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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Genesis 41:41-52: ‘Inner-stances’

“41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ 42 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 round his neck. 43 He made 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.44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.’ 45 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.46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and travelled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh[d] and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Selwyn Hughes wrote that in all of our lives, it is not the circumstances that matter so much as the inner-stances. It is not what happens to us that counts, but how we react, how we respond.

Joseph’s elevation to high office is remarkable. What a reversal of someone’s fortunes! In a sense, he went through years of ‘famine’ before the abundance came into his life. When he was finally ‘successful’, he did not boast, but spoke about God. His testimony was written into the names of his children, proclaiming what God had done for him (50-52).

It is not inevitable that a person will be made fruitful in their land of suffering. While some get better in their troubles, others become bitter. It could go either way. A lot depends on those inner-stances.

Tomorrow we will consider some of Joseph’s inner-stances; we’ll look at a number of his attitudes and actions which I believe contributed to his fruitful life.

Genesis 41: 33-40: Something different

“33 ‘And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.’37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 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.’ ‘ NIV

“Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (38).

When Pharaoh spoke these words, he surely had little idea of their full implication? He wasn’t saying what a believer might be expressing in using similar words. He was a pagan king, and he did not have a working knowledge of Biblical theology. But this he did know: there was something different about Joseph. He felt it; sensed it; heard it; saw it. He was different and it had something to do with his God.

So it is that by the Spirit of God any Christian may have an influence on their world: in government, politics, education, in the office or on the shop floor – wherever the will of God may take them.

‘To me, ‘twas not the truth you taught, to you so clear, to me so dim

But when you came to me you brought a sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckons me,

And from your heart His love is shed,

Till I lose sight of you, and see the Christ instead.’

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may our light so shine before people that, seeing our good deeds, they will glorify the Father in heaven

Genesis 41:17-32: Changing seasons

“17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.22 ‘In my dream I saw seven ears of corn, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other ears sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven good ears. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.’25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of corn are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn scorched by the east wind: they are seven years of famine.28 ‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.”NIV

“Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them’’ (29, 30a).

As the chapter unfolds we continue to hear Joseph speaking naturally and easily about God. We saw yesterday that there is nothing manipulative or contrived about his witness. But it is a real and clear witness all the same. He says, it seems to me, as much as is required by the circumstances. He doesn’t try to squeeze into the conversation everything he knows about God, but he says enough. Powerful king that he is, Pharaoh is left in no doubt that he is not in control.

‘Our light must so shine that men may turn from us to Him from whom we have derived it.’ F.B.Meyer.

Life can change in a moment. Let us not take for granted the blessings we enjoy today.

‘See to what changes the comforts of this life are subject. We cannot be sure that to-morrow shall be as this day, or next year as this. We must learn how to want, as well as how to abound. Mark the goodness of God in sending the seven years of plenty before those of famine, that provision might be made.’

If/when ‘famine’ comes, may we be given grace to say:

“Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

    he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Genesis 41:1-16: Open goal-mouth

“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: he was standing by the Nile, when 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 river-bank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.He fell asleep again and had a second dream: seven ears of corn, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears of corn sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.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.Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.’14 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.15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’16 ‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.’ NIV

‘ ‘I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” ‘ (16).

Someone wrote, ‘If the Lord’s going to raise you up let Him raise you up, but whatever you do, don’t raise yourself up.’

That is a very important message. As Pete Scazzero points out in his work on ‘Emotionally healthy spirituality’, there is a tendency in the church to measure success by worldly standards. So we think ‘bigger is better’. But the truth is there are many unknown people, leading small ministries, who are successes in the eyes of God.

Nevertheless, Joseph was one of those who was raised to great authority, responsibility and prominence. He was no longer serving quietly, anonymously in a prison. He now occupied a large stage.

But on the way to getting there he took the opportunity to speak about God in the most natural, easy way. Remember he was speaking to such a powerful man. He was ‘witnessing’ in a pagan (even occultic ) atmosphere. But when the opportunity came his way, he didn’t go into hiding; he didn’t side-step it. He took it with faith, courage and honesty. I’ve often thought about John White’s words that witnessing is primarily about honesty: “This is who I am. I am a believer. I will seek to act and speak accordingly in every circumstance.’

F.B.Meyer wrote: ‘When the heart is full of God, the tongue will be almost obliged to speak of Him…’

Personally, I don’t think we should contrive or manipulate conversations in order to ‘get a word in.’ What I do believe is this: we should live honestly as Christians in the world, and when the open goal- mouth appears (as it surely will) make sure we don’t miss.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” (Col.4:2,3).

Genesis 41:1: Waiting

“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: he was standing by the Nile,” NIV

The Bible speaks about both waiting on the Lord, and waiting for the Lord. Waiting for Him can take great patience.

“When two full years had passed…”

Looking back, two years seem to whizz by. A memory from May 2019 pops up on ‘Facebook’ and you think, ‘Could that really be two years ago? Really? But if from today you know you have a further two years to wait for something you really want to happen…well, it might feel like an eternity away.

Actually, Joseph had to wait much longer than two years for the fulfilment of his dreams. Warren Wiersbe makes this point:

‘God invested thirteen years in making a man out of Joseph; when it comes to building character, God is never in a hurry.’ ‘With the Word’, p.42.

PRAYER: Lord, please help me to wait with patience for the answers to my prayers; and in the waiting enable me to not be wasting the precious time I have each day. May I redeem it.

Genesis 40: 23: He is not a disappointment

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” NIV

I knew a sincere Christian lady who greatly admired a man – a church leader – who was also a close friend of her family. She had admittedly put him on a pedestal, and when she discovered he had fallen morally, she was so dejected she almost lost her faith.

People will disappoint you. Realise it. You too will probably disappoint some folks along the way. Although our aim should always be to bless others, at times we will let them down.

Of course, there will be those occasions where people are disappointed by what we  say/do or don’t say/don’t do, and it’s their problem not ours. There isn’t much we can do about that. My greatest concern lies in the potential to disappoint others through my sin or weakness. I know we all will.

Only of Jesus can we say: ‘He is not a disappointment.’

Joseph was let down by a man he helped in prison, and Matthew Henry’s observation is helpful:

“The chief butler remembered not Joseph, but forgot him. Joseph had deserved well at his hands, yet he forgot him. We must not think it strange, if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our kindness. See how apt those who are themselves at ease are to forget others in distress. Joseph learned by his disappointment to trust in God only. We cannot expect too little from man, nor too much from God. Let us not forget the sufferings, promises, and love of our Redeemer. We blame the chief butler’s ingratitude to Joseph, yet we ourselves act much more ungratefully to the Lord Jesus. Joseph had but foretold the chief butler’s enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours; he mediated with the King of Kings for us; yet we forget him, though often reminded of him, and though we have promised never to forget him. Thus ill do we requite Him, like foolish people and unwise.”

PRAYER: Lord have mercy upon us for all our sin, weakness and failure, and enable us to so live that we do not needlessly disappoint anyone.

Genesis 40:6-23: ‘Give them what you’ve got!’

“6 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?’‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.’12 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him. ‘The three branches are three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 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.’16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favourable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: on my head were three baskets of bread] 17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’18 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 he restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand – 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”NIV

‘Give them what you’ve got!’

That was the advice of an older, wiser pastor, freely shared with two rather ‘green’ Bible college students who were being let loose on his church for a couple of weeks.

‘Just give them what God gives you.’

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you” (1 Corinthians 11:23).

In prison, Joseph did not sit in a corner moping. He’d had a raw deal for sure, but he was even reserved and  circumspect in talking about it (15). He didn’t point the finger or name names. As we have already seen, there in the jail he was available to serve these men, using the gifts God had given him (8), and giving all the glory to God.

Matthew Henry makes this excellent point:

“The chief butler’s dream foretold his advancement. The chief baker’s dream his death. It was not Joseph’s fault that he brought the baker no better tidings. And thus ministers are but interpreters; they cannot make the thing otherwise than it is: if they deal faithfully, and their message prove unpleasing, it is not their fault.”

Joseph was faithful to ‘give them what he’d got’, without tinkering under the bonnet of the message. He didn’t change a thing. It is not the messenger’s place to dilute or alter the message.

“To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” (2 Corinthians 2:16, 17).

One more thing, Warren Wiersbe points out that although Joseph was temporarily forgotten (23), the fact that he could interpret the dreams of the baker and the butler indicates that he understood the meaning of his own dreams. He knew that one day his brothers would bow before him.

Genesis 40:6-7: Noticing

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?’NIV

“When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected” (6).

He saw.

For most people who are in grief, or pain, or some form of suffering, it means a lot to them if someone notices, and shows that they do. It is one thing to see another’s troubles; it is quite another to move towards them in some way – to at least try to be of help (7). Joseph not only saw their dejection; he also said something which showed that he saw (and that he cared).

In a recent article in ‘the Spectator’, someone who had been through a significant, loss wrote about how we are just not good at dealing with grief in this country. She observed that although there will always be some who move toward you in your bereavement, the majority do not. They move away, or keep their distance.

Probably in the case of most people, it’s not that they don’t care. They just don’t know what to do, or say. They are afraid to cause more pain. Or perhaps they are embarrassed. Or…who knows what? We may have so many complex reasons for not getting too close to the agony.

But Joseph not only saw the sufferers and their suffering; he also moved towards them, and used his gifts to help.

There is something powerful about the ministry of presence. You don’t have to have all the answers. (Remember, Job’s comforters were at their best when they just sat with him!) It will mean something to someone in pain if you not only notice, but go on to take the next step in their direction.

Some time ago, I wrote down two quotes from F.B. Meyer about Joseph’s ministry in prison. He is right, of course, to point out, that whatever troubles you may have yourself, there is great blessing in reaching out to serve others:

‘He was quick to sympathise and comfort – quick to notice the traces of sorrow, because he had sorrowed; able to sympathise because he had wept; adept at comforting because he had been comforted of God. We gain comfort when we attempt to comfort. Out of such intercourse we get what Joseph got – the keys which will unlock the heavy doors by which we have been shut in. Light a fire in another’s heart, and your own heart will be warmed.’

‘A new interest came into his life, and he almost forgot the heavy pressure of his own troubles amid the interest of listening to the tales of those who were more unfortunate than himself. Do not nurse your grief in lonely brooding; arise and minister to someone; do something in the world…’

PRAYER: Lord, give me eyes to see the needs around me, and the courage to move towards them, relying on the power of your Spirit to use me to be a blessing.

Genesis 40:1-5: No comparison

“Some time later, 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.After they 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.”NIV

“…and each dream had a meaning of its own” (5).

You might say each life has a meaning of its own. It has its own pathway and its own outcome.

On Monday morning, I was out of the house early, going for a run. For much of the time I saw no-one. That was fine, being by myself, going at my own steady pace. But after a while I was overtaken by a younger woman and she was soon out of sight. That was where comparison could have set in. But if it was likely to, I quickly dismissed it. She was probably close to half my age anyway; and even if I am passed by fellow 64 year olds, what does it matter? I’ve never been fast. I am a ‘plodder’. I’m not training for the Olympics, I’m just jogging for health and fitness (and it has the fringe benefit of clearing my mind and clarifying thinking). I think I got what I needed to out of the run. I didn’t have to win.

Comparisons are odious. This is what Peter discovered when he got inquisitive about John’s destiny. Basically Jesus told him to mind his own business, and to just get on with following Him (John 21:18-21). Jesus had a tailor-made purpose and destiny for Peter. It was different to John’s. Yes, they were both disciples of Christ. They had so much in common. But different life stories were being written by the Divine Author.

God was also writing different scripts for the 2 men Joseph met in jail. One had a happy ending; the other did not.

The truth is that as no two snowflakes are the same, no two people are the same either. John Stott once wrote something like this: ‘We are not to imagine that we have all been mass-produced in some celestial factory.’

Indeed!

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