Acts 11:27-29 (NASB)
27 Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.
… a prophecy followed by a practical plan,
In both Joseph and Agabus prophetic messages, they did not have any “Repent!” message. Neither of them said the famine was caused by idolatory or sin, … though there was much around them.
Matthew 5:45 (NIV)
… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Hence, … listen carefully to God, and just say exactly what He says … verbatim.
Don’t add to God’s word.
Furthermoret, when Joseph was in government,
he acted justly and respected people of other faiths,
Genesis 47:21,22 (NASB)
21 As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land.
The Lord was with Joseph
As a slave, when Joseph served his first Egyptian master, Potiphar
– The Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:2),
similarly as an innocent prisoner in prison
– The Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:21)
The Bible further elaborates God’s hand on Joseph,
at Potiphar’s house:
Genesis 38:2-6 (NASB)
2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.
Genesis 38:21-23 (NASB)
21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. 23 The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.
God’s favor on Joseph was very tangible, measurable and visible, even to his bosses, Potiphar and the prison warden.
Whether he was riding high in Potiphar’s house or down in the dumps in prison, … he prospered, and his masters were blessed.
Different address, … same God.
Years before, …. while working for his father-in-law, Laban, Joseph’s dad, Jacob had the similar God covenantal touch,
Genesis 30:27 (NIV)
But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.”
In God’s providence, Joseph’s bosses, Potiphar and the prison warden also became the oasis in his Egyptian wilderness journey.
Management experience & gift of administration
At each posting, Joseph was made second in command, managing people and resources … ala, COO.
No MBA from the top business school in Egypt, but earned hands-on management experience in the trenches of Potiphar’s house and in prison (softskills, EQ, hardskills)
Its definitely not easy to manage a prison, when you are a peer prisoner. Managing not by title and authority, … but a peer in the same boat.
Many prisoners were also probably older than Joseph, some were very well-qualified, … street-smart and shrewd. Joseph had to earn their respect and trust.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. “
Matthew 10:16 (NASB)
Joseph must have had strong influential, diplomacy, motivational, intuitive leadership gifts, as part of his wisdom,
in order to maintain peace in the prison.
Today, diplomacy, and able to evangelise one’s proposals/plans are key skills
in politics, gaining public support and handling delicate cross-border issues.
Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.”
― Daniele Varè
In Egypt, the people that Joseph was close to … the prison warden, captain of Pharaoh’s guard, chief baker, chief cupbearer … were all managers, … and possibly, mentors …. with experience managing precision operations, and finesse services of excellence for Pharaoh of Egypt.
Potiphar and the prison warden were not typical managers, they were very secure individuals, and held an unbiased attitude towards age and ethnicity (long before equal opportunity employment was politically correct).
From them, Joseph learnt delegation, empowerment, trusting others ; spotting and grooming young talents with opportunities to grow and lead.
They were not micro-managers, but managed by trust, and quality outcomes and delivery.
For young Joseph, Potiphar was a breath of fresh air in Egypt,
affirming Joseph with “I believe in you” confidence by promoting him.
By developing Joseph, Potiphar also became a role model of a generous door-opener for others.
Joseph proved faithful and worthy of their trust; trustworthy.
Through the kindness of others, Joseph developed and prospered.
A rough diamond is delicately polished … by the invisible precise hand of God.
So, when the opportunity to be second in command to Pharaoh came …. Joseph was ready !
The Lord gave him the gift of administration (Romans 12:8) – the wise management of resources, and divine provision of resources and willing volunteers/colleagues (not the same as obtaining some management qualification). God gave him opportunities to express it in Potiphar’s house, in prison, and finally in Pharaoh’s empire.
Undoubtedly Joseph was highly gifted, and very wise,
however, at every posting … he was always the No. 2 man
… never the top man.
Its never easy for highly gifted individuals with strong leadership skills to humbly collaborate and submit to others just as gifted as them.
A test of humility … playing second fiddle.
Joseph was a leader, and also a reliable, respectful and supportive team player,
who through God became secure in who he was, and his strengths,
acknowledging God’s hand upon his life.
In the end, … Joseph did rise beyond his other bosses, Potiphar and the prison warden 🙂 ,
… in God’s way, … in God’s time.
Proverbs 22:29 (NKJV)
Do you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before unknown men.
Here’s a little detail of the genius of God’s plan.
We know God’s purpose for Joseph was to rise to be second in command to Pharaoh of Egypt.
When Joseph was sold to Potiphar,
Potiphar was the captain of the bodyguard of Pharaoh … an intelligence insider.
Genesis 39:1 (NASB)
… Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him …
Then at the height of his career in Potiphar’s house, he was unexpectedly thrown into prison,
not any prison
…. but with laser precision, .. to where the king’s prisoners were.
Genesis 39:20 (NASB)
… put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined …
He was right in the midst of people who closely worked for Pharaoh, … like the chief cupbearer and chief baker.
Three of the managers Joseph met and was close to, … were in Pharaoh’s court.
In Potiphar’s home and in prison, Joseph was close to information/stories about the movers and shakers who were around Pharaoh. From this, he unconciously learned about the political landscape of Pharaoh’s court – the good guys, the intrigues, the deceit, the egos, the divisions and alliances.
Hence, when he was tapped on the shoulder to take Pharaoh’s job offer,
he was ready, … more than ready.
He had wisdom and knowledge of the political landscape,
Pharaoh’s management style,
… and down to Pharaoh’s favorite drink and pastry
…. and more importantly, God was with Him.
He did not walk into his new role cold.
However, … there’s still one more very important and indispensible ingredient
…. like salt that flavors any dish …
the makes the difference between black ordinary carbon, … and a sparkling diamond.
Early in his life, while in his father’s house,
… Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons … and he made him a varicolored tunic … His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; … Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words … His brothers were jealous of him … (Genesis 37:2-4,8,11 NASB)
Sounds like an arrogant, individualistic, spoilt teenager, … disliked by his siblings.
A far cry from the Joseph, after God’s university of life.
Thankfully, God saw beyond Joseph’s flaws. There is hope for all of us :-).
(btw, … years later, Mrs Potiphar brought a bad report about Joseph to everyone).
Note: Joseph’s family was not a perfect, happy family.
And, even in the midst of family situations and strong emotions within Joseph’s family, … God was above all that, … God worked through imperfect people & messy situations, even mistakes, … to lovingly fulfill His perfect purposes.
At Potiphar’s house, Joseph was prospering and promotions came.
Then … unexpectedly, he had to choose integrity, chastity and self-control,
rather than succumb to the seductive, sultry, sensual, alluring Mrs Potiphar
…. who later falsely accused him of rape.
Genesis 39:9 (NASB)
“Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.
How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
Note: this was way, way before the ten commandments, before the Law.
How can I sin against God?
Joseph desired to honor God.
Joseph feared God.
The true test of a man’s character is
what he does when no one is watching.
― John Wooden
He also recognized and respected the boundaries of his position of trust.
He served the position with integrity and self-control.
He served for the good of Potiphar’s house, not for personal gain.
He did not want to dishonor Potiphar in any way.
He was willing to suffer to do the right ethical thing.
He feared God more than the consequences of his actions.
He did not let pride get into his head.
Integrity, conviction and commitment.
In prison, God worked on Joseph’s heart … & not let circumstances dictate his attitude.
Joseph looked beyond the injustices done to him & his own personal needs
… to the needs of others
a caring leader, … a leader with a heart for others.
(not an ego-centric, hard driving taskmaster pushing targets/goals)
Genesis 40:6,7 (MSG)
When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”
This ordinary conversation, opened the door for Joseph to accurately interprete the chief cupbearer’s dream …. and later Pharaoh’s dream.
Joseph used his gifts and abilities to serve others.
By faithfully serving others in little things,
God opened doors for him.
Joseph’s accurate interpretation of the chief baker and chief cupbearer dreams established a trusted track record for him, … that later convinced Pharaoh to ask for Joseph to interpret his troubling dream.
After the cupbearer was restored 3 days later,
as predicted by Joseph’s interpretation of his dream,
the cupbearer somehow forgot Joseph’s request
“please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house” (Genesis 40:14),
.. until ……..
…… two years later.
patience, … further waiting, …
None of us are perfect,
like the cupbearer …
at times we disappoint others, … at times, others disappoint us,
let’s keep our eyes on the Lord,
He is our source, hope and focus,
He is trustworthy.
Psalm 73:25,26 (NKJV)
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Genesis 105:18,19 (NASB)
18 They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;
19 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
Patience … patience.
An indispensible character trait, especially in those who lead … in God’s time, in God’s way. Patience with others we work with, … live with.
Psalm 75:6 (KJ21)
6 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south,
7 but God is the Judge:
He putteth down one, and setteth up another.
Forgotten in prison, and locked away,
…. there was no humanly possible way for Joseph to fulfill the dreams God gave him.
It seemed all his life and dreams have crumbled into a dead end.
Like the children of Israel when they faced the sea
…. if God is the one leading them, … somehow the waters have to part.
Sometimes, God brings us to the end of our human wisdom, strength, ability, agility, ingenuity,
…. before He gloriously steps in.
Though Joseph’s external circumstances had turned for the worse,
… his gifts, dreams & faith had not snuff out.
Was this just a man’s dream … or really God’s dream?
Presumption or faith?
Have we heard from God?
For Joseph, it was definitely a God’s dream,
and in His time, … in His way, … with patience,
God resurrected Joseph’s dream out of the darkness of prison.
Impossible for man,
but all things are possible with God.
In all, 13 years had passed from Joseph shepherding his father Jacob’s flocks,
to shepherding Egypt.
He started with 17 years under his father’s mentoring of their covenant relationship and experience with God,
… and 13 years of marketplace learning & mentoring (Egypt),
character building, and practical living out the truth in the world,
… experiencing family betrayal, slavery, relief then sudden disappointment, false accusation, injustice, prison,
forsaken, forgotten, desperate
… in the midst of foreign gods, temptations, dangers, troubles
… consistently being salt & light with God faithfully by his side,
through the ups and downs of his life.
God was with him
Consider the lives of Paul, Moses, David …
there are no instant fruiful trees.
Jesus took 30 years before He started His ministry.
Joseph’s divine dreams, and Jacob’s effective mentoring kept him safely anchored in his covenant relationship with the Lord, through the sudden storms and temptations of life.
On a side note, …. Joseph grew up with Jacob, he saw and heard his father’s faith regularly…. the inspiring epic stories and journeys of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob …. their personal walk with the dynamic Lord who is intimately involved in their lives … powerfully working through mortal weakness, His grace triumphing over odds with unforgettable deliverances.
God’s stories are always powerful, memorable and inspiring … (a good portion of the Bible are narrative stories). Jacob’s mentoring/modelling was not boring, spiritualised text or rules,
but a God who is real and active,
personal and loving,
in life’s real challenges working out His purposes..
During the famine,
Genesis 41:56,57, Genesis 47:13-21 (NASB)
56 When the famine was spread over all the face of the earth, then Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians; and the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the earth.
13 Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” 16 Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”
20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s.
Contrast with our modern times, … under such widespread economic hardship , … somehow, under Joseph’s wise plan, the public response was orderly, … and prevented mass civil unrest in the nation;
The famine was so severe, that the people sold everything to buy grain from Joseph, the people became Pharaoh’s slaves. The market crashed, and Joseph held all the cash and commodities, and bought all the stocks and real estate in the economy.
Any investor’s dream.
An irresistible temptation to be absolutely corrupt & greedy, … but Joseph,
Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house.
Joseph was consistent in his integrity … at Potiphar’s house, prison and running a nation, Egypt.
He was trustworthy, faithful .. his bosses had complete trust in him.
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;
and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
Joseph’s life in the corridors and limelight of power, … had no effect on Joseph’s character, … he was free from scandal.
God’s word, the fear of God, prayer, … and his own personal experiences kept him humbly walking on the straight and narrow path to life.
As Joseph uttered earlier at Potiphar’s house,
How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Genesis 37:9
Joseph wielded tremendous, almost absolute,power and authority
… the famine reduced the people of Egypt to servitude.
But wait a minute …
Genesis 40:15 (NASB)
15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland,
the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison,
but I did nothing to deserve it.”
Joseph came to Egypt as a slave, betrayed by his brothers,
… he had no control over his situation.
Joseph went to prison due to an injustice done to him. He was innocent,
… he had no control over his situation
And, Joseph had been tried by
the venom of betrayal,
the sting of slander & injustice,
the sensual seduction of temptation.
Now, … greed was pounding at the door of success, …
just one instant … of indiscretion, personal gratification will ruin everything,
… back to prison.
In his life,
Joseph had totally lost all his rights and personal freedoms twice.
He had been reduced to nothing, destitute twice.
and in one Divine instant,
he gained his freedom,
walked out as a free man from prison and slavery
… exalted to Pharaoh’s court. Vindicated!
Grace & mercy from the Lord.
goodbye greed !!!
Hence, … when the moment came when he wielded such great power, … when the famine reduced the people to slaves, .. his heart was ready.
A heart change … from the teenager in his father’s home.
No textbook or university could have taught Joseph the life experiences to handle absolute power ethically and justly, … not corruptly.
The years of slavery and prison had humbled him,
to be compassionate and benevolent to the people of the land whom he ruled.
Also, each time Joseph lost everything, … God is at work …
… he tasted grace and unearned favor from Potiphar,
and then later with the prison warden.
Joseph was blessed by the gracious kindness of strangers.
Now it was his turn to be merciful, gracious, kind and just.
Genesis 47:23-26 (NASB)
23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. 24 At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” 25 So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” 26 Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s.
When the famine ended, Joseph gave the people seed to sow the land.
When the economy recovered, Joseph maintained his fiscal policy which became a statute in Egypt.
Joseph created a sovereign fund.
Joseph was just. Although he had the right to take everything from the people for Pharaoh Inc, … he did not,…. wisely letting them keep 80% of their harvest yields for themselves and the future generation (for your little ones).
A balance of both government, and private responsibility & enterprise
to maintain the society and the sharing of wealth.
This also helped to get the domestic economy and trade going, … after the famine.
A side note, during the famine, the people paid for the food,
not a handout.
However, at the end of famine, the people were given seed to sow,
a handout (as their resources had been depleted).
By the way, mathematically … the 7-year boom harvest was so great that 1.4 years (20%) of collected harvest was sufficient to sustain the population and outsiders through the 7-year famine, including seeds to sow when the rains finally came, .. and the famine over.
The math was perfect,
when God gave Joseph the forecast and plan he presented to Pharaoh 14 years earlier. Praise the Lord!
Genesis 50:20 (NASB)
As for you, you meant evil against me,
but God meant it for good
in order to bring about this present result,
to preserve many people alive.
After the death of his father, when Joseph faced his brothers, …. after experiencing the purposes of God’s big plan and tasted God’s grace … he was deeply humbled … and graciously forgave his brothers for the years of suffering he endured …
(and Potiphar’s wife too 🙂 ).
Just like Esau forgave his brother Jacob (Joseph’s father, in Genesis 33), …
But Esau said (to Jacob),
“I already have plenty, my brother.
Keep what you have for yourself.”
Genesis 33:9 (NIV)
Joseph forgave his brothers.
When one sees God’s hand upon one’s life through each turn, … each up and down,
and by the grace and love of God, … the blessing of God,
mercy and forgiveness flows from one’s hearts,
… does personal justice matter any more?
does recompense or retribution matter any more?
No, …. not at all.
God’s word to Joseph’s great grandfather in Genesis 15:1 (NIV)
the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
After Joseph left prison and started working for Pharaoh in Egypt, he married and had children during the 7 years of abundance,
Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh,
“For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
52 He named the second Ephraim,
“For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Genesis 41:51,52 (NASB)
God helped Joseph forget the past,
and made him fruitful,
in a foreign land,
… arriving as a slave … through the betrayal of his brothers.
With God’s help, … and seeing how his dreams were supernaturally fulfilled
in God’s master plan & purposes,
Joseph forgave his brothers.
Isaiah 64:8 (NASB)
But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
The potter gently moulds a lump of clay,
and delicately fires it in an oven … into a masterpiece vessel of honor.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Leadership gifts, brilliant minds,
… blessings, gifts of the spirit, ministries
are all good,
they can only be sustained and supported by Godly character
… patience, humility, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, self-control, integrity, benevolence.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
and the humility to see God’s greater purposes.
Micah 6:8 (NKJV)
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose.
In spite of great challenges,
rather being negative towards life
or indulge in self-pity, bitterness …
Joseph capitalized on whatever opportunities he had to continue to do good,
trusting God’s faithfulness.
Is the glass half empty or half full ?
The saving of many lives
After Jacob died,
Genesis 50:15, 19-21 (NIV)
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
From God’s perspective,
Joseph’s life’s journey & challenges – the saving of many lives,
… his whole family, … Egypt, and others impacted by the famine,
blessing both Jews and Gentiles.
Galatians 3:6-9 (HCSB)
6 Just as Abraham believed God,
and it was credited to him for righteousness,
7 then understand that
those who have faith are Abraham’s sons.
8 Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith
and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying,
All the nations will be blessed
9 So those who have faith
are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
At every posting, Joseph consistently glorified God through making his covenant God known through deeds, and sometimes words.
God was with Joseph, … everywhere he/He went,
his/His presence influenced and illuminated the environment and circumstances.
God was tangibly with Joseph, … Potiphar saw the evidence of Him.
At Potiphar’s house,
Genesis 38:3, 9 (NASB)
3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Joseph: “How then could I do this great evil
and sin against God?”
Genesis 40:8 (ESV)
Joseph said to them, “God is the only one who can understand and explain dreams. So I beg you, tell me your dreams.”
In Pharaoh’s court
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God
will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Through dreams and Joseph’s life, God was actively reaching out to the heathen world through Abraham’s descendants. The Gentiles were always part of God’s plan.
Through a tragic betrayal, Joseph was moved to Egypt
in Acts, life-threatening persecution scattered the first Jewish believers to share their faith with the Gentiles.
Acts 11:19-21 (NIV)
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
God’s plan is redemptive, His masterplan painted upon the canvas of history, …His-story.
In Christ alone
“I cannot do it,”
From his life’s experience Joseph knew that we cannot trust anything,
… years of unimaginable abundance,
… and years of unbelievable challenges, struggles, crisis
personally, and in the nation’s economy,
only God is trustworthy, unchanging, powerful and faithful,
God was with Joseph
The Lord used both the great, favourable moments,
as well as the unpleasant, humbling moments, of Joseph’s life,
even the times when he was sabotaged by those close to him.
How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
The fear of the Lord,
integrity, … not compromising with the world around him,
kept Joseph on the straight & narrow path of life,
honoring the Lord in a foreign land.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Focus on God’s big picture.
pray without ceasing;
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice in our confident hope.
Be patient in trouble,
and keep on praying.
And we know that God causes all things
to work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Romans 12:12, Romans 8:28)
I like the Chinese translation of Romans 8:28
paraphrasing the Chinese:
God works 10,000 events/situations to all collaboratively achieve His desired optimum outcome, so that those who love God are benefited, i.e. those who obey God’s will and call ( are benefited ).
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
November 2, 2014
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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